Back in February 2003, this weekly From the Farm recipe column had only been in existence for less than a year.
But Phyllis Simko, director of the Lupus Foundation of America, Northwest Indiana Chapter, was already a fan.
She asked me to be a "celebrity judge" at her organization's first Chili Cook-Off, held as a small charity event in at the Woodland Park Pavilion in Portage.
And for every year that followed, I faithfully joined Phyllis and agreed each year to faithfully organize a panel of "fellow celebrity judges" to participate in the unique and very worthwhile charity event.
But now that the Northwest Indiana Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America closed the Portage offices to consolidate with the Indianapolis headquarters, it is with sadness I report that the annual event, traditionally held this month, has ceased.
Last year's 11th annual Lupus Foundation Chili Cook-Off and Tasting, held at Merrillville High School, drew nearly 300 people for guests to sample the inventive chili recipes of last year's 12 contestants. Lark Stark, Outreach & Development for Lupus Foundation of America, Indiana Chapter based in Indianapolis, told me a total of $5,050 was raised during the three-hour event in 2013.
My thank you to all of the many judges, contestants, helpers and organizers that helped during the past decade to make this event such a success.
Among the "helpers" who assisted the judging panel each year, I always enlisted the services of some of my college students to lend a helping hand. Today's recipe is from one of my students at Valparaiso University, Adeline Davis, who is a senior and hails from Sylvania, Ohio. For her demonstration speech assignment this semester, she showed the class how to create an "at-home version" of the tasty frozen dough filled pouches called Hot Pockets sold in supermarkets.
Hot Pockets (originally named Chunk Stuffers) were invented by brothers Paul Merage and David Merage in the 1970s as a "savory filled croissant turnover." The duo founded the company Chef America Inc. and began producing Hot Pockets in 1983. In 2002, Chef America was sold to Nestlé, and today, Hot Pocket products come in more than 20 filling varieties and are now a $2 billion business in the frozen sandwiches and snacks industry. Last week, I sampled a "vegetarian bean filled" pouch dough sandwich created by Seattle Sutton for her Healthy Eating Provided Meal Plan and was equally impressed.
Today's recipe is a great inspiration for Times readers to invent custom at-home filling creations to satisfy tastes and hearty flavor cravings.
Easy At Home "Hot Pocket" Inspired Pouch Sandwich
1 (8-ounce) tube of crescent rolls
3 small green onions, finely chopped
2 green peppers, cleaned and diced
1 (8-ounce) package of sliced pepperoni
1 (16-ounce) bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (12-ounce) can pizza sauce
Italian Seasonings to taste
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unroll crescent dough as one flat sheet on a lightly floured flat surface. Using a rolling pin, gently flatten dough to even and seal any perforations. Using a knife, divide the dough into four strips. Arrange onions, peppers, pepperoni slices evenly on one end of each of the prepared dough squares, allowing space around the outer edge to eventually sufficiently seal each pouch. Scatter cheese over each area of layered fillings. Sprinkle each of the layered filling with a shake of Italian seasonings and small splash of pizza sauce. Carefully fold the undressed side of the dough to cover the layered fillings and seal the edges by gently pressing with your fingers. Place the pouches on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Note: Fillings can be changed for desired tastes, including variations like ham and cheese and chicken and broccoli and other favorites. Makes 4 pouch sandwiches.