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

The Pearl of Great Price

Jesus told a parable about a merchant who found a pearl of great price. Overjoyed at this discovery, he sells all that he has in order to acquire it. This parable, and others similar to it, are part of a series of teachings about the Kingdom of Heaven. Even one small glimpse is worth sacrificing everything we have.

We are living in a turbulent time. In the midst of school suspensions, sporting events cancelled and family members in various stages of quarantine, it can be challenging to know where to turn next. These sacrifices we are making as a society weren’t voted on, and in most cases our opinion wasn’t sought out. And yet, the gift of sacrifice is waiting for us to make good use of it.

In the Christian tradition, the act of sacrifice is an act of life and love. Jesus Christ’s paramount example of selfless sacrifice on the cross is how God saves us from our sins and opens the gates of Heaven. We are called to participate in that same act when we offer our smaller, daily sacrifices with love for the good of others. Before a few weeks ago, these sacrifices might have included letting someone go before us, listening to a friend’s concerns for longer than we had anticipated, making someone else’s favorite meal instead of your own, etc.

Today, our sacrifices have gotten much larger. They now range to staying home from work, creatively stretching a bag of beans into multiple meals, monitoring toilet paper usage, cancelling our own events and celebrations, handling our children’s disappointment when their activities are cancelled and learning how to “do school” from home.

I think no matter what our situation, the biggest sacrifice we are being asked to make is one of time. Time is a tricky thing. There never seems to be enough, and at the same time (hehe, see what I did there?), we struggle when there is an abundance of it. We are each facing a unique situation which presents an undetermined amount of time that must be spent at home. When, in recent memory, have you been actually required to stay home? The last time you were grounded perhaps?

What an incredible gift this could turn out to be! What a pearl of great price to acquire! There are so many thing you could get done! In fact, I would challenge you to make a list, right now, of all the things you’ve been meaning to do and haven’t had or wanted to find time for. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Finished? Did you remember to switch out your winter and spring wardrobe? How about paint the back bedroom? Or finally organize the closet in your son or daughter’s room? Don’t forget scrubbing the crayon off the wall by your toddler’s crib from who knows how long ago (just me?).

Now, if you’re like me, you probably just got overwhelmed by all the “things” that need to get done. You’re list, though full of great tasks, is missing a critical element. The people who you will be spending this unstructured time with are more important than any to-do list. The people, be they big or small, young or old, are waiting for you to be present with them. They are waiting for your gift of time.

You have time to talk to your grandma on the phone for as long as you and she like. You have time to write the thank you notes from Christmas or a birthday. You have time to make home-made play dough, and then actually play with your kids with it. You have time to read that book, “Just one more time, please!” You have time to say a whole rosary, maybe even uninterrupted if you wake up early enough. You have time to teach your son or daughter to sew, whittle, crochet, garden, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom properly, take your pick! You have time to bake cookies (and then probably put them in the freezer), to celebrate a friend’s birthday after we all get to congregate more than 6ft from one another.

So step back and take another look at your list. Take a moment and close your eyes. The sacrifice of staying home could bring your family a pearl of great value. How do you hope to strengthen your relationships with the people in your home, family and community during this period at home? Pick one or two things that at the end of all this, you want to look back and say, “Wow, that was awesome. Without this concentrated time we never would have done x, or y, what a gift this time turned out to be.”

It’s not going to be easy. I’m not saying that every single moment of this time needs to be spent in togetherness. Be sure to carve out time for yourself, your own growth and mental health. Go for that run, read that book, swing on the swing, make a home altar and spend a period of time each day in silence. Whatever it is, your time together will be all the more fruitful if you are also taking the time to care for your wellbeing.

These sacrifices are challenging indeed. But as we go forward into this unknown territory, the landscape does not need to be as daunting as some might make it out to be. The light shines a bit brighter when we embrace our sacrifices and and discover the pearls God is waiting to shower upon us.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

God’s Delight

Sweet baby Gabriel is 4 months old now. He is in that wonderful stage of alertness, awareness, wiggles and giggles, all beautifully packaged in an immobile ball of chub. He is so generous with his smiles and laughs. He loves to watch his brother and sisters make faces, sing songs and share all sorts of funny noises to elicit one of his fits of laughter.

It’s impossible not to smile when Gabe, or any baby, smiles at you. There is something infectious about their simple joy. Gabe doesn’t seem to tire of smiling. Anything and everything delights him, even if it is the 20th round of “Wheels on the Bus” or his toes being constantly tickled. Without fail, Gabe will light up the room with his sweetness.

As I was playing with Gabe the other day, something hit me. My face, smiling in love and affection, was all Gabe needed to burst into a smile. Over and over again, he continued to find joy in simply seeing my face. It made me wonder if this is a taste of what it’s like to be in God’s presence.

A baby doesn’t need a reason to smile. Out of sheer delight and simplicity they burst into laughter. Over and over again without fail, Gabe’s smiles are guaranteed to brighten my day. How much more so will I find God, He who is Love itself?

God’s love for us is boundless. We delight Him in every way when we seek His presence in our lives. That smile from a baby which so easily fills our soul with joy? It’s microscopic compared to the joy we will feel when we stand in God’s loving, glorious presence.

I’ve shared a Chesterton quote before here. For those not familiar, GK Chesterton was a prolific and highly important writer in the early 20th Century. In his breathtaking book, Orthodoxy, he explores the idea of delight in repetition.

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

Gabriel’s “Do it again!” smiles bring us all delight and joy. I’ve heard it said that babies are the most perfect people because they have most recently been in God’s presence. Perhaps this is why one of a baby’s first milestones is to smile. They only knew joy and love while with God, isn’t it miraculous that one of the first things they are able to share with us is a piece of that joy.