New Little Friends – Quarantine Kitchen

Happy St. Joseph’s Day! As COVID-19 continues to be our new best-not-best friend, I thought it might be good to talk about some other little friends that can live in your home who are much more fun to have around. I’m talking about wild yeast and yogurt cultures!

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it, but I make our sandwich bread and when I have time, french bread, biscuits, etc. also. I have a wild yeast starter which is almost a year old. Yeast is a little like a pet. It needs food, water, time and attention. Some people even name theirs! Thanks to COVID-19, we all now have ample time and attention for a simple side project like bread making.

This is a fantastic project for elementary aged kids. All you need is flour, water, and time. Yeast is alive and able to be collected right in your own kitchen. Here’s the basic steps as an overview, but check the link for the exact measurements if you think this is something you’re family wants to try out.

**Some notes on the linked recipe: If you do not have pumpernickel flour (who does?) or (whole wheat flour, some of us maybe, but probably not all) you can totally start with all purpose flour. You also do not have to keep such a large quantity of starter around if you do not want to. I keep at most 1/2 cup at any given time. When I know I’m going to make bread soon, I take about half of what I have and “beef it up” over the course of a few days to increase it to the quantity required for the recipe, typically 1 full cup. The other half I feed and reserve in the refrigerator (this way I don’t have to repeat the unfortunate experience of killing my starter by flooding it with hot water. If I mess up what I have on the counter, I can always go back to the refrigerator for more) =)

  • Day 1: In the morning combine flour and water in a clear plastic or glass container. I tend to use mason jars. Place mixture on the counter, preferably near some fruit but not necessary, and lightly cover with an unscrewed lid or clean dishcloth.
  • Day 2: Discard about 1/3 of the mixture and feed with flour and water. Re-cover. In the evening before bed, discard again and feed. Begin looking for bubbles within the mixture, but do not be disappointed if there aren’t any yet. If there aren’t any bubbles, you can skip the evening feeding if you wish.
  • Day 3: Repeat Day 2, looking throughout the day for any bubble action. Definitely feed in the evening. Bubbles = yeast presence
  • Day 4: Repeat Day 3. There should be bubbles by now, but give it one more day if there aren’t.
  • Day 5: It’s officially a starter! If you are seeing ample bubbling and are able to measure growth, you’re starter is ready for bread making.

Basic Sourdough Bread Making: All you need is flour, water, starter, a little salt, and time. Check out these simple loaves for your new bakers to try. Don’t be intimidated by the recipe. It is long, but the steps are simple and there’s some good science going on here. Plus, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, wild yeast only does good things with a long, slow prove. You can totally leave this dough in the refrigerator overnight and come back to it in the morning, thus extending your science experiment and extending the life of the activity.

If you want to make sandwich bread, this is the recipe I use. An important note about this recipe: it requires a starter that has a 75% hydration. This means that instead of adding equal amounts of flour and water, the starter has 25% less water when fed. You can easily make this happen by splitting your starter into two jars – keep one at the 1:1 flour to water ratio, and the other adjust to a 1:.75 ratio. So, when I beef up a starter for bread, I feed it 3/4 cups of flour and 1/2 cup plus 2 T of water to make the whole cup of starter required for this recipe.

This bread is soft, so easy to slice and the recipe makes 2 loaves! I put one in the freezer until we are ready for it.

Moving on to yogurt! This one is newer for our family, we’ve only been making our own yogurt for about 4-6 months. While you can’t collect yogurt culture like you can wild yeast (at least, I haven’t tried to), after you have your first batch made you never have to buy yogurt again! Yogurt is created when bacteria ferments milk. The bacteria cause the lactose in milk to break down into lactic acid which gives the yogurt its characteristic texture and sour flavor. You can check out more here for your budding kitchen scientists.

The only special equipment you need for yogurt is a thermometer and a place to keep all the milk warm while the fermentation is happening. You also need one small carton of good quality yogurt. Check to make sure it has multiple kinds of cultures or bacteria so that you can give your yogurt a great start in life. After your first batch, always remember to reserve about 2 T to use as your starter culture for the next one. And time, of course, which we now have in abundance.

This recipe is exactly how I make our yogurt, minus one thing (incubation time. I’ll get to that), but you can also attempt it in a crock pot or instant pot with some simple googling. For the incubating, I store the milk in a large glass container, wrap it in a dish towel and then place it in one of our insulated lunch boxes. I happen to have a shelf above our water heater which also happens to be in the kitchen so I pop it up there and leave it, usually for a good 12-18 hours. I know this is longer than the recipe states, but I almost always prepare the yogurt in the afternoon and then don’t strain it until the following morning. Turns out fine every time. My kids like to eat it with honey and granola. We will also stir in jelly for a fruit-filled taste.

As I said in my last post, we have been asked to make some significant sacrifices. But just as necessity is the mother of invention, sacrifice provides the nourishment for growth. Or in this case, some deliciousness served with a side of science, togetherness, patience and purpose.

I can’t wait to hear what other kitchen creations you’re whipping up! If you need more ideas, here are a few other DIY recipes I use regularly.


Homemade Bisquick – This does make a lot. I halve the recipe if I know I don’t have room in the refrigerator or won’t be using it super often in the next few weeks.

Cheddar Biscuits – Using the homemade bisquick. If you don’t have buttermilk around, you can use the leftover whey from straining your brand new yogurt! Or if you didn’t strain the yogurt, or haven’t gotten around to it yet, you can pour 1 T less of milk and then add 1 T of white vinegar. Stir and let it sit for 5-7 minutes and viola! Buttermilk. Also, I usually skip the garlic butter on top because it’s kind of an excessive amount of butter, but every so often we indulge. It’s sooooo good.

Homemade Pie Crust – delicious for quiche, pie (of course!) or blind bake it and the fill it with pudding and fruit of your choice. The only thing about this recipe is that it will make 2 pie crusts. Which is great because if you’re doing an open faced pie you can freeze the other one! You can also use a pastry cutter or forks if you don’t have a food processor big enough to handle this amount of flour.

Homemade french bread – this one is great and bonus, you can tackle arm day without leaving your kitchen! See here for how to knead bread well.

Chicken Noodle Soup from Scratch – my Grandma’s recipe. Can’t be beat and cheap because it uses a whole chicken vs chicken pieces. Pair with the above french bread. You can also do this in the crock pot, 8 hours on low is ideal. The chicken should fall straight off the bone.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Cooking in Lent

Though Ordinary Time has just begun it is a short beginning. Preparations are already underway for Lent’s quick approach next month. One of the primary aspects of Lent is fasting, particularly from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during the season. 

Lent has a unique relationship with food. On one hand, it encourages us to eat more simply, to fast and abstain. Many people choose to fast from some kind of food or drink, like giving up sweets, soft drinks or alcohol. But then by some weird logic, the very act of giving up certain foods then seems to create a fixation with that food. Abstaining from meat means I spend a good deal of time that week looking up meatless recipes and alternatives. If I’m not careful, the whole purpose behind the fasting is lost by a hyper focus on what I’m not eating and how to cook for my family. 

Rather than creating a barrier, this Lent let’s allow cooking to open us up to God’s presence in our kitchen. Cooking, by its very nature, connects us with the Paschal Mystery. 

“Like fire itself, which photosynthesis destroys has created, all cooking begins with small or large acts of destruction: killing, cutting, chopping, mashing. In that sense, a sacrifice is at its very heart” (Michael Pollen, Cooked, pg 52).

The Paschal Mystery is the theological term for the life, death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ. Jesus teaches us through His whole existence on Earth what it means to be an offering of oneself. Through His sacrifice, we receive life everlasting. Each time we cook, the sacrifice inherent within the food we prepare offers us life for another day. 

Cooking During Lent

We need to eat everyday, which means we cook everyday of the year. What can we do to make our cooking different during Lent? One idea is to slow our cooking down. “When stirring the pot, just stir the pot. It seems to me one of the great luxuries of life at this point is to be able to do one thing at a time, one thing which you give yourself wholeheartedly. Unitasking” (Cooked, pg. 195). Many of us rarely see this luxury. It’s not that we don’t have the time, it’s that we haven’t prioritized the time. 

This isn’t to say that each day you need to stand slavishly in front of the stove for hours, methodically stirring while your kids tear the house down around you. But you don’t need to be checking Instagram while stirring either. Maybe it means preparing elements of your meals in bulk ahead of time so you are better able to focus on what must be cooked day of. Things like rice, polenta, beans and mashed potatoes are excellent make-ahead sides. Think about carrot and celery sticks, bell pepper slices, fruit salad or sliced oranges. 

Another idea for cooking more intentionally this Lent is to learn how to make something yourself which has otherwise intimidated you or alluded you. What might you learn from making your own bread or yogurt? Have you considered what goes into making jam or homemade pie crust? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to make your own baby food or salad vinaigrette but have never taken the time to learn. When you make food “from scratch” you begin to learn how it’s components work together to form their new whole. There is a transformation that occurs as ingredients move toward harmony among each other. 

It is incredibly empowering and humbling to make your own food. Only after making your own bread will you begin to understand a person who, in order to have bread that day, must first make it. “To brew beer, to make cheese, to bake a loaf of bread, to braise a pork shoulder, is to be forcibly reminded that all of these things are not just products, in fact they aren’t even really ‘things.’ Most of what presents itself to us in the marketplace as a product is in truth a web of relationships, between people, yes, but also between ourselves and all the other species on which we still depend” (Cooked, pg 408). 

Food is an integral part of Lent. The intentional absence of certain foods provides opportunities to simplify your table. It also can be a time to grow in your knowledge of a new type of food or cooking that can enrich your family’s eating habits. 

Stay tuned: my next post will have the anticipated Lenten Lectio Divina Journal!

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

#CreatedtoCreate

Happy New Year and all that jazz! It’s been quiet here on the blog with the holiday season joys and fullness. But there’s a lot coming up including a series of posts specifically on cooking during Lent and of course, the Lenten Journals. Big thanks to everyone who downloaded the Advent Journals and used them throughout the season. If you have any feedback for me on those journals, what you liked, didn’t like, wish you had instead, I would love to hear it as I work on the ones for Lent.

In case you didn’t know this about me, I am a crafter. I especially love fiber arts like crochet, cross stitch, and quilting. I have dabbled in making clothes, I have a fascination but with no skills attached to knitting, and a yet to be explored obsession with weaving. There is an underlying desire within me to always be either making something or learning how to make something new. 

I love cooking and making. I make our own bread and yogurt. I make pasta when I can. I make fruit preserves and homemade pies. New recipes inspire me (though not too spicy please!). I decorate sugar cookies for holidays and just because it brings me joy to do so. 

I am a maker, a creator. One of the codes, if you will, that I live my life by is: “Why buy what you can make.”

I know I am not alone in this desire to create, though the “maker community” is larger than you might think. Those belonging to the community are not just artists, designers, or builders. In fact, I would argue that every single person carries the title “creator” even if they do not know it. 

I recently read Every Tool’s a Hammer, a mix up of biography, how-to and inspirational book by Adam Savage. Savage was one of the co-hosts for Discovery Channel’s hit show Mythbusters. In the book, Savage reflects on what it means to him to be a maker, a person who makes [insert pretty much anything]. 

“We’re taking our experiences and filtering it through our words, or our hands, or our voices, or our bodies, and we’re putting something in the culture that didn’t exist before. In fact, we’re not putting what we make into culture, what we make IS the culture. Putting something in the world that didn’t exist before is the broadest definition of making, which means all of us are makers. Creators” (p 44).

Though not speaking from a religious sense, Savage couldn’t be more correct. Consider how the first acts of creation came about. God created the world, the seas, stars, plants, animals, everything. But only humans does He create in His own image (cf. Gen 1:26-27). Humans are told to, “Be fertile and multiply.” Go forth, create! Do as I did. Bring forth new beauty into this beautiful world. This has been the calling of humanity from the beginning of time. 

It is January, the month of resolutions. As I began this year, I was listening to Sarah McKenzie’s podcast The Read Aloud Revival where she highlighted the prolific children’s author and illustrator, Barbara Cooney. One of Cooney’s most well known books is titled, Miss Rumphius. Without giving the story away, I was struck by this one line which I plan to carry forward into this new year:

“You must do something to make the world more beautiful.” 

We are all made in the image of God. Just as God creates, so to we, at our own level, are called to create. In a hashtag, #createdtocreate.