I had an amazing experience this past weekend in sort of an unexpected way. Friday was my husband, Heath’s, birthday so we dropped the kids off with Granny and headed to The Elm’s Resort and Spa in Excelsior Springs for a weekend filled with massages, facials, and cat naps. Excelsior Springs is only 35 minutes away from Parkville, but it is unfamiliar territory for us. Like any “tourist”, I perused the Elm’s website to see what there was to do in the area and one place in particular caught my attention (to say the least):
VanTill Farms/Rayville Bakery
13986 Hwy C
Rayville, Missouri 64084
The Van Till family’s farming operation is bringing back the “good old days” in taste, nutrition, and the enjoyment of food. Food, wine and hospitality are available on this working farm.
They had me at “taste, nutrition, and the enjoyment of food”. I clicked on their website and grew even more excited. Picture this: farm, winery, heated garden patio enclosed in a greenhouse (that’s where you dine), massive brick oven, organic ingredients grown right on their farm, homemade jellies, fresh wood-fired bread, cheese, and salami all surrounded by a manicured farmscape. Did I mention this is only 35 minutes away from Parkville?! Not only did I want to go there (or live there, whatever), I wanted them to be my friends. So, without hesitation, I shot off an email telling them I would be visting over the weekend and would love to have the opportunity to meet them. Gosh, these things do not occur to me as sounding obnoxious until I am retelling them! Oh well, Cliff VanTill graciously replied and welcomed us.
We were there on Friday night when they serve wood-fired pizza straight from their brick oven, which is located on the garden patio with the diners. Fun. They offer six varieties of their own wine, including Chambourcin, Norton, Vignoles, Chardonel, Sweet Red, and Sweet White. The Sweet Red was popular among the patrons, but we really enjoyed the Norton along with our Mediterranean pizza. It was quite delicious, especially for two people who are not typically fond of Missouri wine!
It was a busy night for the VanTill’s, so we weren’t able to talk with them, as we had hoped. Cliff invited us back on Saturday morning, though, when his wife, Debbie, would be there and they wouldn’t be serving food. Heath and I returned and had a marvelous time. As soon as Debbie pulled out her Peter Reinhart cookbooks and Nourishing Traditions book, I knew we would have a lot to talk about. And we did talk a lot. We toured their greenhouses and learned how they sold their fresh baked bread at the San Francisco farmer’s market before relocating to Missouri in 2001. I got some tips on making artisan bread, which I am anxious to play with, and Heath picked up some inspiration in the greenhouses for his garden. Their dreams and ideas for VanTill Farms are incredible and after getting to know them just a little, I believe every one of those dreams will come true if the good Lord’s willing. Their free spirits are so refreshing in a time where conformity seems to be the easiest thing to do even though in the back of your head you know you should question more.
As much as I want to transcribe the entire three hours with the VanTill’s right here, right now, I do want to talk about the recipe I am featuring. The recipe is a smoothie inspired by one that Debbie and I collaborated to make on Saturday morning. You see, I was talking about almond flour (shocker, I know) and where I buy it from since I cannot seem to grind it fine enough to just make it myself from whole almonds. They happened to have grown almonds in California, so they are familiar with almond meal. We went to “experiement” in the kitchen with their commercial BlendTec to see how it stood up to the test. Short story is it passed and now I want a BlendTec. We decided to make smoothies with the ground almonds while we had the smoothie machine out, so we went searching for ingredients. I told her about the smoothies I make for my 23 month old, EJ, every single day: whole milk, coconut milk, homemade yogurt, banana and some other fruit, carrot and some type of green, like spinach, a good fat (ground flaxseed/flax oil, chia seeds or ground almonds, as examples), and then stevia to sweeten. We ended up with cream, frozen strawberries, raw zucchini, ground almonds, and stevia to sweeten it. It was divine. Pretty much tasted like strawberry ice cream. I’m changing up the recipe a little to use coconut milk in place of cream, since I don’t always have cream on hand, but it will be every bit as good. Trust me.
So, why did I say I had an amazing experience in an “unexpected” way? As much inspiration as we got from the VanTill’s about food and gardening you can multiply that by about a thousand to equal the inspiration we got about parenting. We walked away from them feeling rejuvenated as parents and understood some things in a completely different light. While the spa treatments were nice and we were able to get some R&R, I think our soul’s really came out on top this trip. That was a little unexpected. In a good way, of course.
P.S. Saturday afternoon the VanTill’s fired up the brick oven again and offered baskets of wood-fired bread, cheese, and salami along with wine or non-alchoholic sangria (house made). Then that evening they had a special garden patio dinner. Unfortunately, we were not able to partake in either of these things, as we had facials and massages scheduled. Next time. One more thing, they are forming a new church with some friends and are holding services right there on the patio garden. How cool is that?
This can be done a thousand differnet ways. Use any kind of milk in place of the coconut milk and same goes for the strawberries. Any kind of frozen fruit will do. Zucchini works well in smoothies, because it is so mild in flavor. Spinach or some other type of mild green is also good.
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 small zucchini, diced
1/4 cup ground almonds
stevia to sweeten
Blend all ingredients until smooth. For a thicker smoothie, add 1 cup crushed ice and blend until smooth.
Makes 2 servings