My sense of smell is my super power. A whiff helps me travel through time and space. Cinnamon and its sweet and spicy aroma is especially powerful and takes me back across seven seas to early morning teatime with my parents. My mom and dad have had the same routine since they retired – morning tea and exercise, and then about an hour later a cup of infused hot water, holy basil (tulsi) in the summer and cinnamon in the winter. My parents live in India and I live in Canada and it’s amazing how just a little of the sweet aroma of cinnamon can transport me to the other side of the world. And when I came to know the amazing health benefits of cinnamon, I had to move this spice to the top of my “must-use” list.
What is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree and is made by cutting the stem and then extracting the woody part. Once the bark dries up it forms strips that curl into rolls that we know as cinnamon sticks. Perfectly sized to stir hot chocolate, I feel!
Benefits of Cinnamon
A popular and delicious spice, it is high in cinnamaldehyde which is responsible for most of the health benefits that make it an essential addition to our family’s dinner table.
- Cinnamon contains large amounts of highly potent polyphenol antioxidants that have a long-term positive effect on the aging of the body.
- The spice is a known anti-infammatory and helps the body fight various kinds of infections and repair tissue damage. Ideal for the cold and flu season.
- I found out Cinnamon is also known for lowering blood sugar. It has a beneficial effect on insulin resistance and can minimize the effects of a big meal. So sprinkle away.
- It’s anti-bacterial properties provide relief during cold, cough and sore throat season. My mother brews cinnamon stick tea and with the first sip I feel it’s magic working on my throat and my belly.
- Considered a traditionally warming ingredient, cinnamon is used to heat the body from the inside especially when mixed with some fresh ginger. Traditional remedies in ancient China and India believe that the warmth of Cinnamon increases blood flow and improves blood oxygen levels to help fight off illness.
- Traditional medicine (and also my mother!) recommend Cinnamon to help clear up in particular phlegm coughs.
- For generations Cinnamon has been used to battle stomach bugs. It’s powerful anti-bacterial properties is supposed to provide a lot of comfort.
Essential for a mother – Research shows that just smelling cinnamon improves cognitive processing,and consuming it significantly ups the brain function. It is also known to improve the quality of sleep. As soon as I read that I knew this spice was essential for me especially since I became a mother. Mommy brain anyone?
Flavour of Cinnamon
I love the sweetness of Cinnamon and I find I don’t need to add as much sugar to satisfy my sweet tooth. It goes really well with sweet and savoury dishes and the wonderful aroma in the kitchen immediately feels festive, even when you’re going through just a normal crazy Wednesday weeknight.
Cooking with Cinnamon
I use Cinnamon in it’s stick or bark form to add flavour, and then pick it out just as the kids are laying the dinner table. The powdered spice can be added at any stage in a dish but use it carefully since the flavour is strong and a little goes a long way. A caveat – cinnamon in large quantities has been known to be toxic so like in everything else, I suggest start small and see how much your palate can stand..
My two favourite recipes using cinnamon are brewed tea (similar to the Kashmiri kahwa) and chai masala. Both recipes have been handed down from my mother and grandmother that you’ll see them on KetchupMoms in the upcoming weeks. In the meanwhile try these ideas to boost the use of cinnamon in your kitchen.
- In baking I often replace vanilla with cinnamon to get the wintry feel in my cakes, cookies and muffins.
- In my coffee, a sprinkle of cinnamon adds a delicious sweetness without sugar.
- Homemade cinnamon sugar to add onto pies, hot oatmeal or french toast.
- A sprinkle of cinnamon in your children’s hot chocolate.
- Make mulled wine – the combination with cinnamon and other spices I promise you, unbeatable!
- Folding cinnamon into yoghurt, along with fresh fruit, nuts or seeds, makes for a healthy and yummy breakfast.
- Season roasted or grilled fruit with a sprinkle of cinnamon and serve with icecream.
- Add a couple of small pieces to soups, curries and stews.
- Season roasted vegetables – especially wintry crop like cauliflower and butternut squash with a pinch of cinnamon.
- Stir a little cinnamon into candied nuts to “spice” them up.
How do you like your cinnamon?