Growing up in our German/Irish household, pizza was not a regular in the dinner rotation.  The few restaurant dinners I remember as a family were mostly Friday fish fry’s.  As I got older however, Date Night in the 70’s in Milwaukee meant Mama Mia’s pizza.  Walking into that warm, cozily lit restaurant from a cold Wisconsin evening was just heavenly.   Their pies were exquisite - thin crust, steaming cheese, sausage and pepperoni.  I could sigh just thinking about it.

Fast forward 20 years and 1500 miles away and Florida take-out pizza is of course a family favorite.  Still rare enough to be a treat, I enjoyed the night out of the kitchen as much as the pizza itself.  We tried a number of restaurants overs the years, finally settling on Camilli’s (a midwestern transplant wouldn’t you know!) as our once a month purveyor.

Another decade later with kids gone, pizza is a rarity.  My husband enjoys it regularly at work.  In a mostly “guy” environment, someone is always picking one up for lunch or dinner.  Since that’s the last thing he wants to eat at home, I’m resigned to several times a year when the craving for still thin crust, now green peppers instead of meats pizza is almost unbearable.

However, I’ve discovered the most wonderful thing.  Thanks to my husband’s teenage pizzaria background, he spins a mean crust.  Just when you think you know everything about that someone special, out pops a spinning pizza crust, off the fingers and in the air like no one’s business.  Those great boxed pizza kits (I’m talking to you Chef Boyardee, Appian Way and Jiffy) are the best stepping off point for a personalized pizza - green peppers on one side, sausage on the other. 

See how life gets better the older you get?  Now I have my pizza, my own personal pizza maker and a night off from the kitchen, all without leaving home!

Beef Stew

Somewhere in your kitchen is a slow cooker.  It might be the original avacado Crock-Pot introduced in 1971 - “Cooks all day while the cook’s away”.  Or maybe it’s the newer three pot version, all stainless steel and shiny.  90% of households currently have one hidden away somewhere.  If it’s not included in your weekly dinner rotation, you’re missing a great convenience.

I love my slow cooker.  If the kids saw the slow cooker on the counter, they new a hearty dinner was in store.   Now that the kids are out of the house, I’ve switched to a smaller one and it’s more likely chicken will be in there than beef, but it’s still brought out several times a month.  

When I start a meal in it in the morning and then walk out the door, I’m almost shocked sometimes when I come home to find an aroma so enticing I can’t wait for my husband to walk in the door and we can sit down to dinner.  I forget about the minimal amount of prep work I did that morning and it almost seems magical to come home to a ready made dinner.  I wonder if this is what it feels like to have a wife???

Apparently a lot of you feel the same.  There are no less than five different Beef Stew (my very favorite slow cooked dinner) seasoning mixes on Hometown Favorites.  All have been requested at one time or another by customers and it’s fun to see which versions our customers swear by.  Mrs. Grass’ Homestyle Beef Stew is more like a thick soup.  French’s Beef Stew Seasoning Blend Roastin’ Bag works well with a whole beef roast, cut it up when serving.  And Knorr makes a Goulash Beef Stew that is a bit spicier and very old world tasting.  Delicious!

Reclaim some of that precious after work time.  Stock up on some of our oh so easy dinner mixes, rev up that crock pot and enjoy a long dinner!

Perfect Partners

Some flavors are meant to be together - chocolate and peanut butter, red sauce and pasta, milk and cereal.  Many favorite combinations have been around since we were kids, but it’s always fun (and sometimes surprising) when new foods are brought to market and you just think, “Wow, where’s that been all my life!”

I kind of felt that way when customers began requesting Quaker Oatmeal Pancake Mix.  What??? Oatmeal and pancakes in one breakfast food?  It’s so simple and logical you just gotta smack your head.  Oatmeal, which has been done in every configuration and flavor palatable, now in the form of pancakes.  Yay Quaker!

Quaker Oatmeal Pancake Mix - Original

We’ve been receiving more requests than usual these past few months and I feel it’s my duty to expose you to some of these hidden treasures.  Would you really look for Oatmeal Pancake Mix if you didn’t know it existed?  You’re welcome!  Now go try some.

Cookie Requests

We love Archway cookies!  As a kid I remember them being a gourmet cookie, more expensive than the generic store brand my mother threw in the cart.  As an adult I bought them regularly, particularly in love with the Windmill cookies.  I don’t make it down the cookie aisle much anymore, but when I do, the Windmill’s always required a bit of a search.

As recently requested here, Archway Raspberry Filled Cookies are alive and well.  Accordingly to Archway, they are in production year ‘round, albeit not at your local store.  This is often the case and really the bulk of what Hometown Favorites is all about. 

You may want to check with your local grocer first and ask if they will order specifically for you.  From personal experience, the answer is always yes, and then it NEVER happens.  I’ve waited and waited in vain to be called when my special request item arrives or to perhaps stumble upon it on my next visit, but it’s never there.  Perhaps you’ll have better luck!

In the meantime, we are working on adding this and several other Archway “hard to find cookies to our website (including my favorite Windmills!).  For those of you who are having difficulties of your own, please drop us a line at (  We’ll be happy to incorporate your requests into real, live product!

One of the great things about Archway is that they also offer a number of other brands we’ve had requests on.  Lance is one of them, but more excitedly, Salerno Cookies are produced by Archway.  Salerno is a Chicago favorite, not widely available outside the midwest.  Butter Cookies are high on our list, but word on the street says there are several other Salerno favorites we would love to stock.  We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

We appreciate your request and should have the “no e-mail link” problem resolved shortly.  Keep in touch!

Retro Relatives

I’ve never had a hankering to track down our family lineage; I don’t think I want to know what’s back there!  I find the commercials intriguing though, all those facts and names waiting to be discovered.  But who has time?

Today’s release of the 1940 Census has an immediacy, however, I was not expecting.  First of all, I just assumed that those records had been available all along.  Did you know they only release this information every ten years, 72 years after it’s collected?  How cool is that and who came up with that timeframe?  Fresh information about our nation, far enough behind us to not care who lived with whom.

Wait a minute - I know those people!  These names would include grandparents, and parents, people I can put a name and a face on.  I could find a grandparent’s address, drive right over there and stare at the house my parents were raised in.  I might even knock on the door, just to see if I can get a peek of my grandfather’s office and the big red leather chair I vaguely remember.

My grandmother worked in a factory back then, making metal roller skates, the kind with the key.  Would she have been home to stand in the doorway and patiently talk with the census taker?  Or would she have responded to a letter in the mail, handwriting her answers in her perfect German script?  Would her brood of kids be pulling impatiently on her ruffled apron, anxious for dinner or playtime?

Now I’ll have to find time to look this up.  And I guess that’s how it starts.  One interesting tidbit leads to a dusty census entry, leads to old birth records and all of a sudden you’re back in the 1800’s.  I’m coming grandma!