Every cook knows that spices add zero-calorie zing to ho-hum recipes, and that spices have been valued for centuries for their medicinal properties. Part 1 of this 2-part Tip will focus on some of the traditional uses of the unmistakable, pungent aroma of cinnamon, which usually evokes dreams of hot cinnamon rolls from the oven.

Holiday dinners and festivities are just around the corner, and once again the wonderful, pungent fragrance of cinnamon will predominate. It is commonly used in cakes and other baked goods, mixed in with hot cereals, milk and rice puddings, chocolate dishes and fruit desserts — particularly apples and pears; added to spice mulled wines, creams and syrups, and with international cooking becoming more popular, it is used in Indian curries and pilafs, and in many Middle Eastern dishes, flavoring lamb tagines or stuffed aubergines. Cinnamon comes in ‘quills” — strips of bark rolled one in another (which you swirl in your tea or coffee). The best varieties are pale and parchment-like in appearance. Whole quills keep their flavor indefinitely; however, like other powdered spices, cinnamon loses flavor quickly.

Other wonderful uses for cinnamon are:

  • Sprinkle cinnamon in with coffee grounds before brewing.
  • Sprinkle on frozen vanilla yogurt or ice cream.
  • Top an organic sprouted cinnamon-raisin bagel with vanilla yogurt mixed with cinnamon, and place on baking sheet in toaster oven or broiler. Tastes like a frosted cinnamon roll.
  • Combine cinnamon with chocolate when making chocolate cake, puddings or hot chocolate.
  • Cinnamon flavors mashed pumpkin, winter squash or sweet potatoes.
  • Slice apples, put them in a plastic bag; add 1 T cinnamon, shake and use.
  • Put cinnamon on stored potatoes to keep potatoes from sprouting.
  • When making a pie crust, use cinnamon on your fingers when crimping edges; the crust will get an extra rich brown look and taste.
  • As a digestive aid, add cinnamon to your favorite dish to relieve stomach cramps, irritable bowel syndrome and other common stomach disorders.
  • Use as a room freshener. Combine 1 tsp coconut extract, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp orange peel, and 1 tsp allspice. Simmer on low or set jar on register for a lovely fragrance throughout the house.

Check for part 2, we will focus not only on the old home remedy uses of cinnamon, but on the results of new studies showing cinnamon to enhance the ability of insulin to metabolize glucose, which helps control blood sugar levels. Stay tuned for more on one of the best known, and best loved spices in all the world, cinnamon.