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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Potluck Pizza Party

Home pizza done right!
We used to have these church get-togethers at our house where we made homemade pizzas. Friends would gather in teams around a dough ball, smash it flat, roll it out and then decorate it with sauces, cheeses and veggies. This was an SDA group, so the cuisine du jour was lacto-ovo vegetarian. Everybody brought their favorite topping ingredients and cheeses. We the hosts provided the pizza dough (see the recipe below).  It takes just a few minutes to make up a pizza ball. Start an hour or so before the event and you can make up plenty.  

Have any of your guests who have a pizza stone or pizza pan to bring them along. And you'll need a sturdy pizza cutter and a stack of paper plates.  I usually find a volunteer to make a gigantic bowl of salad and have people bring their favorite salad dressings to show off. The handy thing is that a lot of the leftover pizza toppings can be tossed into the salad.

Homemade pizzas are also a great place to test vegetarian meat substitutes. For instance if you want to make a vegetarian sausage pizza, you can use Loma Linda's Little Links or Worthington Saucettes or crumble up some Morningstar Farms Sausage Patties. You may want to brown them in a skillet before putting them on the pizza. Just slice the links into little round disks, fry lightly and scatter them over the pizza. I also like to brown some Loma Linda Redi-Burger or Worthington Vegeburger or Morningstar Farms Grillers Recipe Crumbles and then scatter them over the pizza. Just put a lot of loose cooked vegeburger in a bowl and let pizza makers add as much as they'd like. If you like chicken, Worthington Fri-Chik or Worthington Low Fat Fri-Chik diced up and browned makes a nice topping as well.

The crust is the secret to the whole thing. This never-miss medium to thin pizza crust recipe came from a bread machine recipe book where it was called "New York Style" pizza. I toss in a little whole wheat flour and sprinkle the bottom with corn meal to give it a little Texas touch.

Start with a dough ball.
By making it a potluck homemade pizza party, you not only get healthier pizza, but you also have a fun activity for everybody to do at the party. Lots of friendly conversation, sharing of pizza "secrets" and sharing of ingredients and experimentation. I like to put out a little fresh spinach. Someone inevitably groans until someone adds it to the pizza and tastes it. It's quite good. Everyone will bring all kinds fo stuff from traditional olives, mushrooms, onions and peppers to more creative veggies like artichokes and chives. Some pineapple will inevitably show up and if you're in Texas, watch out for some clown to spike a pizza or two with jalapenos or habanero peppers and cover it with cheddar to hide the trap. Goat cheese is also acceptable as are other unusual cheeses. In Texas somebody inevitably brings a big block of Mexican Cheese, which is an acquired taste.Your pizza is only limited by your imagination.

Ingredients for One Crust:
Cover a 16" pizza stone for a thin crust.

  • 2/3 cup warm water – 110° to 115°
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal (optional)
  • Whole wheat flour (substitute measure for measure for white flour if you want to fiber up your crust a little)
Directions for making crust:
Spread the sauce thinly over the crust.
Top with cheese and toppings.
  1. Dump the dry ingredients (not the yeast or cornmeal) into a mixing bowl
  2. Put the yeast into the warm water and whisk to blend.  Allow it to sit for maybe 10 minutes till it starts to bubble at the edges.
  3. Add all the liquid ingredients and any sediment in the yeast water cup to the mixing bowl and mix it all up with the dough hook.  You can knead it by hand, but I highly recommend you give the barely formed dough ball to the guys in each group and give them the job of kneading the ball for ten minutes (or till they start to whine and then you can probably let them stop, although the crust won't be as crisp and may crumble. You want a very smooth dough ball when you are done kneading. If the dough is too sticky, add a little flour till dough is just barely dampish on the outside, but not sticky to touch.
  4. Lightly oil the pizza baking sheet or pizza stone. I like olive oil, but any vegetable oil will work. Sprinkle a little corn meal over the surface of the stone.
  5. I'm not too proud to use a rolling pin to flatten out the pizza dough, but some clown in the group will inevitably try to twirl it in the air like you see on TV.  Make sure your kitchen floor is very clean so you can just brush off the dough and go ahead and use it.  Lay the dough
    Hot from the oven.
    over the pizza stone and spread it to the thickness you want. I like a flat thin crust pizza and this recipe is perfect for a thin crust on a 16 inch pizza stone. I like to raise the edges so they keep the sauce and melting cheese from running over the side and mucking up the oven.
  6. Preheat oven to 450° to 500°.  The higher temp is better with thin crusts. Go lower if you're doing a thick crust. 
  7. Each group then gathers around its pizza crust and decorates it with pizza sauce, cheeses and toppings. Depending on the size of your oven, you can only do a couple at a time, but they only take 8 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of crust and ingredients. Let the edges darken and the cheese melt till it bubbles a little or the crust won't cook through. See the picture for an idea of how it ought to look. Use the middle rack as much as possible. If doing two at a time put the top and bottom racks as close to the middle as you can get them. Fortunately pizza isn't very thick, so the racks can be close together.
Makes enough crust for one 12-16 inch pizza


As the pizzas come out, everybody will want to sample each other's handywork. Cut the pizzas in 8 to 16 pieces at first. As the later pizzas come out, you'll be able to cut larger pieces. Push the salad or people will forget it's there.

Sneaky Trick:

You can do this in a big hurry if you just go out and buy a bunch of ready-made pizza crusts - enough for everyone to have a whole pizza; they tend to me a small to medium pizza size.  Then you just deal out the pizza crusts and turn the young-un's loose.  Takes about 10 minutes each to cook from a ready-made crust. 

This make-it-yourself pizza party is a lot of fun for all ages and a particularly good way to generate good fellowship, stimulate conversation and help forge new relationships among people who may not know each other well.  Kids get a kick out of it too, you just have to make sure they wash their hands first.

Tom King © 2013

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Oatmeal Patties

As an Adventist I grew up in a vegetarian community; an SDA ghetto if you will in Keene, Texas. For a long time you couldn't buy meat hardly anywhere in the city. You had to drive five miles to Cleburne five miles away to get a hamburger.

My grandmother who was a cook at Southwestern Adventist college where she worked magic with vegetarian substitutes, some commercial and some the ladies just made up.  Any vegetable protein you could think of seemed to form the basis for local vegetarian cuisine. One ingredient in particular found it's way into everything from bread to "patties".  Oatmeal.

Oatmeal is an Adventist staple. Oatmeal forms the basis of many Adventist vegetarian main dishes. When I say oatmeal is versatile, I mean you can throw all sorts of stuff into a mixing bowl with oatmeal and fry it up. This version is a kind of clean out the leftovers version. If I'm out of vege-meat, these oatmeal patties are my fall-back. Here's how you make them:

Patty Ingredients:

  • 3 cups rolled oats, instant or regular oatmeal (it all works)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 large onion chopped
  • 1/2 cup pecan meal or slivered almonds (optional)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 package Lipton Onion Soup mix
  • 2 eggs
Gravy Ingredients:
  • Handful sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 chopped onion
  • 1/2 package of Lipton Onion Soup
  • Leftover oil from frying patties
  • 4 tbsp. flour, (for the gravy)
  • 1 cup Water
  1. Pour the oil in a skillet and preheat it while you make up the patty mix.
  2. Mix together all the patty ingredients in a mixing bowl. Note: you don't have to have pecan meal. If you have pecans or walnuts, just whiz them up in the blender till they are the consistency of meal. The pecan meal really kicks up the protein levels in the dish. You can add soy sauce or leave it out and just go with the pecan meal for flavor. I recently tried slivered almonds when I didn't have pecan meal and it's amazing. Really great flavor.  I've even added leftover cottage cheese and sour cream (or onion dip) and given them a little pizzazz. Some crushed Special K Cereal is nice too if you like. The recipe is very flexible. The trick is to get the consistency of the mixture right so that the patties don't fall apart. If you add too much extra stuff you should add an extra egg or some of that new Vegan egg replacement that just came out.
  3. Once you've got the patty mix prepared, form the mixture into balls and place the balls in the skillet and flatten them with a spatula. Allow them to cook until brown and flip them over to brown on the other side. 
  4. Set the patties aside. They make pretty good vegeburgers as this stage. To complete this as a main dish, you need to make the gravy now.
  5. Turn down the heat a bit under the oil. Toss in the chopped onions and carmelize them by cooking them slowly on low heat. Takes about 15 minutes or so, but well worth the time. After the onions are about halfway done, add the mushrooms.
  6. Next, sprinkle a handful of flour into the skillet with the oil, mushrooms and onions. 
  7. Turn up the heat a little and lightly blend the flour into the oil until it starts to brown. Add Lipton Onion Soup and water, stirring constantly till the gravy forms. Stir until all the lumps of flour are absorbed.
  8. In a Pyrex casserole dish, spread out the cooked patties and pour the gravy over the patties.
  9. Place the dish in the oven at 350 degrees and bake until the gravy bubbles. 
  10. Now you can work on the rest of the stuff to go with it while the oatmeal patties bake. 

These go well with anything that would go with vege-burger, hamburger or most any vegetarian meat substitute. The wife usually makes mashed potatoes and corn. Baked potatoes, broccoli and a salad are also nice. Throw in some homemade bread or wheat rolls and you've got a lovely meal.

Leftover oatmeal patties make nice sandwiches or vegeburgers too. I love leftover oatmeal patty burgers.


(c) 2015 by Tom king

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Tender-Rounds Murphy

I ran out of Fri-Chik or this would be Fri-Chik Murphy. As soon as I get some more vege-chicken, I'll do the Vege-chicken Murphy recipe. My wife and I love this little Italian restaurant in Tyler. It was the first restaurant we ate at after we moved there back in 1995. We'd been separated for a while and I was sure glad to see my Sweet Baboo again.

Little Italy, the restaurant in question, makes a dish called Chicken Murphy. Chicken Murphy is a pasta dish made with an amazing pasta sauce that's something somewhere between a marinara sauce and an Alfredo sauce. We've tried for years to duplicate it with mixed results. One of the problems with duplicating it is that the sauce used to vary depending on which chef was in the kitchen the night you went to the restaurant. 

I think we've finally got it, though. It's an unusual "Italian" dish in that it uses jalapenos in the sauce. It sounds strange, but the stuff is amazing. It's a sherry wine sauce, but like they say, the alcohol cooks off. I thought, if the alcohol cooks off, what's the point of putting it in.  So here's what I came up with in our latest experiment.  It takes a couple of diversions from the original sauce, but it's really pretty good. You can tell it's good by how much I overdid the sauce in the picture.

Murphy Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup margarine or butter
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1-1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup spaghetti sauce
  • Small can mushrooms or 1/2 cup fresh slice mushrooms
  • 2-3 whole jalepenos
  • 1/2 bell pepper sliced
  • Sparkling grape juice or sparkling apple cranberry juice
  • Loma Linda Tender Rounds or Worthington Fri-Chik or
Directions for the sauce:

  1.  Slice jalepenos into round segments. Cut out and remove the seeds and centers so the jalapenos will be milder while still retaining their flavor
  2. Place butter in skillet and sautee jalapenos, bell peppers and mushrooms until softened
  3. Add evaporated milk, garlic powder, Parmesan and spaghetti sauce
  4. Heat till bubbling. Add 2-3 tablespoons of sparkling juice. Grape works, but I like the apple-cranberry better. I discovered it by accident when Walmart was selling bottles of the stuff for a dollar after the Christmas season. I wish now I'd bought the whole case of it they had on the clearance rack. 
  5. Add Tender-Rounds, Fri-chik or Diced-Chik as you wish.
  6. Bring to a simmer and cover. Make spaghetti according to directions on the box.
Serving suggestion:

Ladle sauce over a bed of spaghetti. Serve with salad and wheat rolls.

Alternate suggestion:

  •  Pour spaghetti sauce in a skillet
  • Add Tender Rounds and heat.
  • Works like spaghetti and meatballs 
  • Also tasty with salad and wheat rolls.

Bon appetite!

(c) 2015

Friday, May 1, 2015

Hearth Bread - A Simple Daily Bread

This recipe makes a nicely textured loaf.*

One day I was looking for a bread recipe without any egg in it because I had flour that day but no eggs. It being a 3 mile walk to the nearest place that sells eggs, I went looking for an egg-free bread recipe. I found this bread machine recipe in a book my daughter gave me.  I fiddled with the recipe a bit over the next few times I made bread and finally got it to come out just like I want. This is my favorite bread recipe now. The original had no whole wheat, so I added some to good effect and it was even better.

I'm not sure why it's called "hearth" bread. I suppose it's supposed to be the sort of bread pioneers made on their hearths or something. Either that or it's something tasty to eat around your fireplace, which fact, I can attest to. 

First allow me to repeat my grandmother's bread-making secrets:
  1. Dissolve the yeast first in warm (not hot) water - till it bubbles a little
  2. Knead the dough adding flour or water till it feels like a baby's bottom when you spank the dough.
  3. Be patient - give the dough plenty of time to rise.
  4. Let the dough rise twice - the second time in the bread pan.
  5. Wheat germ or something crunchy like flax seed, chia seeds or some such. You can even add a little oatmeal to beef it up some. .  I run flax seed through a blender till it's about like pecan meal. You can also use pecan meal to give it a crunchy texture and some extra protein.
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Bread pan or roll pan (if you're making rolls)
  • Kitchen-Aid Mixer (Every manly man who cooks needs one of these in his kitchen)
The ingredients are pretty basic.

  • ¾ cup very warm water
  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter, margarine or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey, light molasses or a handful of brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose white flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast 
  • 1 tablespoon wheat germ if you've got it. I also grind up flax seed in the blender to use when I don't have wheat germ. Make it about the texture of pecan meal. Pecan meal also works for bread too. Flax seed has got lots of Omega 3's in it and gives the bread a slightly crunchy texture as do various nut meals.  You can also add a handful of oatmeal which gives the dough a nice oatey flavor too.  Here's a post I did about making nut meal and flour with a blender.
Letting the dough hook do the work!
  1. Add the yeast to the warm water and stir vigorously with a whisk to dissolve it into the water. Let the yeast sit till it bubbles a little on top.
  2. Place all the sugars, fats, and fluids together in the mixing bowl and whisk or beat with a wire beater.
  3. Start the dough hook turning slowly on your stand mixer and add flour and dry ingredients to the liquid stuff (oil, yeast and sugar mixture). You can also knead it by hand, but who wants to do that? You will need a very large bowl for hand kneading to avoid coating the kitchen in a fine layer of flour.
  4. Add flour or water as needed to make the dough the texture of a baby's behind when you pat it. It should be not quite sticky to the touch. Run the dough hook or knead for a good ten minutes to achieve the proper texture for the finished bread.
  5. Cover the mixing bowl and set it in a warm place. Cover with a cup towel and allow the bread to rise to double it's original size.
  6. Return the bowl to the mixer and run the dough hook for another ten minutes. Don't add water or flour unless you absolutely have to to maintain the correct consistency.
  7. Lightly oil the the inside of a bread pan.  Cooking oil spray is perfect for this. 
  8. Form the kneaded dough into a loaf shape.
  9. Place the kneaded dough into the pan. Put the bread pan somewhere warm with a towel over it and allow the loaf to fully rise. It should rise well above the top of the bread pan.
  10. Dough ball before rising
  11. When the dough is fully risen, place the bread into a preheated 350° oven. Bake until brown on top.  You can enhance the color of the top of the bread by pulling it out before it darkens good and brush the top with butter or margarine, the put it back in the over to bake that nice golden brown color.

Final Notes:  This recipe makes a 1½ to 2 pound loaf. It makes great sandwiches and toast. As a sandwich, the bread adds a whole other dimension to the taste of a sandwich. You can also form the dough into rolls or hamburger or hot dog buns with a little practice. You'll learn to go a little spare when you make buns. They rise a lot during the second rising and then again in the oven. In my early experiments I had a couple of vegeburger that could have handled a 2 pound patty, a small head of lettuce and a dozen tomatoes.  They were wonderful. I wanted seconds, but I couldn't get up from my chair to make another one.  A vegeburger on whole wheat homemade buns is a treat not to miss!

This looks like white bread, but it's actually wheat bread. I used some oat flour in this one which lightened the color.  You can substitute oat flour for some of the other flour in the recipe. Just dump some oatmeal into a blender and whiz it up. Makes a nice flour for giving bread a kind of oatey flavor.

© 2015 by Tom King

Cottage Cheese Loaf

This is a half recipe - I used a bread loaf pan.

Okay every potluck chef's got one of these published in their church's recipe book. Everybody's version is just a bit different - cottage cheese loaf offers a lot of room for individualization. So I'm picking out the one my Sweet Baboo contributed to the Tyler Adventist Church's "Bountiful Blessings" cookbook.  As I said, this is a high protein vegetarian casserole and works with a variety of ingredients, so experiment with it a little and come up with a recipe that works for you. It's not vegan, so you may have to warn the vegans in your group that there are some eggs and dairy in it. If you use a larger box of Special K, use a larger carton of cottage cheese.

This is a full recipe with a little extra Special K,
cottage cheese and eggs to make a potluck size dish.

This is one of my top three vegetarian dishes.  You already know my number one. This one's probably number two.  Enjoy.....


  1. 1 16-18 oz Box Kellogg's Special K Cereal
  2. 1/2 cup pecan meal*
  3. 1 large 24-32 oz container of cottage cheese
  4. 4 eggs
  5. 1/4 cup oil
  6. 1/2 stick butter/margarine
  7. 1 pkg. Lipton Onion Soup Mix
  8. 1 cup water
  9. 2-3 tbsp George Washington Golden Broth (Chicken soup base which doesn't have any chicken in it works too)
  10. Cooking oil spray
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a mixing bowl, crush the Special K Cereal into a meal-like consistency
  3. Melt the butter/margarine in a small skillet, then pour into the mixing bowl.
  4. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Walnuts can be substituted for pecans in a pinch and it's quite good.*
  5. Once everything is mixed up, spray the inside of a 9 x 12 casserole dish with Pam or a cooking oil spray. I like olive oil spray for this recipe.  I used a loaf pan in the picture below because I made up a half recipe for the Missus and I.
  6. Press the mixture evenly into the casserole dish.
  7. Place the casserole dish in the hot oven on a middle rack. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes until the top is brown as shown. The loaf should be firm throughout when it cools. Don't be afraid to let the top get good and dark.  
  8. To serve, slice the loaf into slices. If you make it in loaf pans, cut it up like thick slices of bread.
Serving Suggestion:

Serve with vegetables, a salad and mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes or potato salad - some nice starch to go with your veggies. Throw in wheat rolls and you have a perfect meal. Take a big old casserole dish of this stuff to potluck and you will certainly take home a nice clean dish. 

Cottage Cheese Loaf, Brussels Sprouts, Mashed Potatoes and Salad

Do not forget to make an extra cottage cheese loaf to leave at home in case you're like me and always let everyone else go first at potluck. Your cottage cheese loaf will likely be gone before you get there, so to avoid being unhappy at potluck, you have to have a spare one back at home. I have to have cottage cheese loaf leftovers, because they make such wonderful sandwiches. If you like meat loaf sandwiches, I promise you're gonna love cottage cheese loaf sandwiches!

Bonny Appetite!
Tom King
(c) 2015

* Pecan and walnut meal can be made by simply pitching some pecans into an ordinary blender. Blend the nuts till it is the consistency of corn meal, although pecan and walnut meal are a little more moist than corn meal.