By Gloria Pitzer, as seen on her 2002-2004 “Free Recipes” and ordering information sheet.
Imitating the menu item specialty of a famous steakhouse was no simple challenge! It’s a very creamy onion soup with just a hint of nutmeg and cheese. At home, I recreate it this way…
2 cans (10-oz each) [condensed] cream of chicken soup
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
1 slice each – Kraft “Singles” sharp cheddar and Swiss
In top of double boiler, over gently simmering water, combine ingredients just as listed, tearing cheese slices into bits as you add them. Stir until smooth and it comes to a serving temperature. Serves 5, famously; or 6, sparingly. Do NOT freeze this. Keep leftovers in the refrigerator, tightly covered, to rewarm within a few days.
Next Monday celebrates National Retro Day! Retro describes something new that’s imitative of past, classic fashion styles or designs. Nowadays, retro has expanded to describe many other classic things from our past – such as music, movies, TV shows, and even foods.
Additionally, next Wednesday is also the beginning of March, which celebrates National Craft Month! A craft is basically an activity that involves making things skillfully, with your hands. Common retro crafts include macrame, weaving, sewing, knitting and crocheting.
These days, other popular crafts include making beer/wine, jam, soap, pottery, jewelry, candles, aroma oils, etc. Sugaring, which is the process of gathering maple sap and making it into a sugar and/or syrup [NOT the hair-removal process by the same name], is considered a craft, as well.
Unofficially, March Is Maple Syrup Season In Michigan; which is also the title of a timeless, informative article about the traditional (retro) method of sugaring; written by Russell Kidd (March 14, 2013), available at Michigan State University’s Extension’s website.
Making maple syrup is a really big event in Michigan! On the weekends, mid-March to late-April, in different regions around Michigan, you’ll find an array of maple syrup festivals, celebrating the age-old craft of sugaring.
The ideal conditions required for maple sap to flow well are here, as night temperatures hover around the freezing mark and daytime temps warm up, into the 40’s range. The sugaring season normally lasts about four to six weeks, depending on the weather, climate change, and location.
Once the weather gets too warm and the trees start to bud, the sap is no-longer good for sugaring and the season is done. Around this time of year, since four years ago, I love re-sharing a really great story/video from my local morning news show.
Backyard Maple Syrup, With Jill-of-all-Trades, by Jill Washburn (March 26, 2019), available at Fox2Detroit.com, is an impressive segment about how to collect maple tree sap and a simple way to cook down a small batch (about 2 gallons), for a day or so in a slow cooker, until it renders a sweet, thick syrup.
When the mini sugaring process is done, the two gallons of sap yields about a half-cup of syrup, but there’s such a great feeling of accomplishment in being able to say, “I made it, myself!” [FYI: December 17th is the OFFICIAL National Maple Syrup Day.]
I’ve learned that maples with a 25-inch (or more) diameter can handle up to three taps but no trees should ever have more than that. Those with a 10-to-20-inch diameter shouldn’t have more than one tap. At 20-25 inches (diameter), they can sustain up to two taps. In an average season, each tap can produce about 10 gallons of sap, which renders about one quart of syrup.
Here’s a re-share of Mom’s homemade, copycat version of “Syrup, Like Pancake House”, made from pantry shelf products; as seen in her self-published cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1977, p. 32).
Between inflation and supply shortages, people are resorting more to making their own groceries and personal care products. Given our current trend, I think many of us are going to learn more about old-fashioned homesteading skills.
Mom was a trailblazer, with her “copycat cookery concept”. But she also wrote about how to stretch food, reinvent leftovers, and make many grocery products at home! If it saved money on her family’s grocery budget, she had to share it with others. Critics thought her craft (copycat cookery) was a passing fad that wouldn’t last. They were so wrong!
Not only did it last but it grew by leaps and bounds since its inception in the 1970s. Mom carved out a creative new niche in the food industry. People wanted to make their own fast food, junk food and grocery products at home. The concept was so catching that there were copycats copying the ORIGINAL copycat, even plagiarizing her.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, pp. 298-299). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)].
WE WERE RECEIVING ABOUT 1000 letters a day from the radio shows that I took part in and the newspaper stories that I was more-or-less an acting consultant on subjects related to ‘fast food’. In the spring of 1981, our old friend, Carol Haddix, ran a story about our new book of ‘Homemade Groceries’ in the Chicago Tribune, where she had just been assigned the food department.
The Donahue Show people called once more and requested our appearance. We had just done a PM Magazine show with Detroit and had declined an invitation to appear in New York on Good Morning America, as well as declining an opportunity to have People Magazine interview us – and I still wonder why in the world I said I would do the Donahue show!
I think it was because I had just tangled with Grit, the weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania, over giving credit to the Food editor’s teenage daughter for having developed a fish batter like Arthur Treacher’s, using [my] club soda and pancake mix [recipe] – and received an apology on the back page of one of their issues, placing the item between an ad for corn and callous remover and waste cinchers.
I was also tangling with Jove Publications, who were pressing hard to sell their ‘Junk Food Cookbook’, using my recipes, word-for-word, with credit going to somebody else. I wanted to establish the fact that I was very much in business and willing to protect my copyrighted property with the same enthusiasm and sincerity as the major food companies had exhibited in protecting theirs from my imitations. (And believe me, we’ve heard from all the big ones!)
So, on July 6, Paul and I flew to Chicago, staying at the Hyatt O’Hare, and did the Donahue show live – for an entire hour – on July 7, flying back that same afternoon. The next day, 15,000 letters waited for us at the St. Clair post office.
And every day for 4 months, we picked up thousands of letters – having received by Christmas, well over 1 million letters, requesting information on how to acquire our books, which were still available only by mail from our address. We were bogged down with an unexpected response. It was an experience of mixed blessings!
I’ve often mentioned that my favorite, of Mom’s self-published cookbooks, is The Secrets Of Homemade Groceries (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1979). When I was a young mom, struggling to make ends meet, money was tight, and the pantry was almost bare. Mom’s ‘Homemade Groceries’ cookbook was always my go-to source – AND still is.
It teaches how to make a lot of popular grocery products at home; as well as, how to stretch or extend other products, saving a lot of money on the monthly grocery expenses! The ‘high demand’, ‘overhead costs’ and ‘expected profits’ that are added to the prices of ‘convenience’ foods are what kill us at the grocery stores!
The lack of real nutrition that’s missing from these preservative-loaded, manufactured foods are not benefiting our health, either. They’re full of unnatural, shelf-life stabilizers, none of which are found in homemade groceries, where YOU control the ingredients!
‘Homemade Groceries’ includes easy principles for canning and freezing food, as well as making your own mixes, sauces and seasonings at a great financial savings compared to buying them – especially now! The retro homesteading concept has spawned new interests in “homemade”.
What happened to us, as a society? We became a too-busy-with-other-things, instant-gratification-and-convenience-overloaded culture! About half a century ago, we evolved into times when both parents, in a family unit, had to work to make ends meet, while their children were “raised” in the public schools’ Latchkey program.
The value of time changed dramatically, especially for working homemakers. Self-sufficiency and homesteading became a dying skill among many of the newer generations, who opted to spend their time differently, in exchange for conveniences – even to the extent of wanting more conveniences.
Nowadays, too many families are struggling to survive week-to-week and month-to-month, so cost-saving homesteading skills (re-termed as DIY) are making a renewed comeback. Besides, sometimes, when it comes to food, homemade is just better made, especially if you have to follow a special diet, as you control the ingredients in the product you covet.
‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’ – Plato
Vegetable gardening time is approaching fast. Many growers are starting their seeds indoors, right now, and prepping their garden beds for when it’s time to transplant those seedlings outside – usually after about 8 weeks. I remember when I was young, helping Mom in our little garden and orchard, in Algonac; collecting tomatoes, apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb for her homemade sauces and desserts.
Besides the nutritional and money-saving values of growing your own food, it’s also a healthy activity! You can burn a lot of calories, while tending a garden. There are so many aspects involved – planting, weeding, mulching, composting, watering, harvesting. I’m really looking forward to getting back into my garden soon.
In honor of TODAY, being National Muffin Day, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for “White Mountain Muffins” (aka: Bongo Biscuits); as seen in her self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; April 1986, p. 101).
Friday, February 24th is… National Tortilla Chip Day! BONUS: In honor, here’s Mom’s secret recipes for “Tortilla Shells” and “[Homemade] Masa Harina”, as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, pp. 68 & 70). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)].
Just because the month is ending, don’t stop your hobby or donating blood or mentoring someone. Don’t stop enjoying soup, hot tea, or oatmeal. And definitely continue having and appreciating slow cooked meals throughout the year. Any day can be celebrated on any day – look at “Christmas in July”.
‘Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life’ – Mark Twain
As I wrote about recently, a lot of New Year’s resolutions include starting a new hobby. Another is turning a hobby into a livelihood! Similarly to Mark Twain, NationalDayCalendar.com says about hobbies: “…if you’re really lucky, you can find what you love to do and turn it into your career. You know what they say: ‘If you make your hobby your job, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.’”
The authoring seed was planted in Mom’s soul decades before her Secret RecipesTM business really took off in the mid-1970s. Whenever Mom was asked “how did it all start”, she always found it hard to pinpoint that one single moment.
However, she was initially inspired to be a writer, after watching the 1946 Warner Brothers movie, “Devotion”, about the Bronte sisters. Mom said that was when she began to journal, seriously – on a daily basis – usually writing about her life and her faith.
Mom filled journal after journal, for well-over 70 years, with her thoughts and feelings and observations, from the time she was 10 years old until she physically couldn’t, shortly before she passed away in January 2018. Writing was so much more than “just a hobby” or a vocation, to Mom. It was a DEVOTION!
‘Succeeding against the odds…When I look back now, I realize that I was so busy trying to prove that others were wrong about me, I couldn’t see how events were already taking place that would sooner or later put me where I had always wanted to be – writing for a worthwhile living, while it made living worthwhile.’ – Gloria Pitzer My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 81)
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over And I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 25)
THE LITTLE STEPS
OVER THE YEARS, the reporters who came to interview us, somehow arrived at our doorstep anticipating a happy cross between the Walton’s and the Brady Bunch. I don’t know if they were disappointed or relieved to learn that we weren’t even close to either of the adorable, but fictional, families they expected.
There were times when the reporters asked to come out to our home, then, in Pearl Beach (near Algonac) and so small, I use to say, if we had a City Hall it would be located over a phone booth!
They would approach the story as if it were just another housewife with a happy little hobby who turned it into a profitable business. My writing was never a hobby… For lack of a better definition, the Internal Revenue Service calls our enterprise a ‘business’… [while] others call it our ‘work’. I, however, like the word ‘livelihood’ because it is a lively experience.
Mom always felt that writing was her “true calling”, claiming that she made a living with it, but it was her writing that made living worthwhile! I’ve found many articles online, regarding hobbies for making you happy, as well as making you money. Three great reads that I especially liked are:
Personally, I have a lot of hobbies that I love. I’ve even made a little money from some of them. However, I’m not a very good sales person and that is a very important element one needs, if they’re going to succeed at making money from their hobby.
You really need to be able to sell yourself, your brand, and your product/service – OR be able to pay someone else (which is usually a lot of money) to do it for you.
Moreover, February is also home to many food-oriented, official and non-official holidays like the NFL’s Super Bowl Sunday, Valentine’s Day, Fat Tuesday (aka: Mardi Gras), Ash Wednesday and Lent. I’d like to add that it’s also the anniversary month of Mom’s first appearance on ABC’s “Home” show, which aired in 1988 – shortly after the show first began.
Following the overwhelming fallout from her first Donahue Show appearance, in 1981 – when she received over a million letters in response – Mom insisted that she would never do another national television show. Nonetheless, when her friend and famous crafter, Carol Duvall, called, to ask her to give ABC’s “Home” show a try, Mom couldn’t say no.
“Home” was a relatively new show, in which Carol, herself, had come to be involved. It turned out to be a really rewarding experience for Mom; especially when she was surprised by Wally Amos, being there, in person, to taste-test her imitation of his own famous, chocolate-chip cookies.
ABC’s “Home” show began as a half-hour program in mid-January 1988. Mom was, first, a guest in February 1988. Following a 60-minute trial run in September 1988, “Home” expanded permanently to an hour-long series in January 1989. Mom returned, to appear on another episode, for the entire hour, in March 1991.
After “Home” ended, in 1994, host, Rob Weller formed a production company with someone else and, together, they developed “The Carol Duvall Show”; which aired on HGTV from 1994 until 2005, after which it moved to the DIY Network and ran for another 4 years.
AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 68)
THE HOME SHOW & WALLY AMOS
THE HOME SHOW… in February 1988, were wonderful to us [Paul and me]. They flew us to Los Angeles, and we appeared with Rob Weller and Sandy Hill in a [half] hour segment that re-created some of our recipes. They were very specific that I do our ‘Famous Nameless Cookies’ and I could not see the reason they absolutely insisted on that recipe.
I had trouble finding the right ingredients an hour before airtime, but we made compromises there and came up with an even BETTER version than before. What had happened, without my knowing it, was Wally Amos, himself [was there]. They flew him in from Hawaii to taste-test my version of HIS product.
What a delightful man! What a warm and generous soul. He brought me a tin of an assortment of his favorite cookies and, after tasting my version of his product, made me promise that I would never go into the cookie business! Meeting Wally Amos was one of those cherished memories that I will always look back on warmly.
In time for February’s National Bake for Family Fun Month, here’s a re-share of two versions of Mom’s secret recipes for re-creating these cookies at home. Years ago, Mom gave these away, on her free sample recipes and ordering information sheets, in exchange for an SASE – self-addressed, stamped envelope.
In 1993, after Mom’s second appearances on both, ABC’s “Home” show and “The Donahue Show”, Guthie-Renker Corp. created an hour-long infomercial, called “Ask Mike”, for Secret RecipesTM and the Recipe DetectiveTM (it was also produced & directed by Positive Response Television).
Similar to her appearances on “Home” and “Donahue”, the infomercial included food demonstrations, in a talk show setting, with “taste tests” and a guest-appearance by Wally Amos. Our family received copies of the production, when it was finished, but it never aired on television.
A lot of turmoil and drama surrounded the making of the infomercial. After that upsetting experience, Mom decided to never do television shows, again. For 40 years, she loved doing radio talk shows so much more and, other than some local TV talk shows, radio interviews was all she did until 2014, when she had to fully retire due to health issues.
‘I had found that television appearances were merely food demonstrations that I did not enjoy experiencing. I enjoyed my radio work more, and the number of stations on which I had become a regular participant had grown to include over 100 across the country and in Canada.’– Gloria Pitzer [As seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 298)]
Beginning yesterday, the last Sunday in January, and through next Sunday, is National Meat Week! Plus, in honor of January, still being National Sunday Supper Month, here is Mom’s copycat recipe for “Beef In Wine Sauce”; as seen in her early-1970s syndicated column, Cookbook Corner By Gloria Pitzer.
Wednesday begins the month of February. The first week of February observes, among other things… African Heritage and Health Week(which is always February 1st-7th) and US Snow Sculpting Week(which is a five-day celebration that starts on the first Wednesday in February (1st-5th for 2023).
Since yesterday began the third week of January, this week is observing National Hunt for Happiness Week! For over 20 years, people have celebrated this through many kinds of activities. After all, happiness is as diverse as the people who seek it. Where do you find happiness?
Mom used to tell me, whenever I was feeling overwhelmed and frustrated about all of the tough challenges I was facing, in life, that happiness could not found in what I think I want or in the stuff I attain; but, rather, in who I am, personally. Mom would insist that true happiness came from within us – all of us.
It is not about the things you have in life. The journey through and what you learn from life is what counts. In other words, it’s the trek that matters the most. Sadly, there are still those who truly believe that their level of happiness is in direct proportion to their level of success and financial worth.
Nevertheless, “success levels” (if such things can really be measured) have no real correlation with how many things nor how much money one acquires. If you’re hunting for happiness through money and things, you may find false hope, but you’ll never find true happiness.
Happiness is a state of thought. It begins with gratitude for all we’ve already received and achieved – not with what we ‘own’ or the ‘things’… – Gloria Pitzer, as seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Newsletter, Issue #218 (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Nov. 2000, p. 5)
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Reliable Recipes For Reluctant Cooks (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1983, p.10)
HAVING A GOOD ATTITUDE TOWARD COOKING
HAVING A GOOD ATTITUDE toward cooking, is the most positive way to approach the experience. Some folks really LOVE to cook, and they consequently do it well. But many of them can only turn out a handful of dishes perfectly and, therefore, limit their cooking practices, as well as their opportunities to eat foods that are unfamiliar to them.
Cooking is one of those skills that improve with practice, as does anything we undertake. But most of us are so conditioned to living in a world of instants that if a dish requires more of us than to add water – or to defrost and heat – we’re at a total loss in the kitchen!
Our life styles are changing more and more each day. We’re living in the age of fast food, instant coffee, Minute Rice, … one-step floor cleaners, quick breads, split-second decisions, rapid transit travel and planes that go 700-MPH – so why shouldn’t cooking be hurried along as well?
When you don’t really like to cook, it’s hard to imagine that it does have a positive side to the experience. Gourmets live to cook, while the rest of us cook to live – and just as often, would prefer it if we didn’t have to cook at all. This attitude toward getting the whole thing over with as soon as we can, is a reflection of the pride we fail to take in our accomplished dishes.
When you thrive on compliments for your culinary skills, it’s different. When you do not have a positive interest in good cooking practices, you, likewise, don’t expect your creations to warrant compliments.
The best thing for you to do is start ‘small’ – working with only a few ingredients at a time, until you get the feeling of how certain foods go well together, what flavorings compliment them, the best way to present the food when you serve it, so that it looks even better than it will taste.
Long, complicated recipes that require numerous ingredients and pampering are not always as good as those dishes that require only a few ingredients and a short time to prepare. We have made the mistake of believing that ‘fast’ food is totally without merit, therefore cannot be wholesome, nutritious, nor worth the time and cost, but ‘fast’ can be good if it is properly prepared.
Happiness is not a commodity that can be bought, sold, and/or traded. True happiness comes from deep within us and is totally free! According to a study, conducted over a decade ago that still rings true, happiness is contagious. The study indicated that when one person is happy, the effect can spread up to three degrees in a social network; thereby, reaching family and friends, as well as the family and friends of your family and friends.
Mom had a way of spreading happiness, through her food-for-thought writings and copycat recipes, as well as her comedic cartoon panels. She had a contagious sense of humor and happiness about her that appealed to the media masses, which continually requested interviews with her, for four decades! When she wasn’t writing, Mom found her “happy place” in radio, mostly.
I find happiness in things like the Michigan fall colors, the happy-go-lucky smile of my grandson, the nuzzles and purrs from my cats (and my husband), the sun sparkling on the magnificent blue waters of The Great Lakes, the cheerful sounds of the birds and other wildlife in my backyard, and the aroma of a slow-cooker – with a simmering, Sunday stew – things that don’t have a price tag attached them!
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
Excerpts by Gloria Pitzer, as seen in…
This is not a Cook Book – It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, pp. 7-8)
THE HAPPIEST LITTLE ESCAPES in our lives can be, to us, what the spout is to a tea kettle that is up to its neck in hot water! It can give us an outlet for letting off steam – in a nice way! Everyone, who has their own little escape from the harsh realities of everyday life, seems to fare better than those who have absolutely nothing to which to escape.
I escape to a good book that will make me smile – or better yet, laugh right out loud, like George Burns has written. I escape to crocheting and good music, to long walks and long drives in our motor home, with my husband. There are so many lovely little escapes that each of us can choose that it’s a wonder more of us who seem to suffer from unreasonable burdens and false responsibilities, don’t seek out their retreats more often. It helps! (p. 7)
‘GOOD CHEER IS something much more than faith in the future, it is gratitude for the past and joy in the present!’ – Gloria Pitzer
I WASN’T KIDDING WHEN I said I envied happy people more than I did wealthy or famous people. From what I’ve read and what the rich and famous have said in filmed interviews, not too many of them are really happy with their wealth and their fame.
John Luther said that ‘happiness is not a matter of good fortune or worldly possessions. It’s a mental attitude. It comes from appreciating what we have, instead of being miserable about what we don’t have. It’s so simple – yet so hard for the human mind to comprehend.’ I agree! (p. 8)
‘If true happiness is acquired through persistence and patience, it would be like the fable of the elderly Chinese profit who asked for a needle when none could be found. However, somebody offered him a crowbar and a file. He was pleased and assured his friends that it was only a matter of time before he could produce the needle he wanted.’– Gloria Pitzer [As seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; January 2018, p. 304)]
LAST THOUGHTS… FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
This is not a Cook Book – It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 20)
DON’T WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW
LIVING ONE DAY at a time is one of the best recipes for happiness and for achievements of great value. Don’t worry needlessly about the future! It only uses up your energies that you surely need for the day at hand. Just remember that every day will hold good and bad, pleasure and a little suffering, too; a lot of joy and sometimes some pain, but don’t ever forget that these are the ingredients for making life either delicious or disastrous!
Grasp the good. Deal with the bad! Remember the pleasure. Forget the suffering as soon as you can. Hold onto the joy. Don’t let the pain get the best of you! When the pain leaves, don’t look back on it again. Taste the delicious flavors of the world around you!
Healthline.com offers 25 daily habits that can make you feel happy, in a wonderfully informative article written by Ann Pietrangelo (Jan. 15, 2019). Some of the habits mentioned in Ann’s article I’ve also found to be popular on many other “lists”, covering the subject of “achieving happiness”.
In honor of January, being National Soup Month, here is Mom’s copycat recipe for “Out Front Walk Around Soup” ; as seen on her 2002-2004 free recipe samples and information sheet.
With the hustle and bustle of Christmas in the rearview mirror and in advance of New Year’s Resolutions Week, which starts next week, now is usually the time that many of us start focusing on our New Year’s resolutions for 2023 – what we want to stop, start, attain, or change about ourselves.
Do you have goals you want to achieve in 2023? You’re not alone. Almost everyone makes at least one New Year’s resolution each year. According to Wikipedia, making a New Year’s resolution is a more common tradition in the Western world than it is in the Eastern one.
Supposedly, the New Year’s resolution tradition originated over 4,000 years ago, when ancient Babylonians made year-end promises to the gods, so as to earn their favor in the coming new year. ‘Tis the season to contemplate this past year’s accomplishments and shortcomings and declare our resolutions for 2023.
The most common New Year’s resolutions are, more often than not, intended to be lifestyle changes – usually related to money or getting more healthy and fit. According to a report from KrisTV.com/news, the Top 10 Most Common New Year’s Resolutions… (Dec. 30, 2021), for 2022, are as follows:
Learn a new skill or hobby
Live life to the fullest
Save more money / spend less money
Spend more time with family and friends
That’s actually quite similar to every year’s most common resolutions. In fact, this kind of looks like my retirement to-do-list, except to quit smoking because I already accomplished that May 1, 2006 – thanks to a book Mom gave me, The Easy Way To Quit Smoking by Allen Carr (Sterling, Sept. 2004).
After years of failed resolutions to change this or that about myself, I finally realized when I stopped smoking cigarettes (and have not gone back to it since), that the best route to a successful lifestyle change must first happen in my mind! In other words, “mind over matter” is the first step!
I think Mom heard about Carr’s book when it was recommended by Oprah or Dr. Oz, on one of their shows. She went right out to our local “Barnes & Noble” retailer and bought a copy, read it, applied it, and stopped smoking, herself. Then, she bought 3 more copies for me and my two sisters; in hopes that we’d all join the “quit smoking band wagon”, with her.
Unfortunately, Mom didn’t stick with it and neither did my sisters if they even tried at all. In fact, when she gave me the book, I didn’t even want to quit smoking. I enjoyed it. I hadn’t even thought about quitting previously, except during each of my pregnancies, in which I only quit for those time periods. Afterwards, I always CHOSE to go back to it.
Nonetheless, I promised Mom that I’d, at least, read the book and think about it. After I finished reading the book, and while I was still thinking about it, I loaned the book to a girlfriend who was dealing with cancer and Chemo. She was struggling with the “want” of smoking over the “want” of quitting. The book’s thought process worked for her immediately and she hasn’t smoked a cigarette since. That was in March 2006!
‘Live up to the best you can see yourself to be, never compromising with excuses and examining every reason for not doing what you are capable of doing…If, every day, we find a way to contribute our best efforts in thought, in action and with no regrets, we’ll never have to fear the future.’ – Gloria Pitzer, This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 14)
Stress and anxiety often accompany lifestyle changes like stopping smoking or starting a new diet or exercise regimen. Thus, it’s so important to be in the right frame of mind, first; so you don’t lose it – whether ‘it’ is your focus or your inspiration or your emotional stability – while you’re trying to lose “it” (which could refer to weight or some other health issue)!
How many resolutions have you made and broke? It might feel comforting to know that it’s extremely rare to actually keep a New Year’s resolution all year, let alone all Winter. In fact, according to The U.S. News (Dec. 29, 2015) …80 Percent of New Year’s Resolutions Fail by mid-February.
Breaking a plan down into a manageable series of short, daily or weekly steps and goals seems to help some people, in relieving stress and anxiety; thus, making it more simple to stay focused. It also offers more continuous motivation to reach each step and goal, while persevering to move on to the next one. One day at a time, one step at a time.
‘Having a goal gives us hope and it’s hope that keeps us going, enabling us each to meet whatever the world dishes out.’ – Gloria Pitzer [This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p.24)]
I’ve determined that every day is a defining moment, in which experience and knowledge influence our own personal evolutions. Thus, I think we need to seize those moments and do our best to make the most out of them! It really doesn’t matter when you start a resolution. The important thing is to see it through and commit yourself to its eventual success.
Most New Year’s resolutions are, more often than not, abandoned at the first sign of failure. There are no rules to the resolutions game. There’s nothing preventing you from changing the start or deadline dates, making new resolutions or reiterating resolutions you’ve already attempted, but from which you fell short.
‘Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Half effort does not produce half results. It produces no results! Work, continuous work and hard work, is the only way to accomplish results that last.’– Hamilton Holt, Hard Work With Some Caveats (PennWealth.WordPress.com; May 21, 2018)
Believe in yourself! The important thing, for success, is to “get back on the horse.” According to Mom, it’s not a “will” power that leads to any resolution’s success, it’s a “won’t” power – such as, “I won’t stop”, “I won’t give in”, “I won’t give up”, and “I won’t quit!”
‘Success is not in never failing, but in never fearing to begin again.’ – Gloria Pitzer, This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 14)
‘Start Now! Good thoughts and good feelings reinforce each other…When you hold on to one good thought, the better you’ll do things that make you feel good about yourself…Nothing will work for you unless you work for it.’ – Gloria Pitzer [This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p.32)]
Positivity is believing that every day is a good day – some are just better than others. Therefore, as opposed to saying, “have a good day”, Mom would suggest saying, instead, “keep good thoughts”. She reasoned, “How can you not have a good day, if you’re keeping good thoughts?”
‘Keeping good thoughts is a healthy exercise all the way around; but, like any form of exercise, you do have to work at it. And, like any other exercise, the more you work at it, the better it works for you.’ – Gloria Pitzer, This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 32)
In honor of tomorrow, being National Fruitcake Day, here is Mom’s copycat recipe for “Fruitcake Nobody Doesn’t Like”; as seen on the front page of her December 2002 Christmas Card/Free Recipes sheet.
Friday, December 30th is… National Bicarbonate of Soda Day, Falling Needles Family Fest Day, and National Bacon Day! Plus, being the last “work day” of the year (for 2022), it’s also… No Interruptions Day! In honor of BACON, here’s Mom’s secret recipe for “Bacon Chip Dip”; as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 282). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)]!
As seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 79). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition).]
TO PREPARE THE CRUST: sprinkle 2 packages dry yeast over 2/3-cup warm water and stir in 2 teaspoons sugar. Let it stand about 5 minutes or until very bubbly. Combine the following ingredients: 3 tablespoons corn oil, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon garlic salt, ½ teaspoon dry oregano leaves and about 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, beating to a smooth batter.
Beat in the yeast mixture, then, with a sturdy spoon, work in 3 to 3 ½ cups MORE flour until you can toss it lightly on a floured surface and knead it until it feels elastic in texture. The kneading may require about 2/3-cup additional flour just for coating your hands as you knead the dough. Don’t let the dough become too stiff; yet you don’t want it to stick to your hands.
THE SAUCE & TOPPINGS:
10 ½ ounce can of tomato soup
1 tablespoon dry oregano leaves
½ teaspoon garlic salt
8 ounces each: Mozzarella and Muenster cheese, shredded
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
8-ounce thinly-sliced pepperoni
8-ounce can of mushrooms, drained
Spray the inside of a large plastic food bag with Pam, or wipe the inside of it with oil, and place the ball of kneaded dough in this to rise until doubled in bulk. Be sure the plastic bag is large enough that it will permit the dough to double without splitting the bag.
You can place the bag of dough on a warm, sunny spot on the table or kitchen counter, which helps it to raise quickly – and, if it’s summer time, place the bag of dough (with the open-end sealed tightly with tape or a wire twist) in your car with the windows up!
When it has doubled in size, punch it down and shape it to fit two 15-inch round pizza pans that have been greased and dusted in cornmeal. Onto the dough, add the sauce and topping ingredients exactly in the order listed above, spreading each ingredient evenly over the dough.
Let this rise for about 20 minutes in a warm place and then bake at 450°F for about 20 to 25 minutes, putting one pizza at a time on center rack of the preheated oven. If you can only handle eating one pizza at a time, wrap the second pizza in foil or plastic and seal it with tape to lock out all air BEFORE it rises for a second time and freeze it. After letting it thaw for 30 minutes, you can bake it as directed above.
Greetings! Welcome to my blog home, Mondays & Memories of My Mom! My name is Laura Emerich and these blogs are dedicated to the memory of my mom, Gloria Pitzer, because she left behind such an incredible legacy when she went to be an angel last year.
Most knew her as the ORIGINAL Recipe DetectiveTM, investigator AND imitator of the food industry’s “secrets” behind the well-known products and dishes from famous companies and franchise chains like Olive Garden, Olga’s, Applebee’s, TGIF, Ruby Tuesday, Bob Evans, Big Boy Restaurants, Chi-Chi’s, Cracker Barrel, KFC, Wendy’s, White Castle, McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Sanders, Famous Amos, Mrs. Field’s, Kraft, Heinz, Nabisco, Keebler, Sara Lee… and the list goes on!
I’ve been writing these blogs on a weekly basis since last September, to channel the many wonderful memories I have of my mom and, also, to share her astonishing legacy – her special story – with a new, digital generation. Like Mom, I’ve always loved to write. One of my youngest memories are of Mom & I, when she was first teaching me how to write my name. I was going on 4 years old and about to start Kindergarten that fall. Mom sparked my love for writing, which she stoked in me throughout my life.
Mom left her mark on many from her over 60-year writing career, to her famous Secret RecipesTM profession to her personal loves of faith, family and life; all of which she always found a way to intermix in her creations, like the ingredients of a great recipe.
My mom’s first and last love (besides my dad) was with writing. She had always loved to write short stories and poetry since she was a young girl, as did I. She told me many stories of how she dreamed of writing “the great American novel” when she was a teenager. But, Mom’s childhood dream never came to fruition, as events in life took her in a slightly different direction with writing.
As a teenager and young adult in the 1950s and 1960s, she entered and won multiple contests, on radio shows and in magazines, usually winning cash or some sort of prize for her essays. However, every winning achievement that Mom had in authoring, usually included food in some manner.
Mom was creatively gifted, not just as a writer, but also as a publisher, advertiser/marketer, artist, crafter, homemaker, cook… and the list just goes on. Combined with a clever and satirical wit, all these ingredients uniquely formed Mom’s own special recipe for success – like a “super-power”! (FYI – yesterday was National Super Hero Day!)
Similar to stand-up comedians, Mom found her ‘family life’ to be the best source on which to base her cleverly witted cartoon panels and stories. In the course of her syndicated writing of “food-for-thought-and-table” columns, Mom found a unique niche that her readers wanted – even if the newspapers’ editors and their food industry advertisers didn’t.
Mom called it “eating out at home”! She set out to discover how to imitate the popular fast food & fine dining dishes in her own kitchen; as well as, some shelf-stable grocery items too. If it saved her household money, my mom wanted to share it with the world to help others save money also. Mom was a trail-blazer and pioneer for copycat cuisine, as no one else was doing this – imitating the fast food and junk food dishes/products that people craved, but critics constantly warned us were unhealthy!
From 1973 through 2004, Mom wrote and self-published hundreds of newsletters and at least 40 books filled with not only thousands of these “secret” recipe imitations that she personally developed and tested, but also with her humorous stories and anecdotes, helpful kitchen and household tips, as well as some background or history about many of the companies and products being imitated.
Mom put so much love and passion into the recipes she developed and wrote, testing them over and over again (which was a labor of love all its own) until she felt they were good enough to share. In addition, Mom found that by promoting the making of these “taboo” foods at home, it gave the cook control over the ingredients that went into the recipes; thereby, debunking the “junk” to which the critics referred!
Her food-for-thought editorials were always written from her heart, with a devotion and hunger for helping and informing her readers, as well as entertaining them. Mom designed each of her books and newsletters, to be as much a coffee-table or bedside-table read as it was a recipe collection for the kitchen. No other such products on the market, at that time, could do that and Mom’s compositions took the monotony out of meal time!
Additionally, more of Mom’s memories about writing are in the following excerpts from of her own story, as seen in her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, (Balboa Press; January 2018, pp. 292-297). This book was actually a re-write by me of Mom’s favorite and most famous, self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Printing):
I enjoy working with these recipe secrets, but most of all, I enjoy writing about them. I’ve been writing all my life… Going way-back to when I was in grade school. I was always writing a book, or a poem or a short story. It was a way of life from my earliest memories – a way over which I seem to have no personal control! I had to write… Preferably about what I knew best at the time. Little did I know that what I would come to know best would be cooking!
… I met my husband, Paul… We started dating and one year later we were married. That was 1956. Bill was born over a year later and, then, Mike came 20 months after that, and Debbie came along 20 months after that. I lost 3 babies in the next 3 years, but Laura was born in 1964 and Cheryl came 20 months after that.
That reminds me of one summer in my teen years, as our family was traveling on vacation to Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH – during the long, 3-hour drive, Mom sat in the back of the van with me and helped me work on a poem that I was inspired to write about her and our family. Another cherished memory! I’ll include the poem at the end of this blog. But, for now, here is the continuation of Mom’s memories about writing…
During those years…I kept up with my writing, always working for one of the suburban papers and constantly free-lancing to magazines. When Redbook sent me $500 for my ‘Young Mother’s Story’ submission in February 1963, called ‘We’ll Never Live with In-Laws Again’, I put part of the money into a typewriter, as I had always had to borrow one before that. I wanted a typewriter more than Reagan wanted to be president!
I put a lot of miles on that $39.95 machine – I designed a column for weekly newspapers and mailed out samples to over 300 newspapers. Within a year, I had acquired 60 regular papers for my ‘No Laughing Matter’ column and another column I called ‘Minding the Hearth’. Columbia Features in New York offered me a contract, and, for a year, I allowed them to syndicate the column in competition with a new humorist, Erma Bombeck! (Right church, wrong pew for me!)
When Columbia Features and I parted company…within 6 months I had regained all my original papers and was syndicating the column from our dining room table…I rode a bike to and from the Pearl Beach post office every day, where I mailed out my columns and looked for responses to ads I had placed… for [my] recipes on 4×6” cards that enabled you to imitate famous dishes at home.
At the suggestion… that I should put all my column’s recipes into a book, I wrote my 1st edition called ‘The Better Cooker’s Cookbook’ . In less than a month, I had sold 1000 copies. I wasn’t satisfied with the book, so I didn’t reprint it – but, decided that it might work out better if I could do those recipes monthly…I put together my 1st issue of what came to be my ‘Secret Recipe Report’, a newsletter that… brought me in contact with the many so-called secrets of the commercial food and restaurant industry.
It was a perfect storm – from the unique subject matter of her books and newsletters to the media exposure of them through radio, newspapers, magazines and TV – which, all together, brought about Mom’s fame as the Recipe DetectiveTM.
I’m currently working on a time line of her appearances and interviews to add to this website’s tabs, gathering most of the information through her books, newsletters and other works as best as I can. However, I haven’t decided on a title for the new tab yet. I’m also still working on updating the “Recipes” tab with more of Mom’s creations. Before closing, here is the poem I mentioned above:
Shortly after starting these blogs, I decided to include one of Mom’s recipes with each one. For the 35-plus years that Mom “worked her business”, she offered (in exchange for a SASE) a sheet of free recipes, along with information on how to order her currently available (at that time) self-published cookbooks; as well as how to subscribe to her newsletter.
I’ve recently exhausted all the recipes from the information sheets of which I have copies. However, this website, originally developed by my brother, Michael Pitzer (for internet exposure to our parents and their Secret RecipesTM business), used to offer other “free” recipes that Mom authorized; some of which weren’t on those information sheets.
Since my brother transferred the website to me, with which to carry on Mom’s legacy through these blogs, I’ve been working on updating the “Recipes” tab to include all the free recipes that were on the site to begin with (as they didn’t transfer to the new host), as well as the ones on Mom’s information sheets. It’s taking some time because I only have a printed list of the original 34 recipe titles that were offered on the website. As times change, so do some companies’ recipes; thus, Mom has had a few different versions of some of her recipes. I’ve found almost half of the original list so far. Stay tuned for more updates!
The following recipe may not be the same one that used to show for free on this website before last September, but this is the recipe I found for the same or similar title – as always, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:
Olive Garden-Style Alfredo Fettucine
By Gloria Pitzer, from My Personal Favorites (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Nov. 2000, p. 19)
8-oz cream cheese, in bits
¾ c grated Parmesan
8 TB butter
½ c milk
1-lb box fettucine, prepared as box instructs
Put first 4 ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring until smooth and piping hot – but, don’t let it boil or it might scorch! Spoon sauce mixture over 4 portions of prepared fettucine. Serves 4 sensibly or 2 foolishly!
For all of you shrimp-loving foodies out there, this happens to be National Shrimp Scampi Day! Shrimp Scampi was one of Mom’s many favorite dishes at Olive Garden. It goes awesome with her imitation of their Alfredo Fettucine, as given above! The National Day Calendar website has a link to a great shrimp scampi recipe by Elise Bauer on “Simply Recipes”. Enjoy making this wonderful dish, along with the pasta, for dinner to celebrate the day and use #NationalShrimpScampiDay to post about it on social media.
This week also brings an end to National Gardening Month. So, as we come from celebrating Earth Day and Arbor Day last week, now it’s Stewardship Week – one of the world’s largest conservation-related observances… this year’s theme is “Life In the Soil: Dig Deeper.” Since conservation is the preservation of resources, it sounds like a great segue from April into May! So is this old proverb…“April showers bring May flowers” – people have quoted this for centuries; but, as we approach May, I find it ironic that the first week is also National Wildflower Week! Additionally, Wednesday, the 1st, is “May Day”, as well as “Bird Day”!