Wild Hope Farm Wellness Retreat & DIY Vegan Dark Chocolate Bars
**Before I delve into the amazing experience I had at Wild Hope Farm for their Wellness Retreat, please allow me to explain my recent 5 month blog-post absence. I wanted to let you guys know that I am BACK and promise to post more consistently and catch you up on my summer of foodie events, travel adventures and new recipes I’ve tested! I spent the summer (and a good amount of time since last November), starting a meal prep company with my husband. Although it was a successful business venture, we decided to no longer continue with the company due to the sole fact that it was no longer making us happy. We are full-time Physical Therapists and every minute not spent on that career we were pouring into the meal prep company. We truly enjoyed our experience and there is a good chance that we will be able to see the company continue under new owners, which I would absolutely love to see succeed! With that being said, prepare for more consistent blog posts and some awesome new recipes coming your way!**
Recently I was asked by my friend & local Charlotte Yoga instructor, Kayla Frank, if I wanted to join her for a ‘Wellness Retreat’ that was being hosted by ‘Wild Hope Farm’. Kayla was going to be leading the attendees through a guided meditation and yoga class in addition to a barre class instructed by Fort Mill’s ‘Barre 3’, a nature walk around the farm and a ‘Plant-Based Eating’ crash course and luncheon. I was immediately SOLD. I mean honestly, is there any better way to spend a Sunday than getting outside, immersing yourself in whole body wellness and focusing your mind on intentional living? I think not.
Wild Hope Farm is located a quick (and stunning) 40 minute drive from Lake Wylie/Charlotte, in Chester, SC. The Belk family (owners) and their small team started this farm in 2016 and are in their last year of becoming a certified organic farm! They are passionate about bringing nutrient rich, fresh food into our local communities through a holistic farming approach. They use permaculture design and organic practices to intentionally build the soil health and turn their land into a productive operation through Community Supported Agriculture. Their mission on the farm is to grow the land into a space for education, exploration, and celebration centered around nature which is the perfect depiction of what we utilized their space for during this Wellness Retreat!
As I pulled down the dirt path leading into the farm I was greeted by rows of cacti lining the road and acres of beautiful farm land. I quickly found my way to the stunning main house and felt as though I stepped right into a country living magazine. I immediately was overcome with such a sense of peace and belonging, although I was about to walk into a room where I only knew 1 out of 30 women. We started our day with introductions including why we had come and what we were most excited about experiencing during the retreat. Following introductions it was very apparent we all wanted the same thing out of this special day: we wanted to make a conscious effort to honor our bodies and open our minds for more intentional living.
We started off our wellness journey with a freshly-pressed organic green juice prepared by Edwina Willis Fleming who is a health educator and our ‘Chef’ for the day! She demonstrated how easy it can be to prepare your own fresh juices at home! For an alkalizing-boost Edwina threw in celery, cucumber, sprouts (broccoli & sunflower), lemon, kale and ginger and it was the perfect start to our day! Edwina also provided us with some reading material outlining all of the benefits for drinking a green juice daily: alkalizing effects, energy boost, anti-aging benefits, gut health, detoxification and immune health. I love a good green juice and the process looked so simple… now I just need a juicer!
Next we went down to their activity “deck” which is the most picturesque space for any outdoor activity. The weather was perfect and it was our first real “Fall” day we’ve had here in SC. Kelley, the owner of Barre 3 in Fort Mill led us through a barre workout which seriously kicked my behind. I can lift some (heavy) weight, but damn! When you’ve got to get into the deepest squat possible and then baby-pulse it out for a milli-reps you feel like you’re gonna die! Following this workout we went on a 2-mile nature walk around the property. They’ve done a beautiful job of creating trails and handmade bridges over the marsh areas… I seriously don’t think there is a bad view on the entire farm <3
Following our walk, Kayla Frank led us through a guided meditation and yoga class which provided the ultimate relaxation. I love Kayla’s teaching style and the pace that she kept throughout our practice. I also have to mention that her music selections are on point, which is something that I value in setting the tone when I practice yoga. I am so glad to know that she teaches in Charlotte and look forward to taking many more classes with her! Following yoga we headed up to the main house for a taster of home brewed ‘Beet Ginger’ Kombucha prepared by Molly, the daughter of the owners and one of the farms “apprentices”. She makes some awesome Kombucha AND homemade dark chocolate, which IF you keep reading I will share the recipe for!)
NOW, on to the best part! LUNCH. Edwina prepared the most fabulous plant-based lunch, which included ingredients sourced directly from Wild Hope Farm. We began our feast with ‘Butternut Squash Soup’ which was gluten-free, vegan and the most cozy of starters. The soup was topped with pepitas and a drizzle of olive oil which really enhanced the flavor of this dish! For the main course we built our own ‘Autumnal Roasted Vegetable Salad’ with a miso-ginger dressing and freshly baked homemade sourdough bread.
This spread was something straight out of my wildest foodie-dreams. I filled my bowl with a little bit of every option, determined to taste it ALL, and it ended up being one of the most beautiful and colorful lunches I think I’ve ever had! Our salad base options included arugula, kale and spinach. For the bulk of our salad, Edwina roasted up a variety of beets, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, eggplant, okra and chunks of garlic. Toppings included pepitas, cilantro and micro greens (broccoli & sunflower sprouts) which Wild Hope Farm actually sells at the Matthews Farmers Market! If you don’t know, micro greens, especially sunflower sprouts are packed with B vitamins, folate, fertility boosting Zinc, antioxidants and they are an excellent source of proteins for vegetarians! Molly came in clutch with an unexpected dessert that left everyone in the room moaning and groaning in delicious delight. THANK THE LORD she shared her recipe because I immediately went home and made my very own batch which SURPRISE! I am sharing with you below!
I want to extend a HUGE thanks to Wild Hope Farm for sharing their space with such an awesome group of ladies, especially Katherine (Peanut) & Molly who were wonderful hosts! Also a big shout out to Kayla Frank for one of my most favorite (outdoor) yoga experiences and Barre 3 of Fort Mill for providing such a challenging workout to start our day. Last but not least, many thanks to Edwina for creating such an incredible meal and sharing her recipes/knowledge about plant-based eating with all of us! I left with a new appreciation for meatless meals and since this visit have been incorporating a lot of what she taught us into my daily diet! I've got my fingers (and toes) crossed for another wellness retreat to get coordinated soon because I will 100% be attending!
On to the Homemade Dark Chocolate Bars!
1/4 C coconut oil (melted)
1/4 C 100% cocoa or cacao powder
1.5 Tbs pure maple syrup
15 Tbs honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
chopped nuts (peanuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds)
sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
peanut, almond or sunflower butter
dried cherries or cranberries
peppermint oil (if you’re into Andes candies)
In a small sauce pan on medium heat or using a double boiler (I use a mixing bowl that fits right over a small pot filled 2” with water and simmer the water) melt the coconut oil, cocoa powder, maple syrup, honey & vanilla; whisk until combined well
Pour into silicone mold or candy bar molds. If using a mix-in, add these prior to pouring in the chocolate (except nut butter or peppermint oil can be added during the mixing process if you like) IF you do not have molds, you can pour onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet or dish and break apart pieces after hardened for chocolate “bark” instead of molded pieces
Freeze at least 15 minutes until hardened. Store in freezer in a ziploc bag! NOTE: this chocolate will melt quick if left out at room temperature!
Please excuse my sad photos, I forgot to take actual photos of the chocolate and had to screen shot from an insta-story (whoops!)
As always, thanks for following along, thanks for reading and a BIG thanks for your continued interest despite my recent absence from my blogging! Keep an eye out for recaps of the last several months of food and travel related adventures and some great new recipes!