Friday, October 26, 2012

Cooking Matters: Anatomy of a Pizza

"Through its Cooking Matters program, the No Kid Hungry campaign educates and empowers low-income families to stretch their food budgets so their kids get healthy meals at home. Cooking Matters participants learn to shop strategically, use nutrition information to make healthier food choices, and cook delicious, affordable meals."

It has been too long since the last time I volunteered for a Cooking Matters class. Returning to the classroom this week was fabulous especially when I met the other volunteers (Chef Dina, Nutritionist Velma, and Classroom Manager Ruby) and our group of students (a dozen enthusiastic adults). Watching the students divide and conquer the pizza making lesson was awe inspiring.

First, Chef Dina demonstrated dough making. Once the whole wheat dough ball was formed she told us how she taught her kids about bread making by treating the rising dough like a baby going down for a nap, "Gently put it to bed, cover it with a blanket, and let it sleep." Dina advised students to experiment with yeast doughs, and not to fear them. Dough is forgiving, she said.

Next, students headed into the kitchen. They rolled and shaped dough, chopped vegetables, topped pizzas with sauce and cheese, and discussed the virtues of eating garlic on a date. While the pizzas cooked, Velma gave a lesson on whole grains. I consider myself to be relatively knowledgeable about nutrition... until I hear a nutrition educator speak. They always teach me something new.

Not much smells better than baking pizza: tomato and garlic, roasting vegetables, and melting cheese mingling with yeasty pastry. By the time lessons were over our group was ready for their hot slices. After cleanup, students leave with a bag of groceries so that they can preapre the evening's lesson for their families. Next week we'll hear about their experiments and successes, and then tackle lean and low-fat proteins. Meanwhile, I'm obsessing about what to put on our pizza this weekend...

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (from Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry)
1 cup warm water
1 package dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Non-stick cooking spray

1. In a large bowl, add water, yeast, and whole wheat flour. Mix well.
2. Add oil, salt, and 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour. Mix well. If dough is very sticky, add remaining 1/4 cup all-purpose flour. Blend until dough holds its shape.
3. Place dough on a a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Knead by pushing down and forward on the dough with the palms of your hands. Fold dough over onto itself. Push down and forward again.
4. Spray large bowl with non-stick cooking spray. Add dough. Cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature to rest and soften, about 30-60 minutes.
5. When dough is soft and supple, remove from bowl. Knead again for 1-2 minutes. Divide evenly into 2 balls.


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