“Mom, where do we get cinnamon?” my 9-year-old daughter asked as she took a bite from a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven.
“I think it’s from the bark of a tree,” I replied, although my first thought was to say “from the grocery store.”
“My teacher said it’s from a plant,” she countered.
“Well, a tree is a plant. Let’s look it up to be sure. I think we should finish these cinnamon rolls first, though,” I noted.
She didn’t object.
During our Internet search, we found many interesting facts. Yes, cinnamon is from the bark of a tree. In fact, when cinnamon is harvested, the bark is rolled into sticks, or quills, to minimize breakage.
While we may associate cinnamon with apple pie and other desserts, in many cultures, cinnamon is used to create savory meat and seafood dishes.
Cinnamon is one of the world’s oldest spices. With a history going back to 2700 B.C., cinnamon has been used as a perfume ingredient, in religious ceremonies and in food. Cinnamon also has been used to treat digestive issues and even the common cold.
In recent years, the medicinal properties of cinnamon have been explored scientifically by U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists in Maryland.
A recent study included 60 people with Type II diabetes. The participants ate a small amount (less than one-fourth teaspoon) of cinnamon twice per day. After 40 days, the participants showed a decrease in blood sugar, triglycerides and blood cholesterol (LDL and total cholesterol) levels.
The scientists reported that cinnamon may improve the efficiency of insulin, which is the hormone responsible for moving blood sugar (glucose) into cells. In fact, the effects of cinnamon lasted up to 20 days.
However, cinnamon is not a cure for diseases. If you are diabetic, talk to your doctor before you begin adding extra cinnamon to your diet because this research suggests it may increase the effects of insulin.
For others, adding a sprinkle of cinnamon to your morning cereal or even your coffee could add flavor and, potentially, health benefits. A sprinkle of cinnamon adds only a couple of calories.
If you decide to eat cinnamon rolls every day, however, you may be adding lots of calories that could result in weight gain. Enjoy them as a treat.
Ground cinnamon loses its aroma more quickly than sticks. For best flavor, buy a smaller amount at a time, and store cinnamon and other spices in a cool, dry place.
Try your hand at bread making with this tasty whole-wheat cinnamon roll recipe from the Wheat Foods Council. Visit its website at www.wheatfoods.org. Make at least half of your grain food choices whole grains.
Whole-wheat Cinnamon Rolls
1 package active dry yeast or quick-rise yeast
1/2 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. warm water (105 to 115 F)
1 c. fat-free milk
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. shortening, softened
1 large egg
2 c. whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 c. bread flour or all-purpose flour
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. margarine or butter
1/4 c. flour
1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp. fat-free milk
2 to 3 tsp. cinnamon or to taste
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Let stand five minutes. Add milk, 1/4 cup sugar, salt and shortening to the yeast mixture. Stir in egg and whole-wheat flour and beat for two minutes. Gradually add bread flour. The dough will be soft and slightly sticky. Knead until smooth and elastic, 10 to 15 minutes by hand or 10 minutes with dough hook in mixer. Place in a greased bowl; turn once to coat. Cover; let rise in a warm (95 to 100 F) place until double in size. Punch down dough; cover and let rise again. Punch down dough again; cover and let rest 10 minutes. Mix smear ingredients together until smooth. Roll dough into a 12- by 16-inch rectangle and spread a thin layer of smear on the dough piece, leaving a 1-inch strip along one of the short edges uncovered. Brush the uncovered 1-inch dough strip with water. Beginning with the short, smeared edge, roll up, pinch to seal the unsmeared edge and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a greased 9- by 13-inch pan. Cover with a warm, damp towel; let rise in a warm (85 F) place until doubled in size. Bake in 375-degree Fahrenheit preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden.
Makes 12 rolls. Each roll has 274 calories, 6 grams (g) of fat, 51 g of carbohydrate and 3 g of fiber.