Nourishing Partner Ritual (with forest massage oil and a delicious dinner)
This time of year, it can be all-to-easy to get swept up in the pre-holidays rush, working overtime for that Christmas bonus or spending late evenings at the mall looking for the perfect gifts. While I don’t condemn getting into the holiday spirit, it’s important to take time to slow down and focus on connection - with yourself, your environment, and your loved ones. This post is about creating a nourishing ritual to share with your partner - an expression of love and care to re-energize both of you during a hectic time of the year. Sometimes love is shown in extravagant gifts, but more often love is shown through everyday activities carried out with generosity and intention; after all, what says “I love you” more than a home-cooked meal and some quality time?
And what a delicious, easy meal this is. It only takes a few moments to prepare, then it roasts in the oven for about an hour - the perfect amount of time to give your loved one a nice massage. Then you can enjoy a hearty winter feast together.
A note: while this ritual is designed to be used to show love to your partner, it can also be used as a solo self-care routine as well. Treat yourself to a wholesome meal and use the massage oil to give yourself a relaxing foot/leg massage while it’s roasting. Adapt how you see fit.
As usual, I’m calling on our plant allies to be a part of this lovely ritual - namely, rosemary and fir. These are two of my favorite uplifting winter plants - resinous but sweet, equally well suited to flavoring food and using in body care recipes (or heck, make a wreath out of them while you’re at it!) The recipe for the massage oil below has a great unisex wintery scent. Make a double batch and save some for holiday gifts!
Rosemary has long been considered a symbol of love, and the sprigs have been traditionally used in wedding ceremonies. It is thought to improve memory which is what makes it the official herb of remembrance. Try to use fresh rosemary in the recipes below; dried doesn’t quite have the same delicious flavor and aroma.
Fir is one of my favorite conifers. It’s a little more mild than pine and much more mild than spruce, with faint flavors of tangerine and grapefruit. I was inspired to explore conifers further after I read Gather’s amazing post on The Healing Power of Conifers. I especially liked this quote:
“The volatile oils found in pine, spruce and fir needles, bark, sap and resin are used by herbalists and aromatherapists to help stimulate the respiratory system, decongest the lungs, boost the immune system, balance hormones, and bring circulation and warmth to cold muscles and stiff joints. And as anyone who has smelled their fresh-cut branches already knows, their enchanting fragrance is a medicine all its own, helping calm the nervous system, reduce stress and cortisol, revive stamina and provide feelings of peace and wellbeing.”
Mmm, can’t you smell these wonderful herbs already?
The ritual part of this post is very simple: just prepare the massage oil in advance, then prep the game hen. Once it’s in the oven, create a soothing atmosphere. Light some candles (and maybe some homemade incense if you’d like), put on some relaxing music, and dim the lights. Use the massage oil to give your partner a relaxing massage, paying special attention to the shoulders and lower back or anywhere they carry tension. It’s important to offer up the caring parts of this ritual without expecting anything in return; the generosity is what makes it meaningful. After about 50 minutes, go to the kitchen together and have a glass of wine or other tasty beverage while you put together a side salad and wait for the hen to finish cooking. Eat dinner by candlelight without any other distractions - put the phones away, turn off the tv, and enjoy the company of the person you choose to be with.
Deep Forest Massage Oil
This is a wonderfully uplifting blend that reminds me of pine forests on a clear day. The fragrance is unisex and it’s a lovely peridot color. I like to use sweet almond oil because it is extra nourishing for the skin, but you can easily substitute grapeseed oil or olive oil as well. A bonus to using olive oil: you can use the strained needles from the infusion to flavor your dinner. This makes a wonderful holiday gift, so make extra if you’d like!
1 c. sweet almond oil
fresh fir needles and rosemary sprigs
10 drops white fir essential oil
5 drops cedar essential oil
4 drops bergamot essential oil
3 drops bay essential oil
3 drops cardamom essential oil
- Chop your fresh conifer needles and rosemary sprigs.
- There are a few options for infusing: the best way is to cover them with oil and let sit for about 3 weeks. If you don't have 3 weeks to spare, you can cover them with oil and heat at a very low temperature using a crock pot or sous vide machine (about 110F is ideal) for several hours. If this isn't an option, cover the chopped foliage with oil in a small saucepan and heat over very low heat for 20 minutes, then shut off the heat and let sit for a couple of hours.
- Strain the oil and add the essential oils. Funnel into a bottle. You can add a sprig of rosemary or some fir needles to dress it up a bit if you’d like.
Roasted Game Hens and Potatoes with Fir and Rosemary
I love the simplicity of this dish. It comes together very quickly, and makes a stunning one-pan presentation for a hearty dinner. The fir branches give the whole dish a delicious foresty flavor, and the drippings from the hens add flavor to the root vegetables below.
1 large Cornish game hen or 2 small ones, depending on appetite
1 lemon, halved
leftover oil-soaked fir needles from the recipe above, if you infused them in an edible oil (like olive or grapeseed)
2 heads garlic
Enough root vegetables for the two of you - I used a blend of purple carrots and purple potatoes
Fresh fir branches
several sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 Tbs. fresh sage, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. smoked salt
4 Tbs. melted butter or olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 425F and place a rack in the middle.
- Cut the root vegetables up into 1” chunks. Peel the potatoes if the skins are thick. If you’re using young potatoes you don’t need to.
- Pat the hens dry with paper towels.
- In a small bowl, combine the chopped rosemary, sage, 2 of the garlic cloves (minced), thyme, paprika, salt, and oil or butter.
- Place the whole head of garlic and half a lemon into the cavity of each bird. Add the strained fir needles if you're using them. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine, if desired.
- Brush the hens with the herbed oil mixture and use the rest of it to rub on the potatoes. Season both with pepper and a little additional salt.
- Place the fir branches in a large cast iron skillet, then top them with the seasoned root vegetables. Place the hen on top. *Make sure that the fir needles are mostly covered - if there are too many sticking out above the vegetables, they can burn in your oven and cause some smoke. This gives the hen a delicious flavor, but also might set off your smoke alarms so it's better to keep them trimmed.
- Roast for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the skin is golden brown and the internal temperature is at least 165F. Serve with a side salad and candlelight.
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