Greening Up The New Year

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Gifts That Go On

For the past 8 years, I’ve been writing calendars for Amber Lotus, a Portland-based publishing company that began life as a Buddhist enterprise. When it became all too successful, it was sold, but remains dedicated to supporting environmental awareness, earth stewardship and mindful living through the pages of the calendars the company produces. The idea behind them is to create something more like a book than a pretty picture. Yes, the photos are lovely, but the thoughts that accompany them are intended to “insert the infinite into the finite realm of time.”

Pretty amazing, right?  Amber Lotus was among the first calendar companies to use recycled paper and was an early member of Green America. They started their program of offsetting their tree usage and carbon footprint by planting trees and contributing funds to NativeEnergy. They continue that initial focus by using FSC certified paper and partnering with Trees for the Future. As of 2013, Amber Lotus Publishing has helped plant more than 330,000 trees and Trees for the Future has certified that we are now significantly carbon negative as a company.

Please consider choosing one of Amber Lotus’s healthy lifestyle calendars for inspiration throughout the year to come!

Yuzu and The Solstice

Well, I hope some of you also enjoyed taking the plunge on the solstice with a stimulating yuzu bath. I ended up using satsumas, oranges, and a few limes, which was very pretty and smelled lovely as well. My cat did indeed attempt to join me, prowling around the sides of the tub and batting at the floating fruit. I had almost forgotten how sybaritically satisfying it can be to take a long, hot soaking bath by candlelight. Yes, we end up pruney, but feeling like a new woman is worth something.

I’ve always enjoyed honoring the solstice, especially with candles, creating contrast between deep darkness and soft, gentle light. It’s always fascinating to see how, at first, the candles seem to barely break the darkness, but as our eyes adjust, even a single candle can illuminate a whole room.

Lovely Rice Pudding

I love rice pudding, thought it makes me think of A.A. Milne’s poem about a little girl who detested it passionately. ‘What ever’s the matter with Mary Jane? It’s lovely rice pudding for dinner again…’

Here’s a recipe I developed for my son, whose diet is still quite restricted; no dairy, no sugar, no wheat, so soy, no citrus…. It has a very pleasing flavor, with a lemony zing from the cranberries (replacing lemons, which have been added to the no list). The first time I made it, I used too much rice, but this one is nicely balanced in texture between a tender custard and a hearty pudding. It starts with apple cider concentrate, which adds a wonderful sweet-tart note to all sorts of things, fro gravy and sauces to dressings. Her, it acts as a natural sweetener, replacing the forbidden sugar.

Apple Cider Concentrate

2 quarts unfiltered apple cider

Place in a saucepan over very low heat and barely simmer until liquid is reduced to about 2 cups. It takes a while. When cider is syrupy and sheets off a spoon, it’s perfect. You can take it further if you like, reducing down to one cup for a thick but still pourable glaze (great on pies and tarts as well as steamed or roasted vegetables).

Lovely Rice Pudding (dairy- and sugar-free)

1/4 cup short grain brown rice
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup fresh raw cranberries
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups unsweetened rice, almond, or any nut milk
1-1/2 cups apple cider concentrate
1 teaspoon ground coriander or nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cook rice according to package directions, set aside. In a saucepan, combine apricots and cranberries with 2 cups water and simmer over low heat for an hour, then cover pan and let stand for an hour or so. Whisk together the eggs, the nut milk, cider concentrate, coriander, salt, and vanilla, stir in rice and cooked fruit and pour into a baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees F until set and golden (about 1 hour). Serve warm. Serves 6-8.


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