A Soulful Solstice With Holiday Treats

Greeting New Light

The solstices always seem a bit off to me; though late June is in fact the year’s midpoint, it feels more like early summer than high summer, which I associate with the sweltering month of August. Similarly, though this day definitely marks midwinter and the turning of the year, it feels instead like the gateway to deep winter, with snow and ice and wild winds yet to come. The days draw in so early now and the heavy, overcast skies are dark even at midday. Though this is indeed the longest night of the year, by tomorrow, the light will linger just a little longer at both ends of the day.

A few years ago, I discovered a delightful series of pictures taken by a Japanese photographer who recorded the daily life of her grandmother and her odd-eyed cat (one’s blue, one’s green). One of my favorite images is the granny in her winter solstice tub, her curious cat at her side. Her tub is full of yuzu fruit, a citrus that looks a bit like a lumpy grapefruit. Yuzu gives ponzu its characteristic citrusy flavor and yuzu rind is also used in herbal teas, though formerly cutting edge yuzu foam is so ten years ago among proponents of haut cuisine.

A Healing Solstice Bath

In Japan, people bath with yuzu at the winter solstice to bring good health and good fortune for the coming year. I love the idea, but yuzu is pretty hard to come by around here, so I toss a handful of satsumas, limes, and lemons in my tub. My cat is enchanted by this and bats happily at the fruit, watching it bob and float buoyantly back up to the surface.

I rarely use my huge tub, which usually houses the cat box. By the time I had it cleaned out last night, it seemed like a great idea to take a practice bath. I had almost forgotten how comforting it can be to take a long, hot bath by candlelight. Soaking peacefully, it seems simple to let go of everything that binds me to the problematic past. It was utterly relaxing, right up until the moment when the cat landed in the tub with me…but that doesn’t always happen and the candle was no worse for the wetting once the wick was dry. I’ll try again tonight, perhaps without the cat.

Here’s the link to those marvelous images:

http://www.demilked.com/grandma-and-odd-eyed-cat-miyoko-ihara/

Holiday Treats And Gifts

When my kids were small, we always baked holiday treats together, including cut out cookies, which they then decorated happily, making a blissful mess. Now my grandson is of an age to enjoy holiday decorating and cookie making, we’ve been making many marvelous messes together. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get the glitter out of the rustic slate floor tiles, but what’s life without a little sparkle?

His favorite activity so far is making little paper chains for our tiny tree. We’ve used paper strips of several kinds but he is most taken with the ones we make using twist ties dug up from the bottom of the kitchen junk drawer. He happily pulls apart the little wire-filled strips with great seriousness and hands them to me so I can bend them into circles and then we link them together. I just love watching kids find pleasure in such unprepossessing materials, turning junk into busy delight.

Make Your Own Organic Food Coloring

A few years ago, my home-share family came up with an ingenious way to make chemical-free colorful icing for holiday treats. After some experimenting, Stephi combined raspberry juice and beet juice to make a rosy, soft red icing that tastes fabulous.  She then pureed fresh mint (recipes below) with flavorless rice oil to make a gentle green that toned perfectly with the red. We’ve since made yellow with pureed golden beets and orange with carrots…you get the idea. Here are the base recipes:

Butter Cream Frosting

1/3 cup organic butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons cream

Cream butter and sugar, then stir in vanilla adding cream to desired consistency. If coloring will be added, make base mixture a bit stiffer than usual, take some out to color, then thin the remainder with cream until spreadable. Makes about 1-3/4 cups.

Organic Red Food Coloring

1 cup raspberries (frozen works fine)
1 small red beet, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons rice oil

In a blender or food processor, puree raspberries and beet with rice oil. Put pulp in a fine mesh strainer and press gently to release juices. Let drain completely, then add liquid to icing base to desired tint. Save pulp for use in another recipe (see below).

Organic Green Food Coloring

1-1/2 cups fresh mint leaves
1 organic lime, zest finely grated
2 tablespoons rice oil

In a blender or food processor, puree mint and lime zest with rice oil. Put pulp in a fine mesh strainer and press gently to release juices. Let drain completely, then add liquid to icing base to desired tint. Save pulp for use in another recipe.

Organic Orange Food Coloring

1 large carrot, finely grated
1 organic satsuma, zest finely grated
2 tablespoons rice oil

In a blender or food processor, puree carrot and satsuma zest with rice oil. Put pulp in a fine mesh strainer and press gently to release juices. Let drain completely, then add liquid to icing base to desired tint. Save pulp for use in another recipe (see below).

Crispy Cabbage Salad With Raspberry Beet Dressing

2 cups Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cups red cabbage, very thinly sliced
1 organic grapefruit, peeled and chopped
1 pureed carrot (from recipe above)
1 tablespoon pomegranate vinegar
1 cup Raspberry Beet Dressing (see below)
2 tablespoons fresh basil, shredded

Combine first 5 ingredients and toss. Let stand 20 minutes, add dressing, toss and serve, garnished with basil. Serves 4.

For The Dressing

Use the pulp from making food colorings or make the dressing fresh this way.

Raspberry Beet Dressing

Left over pulp from food coloring OR:
1 cup raspberries (frozen works fine)
1 small red beet, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 organic lime, juiced, zest finely grated
1/4 cup virgin olive oil

In a blender or food processor, puree raspberries, beet, mint, salt, and lime peel with 1 tablespoon lime juice and the olive oil. Makes about 1 cup. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

If you need a fun project that results in fragrant and useful gifts, give this simple recipe a try!

Floral Bath Salts

2 cups coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon dried rose petals
1 tablespoon dried lavender
1 tablespoon dried lemon thyme
1 tablespoon dried orange peel
2-3 drops pure rose OR orange oil

In a blender, combine 1/4 cup salt with next 3 ingredients and grind to a fine meal. Blend with remaining salt, add rose or orange oil and store in a tightly sealed glass jar. Makes about 2 cups. To use, add 1/4 cup to hot bath water and bliss out.

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4 Responses to A Soulful Solstice With Holiday Treats

  1. Deirdre says:

    Thanks for another interesting blog. All the best for Christmas.

  2. Sue says:

    This solstice blog was just wonderfully timely. Can’t wait to try the food pure colorings.

  3. Nancy says:

    Thanks for sharing. Yuzu scented soap has always been one of our best sellers, and I first heard the story of the floating fruit bath from a health department inspector who was Japanese.

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