Bring Culture to Your Autumn with Crock-Pot Yogurt

Homemade Yogurt in Crock-Pot Recipe

I’ve sometimes thought it would be fun to be a food blogger. You know, experiment with recipes all day and shoot stunning photos that everyone drools over. I tried it for about a week and quickly realized it’s a ton of work. Plus, I don’t know that much about cooking.

What I do know is marketing. And healthy food. And a simple, artistic way of life. I’m really proud to promote my work for the upcoming Fermentation Fest because the festival embodies so many things for which I stand. Like the sponsors say in their event guide (which Adunate designed, by the way), Fermentation Fest is “a live culture convergence where farmers, artists, chefs, poets, cheesemakers, canners and eaters converge to celebrate food, farming and fermentation.” All done in the beautiful hills of Sauk County, Wisconsin, in October, the most colorful month of the year. Do try to make it!

So, to give you a foretaste of Fermentation Fest and to satiate my desire to be a food blogger, here’s a recipe for homemade yogurt. It’s easy-peasy and a good first step to bringing healthier, homemade food into your diet.

Homemade Yogurt in a Crock-Pot

Serves 8-16

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon milk, preferably organic (I use whole milk, but you can use others as well)
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt with live-active cultures (store-bought Greek yogurt is good) OR 1/4 teaspoon freeze-dried yogurt culture

Instructions

  1. Pour milk into your crock-pot and heat at a medium temperature to 180° F (depending on your crock-pot, this takes 30-90 minutes)
  2. Turn crock-pot off and allow milk to cool to 110° F (30-60 minutes)
  3. While waiting for yogurt to cool, measure out the yogurt culture  and bring to room temperature
  4. When milk reaches 110° F, add yogurt culture and whisk until fully blended
  5. Cover crock-pot with lid and wrap completely in towels (someday I’m going to make myself a quilted mini-sleeping bag for this:-)
  6. Leave it undisturbed for 6-8 hours  in quiet location. The longer you let it ferment, the tangier it will be. Sometimes I’ve accidentally let mine go for more than 12 hours and it’s still good, just a bit “wow” on the tang.
  7. After fermenting, refrigerate for at least four hours to allow it to fully set.
  8. Serve with fruit and granola. Enjoy and be healthy!

Last Note:  Save at least 1/4 cup of your homemade yogurt to make you next batch!


Looking for a designer or copywriter for your next food event? Let’s talk!

How You Can Preserve the Good Food Movement

Garlic cloves hanging in old barnI just can’t tell you how good our barn smells right now! Last week we harvested garlic and now one the hand-hewn beams of our Fachwerk barn is fully lined with this earthy delight. If former lives were such a thing, I’m sure I was an Italian maiden and my brick barn presided over an old-world villa. Do ya think?

Like everything else from our garden, this garlic is so-o-o-o much more flavorful than anything you buy in the grocery store. If there’s a disadvantage to raising your own food, it’s that you become acutely aware of just how tasteless and removed from its natural state our retail food has become. Call me a snob (or an empty-nester who can now afford to spend more), but more times than not I’ll go out of my way to shop at Willy Street Cooperative in Madison, and other such stores, simply because its food is organic and/or locally-grown. Think fresh, flavorful and healthy. (Unfortunately, I know I’m using more time and fuel — it’s not easy being green.)

Have you ever read Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé? I first ran into this book while working for the Youth Conservation Corp in the late 1970s. Such ecological food practices were revolutionary back then and, while some of her theories have since been refuted, Lappé is still credited as being an introducer to the active food movement we have today. What I find interesting is how 40 years later, her forewarnings of an unsustainable food system are now here to haunt us. And she was right. Today we have declining health, depleted soils, and a problem of affordably producing quality food, simply because the good food movement is not as much of American life as it should be.

In his article Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers, Bren Smith, a farmer himself, offers suggestions for preserving the good food movement we appreciate today. He writes of political agendas, like supporting affordable health care and shifting subsidies from factory farms to family farms. But guess what, there are also things we can do at the grassroots level that are as equally important for supporting good food—simple things that not only benefit ourselves but society as a whole.

  • Be willing to spend more for better food, and better health.
  • Support small farms instead of factory farms—research the farm, maybe even take a drive to the country to see it.
  • Buy a CSA share from a farm near you.
  • Support food cooperatives—become an owner for greater discounts.
  • If you don’t have access to grocery stores that carry local and organic food, ask your grocer to do so. Do the same with the restaurants you patronize.
  • Become a farmer yourself: grow a garden.
  • Speak up! Write about it. Talk about it on social media. Make people aware of what you or others are doing with good food.

Fermentation Fest: A Live Culture Convergence

Nameplate for Fermentation Fest

Turn on the T.V. or page through any number of magazines and you’ll find that Wisconsin is cultivating a prestigious culinary scene. From James Beard award winners to specialty food entrepreneurs, our beloved Badger State is taking on an epicurean eminence that goes far beyond beer, cheese, sausage and fish fries.

Knowing this, you can rightly assume Wisconsin’s putting on some sumptuous food festivals. Among them, Fermentation Fest is literally bubbling its way to the top.

Definition of culture shed, by Jay Salinas, Wormfarm InstituteNow in its fourth year, Fermentation Fest is a 10-day celebration of the arts, farming and fermented food. There are how-to classes for the ancient art of fermentation. There are tasting events that expand one’s senses beyond the homogeneity of today’s grocery stores. There are musicians, poets and storytellers. And, if that’s not enough, there is art—how does a 50-mile self-guided Farm/Art D’Tour through the breathtaking farmlands of
Sauk County grab you? Think meandering country roads…rolling unglaciated hills…October, in all its autumn glory. As organizers define it, Fermentation Fest is a celebration of the “cultureshed” of Wisconsin’s Driftless area.

Fermentation Fest is the brainchild of Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas, and their Wormfarm Institute, a non-profit organization fostering arts and agriculture. Supported in part through the National Endowment for the Arts and ArtPlace America, Sauk County is the only rural county to receive art funding, says Donna. The fest is also hosted by the Sauk County UW Extension and the Reedsburg Chamber of Commerce, and sponsored by a multitude of businesses and organizations. Yes, Fermentation Fest is truly a convergence of culture.

So this year I’m super excited to be part of Fermentation Fest. My dear friend, Ann Foley, who designs for The Creative Company and Madison’s Brat Fest—another great food event—recommended me for doing the Fermentation Fest newsletter. Thank you, Ann!

And thank you, Donna! I’m honored to be working on this project and loving the time I get to spend in beautiful Sauk County!

Hey, make sure you sign up to get the latest on Fermentation Fest’s schedule and registration!

Why Christians Should Celebrate Earth Day 2014

Moss growing on log in Glacial Drumlin Bike Trail, Jefferson Co., WisconsinToday is Earth Day and here’s why Christians should be part of this annual celebration. And even though our main focus is eternal life in heaven, here’s why we should practice mindful stewardship during our time here on earth—not just on Earth Day, but every day.

God’s Creation

In the Bible book of Genesis, chapters 1 and 2 tell us the earth and everything in it were created by God. The earth is God’s masterpiece, both in form and function. We wouldn’t dream of littering an artist’s work in a museum with garbage or toxic waste. Certainly God’s work—his earth—deserves this same respect.

Granddaughter looking up to a beautiful blue skyGod’s Assignment to Us

I realize we humans can’t determine the fate of our planet any more than we can the length of our lives. But we can take responsibility for both their quality and care. After all, this is what God entrusts to us when, in Genesis 1:28, he commands “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.”

I think of this as my husband and I enjoy nature with our granddaughter. Shouldn’t she and every other precious child be able to lay in God’s green grass and look up to his beautiful sky without fear of chemicals and pollution? Shouldn’t they have natural food to eat that won’t harm them or the children they may someday bring forth?

God has given us the job of being caretakers of his earth—for ourselves, for our children and for their children. Such a high calling this is!

Spring blossoms against Fachwerk BarnAppreciation to God

When God offered us his gift of salvation, he precursored it with a temporary stay here on earth. Given the state of our sinfulness, we certainly deserve accommodations much worse. Yet our Lord, in his great love, lets us live in this beautiful world. Wow, we are so blessed! The more I travel, the more I learn of the environment and our human body, the more I strive to live naturally—the more I do any of these things—I am so much more amazed by the graciousness and intelligence of God’s design.

In Psalm 139:14, David writes, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” We owe God this same appreciation. We can show this by caring for everything and everyone he has created.

Sunset on Georgian Bay, Ontario, CanadaGlory to God

Some people are worried Earth Day has taken a paganistic twist. Others feel we’ve allowed “saving the environment” to become our modern day idol. Well, instead of automatically denouncing this annual celebration, why don’t we Christians just speak out? On Earth Day and every day, let’s praise God with our voice and glorify him with our actions. Let’s be good stewards of his earthly masterpiece.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Goodman Center is More Than Fancy

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A few weeks ago we attended a fundraising dinner for the Goodman Community Center in Madison. I have to mention the promotional pieces they put out for the event because they did such a super job.

Each of the pieces was spot on—uniformity of branding, educational information, and a “fancy-filled” style. Madison, by nature, is a casual town, but when the invitation uses key words like “fancy” (four times), “investment,” “secure future” and “sponsorship,” you know not only should you dress up, but you also need to bring your checkbook. That is, after all, the objective of a fundraising dinner.

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Graphic design and copywriting aside, I was excited to get inside this building!

According to its website, the Center’s architecture “demonstrates a classic factory form characterized by an abundance of ground floor windows and two rows of high central clerestory windows, maximizing natural light and ventilation.” Built in the turn of the last century, the 30,000-square-foot building has a diverse industrial history.

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In 2005, with the help of local philanthropists, the Center bought the building and began a complete renovation. Today, it houses classrooms, art rooms, game rooms, a fitness center, a café run by teens training in the culinary arts, a food pantry and offices. A covered walkway connects the building to a newly built 12,000-square-foot gymnasium.

Isn’t the steel gantry shown above cool? Once part of an iron works operation, it now it forms a giant gazebo over the gardens and playground.

Inside the Goodman Community Center, Madison, WI

THIS  is why I wanted to see inside this building! Isn’t it beautiful?!

Eppstein Uhen Architects and Vogel Brothers Building Company, both of Madison, did the renovation. They mindfully considered environmentally friendly techniques and the building’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Inside the Goodman Community Center, Madison, WISo, yes, the dinner promotional pieces were well done. And, yes, the building is stunningly beautiful.

But here’s why the Goodman Center really shines:

Each day it provides food, educates young people, cares for older adults and supports the families of four Madison communities. As the Goodman Center says, it strengthens people’s lives.

GCC_5Now that the Goodman Center has room to expand in this wonderful building, it offers new and improved programs. Here are those they highlighted in their fancy-filled and well-designed dinner program:

  • Seed to Table: Gives at-risk students the chance to learn through an urban agriculture curriculum with hands-on propagating, planting, harvesting, preserving and cooking.
  • Dane County Nutrition Site: Fed 8,000 affordable meals to older adults in 2012.
  • Food Preservation Program: Teens preserve abundant local produce for the center’s food pantry customers.
  • Thanksgiving Basket Distribution: Distributed holiday meals to 2,600 families in 2012.
  • Parent Programs: Strengthen the link between parents, children, school and the Center.
  • Madison Empowering Responsibility in Teens (MERIT): Helps Madison teens make good decisions about their sexual health.
  • Vocationally Integrated Pathways (VIP): An alternative high school program where students earn credits through academics and work.
  • 5-Star Childcare (Young Star rating): Programs provide quality care to Madison’s youth.

 Want to support this caring organization? Check out their site here