Whole Story

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Spice Up Your Holidays

mexcocoa Today's quiz: Which common culinary spice brings feelings of cozy warmth and fills the kitchen with its sweet aroma while baking? Here's a hint: No apple pie would dare be caught without it. If you guessed cinnamon, you'd get an A! Cinnamon has been used by many cultures around the world for centuries. It is actually the bark of the cinnamon tree, a kind of evergreen. Native to Sri Lanka, Mediterranean spice traders kept its source a mystery to protect their monopoly. Cinnamon made it's way to Egypt as early as 2000 BC and is now grown in a number of countries. There are many varieties of cinnamon, but the two most familiar are Ceylon cinnamon, which is considered to be true cinnamon, and cassia, sold as Chinese, Vietnamese or Indonesian cinnamon. The two are used interchangeably in cooking as the difference in taste and aroma is very subtle. Although used primarily for culinary creations, cinnamon was shown in a USDA study to be an excellent source of antioxidants, which are thought to promote heart, brain and overall health. It also may play a role in keeping blood sugar levels healthy and cholesterol levels balanced. Sure, everyone knows cinnamon is delightful in baked goods, but did you know that cinnamon is a key spice in all kinds of savory and sweet entrée dishes? Take a trip around the world with: Pretty versatile stuff, huh? Of course, cinnamon delightfully spices a variety of simple dishes too. Here are some of my favorite ways to use it:
  • Sprinkle over hot or cold cereal. You can also simmer slow cooking steel cut oats with a cinnamon stick and water in a crockpot overnight for a hearty, healthy and "ready-when-you-wake-up" breakfast.
  • Season grain dishes, such as brown rice or whole wheat couscous, with cinnamon and currants.
  • Add cinnamon to vinaigrette salad dressing and use to marinate lamb.
  • Make cinnamon toast with whole grain bread topped with butter or vegan spread, a bit of natural, unrefined sugar or honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Broil until bubbly and crisp.
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  • Add ground cinnamon to cookies, muffins, cakes, pancakes, waffles and quick or yeast breads. Try these Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies or Banana Bread Pancakes.
  • Can't imagine anything more wonderful on a cold morning than a hot cinnamon roll? Make your dreams come true!
  • Kick up your curry powder by adding cinnamon. Great with tofu, shrimp, lamb, and chicken.
  • Mix cinnamon into honey or maple syrup - great on pancakes, fruit, crackers or bread.
  • Sprinkle ground cinnamon over sliced apples and pears. Try this Cinnamon Pear Compote.
  • For kids of all ages, use large cinnamon sticks as stir sticks for hot apple cider, hot cocoa and herbal tea. Try this Mexican-style hot cocoa.
  • Chocolate with cinnamon? Absolutely! Try this: mix a little natural peanut or almond butter with a little raw honey or agave nectar. Add some ground cinnamon and spread it over a square (or two!) or dark chocolate.
Got a favorite way to use cinnamon, savory or sweet? I would love to hear!

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elyse says …

I recommend Penzeys Spices. If you are a cinnamon and chocolate lover, try this recipe: http://creativedelites.com/2009/10/03/create-delicious-hot-cocoa-with-a-hint-of-mint/

screwdestiny says …

Oh, I love cinnamon! I'm surprised, though, that you didn't mention how good cinnamon is for you! So it's something that not only adds a lot of flavor but also helps the body.

Alisa - One Frugal Foodie says …

I just posted up this recipe for Asian 5-spice squash (kabocha) - http://www.onefrugalfoodie.com/2009/11/11/asian-spiced-kabocha/ Another specifically cinnamon recipe that we love is this one for easy overnight, double-the-cinnamon rolls (using banana!) - http://www.onefrugalfoodie.com/2009/04/04/overnight-double-the-cinnamon-rolls/

Heather McClees says …

One of my favorite indulgences at the end of everyday is a container( 6oz) of nonfat, plain Greek yogurt ( I like Chobani, Oikos and Brown Cow)frozen for 1 hour sprinkled with the following: ground dark cocoa toasted coconut cinnamon and then I dip my spoon in just a TAD of almond butter or sunbutter to get the taste onto the spoon and I dig in for an absolutely AMAZING creamy and cozy treat! Try it, you'll love it! Sometimes I alternate the cinnamon, or add in addition to the cinnamon, a dash of ginger.

Food Makes Fun Fuel says …

I like to add cinnamon and raisins to vanilla yogurt ad let the flavors sit and mingle for an hour

Sharon says …

It is tough to be healthy around the holidays so I have some great whole grain recipes that are really tasty if anybody is interested: http://www.shar-on-nutrition.com/?p=362 Feel free to comment! :)

Gregory Roby says …

The taste difference between Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon is not subtle; it is more like the taste difference between a lime and an orange. Ceylon cinnamon has a pleasant spicy taste. Cassia has a bitter, inedible taste in comparison. Hot chocolate with a teaspoon or two of Ceylon tastes completely different from hot chocolate with a teaspoon or two of Cassia, they are definitely not interchangable.

says …

@Carol The best way to get the most accurate information regarding what your community Whole Foods Market offers is to reach out to them directly. Our stores source differently from region to region and thus offer different products. The link below will help you identify the contact information for your community Whole Foods Market. A Team Member there will be happy to chat with you regarding the types of cinnamon that they offer. www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores



robin says …

was reading some info on cinnamon and how the true ceylon has the health benefit, but that the cassia, when taken can have some toxic levels with harmful results ( I was with friends and talking about natural spices and we google cinnamon, scanned some of the articles). So does whole foods carry the true ceylon cinnamon , and which brand is it?

says …

@Robin Since each store does things a little differently and offers a different array of products the best way to get the most accurate response regarding the availability of the ceylon cinnamon is to reach out to them directly. You can identify their contact information at the below link. www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores

Jim Norris says …

You mentioned "There are many varieties of cinnamon, but the two most familiar are Ceylon cinnamon, which is considered to be true cinnamon, and cassia, sold as Chinese, Vietnamese or Indonesian cinnamon." I shop at your Willowbrook, IL store. As a Stock Holder and Consumer of Whole Foods, please advise me which particular variety of organic cinnamon is sold in your bulk foods section. Thank you.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JIM - Since we are decentralized as a company, our exact vendors and options will differ between stores. Check with your local store directly to see which option is available in their bulk department.