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

disease prevention

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!

    June...The Benefits of Herbs

    Hello Again!

    Ok, so when I posted last month, I mentioned how easy it is to plant herbs, but some of you might now be wondering how well they'll do without far this spring has been a little wetter than most of us would like. 

    They'll do fine! With regular daylight and LOTS of water, they'll soon be little nutrient powerhouses, flourishing with dozens of disease fighting compounds. 

    These disease fighting compounds vary from plant to plant. Studies suggest different compounds work at different stages of disease development, so a variety of plant foods is crucial! 

    Those present in cruciferous vegetables and garlic for example, act by blocking cancer causing substances (such as UV rays, free radicals, environmental toxins) while others prevent the growth of tumours by interfering directly with the tumour cells or by preventing the formation of blood vessels needed for a tumour to grow. For more on this click here.

    So it is no wonder that pharmacy shelves are packed with supplements of allicin, quinones, lycopene and dozens of other phytochemical substances BUT many people don't know that the studies are done on the effects of the whole plant, NOT the supplement. Anytime a living plant is transformed into a powder or pill, there is a great loss of....just about everything natural, including nutrients.  How much of the plant is even still there? The colour is gone...phytonutrients are generally found in the colour and/or scent of the plant. They are after all, the plant's protection against preditors! How many supplements have a fresh herbal scent? 
    Scientists believe the health benefits of plant foods come from the synergy of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and other phytochemicals within the plant working together. Research does not show the same results with supplements.

    So skip the supplements and indulge in a variety of herbs and spices. Try to get some of them from your very own garden! Squeeze as many as you can into that little vegetable patch and enjoy them all summer long!

    To help get you started, Here's one of my favourite 152 chickpea recipes. Perfect for nibbling on while watching the soccer...Enjoy!

    Chili-Lime Roasted Chickpeas 
    2, 15-ounce cans chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed, and blotted dry 
    3-4 tsps chili powder* 
    1 tsp + 2Tbs olive oil (divided) 
    1 Tbs + 1 tsp fresh squeezed lime juice 
    3/4 tsp sea salt 
    1-2 tsp cumin* 
    Dried and/or fresh herbs of your choice (I use a little rosemary and thyme). *Start with the lowest amount of spice, then add more to taste.   

    Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and brush lightly with 1 tsp olive oil. 

    Combine chili powder, remaining olive oil, lime juice, sea salt, and cumin in a medium bowl. Whisk to mix. Pour chickpeas into the mixture and stir to coat well. Spread chickpeas out in a single layer over the foil. Once oven is preheated, bake chickpeas for 45-50 minutes, stirring and flipping every 15 minutes or so. Check for doneness by removing a few chickpeas, letting them cool for a minute, and then biting into them. Remove from oven when they’re really crunchy.    

    Enjoy immediately, or store in an airtight container to eat later.   
     Adapted from Chowmama

    Note: If you find them too dry, reserve a small amount of the marinade to lightly toss with the cooked chickpeas once they're out of the oven. 
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