Gazpacho: An Ode To Summer

 

With so many tomatoes and cucumbers continually on hand, gazpacho has become one of my favorite things to make, in part due to the handy Vitamix. I can go from having an entire cutting board full of vegetables, to a big bowl of soup ready in under 10 minutes. Gazpacho is an easy way to eat more fruits (remember, tomatoes are fruits!) and vegetables.

Here again I don’t have any clear cut measurements. I tend to just grab a bunch of items and toss in the blender. The combinations however are delicious, so consider this inspiration at least. I never salt my foods because a) I prefer minimal salt & b) salt is easy for everyone else to add to their preference. Preparing foods sans salt opens up a window of opportunity to enhance flavors with herbs. Try it!

Cucumber & Radish Gazpacho

4-6 cukes, peeled
1/2 cup red onion or 3 scallions
1-2 cloves garlic
4-5 radish
Handful fresh cilantro
~4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
~2 tbsp lemon juice
Fresh ground pepper

Toss roughly chopped cucumber into Vitamix and blend for 2-3 seconds until cucumbers are well blended. Add in onion, garlic, radish, cilantro, oil, lemon juice, and seasoning. Blend for a few more seconds until all vegetables are well blended. Adjust to taste.

Tomato & Cuke Gazpacho

This one goes something like:

Lots of ripe tomatoes, de-stemmed, quartered and tossed into Vitamix until full. Blend until soupy.

Add in:
1-2 large cucumber
1 small red onion or 1/2 large red onion
5 radish
1 generous handful of fresh basil
1/2 handful fresh cilantro
~4 tbsp olive oil
~1 tbsp lemon juice
Fresh ground pepper

Blend some more and you’re done. Garnish with chopped onion, cilantro, sour cream/yogurt or a few slices of avocado if they are readily available for you. All these flavors will go wonderfully together. Blend in a substantial amount of yogurt or whipped avocado and you have yourself a tasty gazpacho dip!

Enjoy!

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Beet Hummus!

The rain gods have blessed us yet again! We’ve actually had a few straight days of rain and it has been incredible. The cooler temperatures, clouds, and rain have brought on a subtle sense of fall. I am slightly eager for cool, brisk fall days and of course, fall harvest! Pumpkins, apples, winter squashes, brussels sprouts, cider, and the return of arugula! Can’t get too excited quite yet as it is still mid August. Tomatoes, sweet corn, beets, and carrots will have to do ;)

In the past week Lola Jean has made her beet hummus three times and it is quite possibly one of the best hummus’ I have ever had (aside from Mark’s from Everdale and Prasino’s). It is a delightful switch up from the typical chickpea hummus and the beets give it a subtle sweetness which is always a way to please my palate.

Beet Hummus

Ingredients:
1/2 lb. beets* – washed, peeled, and cooked until tender
2 tbsp tahini
5 tbsp lemon juice
1-2 clove garlic
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp lemon zest*
Salt & pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients together in food processor and pulse until smooth. Adjust to taste.

*Red or golden work well. Golden beets make it a bit sweeter than red
**Original recipe called for zest but was not included (lemons are really prominent in these parts)

Enjoy with fresh cut veggies, pita, on burgers or sandwiches.

Bon appetit!

And This Is Only the Beginning…

These two came to visit two weekends ago and it was fan-freakin’-tastic to have them here. I love they had the chance to experience first hand the beauty of Whole Circle. We shared three lovely days together – 2 nights at the farm and 1 at a bed & breakfast near Niagara on the Lake – right in the heart of wine country. Saturday we spent the day exploring Toronto and ended with an evening with guitars and singing back at the farm.

Sunday morning we woke up early to milk before heading to Niagara Falls early in the afternoon. After the Falls we toured three wineries in wine country, two of which are the only certified biodynamic in Canada. Below is a snapshot from our spread at Southbrook Winery before we ventured to Ravine Vineyard. We sampled a good amount which led to buying more bottles than anticipated… ha, whoops! I’m not complaining.

Sunday evening we enjoyed a long and tasty dinner at a lakeside farm-to-table restaurant in the small town we spent the night. I talked their ears off about all the great things I’m learning up here, the amazing people that have come into my life, and my million ideas. They filled me in on all the things happening back at home in Illinois, our farm, and things I’ve missed with friends & family. Being without a phone here has me somewhat out of the loop – but I try my hardest to play catch up every once in awhile.


After my parents left it was back to work, work, work…. and play! Courtney, LolaJean and myself attended a Full Moon’s Women Circle Wednesday evening to celebrate the full moon in the presence of women of all ages. We sang, shared stories, and honored the beauty of the moon cycle. I found it quite fitting that while I was sharing my story with the group, a hummingbird flew into view at the other edge of the porch. In Native American culture hummingbirds are regarded as the bearers of joy, life, and love (and it happened to be the first one I’ve seen all year!). What I happened to be sharing with the group at the moment the little bird flew into my view, was how strongly I had been feeling my Grandma’s presence the past week. I felt her strongest at my acupuncture/Reiki a few days prior. It was an incredibly powerful, healing session – I left knowing my Grandma’s spirit is very much a part of my present life that is so rich of joy, life, and love. To say I  feel life stronger now more than ever would be an understatement. My heart, my soul, literally feels like it’s shining from the inside out. All this excitement has my brain exploding with ideas. And this is only the beginning…

Thankfully for you, I have a DIY recipe to share, to spread some inspiration from my exploding brain. Katie actually inspired me to make this toothpaste – which now has me wanting to brush my teeth four times a day. No joke. I look forward to waking up and going to bed just to brush my teeth. I swear I am normal.

DIY Toothpaste

Combine equal parts baking soda and coconut oil in a small glass jar with a wide lid. To begin I started with 4 TBSP of each. Add in a few drops of essential oil of choice: spearmint, peppermint, fennel, etc. I choose peppermint. Optional few drops of liquid stevia extract if desired. Mix well and there ya go! How easy, quick, and cheap. Your teeth will never feel cleaner and your smile will be brighter, promise!

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In other farming related news – we’ve been hit hard by colorado potato beetle and flea beetles. We lost most our potato crop, field peppers & tomatoes, and we had to strip the kale down this week (darn flea beetles destroying my favorite food!). But we harvested gorgeous carrots and red onion in their place Tuesday. Looking forward to fresh carrot juice soon!

I finally worked through my hesitation to feed the pigs alone. Times have changed and I now look forward to chores by myself. The pigs are still crazy but I guess that is what I love about them. Because if they weren’t crazy, there wouldn’t have been that challenge for me to work through.

Rebecca is back at the farm after spending a week recovering in Toronto from an injury. Even though she cannot join us in the field for awhile, it is great to have her back with the family!

Rain & Tears

Things are still going lovely here, despite my choice to write about some rain and my tears. We are harvesting more and more each week… suddenly our harvests, and plates, are exploding with lots of color and flavor diversity. It’s been quite exciting and amazing.

Notice, my excitement for green onions!

Courtney’s excitement (or mere shock of harvesting one nearly the size of her head) for turnips!

We’ve been enjoying the partnerships with local artisans and chefs as well… we have a close relationship with Owner and head chef, Yasser, of Artisanale, a local French inspired restaurant featuring seasonal, local foods. A few weeks ago the entire staff came out to the farm and prepared us dinner. We then all dined together, farmers & Artisanale staff, to enjoy in the beauty of local, organic foods – a true farm-to-table dinner. Yum! Last week we then went to Artisanale as a group to dine in Yasser’s space; lovely all around. And so very delicious.

Ok, so back to the title.

Tears: I am grateful I had a mini meltdown this afternoon before I went back to continue harvesting garlic after lunch. It caught me somewhat off guard but I’m so glad it came when it did. As I was walking into the back field to meet the rest of the team after I completed some greenhouse watering, I contemplated taking a short cut through the field and hedgerow, but decided to follow the path. As I approached the shed, I noticed Johann cleaning off a trailer on the tractor and he told me I could drive it to the field. I know I could have, but was clearly emotional, as two seconds later I was hanging over the edge of the trailer, face in hands, crying. One of the greatest parts of living at Whole Circle isn’t just the experience of farming, but the incredibly open and honest environment. I know I can express any & every emotion and feeling sans judgement. After a few words exchanged of why I was feeling upset, he simply put his arms around me and gave me a big hug. He allowed me to quite literally cry on his shoulder, without feeling the need to console through words. Understanding my needs, a simple embrace was all I really needed at the moment and he got that without me having to say anything. After going so long without crying – months!- it has felt so great to have had two solid tearful moments in the last week. I strongly believe in crying – it is so healthy and therapeutic – I welcome back an emotional and weepy self with open arms. As soon as we parted and he got on the tractor,  I recognized there was a reason I didn’t take that shortcut. Thank you, Johann.

Rain: It RAINED! And it’s currently raining again! We’ve been waiting, patiently for this to come for weeks now. Everyone and everything needs rain: the vegetables, the pastures, the animals, and what I have really come to realize – my body & soul. Endless sun and heat has left me feeling entirely run down somedays, physically and mentally. So, cooler temps, clouds, and rain = bliss! Sing a bit to the rain gods for us, we need more, lots more!

Both the rain and tears made my day and I’m heading to bed in a much brighter mood than I began with. Funny how that works.

Now, I am anxiously awaiting my parents visit in less than 48 hours!

 

 

My Present

I’ve had great intentions to write what life entails here on the farm for over two weeks now. However, time I’ve set aside to write a posting on here, I am turned off as it requires time at the computer. I haven’t wanted to be on my computer for longer than a few minutes at a time since it is more or less a distraction from everything else happening in my life…

The work, the farm, the land, the energy, the people, the friends and farm family. All these are resonating so well with me that I am truly living in my present, not concerned for the past, the future, or anything else that doesn’t serve what is directly in front of me. I am enjoying in all that is unfolding so quickly in my life. The energy that radiates from this land is untangible, breathtaking, and so inspiring. This morning at a local food festival in Guelph, Ontario, I started to get a bit teary eyed talking to a customer about my experience on the farm. Not just about how much I absolutley love Whole Circle but this entire area of Canada – it’s so wonderful! And again I felt some tears, with a friend I’ve quickly bonded with from Toronto, as we spoke this afternoon about the beautiful energy the farm and the people it attracts creates. In a nutshell, Whole Circle Farm is a life-force, attracting all sorts of wonderful, and I am so blessed part of my life journey is to be here, right now.

So my days for all those who are elsewhere and curious to know….

Each day I work longer hours than I’ve ever had before – waking up sometime between 4:45 & 5:30 depending on the day, and running around until 6-7 pm.  After dinner I enjoy downtime with fermentation projects, reading, yoga, exploring, drawing, various adventures in the kitchen, and enjoying in the company of my farm housemates. I do not have a particular routine nor do I intend to follow one; I allow my day to unfold as it does, doing whatever it is that feels best for me in that moment. I am loving the ease I take each day with. It has allowed me to connect deeper to everything around me as well as everything going on inside.

Here we work Monday – Friday from 6-6. We rotate animal chore days, dinner/lunch preparation, milking, and greenhouse chores on a weekly rotation. Currently I am on the schedule for animal chores and milking Wednesdays, as well as preparing group dinner on Wednesday. So basically my Wednesdays look like this: I wake up at 5:30, head to the barn to begin milking between 5:50 – 6 am. Splitting the work between three people, we milk until the cows are done giving, which has begun to taper off in the past few weeks. I milk with Johann, the farm owner and my Canadian Papa, as well as Graham, the resident animal caretaker and handyman. They have years of experience over me, obviously, and I have quickly become envious of their milking hands. In the time it takes me to milk one pail or less, they’re clear onto their third or fourth. I may be slow but I am enjoying the beautiful, meditative process of milking of such beautiful creatures. To work so intimately with the cows, resting my side against their warm bellies, hearing all their stomach gurgles, smelling in the differences of their milk has been amazing. It may be frustrating when there is a particularly fidgety cow and it takes me even longer, or an udder is small and awkward to milk, or I get stepped on and I’m scared my toe is cut in half… but if these are my greatest “frustrations”, life is pretty good, eh?

The whole farm takes tea break from 7:30-8. Coffee, tea, food – quick – and then back to work. On chores day this means at 8 I head back to the barn to muck out the stalls, feed the pigs, and a few minutes later I join the garden crew in the gardens until noon. Feeding pigs the first time by myself was a bit traumatic for me and in just a few minutes I went from thinking pigs and piglets were ‘oh, soooooo cute’, to oh my god I’m never, ever getting pigs. As I was opening the gate to their area, the pigs began pushing me and the buckets to get to the feed and they won. In a matter of seconds there was feed everywhere (mostly on me), piglets were escaping, the chickens were joining in the chaos (flapping and bkkk bkkking all over the place) and so I screamed for Graham who was thankfully nearby and he came to my rescue. As he finished feeding the pigs for me, we laughed at how ridiculous they (and I) are. He taught me how to properly distract them but I still think they’re insane. Everyone offers to help now, after I made it quite known how much those few moments scared me. I appreciate everyone’s efforts to make me feel better about being taken out by the damn beasts. I’m determined to do it all on my own this week – I think I’m ready. They are beginning to regain their cuteness.

Lunch break is from noon – 1, afternoon work follows until 6. Wednesdays I feed the pigs again around 4 and head in early from the field to begin preparing dinner for the group. At six, the crew filters into the kitchen and we all share dinner around the table, reflecting on the day and bounty of delicious food. Everyone is very much aware of  dietary preferences, however it helps that we all eat almost anything served. There’s only Rebecca and myself who prefer no gluten and my attempts to avoid refined sugar, as well as two non-pork eaters. Other than that – you can cook with as much meat, butter, and whatever else you can get your hands on, and you’re guaranteed all will leave the table full and satisfied. I feel very nourished, physically and mentally, with all the fresh food we eat here… meals are insanely delicious. I’m always impressed at everyone’s ability to single-handedly pull together such wonderful meals in such limited time.

Saturday mornings I’m up even earlier than the week to head to the farmers market. The past four weeks I’ve been joining Courtney at the Wychwood Market in Toronto. I love, love, love this place… I’ve met wonderful people and like I said before the time always flies by. By the time we get home and unload the van, it’s usually after 3 pm and I’m exhausted but feel empowered. Markets are a time to reflect in all the hard work we have done to bring healthy, organic food to the table for others and it’s humbling to partake in those efforts. Long days and possibly too few hours of sleep don’t seem to affect living the life of a farmer, as I am just so darn happy and excited to be doing everything I do in my waking hours.

It’s hard to put into words the love that radiates from here. Someone told me today at the local food fest that as a CSA member, they literally taste the love in the food they recieve from this farm. She said the quality and freshness of our food is unlike that from anywhere else. Even though I’ve only been here one month (it seems like a lifetime, in a good way) I know exactly what she means and why she said that. Everyone at Whole Circle puts so much love into their work, it truly is no wonder our food is growing it.

Other fun things I’ve enjoyed here have been a raw  & vegan festival in Toronto a few weekends ago, beautiful countryside bike rides and runs, yoga classes at a hot yoga studio nearby when my schedule allows, and celebrating the summer solstice last night with a potluck here at the farm. We hosted a delicious dinner with 60-ish friends & family in the backyard on a perfect summer evening. As dusk rolled in, we continued our celebration late into the night around a bonfire in the paddock, farm style at its finest…. complete with s’mores, dancing, singing, guitar strumming, and violin playing underneath a beautifully star filled sky. The cows and their calves were a mere stones throw away… glimpses of them caught throughout the flickering light of the fire.

So, folks, this is where I have been… enjoying in the joy and reveling in the beauty of my present. If my iphoto didn’t recently falter on me, there’d be photos to accompany this recap. So until the glitch is figured out, picture an ideal farm life, and I’m pretty much living that.

Source: etsy.com via Katy on Pinterest

DIY Yogurt

Another homemade fermented food to share! I happened to arrive on the farm at a time when there is plenty of milk to go around, and then some, thanks to the calves. All the extra milk around means there has been an opportunity to make yogurt and/or cheese everyday. With yogurt being as easy as it is, I chose to take advantage and finally partake in something I’ve been meaning to learn for years. There have been some cheese cultures ordered so expect for cheese recipes in the near future.

Below is the recipe Rebecca (thanks Rebecca!) taught me last week. I intend to always follow this as it makes for some pretty amazing yogurt! So get your thermometer and make some yourself!

Yogurt

1. Slowly heat 10 L milk in large pot on stove, stirring frequently to avoid burning the milk. Heat until milk has reached 82-84 degrees C.

2. Once milk has reached the right temperature, transfer pot into an cold water bath (kitchen sink works well). Allow pot to cool in bath until the milk has reached 44 degrees C. You may to need to drain the water a few times and refill with cold water as the hot pot will make the sink water warm and slow the cooling process.

2. When milk is between 42- 44 degrees C, stir in roughly 1/2 to 3/4 L of plain yogurt for a starter culture. Make sure the plain yogurt is labeled with “contains live ingredients” to ensure the proper live bacteria. Here you can eyeball it and not worry about specific measurements. If you do want to follow a “proper” measurement – 1 tbsp of yogurt stater per L of milk will do the trick.

3. Stir yogurt into milk until most large clumps are separated.

4. Transfer milk into quart glass jars or any storage container of your choice. Cap the jar tightly and place in pre-heated insulated cooler. Close the lid of cooler and place in a warm spot where it will not be disturbed.

5. Check yogurt at 24 hours. At this point the yogurt should be settled and relatively thick and the “perfect sour”. If you prefer more sour yogurt simply let it sit in the warm cooler for longer.

6. Transfer labeled yogurt container(s) into refrigerator and enjoy!

7. Be sure to save some yogurt for the next batch :)

*Tailor the recipe to however much yogurt you want. We are clearly swimming in milk over here for 10-12L is nothing – but it’s probably a bit much for most individuals. And as always be sure to use organic milk.

**Make vanilla yogurt by adding the seeds from a vanilla bean to some of your batch. Simply scrap the inside of a vanilla bean and stir seeds into yogurt before you pour into individual jars/containers. For 2 L of vanilla yogurt, I used the seeds from one bean. Tailor to your preferences!

Note there is nothing low fat about my recipe – we use fresh milk from the cows. If you choose to go the low-fat route, it may result in a less thick yogurt.

Enjoy!

Homebrewed Water Kefir

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Thanks to Katie, a fellow apprentice here at Whole Circle, I am now in love with another homebrew drink that is so easy to make, as long as you have kefir culture (pictured above).

Why water kefir?

Aside from it being easy and delicious!… it is packed with some great nutritional benefits. This bubbly beverage is especially handy to have around when you crave effervescence but do not want the associated processed sugars and other junk from sodas. And let’s face it, sometimes it is nice to hydrate with something other than water.

During the fermentation process, the kefir produces probiotics, which are important “good” bacteria for our digestive system. The probiotic benefits of water kefir are vegan friendly – so for all the vegans out there this is a great way to drink up probiotics! Water kefir has also been noted to be a great source for vitamin B12, as well as a good source for B1 & B6.

Water Kefir

1 cup raw sugar
1 cup water kefir grains
1 lemon – organic, unpeeled & cut in half
4 figs or ~ 1/4 cup of unsulphured dried fruit of your choice
water

Place ingredients into a gallon glass jar, fill jar with water and cover with a breathable cloth/cheesecloth. Secure with rubber band & let sit to ferment for 72 hours at room temperature. After three days, remove cloth and strain. Discard figs, save kefir grains in some liquid for next batch (or immediately make another since you’ll quickly become addicted) and squeeze juice of lemons into your water kefir. Option to also add ~1/2 cup of your favorite fruit juice after kefir has been strained. Store in refrigerator – the longer water kefir is stored – the more fermented *more effervescent* it will become.

For those who weren’t gifted kefir grains like I was you can order some here. Keep in mind that with each batch, the grains will multiply, allowing your supply to expand each time.

Katie and I are now on a mission to have multiple batches continually brewing as we are obsessed. As we master certain flavor combinations I will be sure to share!

Saturday Mornings In Toronto

There better be a darn good reason to wake up at 4:45 on a Saturday. This morning, I had a good reason indeed. I nearly jumped out of bed pre-dawn excited as the dickens to head to Toronto’s farmers’ market! to sell produce from Whole Circle Farm. <– where I now work and live (more on this soon).

Just after 5 am Courtney and I loaded the van up with sunchokes, beets, carrots, potatoes, greens, and herbs and drove into Toronto. It was a bit chilly – I spent most the day in two jackets & under the warmth of my hat- but at least the expected rain held off. The market was wonderful! You can read more about The Stop Community Food Centre where the Stop Farmers’ Market is held here.

All the customers were so friendly and the 5 hours flew by, as I knew they would. There were tons of eclectic vendors selling breads/pastries/baked goods made with locally grown grains, produce, cheese, prepared foods, meats, chocolate, honey products, maple syrup, and other various fun things.

I tasted my first “sea asparagus” – which is essentially a teeny tiny version of asparagus, harvested from the sea – thus being an incredibly salty, crunchy veggie. Yikes! I prefer land asparagus, thank you very much. I also had my first true whiff of fiddleheads. ew? Those too smell like the ocean yet sound delicious. I’ve been wanting to try these for awhile but couldn’t bring myself to buy them simply as their their smell was so off-putting. Not a fan of fishy smells. Maybe next time.

Some pics from today. enjoy!

earth & city: raw foods table!


and whole circle! …

Markets are such a wonderful place to saunter, coffee & breakfast in hand, and converse with people from your neighborhood. Nothing beats the warming atmosphere of friendly, smiley folk who share in the same enthusiasm as you about local foods. Even for the visitors who don’t know about local food – but pop by for various reasons – it’s always a pleasure to share with them what local and seasonal food means. Getting someone to try something new is always so exciting!

My own purchases for today included coffee, ginger cider, kale, apples, strawberries, and a few maple syrup candies. I can’t wait to start my Sunday with some fresh kale & apple juice. Yum!