What do you mean there are different types of cinnamon?

Cinnamon is cinnamon. Right? Just like nutmeg is nutmeg and rosemary is rosemary. Nope, it’s not.

Cinnamon comes from the Cinnamomum Zeylanicum plant commonly referred to as “Ceylon cinnamon” or from the Cinnamomum Cassia / Cinnamomum Loureiroi / Cinnamomum Burmannii  plants commonly referred to as “Cassia cinnamon”. It’s grown in Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) or China & Indonesia. It tastes sweet, or pungent & woody. It is fragile which makes it easy to ground into a very fine powder, or hard and tough which grounds into a coarse powder.

Both can help regulate blood sugar levels and are antioxidants, but one can also damage your liver if taken in high doses.

The problem is, unless you compare the two types you would never know that the cinnamon in your kitchen is not as finely ground as it should be, not as sweet as it could be and ultimately not as good for you as you thought i.e. you bought Cassia cinnamon in stead of true Ceylon cinnamon.

In a study of 91 cinnamon samples from various stores in Germany they found 63 times more coumarin in Cassia cinnamon powder than Ceylon cinnamon powder. High levels of coumarin can cause liver damage. Seeing as Cassia cinnamon is cheaper than Ceylon cinnamon, the cinnamon we get in supermarkets are from the cassia plant – the one with the high levels of coumarin. (If you want to know more about the difference between Cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon, this article has a handy comparison.)

Because of the damage that high dosages of coumarin can cause to your liver, the EU has laid down guidelines for the maximum content of coumarin in foodstuffs – 50mg per kg of dough in foods that are only consumed occasionally, and 15mg per kg of dough in everyday baked goods.  In our house, and I guess in most households, we probably won’t reach levels higher than this recommendation, but I would still never go back to “regular” cinnamon. It just doesn’t taste as nice as the true Ceylon cinnamon.

In fact, I would say a big difference between Cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon is that even if you use too much Ceylon cinnamon it won’t burn your tongue, but try eating a desert with a too thick sprinkling of regular cinnamon and your tongue will be on fire. That’s a sure way of knowing what type of cinnamon you are using.

I grew up with regular cinnamon and never ever thought there was a different type of cinnamon that could be so sweet and fine. We sprinkle Ceylon cinnamon on vanilla ice cream and plain cheesecake (OMG, so good!!!), we sprinkle it on Redbush tea and have it in overnight oats.  I also love adding Ceylon cinnamon to vegetarian dishes, like Quinoa with Roasted Sweet Potato and Red Onion Salad.

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Photo by Vanesa Conunaese

I only recently discovered that cinnamon also has health benefits. To me it was just a fragrant spice to sprinkle on deserts. But when my husband struggled to regulate his blood sugar levels and had slightly high blood pressure we went looking for a natural cure and cinnamon came top of the list. (You can read one of the articles here.)  It worked for him and it’s still working.

So if the cinnamon we buy in supermarkets are the dodgy kind, where do you get the sweet, fine, true Ceylon cinnamon? I buy organic Ceylon cinnamon on Amazon from Buy Wholefoods Online. The 250g bag lasts us around 6 months. A quick online search will provide loads of other places you can buy true Ceylon cinnamon and I’m sure most health food stores will sell it as well.

If you are used to regular supermarket cinnamon, do yourself the favour and try Ceylon cinnamon. You’ll never want to go back to supermarket cinnamon.

 

 

 

Quinoa with Roasted Sweet Potato and Red Onion

Looking for a healthy balanced vegetarian dish that only uses three main ingredients, one of which is a Superfood? Well, here you go: quinoa, sweet potato and red onion salad.

The recipe is inspired by Deliciously Ella’s Quinoa, Raisin and Sweet Potato Salad. She uses fennel and as the title suggests, includes raisins. I didn’t feel confident enough to roast a whole fennel bulb, and thought the sweet potatoes are sweet enough without the need for raisins. (I’m sure fennel + raisin is a great combo though.) I also had to leave out the hazelnuts due to a nut allergy.

In stead of using plain quinoa, I chose to use Morrisons Wholefoods “Bulgar Wheat, Cracked Soya and Red Quinoa” mix.  Quinoa really is any vegetarian’s best friend. It’s a complete protein (which means it has all nine amino acids the human body needs) with double the amount of protein per serving than white rice. Bulgar wheat is high in fibre and, just like quinoa it’s a wholegrain.  The third part of the mix is another complete protein, soya.  This Wholefoods mix really is a great combination to add fibre and protein to a vegetarian meal and it only takes 10 minutes to cook.

Hmm… now that I think about it, you can substitute the quinoa in this recipe with any wholegrain. I think it would work especially well with brown rice, freekeh, buckwheat or wholewheat cous cous. (*Note To Self: make this salad with a different wholegrain next time.)

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I included four medium size red onions in this salad. That sounds like a lot, but don’t worry – the salad doesn’t taste oniony. That’s because I roast the onions with their skins on so that they become very sweet and almost caramelized. It’s a trick I learned from Gousto recipes. Not only does roasting onions with their skins on taste great, it’s easy and quick. You just chop the onion in quarters lengthwise, drizzle with oil & salt and roast. No peeling necessary! Don’t leave out the salt though – that’s what draws out the moisture from the onion, causing it to go soft in stead of crunchy. When they come out of the oven, you just slice off the bottom of the onion (the part that keeps all the “petals” together), discard the skin, and toss the softened purple onion petals in the salad.

I also included roasted pumpkin seeds in my version. Please don’t leave them out. The salad needs the bit of crunch that those toasted pumpkin seeds provide. They taste totally different when toasted – moreish like peanuts but without the peanut allergy side effects.

For the final flourish sprinkle over a handful of chopped parsley and drizzle with balsamic glaze.

In colour theory, green, orange and purple are secondary colours so having all three of these in one dish is bound to create an appetizing, pleasing dish. Don’t you just love it when nature gives us food this beautiful?!

You can have this salad warm or cold, on its own as a light lunch, as a side dish, or add feta cheese to make it more filling. (*Oooh, another Note To Self: add feta cheese next time!) So many options!

Quinoa with Roasted Sweet Potato and Red Onion

Roasted sweet potato and red onions tossed in quinoa with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and pumpkin seeds. The hint of cinnamon adds a lovely deep warmth and brings out the sweetness of the sweet potato.

Inspired by: Deliciously Ella

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 80g Bulgar Wheat, Cracked Soy & Red Quinoa mix, or plain quinoa
  • 4 medium size red onions
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • bunch of fresh parsley
  • olive oil
  • handful of pumpkin seeds
  • balsamic glaze to drizzle

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  2. Prepare the vegetables: cut the sweet potato into bite size chunks (do not peel). Slice each red onion into quarters but leave the skin and ends on. Place these on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and salt, taking care to coat all the pieces.  Additionally, also sprinkle cinnamon over the sweet potato. Place the tray in the oven for at least 20 minutes or until everything is soft and golden.
  3. 5 Minutes before taking out the onions and sweet potato, add a handful of pumpkin seeds to the tray and return to the oven.
  4. While the onions and sweet potato are roasting, prepare the quinoa mix as instructed on the packet, but add a vegetable stock cube to the boiling water.
  5. Once the quinoa is cooked strain the excess water and place the quinoa in a bowl. Add half of the parsley and mix through.
  6. Remove the vegetables from the oven and let it cool slightly. Chop off the ends of the onion quarters and remove the outer layer of skin. This should leave you with soft and sweet “petals” of red onion.
  7. Add the roasted vegetables and pumpkin seeds to the quinoa and mix through.
  8. Serve with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and the rest of the chopped parsley.
  9. Enjoy!

Natasja King – food for the body, food for the soul