Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An Open Letter To Governor Strickland

Dear Governor Strickland,

I am writing to ask that you reconsider the proposed budget cuts for the Ohio library system. Libraries are so important now, more than ever, as people use their resources for job searches, resume help, a non-judgemental place where one can find out about services for people in need, and yes, even as community centers. In our small town, the library serves as a place for our children to go after school, and provides snacks and activities during the summer for all of our children. These budget cuts would be catastrophic, as our library would be shut down, leaving the children with nothing to do after school.

We have used the libraries when our power or water goes out; they are always a haven, especially for those who are elderly or who are home with small children, giving people a place to go which is welcoming and free. The libraries provide gallery space for local artists to exhibit, exposing many people to the pleasures the arts can bring into their lives. The libraries also provide low-cost meeting areas for groups of all kinds from La Leche League to local conservation groups, and programs for patrons of all ages, including yoga, writing, local history and more. The loss of these services would be devastating.

Please, please, please reconsider and do not cut funding to our libraries. They are too vital and too important to let go by the wayside.

Thank you for your time.

Andrea L. Stern

If you are in Ohio, find out more about saving our libraries at these sites
Athens County Public Library (lists the budget committee members)
Save Ohio Libraries (Facebook page)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pizza Party

One of the things we missed most back when I had $80/week for groceries, gas, and fun was pizza. Occasionally Totino's brand of frozen pizza would be on sale, but nothing could compare to the taste of a fresh-baked delivery pizza, with its golden crust and hot cheesy goodness.

As with many things in my learning curve, it was Martha Stewart to the rescue once again. Because I was subscribed to Everyday Food magazine, I would receive sample issues of her Kids publication in the mail. One issue contained a recipe for pizza crust that changed our dining habits and let us incorporate that tasty treat back into our menu planning.

Martha's recipe was simple: flour, water, sugar, yeast, salt and oil, mixed together and left to rise for an hour. It changed our lives and I was happy with it for many years. Then recently we discovered King Arthur's bagel recipe, which I also now use for pizza dough:

(from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, page 225)
1T instant yeast (I use 1 package Red Star Rapid Rise $1.18 for a strip of 3 at WalMart)
4 c unbleached bread flour
2t salt
1T brown sugar
1 1/2c lukewarm water

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and knead vigorously by hand 10-15 minutes or by machine for about 10 minutes. The dough will be quite stiff because it uses a high gluten flour. Place the dough into a bowl which has been oiled; cover, and let rise for at least one hour, until doubled.

You can add herbs to the dough when mixing it. We like to add any or all of the following: 1t oregano, 1t garlic powder, 1t onion powder, 1t rosemary. You can also brush the crust with oil after spreading it on the pans and sprinkle with herbs before adding the sauce and toppings.

Preheat oven to 475F

Punch down the dough and divide into two rounds. Lightly oil two pans (we have 18" round pizza pans now) and spread dough onto them, patting to get an even crust. Top with sauce and cheese and toppings of your choice. Bake at 475F for about 15 minutes, rotating pizzas after 8 minutes for even browning of the cheese.

The cost of the ingredients for the crust work out to around $1.00, depending on where you get your bread flour (I buy mine at Bulk Food Depot, for $0.57/lb, and this recipe uses 17 ounces of flour). I buy ready made spaghetti sauce at Aldi for $1.09/jar, and one jar will sauce at least two batches of pizzas, depending on how generous we are with the sauce. The shred cheese will vary in price, an 8 ounce package will give you enough cheese for two pizzas. This week Kroger's has 8 ounces of Kraft brand shredded cheese for $1.69 a package. A plain cheese pizza with toppings works out to around $2.00 on a good cheese week, much cheaper than home delivery, and for only a little extra time and effort. If you have children, let them help you. My son is now the pizza chef in my household, he makes the crust most days we have pizza, and he loves tweaking the recipe.