It was an exciting day
yesterday
at CommonWealth Urban Farms.
The community prepared
for a special visitor,
spreading wood chips on a muddy path,
sweeping leaves and sticks
from the garden entrance,
filling an Oklahoma-made basket
with tender turnips, radishes, baby carrots,
micro greens and a card
with all our “thank you” messages.
All this
because Thunder player Kyle Singler
was coming to donate
$10,000 to CommonWealth!
He had visited the farm
a few weeks ago
and evidently liked what he saw
because we soon received word
that he had decided to make
a significant donation.
Friends, volunteers,
Closer to Earth youth
and others in the CommonWealth community
greeted this tall, friendly young man
who explained during the presentation ceremony
that friends in his home state of Oregon
were urban farmers
who taught him the value of growing
nutritious food locally, right in the heart
of the city.
We exchanged gifts—
a giant check
and a basket of food—
and toured the garden again,
lush and green
even now, mid-January!
We posed for happy photos
and widened the friendships
and the CommonWealth community.

The funds will be used
to build a hoop house
and improve CommonWealth’s
infrastructure. Kyle noted
that CommonWealth is near “my backyard”
and that he wants to support the community
that supports the Thunder team.
We hope he knows he’ll always
be welcome here.


DSCN9369Awaiting arrival

DSCN9372Friends in CommonWealth community

DSCN9373Closer to Earth youth

DSCN9380The Presentation ceremony

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DSCN9401Farm Tour

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DSCN9366Lia Woods and Allen Parlier, CommonWealth Urban Farms

More photos here, on The Thunder OKC website.

We’ve been lucky the last six years;
on the day of the Green Connection’s
Prairie Dinner and Concert,
we’ve experienced Oklahoma breezes,
but never rain. It’s usually been sunny,
with crisp autumn air. But this year
was different. Normally, we begin
setting the long table about 1 p.m.
This year, we sat around the living room
watching the radar on our cell phones
trying to guess if the storms in the west,
would move more north,
more east,
or dissipate before reaching us.
Making the safest decision,
we began setting up the tables
in the round-top barn
instead of outdoors alongside
tree-lined Doe Creek.
There began
a different kind of Prairie Dinner and Concert:
the board members, Transition OKC‘s core team
and even guests who had already arrived
jumped in to help. There was wonderful
comaraderie as we also helped chef Kamala
and her kitchen staff set up in the barn as well.
Soon, the Closer to Earth youth arrived
and the abundant appetizers were set on a table
in the farmhouse backyard. Tom Temple uncorked
Woods & Water Winery‘s Merlot
as more and more guests arrived
and the seventh annual Green Connections
Barn on the Prairie Dinner
was no less magical than when it is
alongside Doe Creek. Different certainly—
after all, we were only kinda outside—
but no less magical.

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The five-course local food dinner
was scrumptious; who could choose
which dish was their favorite—creamy autumn
vegetable soup, roasted vegetables,
garlic mashed potatoes, roast (yes, local) beef,
chocolate torte…

Conversation was festive
inside the barn walls;
the service was sterling,
thanks to the Closer to Earth youth.
Marcy Roberts, who leads
the Transition OKC core team,
gave a beautiful tribute
to a surprised Lia Woods,
who received the Community Catalyst Award,
for her work in urban agriculture
at CommonWealth Urban Farms in Oklahoma City.

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Kyle Dillingham
played sweet and heart-achingly beautiful
music on that violin; his friend Claire
joined him for some jazzy tunes
on her saxophone; his son Christopher
and her son Moses played tag
with Kyle, as he played on;
a bonfire outside offered warmth
on an October evening,
as did the wonderful gathering
of people who care about Earth
and sustaining life for all.
And so it is to all,
that we offer our profound
gratitude.


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I’ve always foundPimento Cheese
comforting.
But once I really paid attention
to what I was eating,
I realized it isn’t all that
flavorful.
Perhaps its insipidness
contributed to the comfort,
raising the question:
Does comfort food
need to be
on the blander side?
It’s too late now:
I’ll never be able to eat
tasteless
Pimento Cheese again
after adding
one simple ingredient—
finely chopped fresh garlic.
Garlic so upped the flavor,
Pimento Cheese
became addictive.
As if it could get any better,
I then discovered
Chipotle Pimento Cheese.
Then, Chipotle Smoked Gouda Pimento Cheese.
Way beyond comfort now:
Very Dangerous Stuff.

Over-the-Top Pimento Cheese Spread

sharp cheddar cheese
smoked Gouda cheese
mayonaise
fresh garlic
onion
chipotle chiles, ground
pimento

As always, use the amounts that suit your circumstances and your taste.
As always, use local ingredients if possible. Here in Oklahoma, we go for Wagon Creek Creamery cheeses.
I like to buy spices at Savory Spice Shop, 4400 N. Western, Oklahoma City, because their spices are ground fresh weekly and because my friends Able and Debra Blakely own the Oklahoma City franchise. There are franchises of the Denver-based company around the country. (Their ground Chipotle Chiles are delicious.) Add the chiles, taste, determine how much you like, add more depending on your taste.
Finely chop garlic and onion (I don’t use a lot of onion, but some.)
Grate cheeses. I use a little more cheddar than Gouda.
Option: You can also make this recipe delicious without the smoky ingredients (Gouda and Chipotle.) But use more than one kind of cheese—sharp cheddar and a flavorful white cheese.
Pimentos are a kind of red sweet pepper. You can buy them in a jar, whole or already chopped. Drain the liquid before adding to the cheese mixture. I normally eschew processed food, but I never see fresh Pimento Peppers in the market. Other red sweet peppers would be a substitute, but I don’t really want crunchy in this spread. I’m still bound to the mushier, jarred, chopped pimentos, just like my mother used—part of the “comfort” of this food, perhaps.
Add mayonnaise a bit at a time, using just enough to hold the spread together.

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Group Food Preparation in the Pond House Kitchen

 

During one of his visits
to the farm,
our nephew, Elliott,
cooked his Spicy Black Bean Burgers
for us.
We loved them
and he shared the recipe.
Later, I got to visit our friends
Steve Kemble and Mollie Curry
of MudStrawLove,
at their home in Asheville, NC.
(Mollie and Steve led
our week-long straw bale construction workshop.)
One morning,
we brunched at a delightful restaurant
called Sunny Point Cafe.
Mollie suggested I try the
Huevos Rancheros —
and a new Turtle Rock Farm favorite
was born.
In our attempt to recreate
Sunny Point’s dish,
we use Elliott’s Black Bean Burgers
as the foundation
for a delicious
and extravagant
pile of goodies:
chorizo sausage,
tomatilla sauce,
feta cheese,
cilantro,
zucchini,
bell peppers
and a fried egg!
Sunny Point’s original version
has potatoes; we substitute
sauteed zucchini and bell peppers.
One of our friends enjoyed this dish
so much
he serves it to his family
on Christmas Day.
It’s that festive
and it’s that good.
It’s not just morning food;
we’ve also served it at lunch
and dinner.

Sunny Point’s Extravagant Brunch

Elliott’s Spicy Black Bean Burgers

(Adapted from “Recipe of the Week: Burgers” by Sally Simpson)

4 cups cooked, rinsed and drained black beans (about 2 1⁄2 15-ounce cans)
1/2 cup Japanese-style panko breadcrumbs
2 large eggs
4 scallions
3 tablespoons (a small handful) chopped basil or cilantro, or a combination
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2-2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano (or3 teaspoons fresh)
1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Place 2 cups of the black beans in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chunky. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add remaining whole black beans, plus panko, eggs, scallions, fresh herbs, garlic, cumin, oregano and red pepper flakes and mix until well combined. Form into patties about 1-inch thick (about three inches in diameter.) If you have the time (you’ll be glad you did) chill patties for 15 minutes so they can set up.
When ready to cook, remove patties from refrigerator and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place a cast-iron skillet over high heat, without any fat; when it is hot but not smoking, add burgers to dry pan. Cook for about four minutes on first side or until well seared and with a flipping spatula, turn onto second side and allow to cook for an additional five minutes, over medium heat.

Makes four to six burgers.

Tomatilla Sauce

Tomatillas, chopped
Onion, chopped
Canned or fresh Serrano pepper, minced
Saute briefly, until juicy

About portions – depending on how many you’re serving. Maybe six or seven medium tomatillas, a medium onion, one pepper (unless you want more.)

Building the Dish

Chorizo Sausage, crumbled and fried
Zucchini, Red or Green Bell Pepper, sliced and sauteed
Feta Cheese, crumbled
Fresh Cilantro, chopped
Eggs, fried
Salt and Pepper to taste

Make the Black Bean Burgers, the tomatilla sauce, fry the sausage, saute the vegetables and keep warm. Crumble the cheese and chop the fresh cilantro. Fry the eggs last.

Of course, at Sunny Point Cafe, they serve each guest’s plate. We like to put plates and bowls with all the components on the table, and serve family style so that everyone can build their own. It’s a lot of fun. Fun too, if guests can join you in the kitchen chopping and cooking!
Much of this wonderful dish can be grown or purchased locally. Producers in Oklahoma sell locally-grown and produced Chorizo Sausage through the Oklahoma Food Coop. There too, you can find locally grown and produced Feta Cheese and Eggs. Vegetables, herbs and eggs can also be purchased at local farmers markets. Consider growing your own herbs. One of our favorite sources for locally-grown food, even in the winter, is our friend Paulette Rink‘s Rowdy Stickhorse Market Bus. She brings several Oklahoma producers’ fresh products to Enid, Fairfax, Stillwater and Oklahoma City, weekly — all winter long. Thank you, Paulette!

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At Table During a Shepherds’ Retreat

Okay.
For a long time
people have been requesting recipes.
For a long time
we thought we’d set aside time
for cookbook writing.
Now we have decided there are other things
we’d prefer to spend our time
writing.
So, now and then,
when someone reminds us,
we’ll put a recipe,
or information about how we cook
at Turtle Rock Farm,
here (we’ve created a recipes page too;
there, on the right)
and on our website.
We are honoring this week’s request
for Baked Oatmeal,
from the shepherds,
who come on retreat
here four times a year.
The warmth and good humor
of our times at table with them
is always a beautiful gift.
So here it is,
with thanks also to our friend Jane Bond,
and her girlfriends,
who came on retreat a few years ago
and told us about this scrumptious dish.
As with all our recipes,
we will include key quantities
and ingredients,
with lots of room
for individual creativity and taste.
You’ll have to figure some of it out
on your own—
which we think is half the fun.

Turtle Rock Farm Baked Oatmeal

Serves 6-8. For 10, use 1 ½  recipes

Ingredients:
3 cups oats (extra thick oats, or gluten-free extra thick oats)
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened or melted
2 eggs
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
cinnamon, to suit your taste
dash of freshly-grated whole nutmeg
nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit—kinds and amounts, your preference

Serve with yogurt or milk; more fresh fruit if you’d like.

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 13×9-inch baking dish.
Mix all ingredients and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden on top.

A Note About Ingredients

Much of this recipe (honey, eggs, dairy products, nuts, fruits) can, and should, be made with locally-grown, organic ingredients, which can be grown yourself or purchased at Oklahoma’s farmer’s markets and through the Oklahoma Food Coop. We love Wagon Creek Creamery‘s dairy products, including butter and yogurt. We are never without their yogurt. Buy the Creamline (because their cows are grass-fed, their highest-fat yogurt actually helps reduce cholesterol) or the Greek (which has more protein.) Both are delicious, humanely-produced and healthy.

Building the Raised Bed

Planting the Raised Bed

It’s gardening season.
Ann has started seedlings
in the house
and now, planted the first seeds in the soil.
Last Saturday,
during the first-of-the-season
Composting and Gardening Workshop,
participants built turnable composters
to take home
and then learned how to build
a raised bed garden,
into which they planted
peas
and onions.

The next Composting and Gardening Workshops
will be March 5 and April 9.
To register, go to our website: www.turtlerockfarmretreat.com

Eating fresh, healthful, delicious food
that you’ve planted
in soil that you’ve nourished with the trimmings
of vegetables you’ve grown
and prepared for those in your life,
is to experience the simple
and wondrous
circle of life.

Class Participants with Composter

Tomato Seedlings in the Greenhouse

Tender Onions in Raised Bed Garden

Gardening Class Adding Soil to Raised Beds

Lots of people we know are excited about gardening this year.
There’s a movement.
And it’s a wonderful thing
on so many levels:
climate change
food security
personal health
spiritual health
emotional health
sheer joy.
Here,
the seedlings are growing strong in the greenhouse.
Peas, onions and potatoes have emerged in the raised beds.
Last night, for a predicted frost,
Ann and Jae set the hoops over them for protection.
Last weekend’s gardening class
planted lettuces and chard in the raised beds.
The hens are in their movable pen,
scratching up the on-ground garden area.
Pacas and Red Wiggler Worms are making their contributions
to healthy soil.
Our hope is that we can continue to grow more and more
of our own food,
for our small community and retreat guests.
We are preparing ourselves
for a busy summer of gardening and food preservation.
Already,
we’ve had our first meal on the patio with guests.
And we look forward to days on end,
dining al fresco
on a table laid with fresh, organic, local food.
Not to brag
(after all, we have nothing to do with how the food tastes –
except that we don’t tamper with it much,)
but Candace Krebs, writing in ETown Magazine about our Earth-friendly meals said:
“Food like this is simple but so good and fresh it almost defies description.”

First Spring Dinner on the Patio at the Pond House

We’ve learned to cook a whole new way.
It’s healthier for all –
easier and more fun and satisfying
than we had ever imagined.
We offer a day in the kitchen
learning to cook this way.
It’s our Earth Dinner retreat
and the next one is April 17.
To register, click on “Workshops and Retreats”
at our website: Turtle Rock Farm.