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Spice of the month: CINNAMON - Friday, February 15, 2013


Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum that is used in both sweet and savoury foods. While native only to the island of Sri Lanka, cinnamon trees are now naturalized in South East Asia
If you want to react faster in your next squash game, chew some cinnamon gum. It speeds the way your brain processes visual cues. Cinnamon regulates blood sugar levels.
Cinnamon, which is actually the dried bark of the laurel tree, has been used since antiquity. This powerful spice was used in Egypt, Rome, and China. Native to Sri Lanka, cinnamon can be produced from many species of laurel. The “real” cinnamon of old comes from the C. zeylanicum tree, but most modern cinnamon comes from the C. cassia tree.
The history of cinnamon dates back to about 2800 BC where it can be found referenced as kwai in Chinese writings. It was used medicinally for colds and flu as well as problems of the digestive system. One of the worlds most important medicinal spices, it was also mentioned by Pliny, Dioscorides, and Theophrastus.
Historically, cinnamon is even mentioned in the Bible. Moses used it as an ingredient for his anointing oils. In ancient Rome, it was burned during funerals, perhaps partly as a way to ward off the odor of dead bodies. The ancient Egyptians used it in embalming mummies because of its pleasant odors and its preservative qualities.

How to buy cinnamon
Ground cinnamon begins to fade in flavor after a few months, so it’s best to buy whole cinnamon quills (or sticks) and grind as needed. The quills are somewhat tough, so you’ll need a sturdy spice grinder or fine grater.
If your only option is to buy ground cinnamon, try to find good stuff made from whole quills, as opposed to “featherings” (which are the inner bark of twigs and small shoots that are not large enough to form a full quill) or from “cinnamon chips” (made from shavings and trimmings). When in doubt, buy Ceylon cinnamon, which comes from Sri Lanka and is widely considered to be the best in the world.
Health Benefits: Balances Blood Sugar
1)Maybe it’s ironic that cinnamon — that spicy-sweet favorite that cooks use to give desserts extra flavor — can help control blood-sugar problems. Or maybe — given the fact that the rate of type 2 diabetes in the United States has doubled in the past two decades — it’s Mother Nature’s way of cutting us a break.
2)Study after study has shown that cinnamon can play a role in the everyday management of blood sugar (glucose) levels and other cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors.
3)Diabetes, a disease of chronically high blood sugar, attacks arteries and veins, increasing the risk of heart disease sixfold. The good news is that preventing type 2 diabetes and reversing prediabetes is possible with lifestyle changes alone — they are actually more effective than preventive medications.
4)Cinnamon helps control blood-sugar levels in the short term as well. Swedish researchers studied 14 people, feeding them the same meal twice — rice pudding, with or without a hefty sprinkling of cinnamon. The cinnamon-spiced meal yielded significantly lower blood-sugar levels.
May also help prevent and treat:
Cancer, cholesterol problems, food poisoning, heart disease, hypertension, insulin resistance, polycystic ovarian syndrome, stroke, ulcer, vaginal yeast infection, wounds.


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5 simple kitchen tips that you should know about! - Friday, February 08, 2013


 1. Herbs that are supposed to be green should be purchased fresh, not dry
With the possible exception of dried oregano (great in Mexican, Greek and Italian foods), herbs are always better fresh. They’re also cheap and available almost anywhere. In particular, always buy fresh parsley, basil, cilantro, thyme, tarragon or chives if you can help it (a few should be in your fridge at all times). The dried versions are OK if not too old, but they’re very delicate and the jar will probably go bad before you use it twice.

2. Store everything in tupperware
As much as I’d like to be the kind of person who trims their herbs, puts them in an vase then wraps them in a damp paper towel so they last a week, I’m way too lazy for that. The good news though is that tupperware keeps almost everything fresh for much longer than your crisper, including berries, salad greens and produce that has already been cut. Because it is reusable, it is also more ecofriendly.

3. Overcooking is probably your biggest kitchen mistake
Overcooked vegetables are mushy and flavorless, overcooked meat is tough and chalky, overcooked grains are soggy and fall apart. In other words, overcooked food is bad food. Learn the art of taking food off the heat just before it is done, and let it finish cooking with its internal temperature. You can always cook it more, but you can never cook it less.

4. Fruit (other than berries) shouldn’t be stored in the fridge
Refrigerators dull the taste of most produce, so if you bought something that doesn’t need to go in there leave it out. Most fruits including apples, oranges, pears and bananas don’t belong in the refrigerator unless you’re not planning on eating them soon. I don’t refrigerate tomatoes, avocados or peppers either. Very hot climates are an exception, however.

5. Keep a separate cutting board for things you don’t want flavored with garlic and onion

Assuming you follow any recipe ever, you’ll probably be using your cutting board for cutting onions or garlic. If so, I recommend getting a separate board you keep aside for cutting fruit, cheeses and other things that you’d prefer didn’t absorb the odors of previous meals.

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Recipe of the Month: Apple Caramel Cake - Friday, February 01, 2013

Apple Caramel Cake

Real chunks of tart apples add fresh flavor to this sweet cake.

• Cake:
• 2 C. all purpose flour
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 3/4 C. vegetable oil
• 1 1/2 C. granulated sugar
• 3 large eggs
• 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, about 8 oz. each, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch chunks (about 3 C.)
• 1 C. chopped pecans

• Caramel Glaze:
• 1/2 C. butter or margarine
• 1 C. light brown sugar, firmly packed
• 1/4 C. milk
• Softly whipped heavy cram (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13x9x2 inch baking pan. In medium size bowl, stir flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon to mix well; set aside. In large bowl, with electric mixer at medium speed, beat oil, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla 3 minutes. Stir in flour mixture just until moistened; fold in apples and pecans. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake 50-55 minutes until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven’ set cake, in pan, on wire rack.
In 1 quart saucepan over medium high heat, bring butter, brown sugar, and milk to boil, stirring until sugar melts; boil 1 minute. Spoon half of glaze over arm cake, setting remainder aside; let cake stand 5 minutes.
Cut warm cake into 3x2 inch pieces; serve accompanied by remaining glaze and, if desired, whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon.
Yield: 18 servings

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