Sandra M. Grant P.Dt. - Registered Clinical Nutritionist
My Blog

Healthy treats

Just what are Frankincense and Myrrh?

Most of us know the story...three kings came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but have you ever wondered just what frankincense and myrrh are? As a child, I thought myrrh was dish soap! My mother always purchased "Mir" probably because it was one of the least expensive available. I could never understand why a king would bring such a thing. I finally took the time to look them up. 
It turns out that Frankincense and Myrrh are both aromatic tree resins and have been used  throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine.

The bark of the Frankincense or Myrrh tree is slashed allowing the resin to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called tears. The trees start producing resin when they are about eight to 10 years old.  Recent studies have indicated that frankincense tree populations are declining, partly due to over-exploitation

While Frankincense is used in perfumery aromatherapy, and occasionally as an ingredient in skincare lotions, myrrh is used as an antiseptic in mouthwash, gargles, and toothpastes. As for their use as a medicine for a multitude of ailments, there is still not sufficient evidence of safety or efficacy to support it's use. 

That said, my favourite gifts are almost always those I can eat. They're fun to make, they don't have to fit, they don't gather dust, and they're usually delicious!! 
Here are a couple of my favourites:

  • 1 goat cheese log
  • 1 tiny chile pepper
  • 2 strips lemon zest
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano or thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh fennel or ½ tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 c. extra-virgin olive oil

Directions: Cut goat cheese log into 4 equal pieces; Form into balls. Pack all 4 balls in a sterilized wide-necked jar. Add chile, lemon zest, bay leaves, oregano, fennel seeds, garlic to jar. Pour in olive oil to cover cheese. 
Seal jar and refrigerate until chilled, about 4 hrs.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups mixed nuts (pecans/almonds/peanuts...)
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • ½ tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Instructions:
    Preheat oven to 300°.
    Place nuts in a medium size bowl. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until just warm. Add rosemary and thyme and stir until aromatic (about 1 minute). Remove pan from heat and stir in cumin and cayenne pepper. Pour the flavoured oil over the nuts and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle with sugar, salt, and black pepper. Stir again. Transfer to an edged cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, stirring after the first 10 minutes. Let cool. Pour into clear glass jars, wrap with a ribbon and Voila!!! The perfect gift...delicious sprinkled in salad, easily packed away for an energy boost while skiing or enjoyed in front of the fire with your loved one.    Enjoy...and Happy Holidays!

    Happy Halloween

    The true story behind the ancient origins of Halloween began 2000 years ago with the Celtic festival called Samhain celebrated on November 1st. It was seen as a liminal time, when the spirits or fairies could more easily come into our world. On the night before Samhain, people believed the dead came back as ghosts. They would leave food and wine on their doorsteps to keep roaming ghosts at bay, and would wear masks if they left the house, hoping to be mistaken  as fellow ghosts. The Christian church  turned Salhaim into All Saints day and then in the 8th century it became All Hallows Day. The night before was known as All Hallows Eve and then later shortened to Halloween.   

    We all know about trick or treating, but what about Souling or Guising? All 3 of these traditions originated in Medieval Britian on All Souls Day, November 2nd. The needy would beg for pastries known as soul cakes and in return they would pray for People’s dead relatives. This was known as “souling”. In the medieval Hallow’s eve tradition of “Guising”, young people would dress up in costume and accept food, wine, money or other offerings in exchange for singing, reciting poetry or telling jokes.   In 19th century America, Scottish and Irish immigrants revived these old traditions. It has since been know as “Trick or Treating”.   

    Many of us are opting to host Halloween parties for our children Rather than continue with the trick or treating tradition.  Because of this, I thought I’d post a few healthy, easy to prepare, Halloween snacks to offer to your little ghouls and goblins. Enjoy! 

    What you'll need: Apples and Slivered Almonds
    How to make them: Just quarter and core an apple, cut a wedge from the skin side of each quarter, then press slivered almonds in place for teeth. Voila!! Scary apple grins.
    Note: If you're not going to serve them right away, baste the apples with orange juice to keep them from   browning. 

    Spooky Spider Eggs:
    Prepare your favourite deviled eggs, then cut pitted black olives in half lengthwise and nestle one half on top of each egg for the body. Cut the other half crosswise into thin slices to form the creepy legs. 

    Banana Ghost Pops:
    Cut banana in half widthwise. Push a Popsicle stick into each half through the cut end, cover each pop with plastic wrap and freeze until firm (about 3 hours). 
    Once frozen, roll in vanilla yogurt, sprinkle heavily with finely ground coconut, and decorate with chocolate chips, currants or raisins. Return the pops to the freezer until ready to serve. If you prefer a sweeter treat, replace the yogurt with melted white chocolate. Yumm!  

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