Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Spiced Up: Cinnamon

Ok, I know that it is Tuesday...but I have decided, this being my blog and all, that this post is still Monday. Because I can.

For a while I have been getting annoyed with myself about the blahness of the blog - although what I expected after coming home from Italy I don't know - either way, it's about time that changed. That said...

Welcome to Spiced Up Monday! Every Monday I will pick a spice and talk about its history, good-for-you properties, uses, and basically what makes them so great. Because Monday is boring and blah and everyone needs a little spice!

I'm starting with a personal fave: cinnamon. I will add it to pretty much everything with full confidence that it will become an even tastier, more interesting dish than before - and more often than not, it works!

Where to begin with this wonderful spice? Well, the beginning sounds pretty good.

It originates from Ceylon (aka, Sri Lanka), but there is also a Chinese variety. Those are the most mainstream, although I know there are several other different origins out there. Each variety has a slightly different flavor profile, and it is really interesting to taste the differences. I had become so accustomed to the Saigon (Vietnamese) cinnamon we get in bulk from Costco, which has a much heavier, spicier flavor, the cinnamon I bought at the euro store in Florence was so light I must have added a tablespoon at a time to my oats!

Cinnamon makes several appearances in the Bible, and was a symbol of friendship. In ancient Rome, cinnamon was burned in funeral pyres during their ceremonial cremations to hide the, um, none-too-pleasant scent of the burning of the dead (eau-de-flesh? I think not.) In the Middle Ages, it became a status symbol - if you could add cinnamon to your food, you had some serious money bags up in your castle!
At banquets, guests would be presented with a plate piled with just different kinds of spices to show them that they were dining in some pretty sweet digs - it was very impressive if you could afford exotic spices from the mysterious East. 
Cinnamon was also used for medicinal purposes, aiding in coughs and with indigestion. And it worked, too - the bark that cinnamon comes from contains three basic types of healing substances found in its essential oils. Cinnemaldehyde prevents clotting in the blood, and acts as an anti-inflammatory because it can lower the release of a particular fatty acid that causes inflammation. It can also stop icky bacteria from growing, AND if that's enough for you, it can help stabilize blood sugar levels! Cinnamon will slow the speed our stomachs empty after we eat, which is especially beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes.
And for all my fellow college students out there, research has been done that shows cinnamon's ability to improve brain function. Just one a whiff of this tasty can improve cognitive processing - so if you need a better reason to eat that bowl of cinnamon oats before finals, here it is! 

Cinnamon is high in the mineral manganese as well as fiber, calcium, and iron. All good stuff that we need!

Wanna read more? Here are my sources for the above info:

Now, all this info is all well and good...but what's the best way to eat it? Oh, the options are limitless. Throw some in your cookies, smoothies, even salads! It's great with fruits like pear, apple, and banana. And it really makes chocolate pop! That may sound a little crazy, but go with me on this one. One of my favorite hot cereal bowls goes a little somethin like this:
-hot cereal of your choice
-milk of your choice
-cocoa powder (eyeball it, I like using about 2 t)
-a little less than 1 tsp of instant coffee/espresso
-cinnamon (again, eyeball it)
-vanilla extract
-strawberries and blueberries
Cook the cereal as you normally would, adding in the spices. I like cooking the fruit in with it so the flavors meld together, but you could definitely throw them on top fresh as well. It's like a fruity Mexican Mocha! I promise, it's awesome.

Of course, you could just stick with the classic apples & cinnamon. Can't go wrong with that.

 Of course, when it comes to cinnamon, it's pretty hard to go wrong in general - it's really good stuff.



  1. A fruity Mexican Mocha?! YUM!

    I love cinnamon too! I also love the idea of Spiced Up Mondays! Mondays are so BLAH!!

  2. So, Gillian asked me for a name for this day, and I think we should take it to the "Bleaders"!!!! What would you name the Spiced Up Monday day for this blog? I suggested "Red Hot 'Gilly' Peppers and Other Spices", but Gillian didn't go for it. What do YOU guys think? Pithy name for a day that focuses on Spices????

    ps--Gillian will probably kill me or find a way to permanently delete me from ever being able to get on this thing

    Love, Mom