Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Got Cinnamon? Use it to Make Ornaments—Plus, Get the Recipe for Cinnamon Vanilla Flan With Toasted Coconut

If Christmas were bottled as a signature scent and sold at Macy’s, it’d smell mostly like cinnamon, wouldn’t it…a heady blend of that, peppermint, some caramel and the unmistakable perfume given off by a spruce, trimmed just right for Christmas. That’s my own interpretation of December’s scent, anyway…and why I love this cinnamon ornament craft (see below). Cinnamon ornaments “spruce up” your tree, and make the most of the olfactory senses while they do it. They also get you in the mood to savor a sweet n’ spicy dessert afterward.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Edible….the Ornaments, I mean…That’s Why You Need My Flan!
Attention all Nanas! If you plan on immersing the little people in your charge with this cinnamon activity, remember NOT to let them eat the ornaments. They look and smell great, but as they are made of almost 100% cinnamon, eating them would be BAD! Because they get you in the mood for a cinnamon flavored treat, I’m passing on my flan recipe, which calls for 1 whole stick of the heavenly stuff.

When it’s all plated and ready to be served, Cinnamon Vanilla Flan with Toasted Coconut appears to be sprinkled with snow—preparing a custard like this, involves burning up sugar in the sauce pan, rendering it into caramel that fills the whole kitchen with a sweetness that hangs in the air, unmistakable as mistletoe.

On your Mark, Get Set, Raid the Spice Rack!
If your Christmas tree is anything like mine—and as a fellow Nana I trust it is—you’ve got a ratio of ornaments like this: about one store bought ornament for every 10 your kids made or handpicked while they lived at home. As is the case with all festive things in life, it’s “the more the merrier” when it comes to ornaments—so consider whipping these up next time you lay hands on a shake bottle of cinnamon and some apple sauce, plus a few other simple supplies.

To make a dozen or more ornaments, find a rolling pin and some Christmas cookie cutters before assembling the following ingredients:

3/4 cup applesauce
1 (4.12 ounce) bottle ground cinnamon
Cookie cutters
Drinking straw
Colorful ribbon


Preheat oven to 200°F.

Mix applesauce and cinnamon in small bowl until dough forms. (As pictured here on the blog, you’ll be getting your hands dirty!)
Using about 1/4 of the dough at a time, roll dough to 1/4-inch to 1/3-inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap.

Peel off top sheet of plastic wrap. Cut dough into desired shapes with the cookie cutters. Make a hole at top of ornament with drinking straw or skewer. Place ornaments on baking sheet. Bake 2 1/2 hours. Cool ornaments on wire rack. (Or, to dry ornaments at room temperature, carefully place them on wire rack and let stand 2 to 3 days; then thread ribbon through your finished products!

Why Cinnamon is Such a Good Thing
When you’re not making hot mulled cider with it, sprinkling it over fresh fruit, coffee or countless other things, cinnamon is also good for you—and in interesting ways! In a 2007 Swedish study, researchers found that the blood sugar response in test subjects eating cinnamon-laced pudding was lower, and their "gastric emptying time" slower than test subjects who got plain rice pudding. Translation: Cinnamon sprinkled foods stay with you longer! Quite a few studies link cinnamon to helping stabilize blood sugar too.

What to Do with your Pack of Cinnamon Sticks
Since many recipes, call for just one stick of cinnamon and they’re (usually) marketed as a pack, use the rest to make hot mulled apple cider. Pour a big bottle of cider into a pan with a few sticks of cinnamon (broken into 1-inch pieces) along with one-quarter teaspoon nutmeg and about five to eight whole cloves. Simmer the liquid gently for at least 5 minutes before straining it, then pour yourself and your loved ones a nice big mug full.

Enjoy the memories you make, because even the ones you eat can last forever,

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