My Mother’s Perfect Pie Crust

MY MOTHER’S PERFECT PIE CRUST

By Gloria Pitzer

*As seen in her self-published book… The Copycat Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1996, 12th printing; p. 73)

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour

2 tsp sugar

½ tsp salt

¼-lb chilled butter, broken into bits

5 TB Crisco

About 5 TB cold tap water (added as directed below)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a roomy bowl. Work in the butter and Crisco using pastry blender or two forks. When mixture resembles gravel, and is even in texture, take the bowl to the sink where you will actually drizzle just enough cold tap water around the edge of the bowl, turning it as the water is added, to make one complete rotation – which equals about 5 TB of water.

Quickly mix it only until it comes away from the sides of the bowl. Shape into ball and cover the bowl. Refrigerate it for about an hour (or up to three days if you don’t have time to use it right away).

This rebuilds the shortening particles so that during baking they will break down and distribute evenly with the flour. The sugar also creates the little pockets that create flakes in the layers of pastry once it has been baked.

After dough has chilled, spread a pastry cloth out on a flat working surface. Use a rolling pin cover over your rolling pin, as well. Sprinkle some flour into the center of the cloth and smooth it over the surface. Also rub some flour into the cover on the rolling pin.

Work quickly, rolling out the dough to about a 12-inch circle. Invert a greased 10-inch pie pan or Pyrex pie plate onto the circle. Trim away the dough, with a sharp knife, 1 inch from rim of inverted pie pan.

Set the pie pan right side up and fold the circle of dough in half. Lift it carefully to fit into half of that pipe, carefully unfolding the dough was so that it fits evenly, without much handling!

THE MORE YOU HANDLE THE PIE CRUST THOUGH THE LESS FLAKY IT WILL BE!

Ease the dough into place in the pie pan. Crimp the rim. Prick the crust with the tines of a fork in about 20 or 30 places. Bake at 375°F for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and fill with a no-bake type filling.

Makes two10-inch pie shells or one double crust 10-inch pie.

FOR THE TOP CRUST:

Gather up scraps from dough after fitting bottom crust into place. Roll out again to 10-inch circle. Add filling to unbaked bottom crust. Fold the second circle of dough in half and placed carefully overfilling, unfolding the dough to ease it into place.

Seal rim and cut slits in top crust for steam to escape. Wipe the top crust evenly with Half-and-Half or butter. Bake the pipe per directions for the filling you were using.

THE HOTTER THE OVEN, the more your pie shell will shrink! For best results – and never mind what the other cookbooks tell you – bake a double crust pie at 375°F, until crust is golden brown and the filling begins to bubble up through the slits in the top. This takes about 45 to 55 minutes, depending on the type of fruit you will be using.

**See also…

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Heirlooms

Strawberry Freezer Jam

STRAWBERRY FREEZER JAM

By Gloria Pitzer

Please, don’t ask me to use pectin if I don’t have to! Give me the simple life – even in the kitchen. I found that there is enough natural pectin in rhubarb that you really don’t have to use the powdered or liquid pectin to equal a very dignified jam product.

Somehow, the rhubarb loses its own identity when combined with other fruits and takes on the flavor of the fruit you mix it with. The jelling is done with boxed, fruit-flavored gelatin – the same kind that Dennis Day sang about when he opened the Jack Benny Radio Show on Sunday nights, ages ago!

Do you remember Dennis? He was a gorgeous tenor who could sing the birds out of the trees. At home, he had a marvelous family. Their son, Tom, was in school at the Art Center in Pasadena with our son, Mike.

When Mike was describing the McNulty home to us (that’s Dennis’ real last name), he said their house was so big and they had so many kids, that one of their daughters moved out and it was 2 weeks before anyone in the family even noticed!

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups sugar

4 cups diced rhubarb (fresh or frozen)

1 cup sliced strawberries

one 6-ounce box (or two 3-ounce boxes) strawberry gelatin

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a 1 ½-quart sauce pan, combine sugar and rhubarb, stirring over medium heat to draw liquid without adding any additional liquid to it. Increase the heat until it comes to a gentle boil. Stir constantly for 8 to 10 minutes or until a “sauce-like” consistency forms.

Add strawberries. Continue cooking and stirring about 5 minutes. Remove 1 cup of the liquid from the mixture. Add gelatin to this liquid, stirring until dissolved.

Return this into the original rhubarb mixture and remove pan from heat at once. Stir to blend well.

Cool to lukewarm and divide jam between eight 1-cup-sized freezer containers, allowing a ½-inch headspace. Apply lids to the containers, sealing the lids well with masking tape. Date them to be used within 6 months. Makes 8 cups.

*As seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 184). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition).]

#GloriaPitzersCookbook

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

**See also…

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Heirlooms

Strawberry Pie, Like Big Boy’s

STRAWBERRY PIE, LIKE BIG BOY’S

By Gloria Pitzer

INGREDIENTS:

1 small box strawberry Jell-O [mix]

1 cup boiling water

½ cup strawberry jam

½ cup cold water

4 TB cornstarch

1-qt whole strawberries

9-inch baked pie shell

[Whipped cream and additional whole strawberries for garnish]

INSTRUCTIONS:

Dissolve Jell-O powder in the boiling water. Over low heat, add the jam and blend well. In a blender, combine cold water and cornstarch. Pour this mixture into the Jell-O mixture until thick and clear. Cool to lukewarm and spoon 1/3 into baked pie shell.

Arrange strawberries, widest ends down, side-by-side, snugly in bottom of pie shell. Spoon rest of Jell-O mixture evenly over the berries. Chill several hours or overnight, until firm enough to cut. Garnish with whipped cream and whole strawberries. Makes 8 slices.

[*As seen in… The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 7).]

[**Seen, similarly, in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 241). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition).]

#GloriaPitzersCookbook

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Heirlooms

BUTTER PIE CRUST

BUTTER CRUST (My Most Dependable &Very Favorite Recipe!)

By Gloria Pitzer; as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 243)

Ingredients:

¼ pound butter – NOT margarine

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup all-purpose flour

Instructions:

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan on medium heat until it’s frothy, but don’t let it change color or become the least-bit brown. (I like to put the stick of butter into my heat-proof, 1 ½-quart, glass mixing bowl, placing it in the microwave for 2 to 3 minutes on “Defrost”.)

As soon as the butter is melted, and while it’s still hot, dump in the remaining ingredients. Turn your electric mixer on high and beat mixture in a bowl for about 30 seconds or until it comes away from the center and hits the sides of the bowl. Quickly gather it into a ball and pat it out to cover the bottom and sides of a Pam-sprayed, 10-inch, Pyrex pie plate. (Pyrex plates work best with this very rich recipe.)

If you don’t have Pam, grease the pan in Crisco only! It might stick otherwise! Bake crust at 375°F for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Fill as desired. Makes one 10-inch pie crust. Note: Do not double this recipe. The dough becomes difficult to work with as it cools and, then, it crumbles and breaks apart. Make one single recipe at a time.

NOTE: To make top crust – pat out a single recipe, as given above, on a Pam-sprayed and waxed-paper-lined dinner plate. Invert crust over filling spread in crust-lined pan, per recipe of your choice.

Lift off plate and peel back waxed paper. Make slits for steam to escape. Gently press crust to rim of pie pan with a floured fork (or a fork dipped in ice water.) Use an egg-wash if you wish (one egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water and brushed lightly – lapping it, rather than pressing it, over top of crust), but the butter in this crust should allow it to brown beautifully without the wash.

Bake per filling recipe directions. Generally, the best temperature is at 375°F for 25 to 28 minutes or until filling begins to bubble up through the slits in the top crust in the crust is golden brown.

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – The Best Things in Life

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Heirlooms

Happy Monday to one and all! As always, #TGIM – I continually look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances each year, in which I have to share my memories of Mom!

In general, heirlooms are a great source of history for families, as well as communities and museums. Family heirlooms are great “treasures”, whether they have monetary value or not; simply, because of the priceless memories and family folklore attached to them. Heirlooms such as a wedding ring, a grandfather clock, a rocking chair, a painting, a homemade quilt or afghan, the family homestead; as well as, journals, photo albums, scrapbooks, and even recipes preserve these special stories for generations.

I came upon a really interesting article, last week, regarding common heirlooms that get passed down, through families. “21 Most Common Family Heirlooms”, which was written by Linnea Crowther, Senior Writer at Legacy.com, on August 12, 2019, can be found at https://www.legacy.com/advice/21-most-common-family-heirlooms/ and I highly recommend checking it out! Interestingly, between the two of us, my husband and I have something from almost all of the 21 common heirlooms listed in the article, in some form.

However, one passage, regarding “heirloom recipes”, struck a particular chord close to home for me. It reads: “Recipes are a very special kind of family heirloom. While things like jewelry and furniture can only exist in one family member’s home at a time, everybody can conjure up memories of a lost loved one by cooking their heirloom recipes. The handwritten recipe cards are especially sentimental for many of us, as seeing that familiar handwriting brings back vivid memories even many years later.”

I certainly can relate to this one and many of my friends, who lost their mom’s too, can relate, as well! After Mom passed away, I got a lot of her albums and scrapbooks (as well as those of my grandmas that she had). I, personally, have scanned tons of photos, recipes, cards, letters, and other bits of our “family history”, which Mom and both of my grandmas felt were important enough to them to save; so that my siblings could have copies and share in the memories too.

#CountryCookingMonth

As I’ve mentioned in my last two blog posts, June is Country Cooking Month. It is a fairly new observance, as it has only been around for the past few years – since 2017. Nonetheless, June seems to be a fitting choice, since it’s usually the first month when most people tend to spend more time with family – such as on vacations or at reunions, picnics, weddings, graduation parties and so on.

One common element among ALL of these family and friends events is food! We almost always get to enjoy some good, old-fashioned, country cooking from someone’s heirloom recipes. They are the “secret” recipes (and methods) of the family’s favorite dishes that are usually passed down from one generation to the next generation, with each one possibly adding a little of their own flavorings of memories and love into each serving. Heirloom recipes are what down-home, country cooking is all about! There is always some dish that goes over with a bang and everyone wants the recipe for it!

So much heart and soul and love goes into down-home, southern-style cooking! When I think of “country cooking”, I am reminded of the many satisfying, comfort foods I enjoyed while growing up as a daughter of the Recipe DetectiveTM, as well as those we enjoyed on special family trips to visit relatives in West Virginia. Some of the best foods we ate were either fried or barbecued or full of sugar!

The family reunions always included the best fried chicken! But let’s not forget to mention other country-style favorites like sweet iced tea, coleslaw, potato salad, corn-on-the-cob drenched in butter, peach cobbler, strawberry-rhubarb pie, and pecan pie! Like many people, my husband’s favorite country-style breakfast always includes a big meat-and-cheese-lovers omelet, with a large side of sausage gravy and biscuits!

As much as I love all of those “country-style” carbs, I can’t have them any longer. Over a year ago, I made a committed choice to live a low-carb lifestyle based on the Atkins Diet. Thus, as a daughter of the Recipe DetectiveTM, I’ve been going through some of my old, favorite recipes and developing my own new, favorite, low-carb imitations (a few I have shared in previous blog posts); which brings me to mention the following fun ideas for Country Cooking Month.

NationalToday.com suggests three great activities. First, they recommend taking your favorite “heirloom” recipe and putting your own personal, updated spin on it, for something new and exciting. (Check!) Second, they propose making your own recipe booklet out of your personal favorite “heirloom” recipes, with your own twists added. (Check!) Third, they endorse breaking out your grill or smoker and hosting an outdoor cookout. I was already working on the first two suggestions. But the third is something my husband and I enjoy doing every summer, in late July, for our anniversary.  We’d like to make it a family reunion thing!

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, pages 141-142)

BREAD-BAKING

In Great-Grandma’s day, baking bread was as much a part of a woman’s household routine as was the laundry or the dusting. In colonial days, bread was often the main dish, used like a sponge to soak up whatever broth or gravy might accompany a meager meal, which most of colonial cuisine consisted of on the frontier.

BREAD-BAKING has filled my house with the most delicious aromas – on those occasions when I have ventured into the catacombs of conscious cookery. I was taught by a grandmother who believed that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach; and, if you kept your man well-fed and loved and listened-to, everything else would fall into its proper place in perspective. Well, we can’t all be right all the time. Grandma tried.

Bread-baking was not the Elmer’s ‘Glue-All’ of my marital bliss and stability. In fact, on occasion, it might have threatened our harmony – considering that, before I learned a few chosen shortcuts to better baking, I could (at the drop of a hat) clutter the counter-tops with every bowl, dish, spoon, pan and ingredient possible! This, of course, necessitated having to ‘eat out’ on those nights when there was no place to prepare a deserving dinner at home.

It reminded me that somewhere there should be a clause in every cookbook warning young wives with old-fashioned morals about marriage that there are some things Mother never told us… Or if she did, I just wasn’t paying attention! In any case, I recommend cooking as being thoroughly therapeutic! Bread-baking includes the energetic kneading of the dough – which enables one to work off pent-up emotions that one cannot otherwise rid themselves of verbally.

Whenever I had problems to work out (which was like every other minute or so) I would either be in the kitchen, cooking something, or at the typewriter, writing about cooking something! Kneading a large batch of yeast dough is a great way to unwind and relieve tensions. Of course, it didn’t always solve my problems, since most of them were directly related to my finding my utensils, which I had to locate before I could start relieving myself of unwanted tensions. I’ll bet I was the only woman on the block who had to sift through the kids’ sandbox before I could set the table or bake a loaf of bread!

THE SECRET OF GOOD BREAD is in the kneading and rising. If given enough time, bread will rise anywhere – in the refrigerator, on the sink top, in a dark closet! The more you allow the dough to rise, until it is doubled in bulk, and the more you punch it back down again to let it rise once more, the better the texture. Not enough salt in the dough will make it course. Too much shortening will make it heavy. Not enough shortening will make it dry. Eggs will make it soft like a coffee cake. No eggs at all will make it spongy like old-fashioned bread. Homemade bread can be anything you want it to be, depending on the amount of time and effort you put into it.

The kitchen has always seemed to be my family’s center hub. The place where we all gathered, ate, laughed, talked about the events of our days, made plans for our future, and created happy memories. I have a sign in my kitchen that reads: “There’s a room in every home where the smallest events and biggest occasions become the stories of our lives.” Ours is usually the kitchen!

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Eating Out At Home Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1981, 12th Printing, p. 25)

LIVING AT HOME

(A story by Gloria Pitzer, based on family folklore.)

CROOKED PATH was a mid-western, sage brush hamlet, settled shortly before the Civil War by pioneers in covered wagons. Grandma was born there a few years after the war – the oldest daughter of her father’s second marriage.

Fortunately, for Grandma, her father dabbled in a little of this, a little of that; owning the saloon in town, a boarding house, and the town’s mercantile [store]. Her diary tells how she learned to cook at the boarding house, where she met Grandpa, who was renting a room there.

He married her in the parlor – much against her parents’ better judgement. On her 16th birthday and 17th birthday, they were blessed with the births their first two of eleven children – six boys and five girls. We were never quite certain what work Grandpa was in, but it took them from the plains of Nebraska to Ohio, to West Virginia and, eventually, to Michigan, with abbreviated residencies in Pennsylvania and Indiana.

From her ‘Recipe Journal’ notes, it seemed clear that Grandma’s ‘Back Door Bakery’ supported the family’s income rather substantially for many years. Grandpa was probably a professional handyman from what we’ve been able to piece together from Grandma’s ‘Recipe Journal’. She made meticulous notes on recipes, to the effect: ‘This is the pie I baked from the California lemons that Gus Maxwell gave Pa for fixing his plow.’

[Another entry said:] ‘The hens Pa got in payment for the book cases he made for Judge Burns made a fine stew, good soup, and six loaves of chicken sausage.’ [And another said:] ‘The sack of brown sugar Yostman gave Pa for mortaring up his stove pipes made a good caramel pie – sent to ailing Bessie Forbes, down the road.’

From studying the quill-pen entries, I gather that work was the most essential part of life 80 years ago. By contrast, today’s workmanship is inferior to anything produced by the craftsman of yesterday. I wonder why people, today, are so unhappy with their own work – as if the tedium of labor is not really the problem; and isn’t it typical that those who hold work to be without value are, themselves, empty? To imply, today, that work is without meaning is actually to also imply that life is without meaning – which most of our social influences do rather thoroughly.

Grandma’s cookery appears to let nothing go to waste. The broth from Judge Burns’ hens also made the gravy for the stew, the meat portion made the sausage and the bones from the carcass were ground fine and buried in the vegetable plot in the back of the firewood shed.

Apparently, Grandma and Grandpa were considered among the prosperous of their community because they were productive, although, never wealthy. At least, we do know that they were indeed happy. But the definition of ‘happiness’ in Grandma’s own handwriting was: ‘Happiness sometimes comes from ignorance – from not knowing how much better our life might be.’

One of the aunts confided that Grandma placed great importance upon the strength of her family and the respect they gave their father because her own life, with her parents, was less than memorable. Her life centered around her family – the heart of which seemed to be the kitchen. Their nourishment, however, was not [solely] food but [also] love that came from ‘actions’ rather than lip service!

‘The healing meadows of memory lift more than spirits.’ – Unknown

#StrawberryRhubarbPieDay

In honor of tomorrow’s national observance of Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day, here is Mom’s copycat recipe for Big Boy-Style Strawberry Pie, as seen in Mom’s cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 7). PLUS, 2 BONUS RECIPES to go with it! Enjoy!

WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

I HAVE 2 BONUS RECIPES FOR YOU THIS WEEK!

SPECIAL NOTE: For the strawberry jam, in the above recipe, try Mom’s freezer jam recipe below, which she learned from my dad’s mom (my grandma)! And, for the pie shell, I highly recommend Mom’s personal favorite heirloom recipe, from her own mom (my grandma), for “Butter Pie Crust”, which follows the jam recipe, below.

P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/
https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/
…23 down, 29 to go!
https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Homemade Holidays

Happy Monday! Did you know that today, December 9th, is National Pastry Day? Thus, it’s a great time to make those special holiday pies and tarts! In honor of this day, at the end of this blog entry, I’m including Mom’s favorite butter pie crust recipe (which, originally, came from her mom; but Mom thought it was a great imitation of the Baker’s Square product). I posted it in one of my early blog entries and it can also be found on the “Recipes” tab of this web site.

Debates are going on as to whether traditions are a joy to continue or a chore. There’s a great article about that very thing at https://sixtyandme.com/what-are-your-favorite-christmas-memories-and-traditions/. I just finished filling out my traditional Christmas cards this weekend and, like Mom, it started out with lots of joy and excitement and wishes for the receivers but, about half way through my address book, I started feeling like it was a chore; thus, my notes and wishes became shorter and shorter. As seen in last week’s blog entry [*with an additional paragraph added to it this week]…

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Christmas Card Cook Book

(Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1983, p. 3)

Sending Christmas cards has always been a favorite tradition in our house. In 28 years, we only sent store-bought cards twice. Every Christmas, other than that, we made our cards. That was the one important tradition we followed – and still do…

What usually happened was that we had every good intention of confining our list to those who really were important to us [and] who we rarely saw during the rest of the year… I like to put newsy little notes inside that would bring old friends up to date with what we had been doing since we sent them our last Christmas card.

…I am one of those annoying sentimentalists who will, too, read every word of the long, newsy Christmas letters and the page-by-page accounts of how our friends have been doing since the last Christmas.

*Christmas cards for our family have always found us writing newsy notes to those on our list, alphabetically, from the Andreason’s to the Groff’s [names]… I manage to tell them about the five kids, but before I am through the names on our list that begin with ‘H’, I’ve run out of synonyms for IMPOSSIBLE! From the Hudson’s through Zillich, I find that my newsy little notes have usually dwindled to just plain ‘Hi!’

I don’t know if fewer cards are being sent at Christmas since postage became so expensive – or if we simply don’t know that many people. The tradition, however, seems to be fading…

After writing about traditions in last week’s blog entry (titled the same), I couldn’t turn off the memories of my childhood holidays and all the traditions, including all the things that Mom usually made by hand just to make the season more special for all of us. It’s no secret that, before Secret RecipesTM took off, money was usually tight for our family of seven (nine, if you count the dog and cat!) Therefore, a lot of what we enjoyed during the holidays – be it greeting cards, food, gifts, decorations, clothes, etc. – was homemade simply to ease the budget.

Between Mom making our “treats” budget stretch and requests from her readers (when she was writing newspaper columns that focused on homemakers), that’s what inspired the “legend” we came to know as the Recipe DetectiveTM! Mom loved to imitate famous foods from famous places so we could enjoy eating out – right at home and at less of a cost! Homemade fast food and junk food – who’d have thought…!

Mom & Phil Donahue, during her 2nd appearance on his show. (1993)

As it turned out, there were millions of people who wanted to learn how to do the same for their families and they learned it from Mom, first. Now, there are all kinds of “copycats” who copied the ORIGINAL COPYCAT… yet, none of them give her the proper credit she deserves for having inspired them. The biggest culprit is Todd Wilbur, who continues to lie about from where he got his inspiration – saying it was from a Mrs. Field’s cookie recipe, but it was actually from one of Mom’s cookbooks that he ordered after her FIRST appearance on the Phil Donahue Show. Anyway, out of that rabbit hole and on to…

My childhood memories of by-gone holidays took me back to Mom’s (and Grandma’s) homemade holiday treats – such as the traditional rum-soaked fruitcake, bite-sized squares of Christmas fudge, little pastry tarts, a wide-variety of cookies and pies, hot fudge sauce, chunks of peanut brittle and, of course, the candy-covered gingerbread house.

All the memories and missing my parents have me craving the old-fashioned (and priceless) homemade holidays. When my own children were growing up and money was tight for our family, as well, we would often have homemade holidays. I still treasure all the artwork and ceramic/clay creations that my kids made for me every holiday.

Likewise, I remember Mom’s homemade gifts more often than any of the store-bought ones. My all-time favorite was a “rag” doll she made for me from scraps of material, yarn, ribbons and buttons. Oh, how I wish I still had it! Now, in hind-sight, I realize just how much love Mom poured into all of our homemade holidays.

I must say, I miss the treats immensely! Maybe I pine for them so much because I can’t have those kinds of things any longer – not if I want to continue controlling my weight and sugar levels and, thereby, my health, as well. As the old idiom imparts, “absence makes the heart grow fonder!” This holiday season, I’m determined to find ways to imitate my favorite treats in some low-carb way so that I can enjoy them once again!

The cards, treats and gifts weren’t the only things that were homemade. So were many decorations. I mentioned in my blog entries, many times, that Mom was very crafty. I remember some Christmas crafts Mom would do with us kids, back in the 1970s, making angels out of her old Reader’s Digest magazines and ornaments out of homemade salt dough.

Me and Mom – 1971 & 2016

At Christmas time, I liked to do those crafts with my children when they were little, as well. Together, we also collected various kinds of pine cones and branches, chestnuts and acorns – all with which to make winter bird feeders, wreaths and garland. We also strung popcorn to wrap around the christmas tree like garland.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Christmas Card Cook Book

(Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1983, pp. 4-5)

Breaking through the barriers of tradition, we find a spirited acceptance of new family values. Occasions have replaced celebrations. Getting together has been replaced by BEING together! Good food, comfortable conversation [and] warm hospitality have become more important to the family circle than reverence without reason, tolerance without tact, relatives without relationships!

The lovely part about Christmas for us, was always being together – with our friends, our good and dear neighbors and our relatives; in a series of activities that began with Thanksgiving and tapered off around the new year. It was hectic, but it was also many happy reunions, mixed well with spontaneous visitations that, had they been a part of the ordinary activities of the rest of the year, would not mean so much now!

The food was simple, but ample. The food, I feel, should never be more important than the guests for whom it is prepared…All of these preparations are a part of Christmas – but, not the important part. The tokens only represent the real meaning – that of loving, of letting go of old grudges, of forgetting past hurts, of looking for something good (even though you don’t see it – until you do!)

Pitzer kids, group shot – Christmas Eve, 1969

LOVE, most philosophers conclude, is the highest level of thought. It is the logic of the heart. And no other season of the calendar year seems to reflect more of this feeling, this consolation to our woes, than the season of Christmas!

We reach out to others – and want them, in turn, to respond to us. Some of us do it with gifts that we buy or make and some of us do it with social gestures of food and hospitality. While all of these traditions are renewed at this particular time of the year, the critics complain and the cynics look for reasons to begrudge us the pleasure of loving the season, renewing the fellowship of it – with family, friends and neighbors.

But that’s not unusual and we shouldn’t be surprised by the criticisms that try to take some of the joy out of the holiday traditions we follow – or create for ourselves. There are always critics, unfortunately, for those occasions in our lives when we wish to be glad about something…

So, on with the celebration – whether we choose to keep it quietly in our own personal fashion of religious customs, or whether we choose to make it festive and pronounced with the traditions of gifts and food. The point is, we are celebrating the season of hope… It’s a time for loving – for expressing it [and] for offering it to others! How can something like that not be good!

Our own traditions have not been very elaborate in our family, during the Christmas season; but, the things we have always done to make the holiday more enjoyable, brought us pleasure. So, we have continued with them. Whether you choose to follow traditions or to create some of your own, the underlying meaning is still there to express joy and LOVE – that incredible, curious logic of the heart!

You really don’t need to be crafty to create a homemade holiday celebration with anything and everything from food to gifts to decorations. Barely more than a few decades ago, home computers were not a common thing – having a complete set of encyclopedias (in hard copy) was a must – we didn’t have the endless concepts, floating around the internet, like you have currently.

Nowadays, ideas and instructions for making just about anything and everything can be found on the world wide web by typing just a few key words into a search box. The knowledge of the world is, literally, at our finger tips! Pinterest is usually my first go-to-source for ideas and inspirations on the web, but I also like to use Bing, Google and YouTube, as well.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

My favorite inexpensive, homemade gift ideas use a Mason jar! Any size or style you choose, these jars are so versatile – and reusable too! They can be filled with dry mix ingredients and a recipe card for making/baking the product. They can be filled with natural elements (like pine sprigs, cinnamon, etc.) for potpourri that can be simmered in a pot of water on the stove. They can be filled with homemade soaps or salves – there are so many “how to” sites on the web, from which to gather many inspirations and instructions.

Pinterest is my favorite “search engine” for inspiration and ideas that I can’t find in my mom’s books, first. My own personal page at Pinterest, ldemerich(which I started years ago), can be seen at https://www.pinterest.com/ldemerich and has quite an eclectic collection of boards; while the OFFICIAL page of The Recipe DetectiveTM (which represents Mom, her last cookbook and her website) can be seen at https://www.pinterest.com/therecipedetective. Keep in mind – that page is still building up boards and is a continuous work in progress (WIP), as is this website, as well.

IN CLOSING…

#NationalPastryDay

P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available for sale, at $20.99 each, through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; it’s also available in eBook form, for $3.99, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Either form (or both) will make GREAT Christmas gifts!