Melt caramels in top of double boiler with canned milk, stirring until smooth over gently boiling water. Stir in butter and melted chocolates and blend well. Continue to let it cook over boiling water 15 minutes. Remove from heat. With mixer on medium speed, add powdered sugar a little at a time until you have a spreading consistency. To thin it, if necessary, beat in a little hot, black coffee. Makes 3 cups.
Last week, I heard a story about a fellow Michigander who’s literally been collecting map dots, traveling to every town in our state. He has an awesome Facebook page, called Scott’s Michigan adventures, where he’s been depicting his travels. I thought it was very inspiring, as my husband and I love exploring Michigan, too! However, we’ve never physically collected the map dots.
I’ve written a number of blog posts about how much we love to hit the road, whether for a day trip or a weekend get-away; like Mom and Dad always did, especially to explore our beautiful state. In my completely Michigander-biased opinion, having been raised by two other born-and-bred, proud Michiganders, this is one of the most beautiful states in our country!
In a couple other blog posts, I’ve mentioned that Michigan has 3,288 miles of shimmering, fresh water coastline; bordering four of the five Great Lakes, which are part of the historic St. Lawrence Seaway. In fact, Michigan has the longest freshwater shoreline in the U.S., and we live less than a mile from where it goes by our hometown of St. Clair. We love seeing the big ships pass through our area, which has been home to many captains of the Great Lakes’ freighters.
Moreover, Michigan is second only to our largest state, Alaska, for the greatest length of U.S. coastline; regardless of whether it’s sea or fresh water. My husband and I consider ourselves lucky to live in such a phenomenal state! Given enough time and money – and especially a better vehicle – we’d love to travel and explore the historic lighthouses and towns that dot Michigan’s shoreline. Now there’s a bucket list, all by itself.
Within its thousands of miles of shoreline, Michigan also has over 19 million acres of forests that cover 53% of the state – most of which is considered timberland. This state is home to an abundance of significant places and beautiful sights. By the way, the brilliant fall colors are in full bloom in the northern half of the state right now – and can be seen from space!
What’s more, this state is (or was) the home of many famous people, iconic foods, and renowned restaurants – past and present. Even more than that, as I’ve also mentioned in previous blog posts, it’s home to a lot of special Americana oddities!
My husband and I love to discover those little peculiarities that make each Michigan town we visit special. After all, every town has a story to tell. Rose City is a Michigan map dot we visited this summer that’s home to a phenomenon we call “gravity hill” (aka: “magnetic hill” or “ghost hill”). Have you ever experienced rolling UP a hill?
Just a few months ago, we enjoyed this peculiar experience near the end of an old gravel road, called Reasoner. A large farm sat at the end of the road, up a second, larger hill. It was truly amazing when we started rolling backwards, while in neutral, UP the small hill we just came over!
We have a book, called Weird Michigan, by Linda S. Godfrey (Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.; New York, NY; 2006), which has been one source of inspiration for some of our explorations. Page 182 mentions Rose City’s “gravity hill” marvel.
The book also tells about another hill, at a Michigan map dot called “Putney Corners”, in Blaine Township; which is in Benzie County, south of the Traverse City area and west of Crystal Mountain. I’ve also heard of a similar one just across the Mackinac Bridge, near St. Ignace, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Both of those are now on our new bucket list of Michigan map dots.
There are some map dots, within a couple hours’ drive from us, that we enjoy so much we visit them at least a few times each year. One such place, located near Saginaw, was also a favorite map dot of Mom and Dad’s, called Frankenmuth.
Tourists flock to this village from all around the world and stand in line for hours to get one of the world-famous chicken dinners offered at either one of the two largest establishments in the middle of town – the Bavarian Inn and Zender’s.
This town’s German heritage exudes from its many restaurants, bakeries, fudge shops, hotels, breweries and other quaint little stores that line the mile-plus length of the main street through town – from Bronner’sChristmas Wonderland to the Frankenmuth Brewery! Below is a re-share of Mom’s imitation of Frankenmuth’s famous chicken.
During the 40 years that Mom investigated different restaurant dishes, as The Recipe DetectiveTM, she came up with about a dozen imitations from some of Frankenmuth’s establishments; including some of the other world-famous dishes available at the town’s two major restaurants. Mom also imitated some of the sweet confections from the town’s wonderful bakeries and fudge shops.
After Mom and Dad became empty-nesters, their travels really blossomed. They bought a camper and toured even more – often mixing work with pleasure (as Mom’s work was her pleasure). Figuratively speaking, they collected a lot of map dots, not only in Michigan but all over the U.S. It was undoubtedly much more affordable to do, with only the two of them!
Joining the Good Sam RV club was always one of their most favorite experiences and a big source of wonderful map dot memories. Mom had many scrap books full of photos and special keepsakes from all of their trips with the Michigan and Ohio chapters of Good Sam.
Mom also wrote about the trips she and Dad took, often, in their newsletter issues – from the new restaurant dishes they tried, as they traveled, to the marvelous dishes they experienced at some of Good Sam’s “bring-a-dish-to-pass” events, during their “Samborees”. Equally notable were the great friendships they developed everywhere they went.
To the Good Sam RV Club (MI & OH Branches): “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet with and talk to people from all over the country, relative to their recipe interests and food needs… Since our camping experiences with…’Good Sam’, [Paul and I] have truly adopted their slogan, ‘In Good Sam, there are no strangers – only friends we haven’t met yet!” – Gloria Pitzer (1989)
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May-June 1987, 126th issue, p. 3)
GOOD SAM – CARING AND CAMPING
FRIENDS ARE THOSE PEOPLE who know everything there is to know about you, but like you anyhow! …Needless to say, I can’t wait until we can begin our ‘motor-home camping’ again with our Good Sam friends. It’s our weekend vacation pleasure, May through October.
Becoming part of the Good Sam organization is the best thing that has ever happened to us, where we could both enjoy mutual friendships and activities. Wonderful, caring people, who constantly remind us that ‘there are no strangers in Good Sam – only friends we haven’t met, yet!’
ONE THING AMONG MANY that I have learned from Good Sam, the national RV organization, to which Paul and I have belonged for three years now [since 1985]; is that you should never ever withhold your enthusiasm for caring about others.
Never regret anything you do or say on behalf of the good it might bring to those [about whom] you care – for, if your motives are unselfish, and your intentions are to encourage or enrich or benefit others, you can’t lose. You should jump right in, adding enthusiasm to whatever it is that you are doing that might appear to be just a passive condition when enthusiasm is needed.
Try a little enthusiasm! …Enthusiasm and optimism go hand-in-hand with happiness. These provide us with an emotional springboard from which we can dive quite smoothly, into deep and troubled waters, and still surface refreshed and invigorated.
The trouble with trying to be happy all the time is that most people look for one particular condition or experience or possession, from which they hope to derive complete contentment, forgetting that happiness is a moment – not a forever!
When planning your next road trip to explore some amazing places, be open to taking a few fascinating detours and don’t forget to journal your map dots, while discovering the coolest, off-the-beaten-path places along the way! Here are a few other basic tips…
Always bring a real map, as there really are places that don’t have any cell service for miles.
Allow extra time and gas (or electric charge – whatever the case may be) for spontaneity. In case you decide to take a detour.
Stop frequently and take breaks – smell the roses, photograph the memory, and talk to the locals.
Pack a cooler with some drinks and snacks, even if you plan to eat at restaurants along the way. You know what they say about the best laid plans…
While spring has sprung on the other side of the world, from us; here, in North America, October is welcoming fall in like no other month! Fall is probably my favorite time of year. The crisp cool nights and slightly-warm, sunny days are another reason to love these autumn months, along with the entertaining celebrations of the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays (my birthday falls in there, as well – lol!)
The trees are ablaze like the top of a rainbow, with various shades of yellow, orange and red. To represent the bottom of the rainbow, splashes of evergreen make these colors pop even more! And, if you’re near any one of Michigan’s gorgeous shorelines (especially when the sun is shining), there is a beautiful, azure blue that never ceases to amaze me. Even purple is represented and speckled throughout, by the many fall flowers that are in bloom! The beautiful color-changes of the Pure Michigan landscape is unbeaten in my book!
There is something about autumn that makes many people yearn even more for their favorite high-calorie, high-carb, comfort foods. I surveyed some friends over the last few weeks, asking what their favorite comfort foods were; and here are the top 6 answers I received: (1) pizza, (2) potatoes, (3) chili, (4) macaroni and cheese, (5) fried chicken, and (6) chocolate brownies.
By the way, this week, the first week of October, celebrates National Chili Week, among other things. Thus I’d like to re-share, here, with you, Mom’s famous imitation for chili like the famous fast food chain, Wendy’s.
In fact, it is also National Do Something Nice Day! Therefore, I’ll re-share some more of Mom’s related, comfort food recipes throughout this blog post for the other 5 comfort foods listed above.
Comfort foods seem to have a nostalgic, sentimental value that soothes the soul, giving us comfort and peace in times of uncertainty, stress and anxiety. Different people have different go-to favorites. Mine is probably potatoes – baked, mashed, fried, boiled – any style! What is yours?
These cheesy potatoes (pictured below) were another family favorite of ours. It’s an imitation of one of Bill Knapp’s offerings from the 1970s – another one of Mom’s “Original 200” recipes collection.
These cooler days make it more inviting to turn on the oven and do some baking! Whether it’s homemade bread, cookies, pies, brownies, or something else; fresh baked goods are starting to fill our homes with pleasant aromas. The fall season adds scents of cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin and cloves to almost everything. Moreover, the fall month of October incites us to break out our cozy, warm sweaters, while making some belly-and-soul-satisfying, comfort foods.
December 5th will actually be the “official” celebration for National Comfort Food Day! Thus, you may be thinking: “But that’s two months away!” However, fall has arrived NOW and, as the days are getting shorter and colder – who isn’t already having warm thoughts about their favorite comfort foods? We don’t have to wait until December!
I’ve made Mom’s imitation for dime-store-style mac-and-cheese, like Woolworth once served, several times since fall began. I recently shared this recipe for another really big, family favorite, comfort food in our household!
There’s a great article and slide show I’d like to recommend you see, called “America’s Best Comfort Foods”, by Emma Sloley (Nov. 28, 2016), at TravelAndLeisure.com. But I must warn you that it’s practically impossible to read/watch it without getting hungry!
Frankenmuth, Michigan is a city that has been world-famous, for many decades, for their family-style, sit-down, fried chicken dinners with all the side-fixings! Talk about comfort foods – they serve them all and then some! Since fried chicken was mentioned among the top favorite comfort foods (above), here is a re-share of Mom’s imitation for Frankenmuth’s homestyle, fried chicken “like Grandma used to make!”
This wonderful little town is not too far from us for a day trip. It’s located near Saginaw, MI; from where one of Mom’s favorite, regular radio shows still airs – “Listen to the Mrs.”, co-hosted by Art Lewis and Ann Williams on WSGW-Radio. Tourists flock to this little German-heritage town from all around the world and will stand in line for hours to get the world-famous chicken dinners offered at either one of the two largest establishments in town – the Bavarian Inn and Zender’s.
The town’s German heritage exudes from its many restaurants, bakeries, fudge shops, hotels, breweries and other quaint little stores that line the mile-plus length of the main street through town – from Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland (which is all Christmas, all year) to the Frankenmuth Brewery!
Over the 40 years that Mom investigated different restaurant dishes as “The Recipe DetectiveTM”, she came up with about a dozen great imitations from the Frankenmuth establishments; including some of the famous restaurant dishes available at the two major restaurants mentioned above, as well as some bakery and confection offerings, from the local bakeries and fudge shops.
‘Food is more than a physical substance. It has an intangible quality that nourishes our spirits. A good dish, lovingly prepared, at some point in the process of tasting and blending, becomes more than the sum of its ingredients.’ – Gloria Pitzer, Eating Out at Home Cookbook (National Home News, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1978, p. 1)
This year, more than ever, most of us are dealing with an overload of stress and anxiety. Food tends to be one of the few things that comfort us in trying times. That’s probably why the kitchen is, more often than not, considered one the favorite rooms in the house – the heart of the home, even.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, p. 66)
COME INTO THE KITCHEN
FAMILY RESTAURANTS and homestyle meals are returning to popularity. During the war-protesting days of Vietnam, the right to ‘be different’, the right to protest, to be individual made anything even slightly related to ‘family’ and ‘home’ forbidden or corny. People became impersonal to each other…
Now the pendulum is swinging the other way. The family and home have been reinstated…even in our restaurant industry. Today it is changing back to the personal, the warm, the family. The restaurant industry, in its urgent bid for the public’s loyal attention, is trying to make their dining experiences like your home away from home. Hospitality is becoming their badge of honor!
The kitchen… is the best place to be when we’re home! You’ll notice that current home designers are getting away from the formal dining room area… Homes are becoming more functional in design, as well. In our continuing efforts to economize, to restrict energy sources and to bring the family back to the warm, bright, openness of a country kitchen, we have rediscovered the personal advantages of the best room in the house…
The classic country kitchen is coming back, where there is one large working space close to the appliance area and also open to the informal, large, eating area… It was a warm and workable kitchen that reflected a family as a unit… Every inch of it said: ‘Welcome!’ If you were a stranger when you entered, you were a friend before you left.
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, p. 67)
WHAT MAKES A HOUSE A HOME
THE KITCHEN IS THE HEART of our home! It is inelegant to the last detail. But no workable, useable kitchen, one that truly produces the hearty fare to feed the famished affections of a family, should be more than that. Ours is ample.
Only the fantasy fabrications of glossy paged magazines have kitchens that gleam, where cupboards shine, sinks are spotless, refrigerators are free of family condiments, accumulations, papers, notes and such. I personally enjoy my kitchen in our St. Clair home…
And you know what? It was designed by a woman. The builder’s wife designed this home for a big family! I never met her. She died of cancer about the time we bought the house, but I think of her fondly, often, as I enjoy what she planned [seemingly] for us, without ever having met us.
…I realize that I will probably offend the liberationists who work so hard to get the woman OUT of the kitchen, I must applaud those of us who still, by our own choice and out of love, wish to enjoy their homes, families and especially their kitchens!
As sexist as this may sound – for me, my mom, both of my grandmas and most of my aunts; cooking (whether it was for our families or friends or both) is something we enjoy doing for others. It’s one of the best ways we can say, without any words, “I love you” or “welcome” to those with whom we share our tables.
My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 40)
CARING & GOING FORWARD
We cannot lose sight of our need to care about each other, to strengthen our values and live by that yardstick. Then wringing our hands with worry when the world seems to be in a state of chaos won’t send us running for synthetic comforts, escapes and restitutions that spell out getting even, rather than going forward. And it was the going forward that I worked on so much in those early days, none of which had to do with ‘getting the money’ or having the fame, the glitter and tinsel that goes with recognition.
All I could strive for then, and still do now, is the consistency of purpose, the honesty in presentation and freshness of the ideas – whether in the form of a recipe to imitate a famous food, or as an uplifting article on how to better understand your real selfhood and your relationship to others.
This week, the first week of October, is also known as National Newspaper Week! I mention that, in relation to food, because newspapers were the cornerstone on which Mom first began to build what eventually became her Secret RecipesTM legacy.
Happy Monday! And happy Autumn too! The days are getting shorter and colder, while the leaves of the trees are getting more colorful each day! Unfortunately, the painter’s palette of nature doesn’t last for long and, soon, all the colors will be gone, blowing in the wind!
At the end of my last blog entry, I mentioned that, among NationalDayCalendar.com’s month-long celebrations listed for October, it’s “Eat Better, Eat Together Month”! A lot of people say that eating together as a family creates stronger family bonds. In his article, “The Family Meal”, Dr. Christopher Peterson brings up a good point when he says, “What I gain from my meals with others goes way beyond convenience. These meals with others are filling but moreover fulfilling. They make me feel part of a larger group.” [Posted March 20, 2012; PsychologyToday.com]
Personally, between me and my siblings, I’ve found the opposite to be true. We ate dinner together every night, while we lived with our parents. Yet, we hardly talk to each other anymore, since Mom and Dad are both gone now; and some of us don’t get along at all. On the other hand, my own children are closer than my siblings and I; but, they only had family-sit-down-together-meals for about half of their childhoods. Then we were always on the run, doing sports activities; or I was working an afternoon shift somewhere.
However, my kids and I did spend a great quantity of quality time together – just not very often around the dinner table (except for holidays and birthdays). Aside from the eating-together thing, whether you’re cooking for just yourself or for two people or for a whole brood – if you’re the one who plans the menu, then you’re the one who makes the healthy/unhealthy food choices for everyone you’re feeding. It’s a great idea to celebrate eating right and having solid, old-fashioned, close-knit, family meals. But, is there really any merit that eating together creates better eating habits and tighter family bonds?
As I said, when I was growing up, Mom always prepared a sit-down, family-style dinner with all the food in serving dishes in the middle of the table. We all sat together, as a family (like in the picture of us, above). We talked about our days, as we each took a serving from a dish in front of us; passing that dish to the next person while grabbing another dish from the person on the other side of us. However, we would also elbow each other or kick one another under the table, as siblings would do, whenever Mom and Dad weren’t looking our way. For the most part, I think we only got along for Mom and Dad’s sake anyway.
In addition, Mom CHOSE to make well-rounded meals that covered all the food basics, including dessert! That’s what she was taught by her mom and that’s what she taught me to do as well. But, there was no Brady Bunch or Walton’s Mountain type of bonding at our table! We ate together because that’s when the meal was served. It wasn’t a restaurant that you could drop in on at any time and order whatever you like… You ate what was made and when it was served or went hungry until the next meal.
Of course, with the Recipe DetectiveTM as our mom, we happened to taste-test a lot of fast food and junk food imitations over the years – some things may have seemed like bad/unhealthy choices in food to an outsider – such as fried chicken (like KFC’s). However, Mom’s imitation of the famous fast food dish was baked instead of deep-fried, which is healthier.
As I wrote about in a couple of my other blog entries, “Eating Out at Home” (4/8/19) and “Food for Thought” (5/20/19), Mom knew how to take the “junk out of junk food” and did so in her famous imitations. It’s very true that what you put into cooking is what you get out of it – literally and figuratively! Everything in moderation is a great rule by which to live; but, it’s sometimes easier said than done!
A city that has, for decades, been world-famous for their sit-down, family-style meals is Frankenmuth, Michigan – not too far from us, near Saginaw, MI (from where one of Mom’s favorite radio shows airs, “Listen to the Mrs.”, co-hosted by Art Lewis and Ann Williams on WSGW-Radio.) Tourists flock to this little town from all around the world and will stand in line for hours to get the world-famous chicken dinners at one of the two largest establishments in town.
Zehnders and the Bavarian Inn operate the two major restaurants in Frankenmuth that serve the famous family-style chicken dinners, with all the food in serving dishes in the middle of the table, from which the family will serve themselves and which the servers will refill for you as needed. Just a hint – reservations will get you in quickly, rather than waiting in line. The town’s German heritage exudes from its restaurants, hotels, breweries and quaint little shops that line the mile-plus length of the main street through town – from Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland (all Christmas, all year) to the Frankenmuth Brewery!
Mom and Dad always loved to take road trips to Frankenmuth, as do me and my husband. It’s a great day trip to experience all the German culture that this small tourist town has to offer! Over the years, Mom came up with many imitations of some the famous dishes from the two major restaurants mentioned above; plus, some bread and confection imitations from the local bakeries and fudge shops.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
The German community of Frankenmuth, Michigan, which for decades has celebrated the art of fried chicken, served family-style; has had thousands of customers lined up every weekend and holiday, waiting to be seated in one of their 2 largest restaurants [Zehnders and the Bavarian Inn]. Their fried chicken is like ‘Grandma used to make’ – richly flavored, moist inside and never greasy. The family-style dinner provides the table with large bowls of homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, moist and spicy dressing (called ‘stuffing’ in other parts of the country), a fresh-from-scratch cranberry-orange relish, hot breads and beverages. [By Gloria Pitzer, as seen on page 94 of Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018).]
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
A MEAL BY ANY OTHER NAME
FAST FOOD RECIPES were not published in the best-sellers – and these were the restaurants where families were apt to frequent if they wanted a meal that was affordable! Paul and I could take all 5 of the children to Capri’s, an Italian restaurant down the road from us in Pearl Beach, and we could feed the whole family for less than $10, providing we ordered the large pizza with only pepperoni and cheese on it and one soft drink for each of us. It was not for substance that we ate out. It was for entertainment.
We could take the kids to McDonald’s and it did the same thing for us that going to the movies did for our parents. It was an affordable pleasure. It was a diversion from meatloaf and pot roast and peas and carrots. It was a treat. We looked forward to it. We felt good about the experience and even better after it was over. It carried us through a long week of paying the utilities, insurance, house payments and car payments and grocery expenses.
When we had to have our 10-year-old station wagon repaired, we had to skip eating out that week. If one of us had to see the dentist, it might be 2 or 3 weeks before we could afford to eat out again. We made do with what we had. We could make the most of what we had. In the 50s and 60s and early 70s, this is the way parents raised their families, budgeted their earnings and allowed for their pleasures.
Things changed, as well they should. Women went out to work. If they weren’t working to supplement the family income, they went to work for their own satisfaction. Whatever the reasons, families changed. Eating at home became less and less appealing – and less and less convenient. Homes were built with smaller kitchens and bigger bathrooms. Microwave ovens were more affordable – and defrost and heat became more popular. [By Gloria Pitzer, as seen on page 295 of Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018).]
Along with October being national “Eat Better, Eat Together Month”, it’s also “Tackling Hunger Month”. In connection with those two month-long celebrations, the 2nd week of October is observed as “National Food Bank Week”. Thus, I want to make a local shout out, here, to one of the Detroit area’s food banks, Gleaners!
I hear about this group all the time on our local news. They do such great things in so many communities! The other day, I heard about their wonderful program, “Cooking Matters”; which is “a groundbreaking nutrition-education program that connects low-income individuals and families with food by teaching them how to prepare healthy, tasty meals on a limited budget.” By the way, “National Food Day” is coming up next week, on the 24th!
Part of what started Mom’s career as the Recipe DetectiveTM for Secret RecipesTM, was her keen ideas on how to make our family’s food budget stretch during the 1970s’ food crisis. Mom started sharing some of her discoveries in the columns she syndicated. It had a snowball effect when she started imitating famous food products and dishes, at home – in her own kitchen, with what she had on hand in her pantry – because our family of seven couldn’t always afford those kind of eating-out treats…that’s how Mom developed her “Copycat Cookery” and “Eating Out at Home” concepts! More on those next week…
In honor of all that sweetness, here are a couple of Mom’s free dessert recipes that I’ve posted before AND a new one for her sugar-free pumpkin pie recipe, which she gave away in her Jan.-Feb. 1988 promotions!
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…