Thursday, September 30, 2010

Frame Raising

Chad and Tracie Hellwinkel could be considered the god parents of Urban Land Scouting. Both are very active in promoting and demonstrating sustainable urban agriculture in Knoxville. Chad started the Knoxville Permaculture Guild (on and Tracie publishes The Agrarian Urbanites, a former-newsletter-turned-blog about gardening in the city. The following values are listed on the website for the Agrarian Urbanites:

The Agrarian Urbanites are dedicated to providing practical agricultural education focused on sustainable, regenerative and organic techniques.

The Agrarian Urbanites are guides, advocates and engineers for creating balanced, healthier and sustainable communities & neighborhoods.

The Agrarian Urbanites hope to restore Spirit, Humankind and Earth by being catalysts for folks to think beyond the garden; building foundations of knowledge and inspiring action.

True to form, the Hellwinkels will be hosting a coldframe workshop at their house on Halloween. It's a great opportunity to learn from some experienced gardeners about extending the season well into winter.

You can read more about the event specifics here, but I want to note especially that those who come in costume get a door prize!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

By Which We Are Fed

This recipe comes from Kat Raese, Urban Land Scout of many talents, among them vegan baking. You don't have to publish your recipe to earn a Level 4 badge, but you do have to eat some food thing composed of mostly wild sourced ingredients.

Vegan Vanilla Bean Cake with Wild Blackberry Filling and Lime "Buttercream" (portions of this recipe adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World).

1 cup blackberries
2-3 Tablespoons Sugar
2-3 Tablespoons Brandy

In a medium bowl, mix clean berries with sugar and brandy, and allow to macerate (wait around) for at least 30 minutes, while you prepare the other ingredients for the cake. The berries should start releasing their juices.

1 cup blackberries
2-3 Tablespoons Sugar
2-3 Tablespoons Brandy
pinch of ground cloves or cinnamon

Bring all ingredients to a boil over medium heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until the blackberries start to break down. Smush the berries further, and when they have broken apart adequately, strain the mixture through a fine sieve--you don't want any seeds left. Syrup can be cooked down more, or if the consistency is satisfactory, set aside and save (refrigerated) until you are serving the cake.

Cake: (for a six-inch double-layer cake)
1.5 cups soy milk
1.5 teaspoons apple cider
1 7/8 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar + 2 Tablespoons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 scraped vanilla bean

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray baking pans.
2) Whisk soy milk and vinegar in a large measuring cup and set aside to curdle while you mix dry ingredients.
3) Mix dry ingredients together.
4) Mix wet ingredients (and vanilla bean) with the curdled soy milk in a large bowl.
5) Sift the dry ingredients into the wet, and mix until no large lumps remain.
6) Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 25-30 minutes (checking for doneness with a toothpick after 25 minutes). You're looking for a nice golden color. However, DO NOT open the oven during the first 15 minutes of baking, as your cakes will sink.
7) Set cakes in pans on a cooling rack, and wait for them to cool before turning them out onto the cooling rack to complete cooling. THe cakes have to be COMPLETELY cool before icing--this can take up to a few hours. Do not attempt icing before then, as your icing will melt.

Lime Buttercream:
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (Earth Balance)
3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

(Save your arm and use a hand-held mixer or a stand mixer to do this part.)
1) Beat the shortening and margarine together until combined and fluffy.
2) Add sugar in half cup increments, beating after each addition; beat for 3 minutes once all added.
3) Add vanilla and lime juice--beat for 5 minutes, or so, until fluffy.
4) Fold in zest and mix to distribute evenly.
5) Chill until ready to use.

Putting it all together:
1) Stab the top of one of the cakes with a toothpick or a small knife--so the berry juice will absorb easier. Spread macerated berry fulling on top of one of the cakes; wait a few minutes for the cake to begin absorbing. Situate second cake on top of the filling.
2) Ice the cake (don't worry if the berry juice oozes into the icing--it won't be the prettiest, but it will taste great!).
3) Chill cake until serving; drizzle coulis on plate (and on cake) as you are serving.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Save the Harvest

Hear ye, hear ye, Urban Land Scouts. Soon the weather will grow cold. Or not soon, but eventually it will. In that cold season we will all miss things like tank tops, sweating all the time for no good reason, mosquitos, and...summer vegetables.

While it's true we of the developed world can buy just about any vegetable any time of year, the produce available to us in January does not compare in taste or provenance to that of our own gardens in the middle of summer. This is where canning comes in. In honor of the urge to prolong summer and eat well from our own land Kat Raese, an accomplished Urban Land Scout (and Ninth-Level Vegan) will be hosting a canning workshop at the Birdhouse in October. The workshop is only open to Urban Land Scouts and there are twelve spots available. Please email passage -at- urbanlandscouts -dot- com and let me know if you'd like to join us.

Here's everything you need to know:

It's Sweet Vegetable Salvation!
Learn how to preserve the fruits of the season, join us for
A Canning Workshop

Sunday, October 10, 2010, Noon-5:00 PM, at the Birdhouse
800 North 4th Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917

The cost of the workshop—$10-12— this will cover materials.

During the class, you will learn how to make ginger-garlic mustard, chunky applesauce, and pickled carrots. Not only will you take a jar of each of these home, but you will also acquire canning skills, with which you will be able to extend flavors of the season into the winter months.

I've tasted Kat's ginger-garlic mustard and it is an inspiring thing. Canned goods also make nice, relatively inexpensive, and consumable gifts...for those of you anticipating recession-era gift giving. Come down, put up some produce, meet some nice folk, and celebrate the changing seasons.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Grew His Own

Congratulations to one of the more active Urban Land Scouts in all of East Tennessee. That's a fine looking eggplant. Hope it tasted good too. We'll be putting Level 5 patches in the mail to him (and his support crew) soon.