“You have to taste a culture to understand it.” – Deborah Cater
When it comes to aromatic and flavorful food, Indian cuisine is unmatched.
Once you try it, you are hooked! The amazing layering of flavors, exotic ingredients, the use of spices, and unfamiliar dishes that go together so harmoniously… all these traits make Indian cuisine uniquely delicious!
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Guided by the motto “I don’t want to look back and think ‘I could’ve eaten that’”, the MyGreatRecipes team has set a goal to taste and make as many different dishes from around the world. Today, we’re traveling to India. Interested? Curry on!
Indian Cuisine 101
India is a vast country, a home to many ethnic groups and cultures that form the patchwork regional cuisines. The various flavors and eating habits are also dictated by the climate and soil in the region, availability of ingredients, but also the people’s religious traditions.
For instance, Hinduism considers cows sacred animals and beef is forbidden in Hindu communities. Vaishnavism followers avoid eating garlic and onion, whereas Muslims don’t eat pork. Jains are strict vegetarians who, besides excluding meat from their diet, also avoid root vegetables like potatoes.
In fact, large portions of the population in India are vegetarians. The judicious use of sauces and spices added to potatoes, eggplants, cauliflowers, peas, cheeses, and breads makes India a truly vegetarian-friendly country!
History has also influenced different regional cuisines in the country. The records that go back to the 6200 BC give us an insight in the early diet in the Indian subcontinent. It consisted mainly of vegetables, fruits, dairy, honey, and legumes.
In the past, India was a focal point of traders from Europe and Asia who, along with foreign invaders and colonists, introduced a number of important ingredients. For instance, tea was introduced during the Middle Ages, along with new cooking techniques. When India was invaded by Central Asian tribes, the two cuisines blended and created the Mughlai cuisine, in which saffron is one of the central ingredients.
Indian Salmon Curry with Saffron Rice
Believe it or not, chili peppers were brought by the Portuguese from the Americas, together with potatoes which today are a staple food in many Indian regions!
The bottom line: Indian cuisine is a fusion of regional palettes of flavors and and the only thing that connects them is the elaborate and skillful use of spices!
Indian Staple Foods
Spices & Flavorings
Let’s start with what makes Indian cuisine unique – spices. There are about 20 to 30 basic spices that are frequently used in many recipes. The beauty of spices is that, besides contributing amazing flavor, they’re also very healthy. You have surely heard of turmeric being one of the healthiest foods on the planet, helping treat and prevent various chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease!
Roasted Potatoes with East Indian Spices
The most important spices and flavorings are chili powder, turmeric, cumin, ginger, coriander, black mustard seed, cardamom, asafetida, and garlic. Garam masala is a popular powdered spice mix that blends together dried cinnamon, cardamom, and clove although each region has its own version of garam masala. Goda masala is another frequently used spice mix which is a bit sweeter.
Indian Style Lentils with Pork Tenderloin
When it comes to herbs, their most used parts are the leaves, in particular, mint, bay, fenugreek, and coriander leaves. In the southern parts of the country, curry leaves and roots are also widely used.
Desserts and sweets are richly spiced as well, usually with cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, clove saffron, and rose petal essential oils.
Indian Spiced Nuts
Oils & Butters
Vegetable oil is the most common choice for cooking in India. Butter ghee (dashi) was popular in the past but it seems to have decreased in popularity at the expense of other types of oils like hydrogenated vegetable oil (Vanaspati ghee). Certain regions seem to favor certain oils:
– peanut oil – western and northern parts
– coconut oil – western parts (Kerala)
– mustard oil – eastern parts
– sesame oil – southern parts
Grains, Beans & Pulses
Pearl millet was one of the earliest staple foods in India that remains popular to date. That’s a very long time to love something! Indian people also love whole wheat flour, rice, and especially lentils. Lentils seem to appear everywhere around you, in various shapes and colors – red lentils, black gram, green gram, mung beans, whole or, the most commonly used type, split (known as dal).
Chicken and Rice with Coconut Milk and Pistachio
Green Lentils Soup with Curried Brown Butter
The northern regions favor pulses like chickpeas, kidney beans, and black-eyed peas. Some pulses are used to obtain flour called besan.
Indian Cauliflower Fried Rice With Chicken and Roasted Chickpeas
Many types of meat are used in Indian cuisine, but chicken and mutton are most prevalent. The north-east and the coastal areas also cook with beef and fish.
Spiced Pork Samosas
Eating Habits & Etiquette
In India, breakfast is very important and is usually combined with coffee or tea. What people eat for breakfast depends on the region:
– North India – roti or parathas flatbreads and a vegetable dish, accompanied by pickles and curd;
– South India prefer idli (savory cake made of black lentils) and dosa pancakes accompanied by a chutney;
– West India – dhokla (food made of fermented batter derived from rice and chickpeas) with milk.
Samosa Potato Cakes with Green Chutney
There is something called ‘evening breakfast’ in India, which is an equivalent of the English tea time when the family sits to talk with tea and snacks.
Lunch & Dinner
Lunch consists of a main dish which is based on whole wheat flatbread in the north or rice in the south. It is typically combined with up to three types of veggies and bread.
Dinner is considered as the main meal of the day.
Eating Habits & Etiquette
Indian cuisine is the best proof that you don’t need a fork in order to eat good food! Hands are the main tool– the left hand is used to serve yourself, whereas the right one is used for eating. Alternatively, flatbreads or savory crepes are used to scoop dishes that are too liquid, like curry.
In the southern parts, food is served on banana leaves which are disposed of after the meal. This custom is less common today, except on special occasions.
In the past, food was eaten while seated on the floor or on low stools. However, throughout the years, eating habits have been influenced by other cultures. For instance, the Anglo-Indians often use western cutlery to eat their food.
Desserts & Beverages
Indian desserts are called mithai. They are usually fried delights that contain milk & sugar in the base. Other ingredients vary depending on the region. What all sweet treats have in common throughout the whole country is the extensive inclusion of spices, as well as nuts. The most popular Indian desserts include:
– gulab jamun, spongy milk-based balls soaked in syrup;
– laddu, balls made of flour, sugar, and minced dough
– jalebi, deep-fried maida flour batter in shaped like pretzels or circles, soaked in sugar syrup;
– puto, steamed rice cake;
– sutarfeni sweet, flaky rice flour roasted in ghee, blended with melted sugar to form a cotton candy, then topped with chopped nuts.
– pinni, a winter dessert made of wheat flour, desi ghee, jaggery and almonds, sometimes raisins.
Betel leaves are often served with desserts after meals to aid digestion.
Coffee is very popular in India, especially in the southern parts. The two most consumed coffee varieties are instant coffee and filter coffee.
With India being one of the largest producers of tea in the world, it’s no surprise tea is a staple beverage. Tea leaves are boiled in water, then combined with milk and spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cardamom. During ‘evening breakfast’, tea is usually served along with snacks such as pakora (an onion-based deep fried snack made with chickpea flour, salt, and light spices) or biscuits.
Lassi is a traditional drink based on yogurt. The yogurt is combined with water and various spices like cumin and saffron. There are also savory versions of this drink that include salt. Other popular lassi flavorings include sugar, lemon, mango, peach, strawberry, and rose water.
Peach and Buttermilk Lassi
The love for rose flavoring is also evident in sherbats. These sweet cold beverages are made from fruits or flower petals (rose, bel, lemon, orange, pineapple, etc.). Besides being utterly tasty and refreshing, sherbats are believed to be very healthy. Rose milk and rose water are also used in the making of other popular drinks like gholi soda.
Other widely consumed non-alcoholic beverages include coconut water, lemonade, and badam doodh (almond milk with cardamom and nuts).
Coconut Water Iced Coffee
When it comes to alcoholic beverages, the beer takes the central stage as the most popular choice, especially lagers. There is also local beer called ‘hadia’, made of rice and herbs. This beer is quite low in alcohol and often served very cold. Chaang is another beverage similar to beer, made from millet, barley, or rice. This beverage is served cold in summer and hot in winter.
Besides beer and beer-like beverages, Indians also like fenny, a beverage made from cashew apple juice or coconuts. Coconut is the main ingredient in ‘kallu’, an alcoholic beverage often consumed with fried chicken or fish.
Cooking Indian Food at Home
The fact that the restaurant industry is in demand for fresh, high-quality foods and diverse ethnic flavors is great news for all of us foodies. This means that the number of Indian restaurants will continue to rise. But before you venture to eat out, why not give Indian food a try at home?
Incorporating the tastes of India in your kitchen is not difficult at all. Start by including Indian spices and flavorings into familiar recipes like chicken, fish, and roasted veggies. Try with one spice like chili powder, then add another one like cumin or ginger. The point is, you don’t have to buy 20 spices from the beginning.
Next step, choose simple Indian food recipes to start with. Look for those based on potatoes or meat that usually have fewer ingredients. The wide array of spices and condiments allows you to play and experiment.
Crispy Indian Spiced Potato Wedges
Need an idea? Start with a curry. Despite popular belief, not all Indian dishes are curries. Curry is a common name for all spicy meat or vegetable dishes with sauces. Messing up a curry is difficult because they appear in many different forms – dry or liquid, red or green, hot, hotter, or hottest. So, to start with, throw together a simple chicken curry and serve it a rot flatbread and some dal.
Creamy Chicken Curry
Isn’t this a great way to freshen up your daily dinner repertoire?
Indian Restaurants in the US
Unlike other national cuisines, Indian cuisine seems to be quite undervalued in the States. According to Washington Post, there are over 40.000 Mexican restaurants throughout the country and almost the same number of Chinese restaurants. But when it comes to Indian restaurants, this number goes as low as 5.000 in total.
Why is it so? Certainly not for the lack of deliciousness! Experts claim that it’s the prices. Indian food requires higher culinary skills to be prepared and that is why it is more expensive. Cheap Indian dishes are usually not as tasty and once people try such low-quality dishes lose interest in the cuisine in general.
However, this is about to change. Thanks to experiment-prone millennials, Indian food is the rise. In 2007, a survey conducted by the Washington Post showed that over 1.200 Indian food products have been imported in the US since 2000.
The number of Indian restaurants in nation-wide is constantly increasing, with the most represented regional cuisines are the North and South Indian. The best part is that even standard restaurants have started to introduce Indian dishes to their menus! It is expected Indian food to be one of the hottest 2017 food trends!
However, the dishes are adapted to western tastes which generally means they are not as spicy as their original recipes.
DISCOVER GREAT RECIPES, TIPS & IDEAS!
So, if you are still hesitant about trying Indian food at home (despite all these amazing recipes and cooking tips), you’d better google “best Indian restaurant near me” and start exploring. Feeling lazy? Try “Indian food delivery”, sit back, and relax!
Here is a list of the best Indian restaurants to give you a kick start:
Indian restaurant near me Las Vegas – Delhi Indian Cuisine
Indian restaurant near me Chicago – Indian Garden Restaurant
Indian restaurant near me Atlanta – Aamar Indian Cuisine
Indian restaurant near me Tampa – Saffron Indian Cuisine
Indian restaurant near me Tucson – Gandhi Cuisine of India
Are you ready for another giveaway? This time, MyGreatRecipes is raising the stakes by awarding one lucky user a $100 Amazon Gift Card!
To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is download our recipe app. So, what are you waiting for?
The giveaway will run from September 4 at 12 am through September 13 at 12 am.
The winner will be randomly selected and notified via e-mail (be sure to use a correct e-mail address). Once the winner has responded, they will be emailed an Amazon Gift Card Code for $100!
Best of luck!
MyGreatRecipes Giveaway 2
“It’s only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.” – Theodore Roosevelt
This year, we have decided to put all our painful efforts into compiling a list of the best recipes to help you celebrate Labor Day. We also stand firm in our resolution to invest our grim energy and resolute courage in cooking all these delicious foods. We’re absolutely sure it will make things better for all our hard-working friends and family 🙂
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The History of Labor Day
Labor Day in the US is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. This year we’ll be celebrating on Monday 4 with a cookout in the backyard. So, make sure you have a good story to tell your kids and make this gathering as educational as it is delicious
Labor Day in was first celebrated in Toronto, Canada in 1872 but quickly made its way to the States. In the late 19th century, with the growth of the trade union and labor movements, workers proposed to set a day to celebrate work. September was first proposed as an option in the 1880s.
The first Labor Day parade was held in New York City in 1882 when 10.000 workers marched from City Hall to 42nd Street and met with their families in Wendel’s Elm Park for a picnic and concert (This parade still takes place every year, moving throughout the 20 blocks north of the 1882 labor march). Oregon was the first state to make it an official public holiday in 1887. Seven years later, thirty states were celebrating it and Labor Day became an official federal holiday.
The celebration of Labor Day was much more than just parades and fun. It resulted after a long-time fight for workers’ rights and dignity. During the 19th century, Americans worked seven days a week for 12 hours. Five-year-old kids worked in factories and mines! Conditions were unbearable and wages were ridiculously low. With the passing of the Adamson Act on September 3, 1916, an eight-hour work day was finally established.
The holiday honors the 155 million men and women in the USA workforce who continue to contribute to the prosperity and well-being of our country.
Canada’s also celebrates this holiday on the first Monday of September, as do over eighty countries worldwide, only some of them have chosen to do so on May 1.
Labor Day also marks the end of the summer and the returning to school. This means that warm days are soon to be over and lots of school projects are coming our way. All the more reason to make this Labor Day memorable!
The expression “No white after Labor Day” is also connected to the ending of summer. It comes from when the upper class would return from their summer holidays and pack their light summer clothes preparing to go back to work/school.
So, kids will mourn the beginning of the school year, while moms look forward to a quieter house. Where does it leave dads? Well, the football season starts on (or around) Labor Day, so there’s something for everyone!
Celebrating Labor Day
Parades were the earliest form of celebrating this holiday. They were supposed to exhibit the strength of workers and labor organizations. They were followed by a festival and later, speeches by prominent people were introduced.
In modern day America, people celebrate this day a bit differently. Eating, drinking, and leisure are the favorite ways to spend Labor Day.
Most Americans choose barbecuing as their favorite way to spend Labor Day. The second most favored activity is watching a movie at home or at the theater, followed by outdoor activities, going to a party, shopping, or just having some quiet time.
Both men and women choose beer as the best pair for barbecued meat. But what kind of meat do they mostly put on the grill? Burgers hit the top spot, closely followed by hot dogs. In fact, Labor Day marks the end of the hot dog season which starts on Memorial day, signalling the beginning of summer as well.
Beef remains the most favorite type of meet on this day. Statistics say that people consume the largest amounts of beef on Memorial Day, whereas Labor Day and Fourth of July come second on the list. Barbecued chicken has been on the rise these last few years, together with steak and ribs.
And finally, which part of the States likes barbecuing on Labor Day the most? Believe it or not, it’s the East!
Throw Your Own Labor Day Party
Skip the regular Labor Day local parade and throw your own in the backyard! The food will be the real star of the show, but why not go an extra mile and offer an all-inclusive party experience? Here are some simple ideas that will make your party super-fun.
Pick a theme
Pick a theme for your party and send out simple invitations (print them from the Internet). The theme could be “our private Labor Day parade” where guests get to be creative and dress up in colorful costumes. After a few beers, everyone will feel brave enough to walk to the park all dressed up!
If you are more into simple things, throw an “all-white party”. This way, everyone will get to wear their light summer clothes one last time before packing them up.
If you decide to go with the “all-white” theme, let white be the color of your décor, flowers, and cake frostings! So stylish!
Alternatively, you can go full patriotic and decorate the backyard in red, white, and blue. Finding suitable decorations is very easy. All you need to do is go to the mall and choose from the wide range of star-spangled items: bowls, cups, picnic spreads, table cloths, napkin rings, flags…
For a minimalist but effective decoration, let your centerpiece take the main stage. Cover the table with a blue tablecloth. Fill a metal planter with ice and place glass bottles filled with cranberry juice inside. Finish off with fresh white flowers tucked between the bottles.
Labor Day Recipes
When compiling your Labor day menu, bear in mind that the weather will be hot. Also, remember that you should also allow yourself to enjoy so, choose quick and easy recipes. Better yet, pick foods that can be done the night before. And, by all means, leave the barbecue to your significant half!
Appetizers and Snacks
California Appetizer Pizzas
The beauty of this recipe is that it is so quick and simple to make. It is based on store-bought pizza dough and it will take no more than 20 minutes. Plus, if you don’t have the topping ingredients listed in the original recipe, you can easily use whatever you have in the fridge, such as olives or mushrooms.
Wait, there’s more. You can substitute the pizza dough with one package refrigerated crescent roll dough. Unroll, press edges together, then prepare as directed!
Sweet & Salty Snack Mix
Here is something the little ones will adore! This stellar blend of tastes and textures works for backyard parties, picnics, beach parties, or camping trips. Even the grown-ups will enjoy it with beer or cocktails.
Add sweetness and festive color to this party mix by incorporating candy-coated chocolate pieces, chocolate-covered raisins, or flavored baking chips (chocolate or butterscotch). Want some more? Try also gummy candies, yogurt-covered nuts, and marshmallows!
Citrus Grilled Chicken
The inclusion of oranges sauce and pink onions adds fantastic colors to this delicious dish. The recipe originates in Baja, California, where oregano and cinnamon are usually added. Try it yourself, by adding 1/2 teaspoon oregano or 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon to the marinade for a Mexican twist. Leave the meat to soak in the marinade overnight and throw on the barbecue when ready to eat.
Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus Beef
If you’re in the mood for something a bit fancier, try this Italian classic with a twist—tender sirloin steak wrapped around snappy asparagus, with savory bacon encircling them both.
Beef Vegetable Burgers
Or, if you prefer to stay on the simple side, go for burgers. But not just any burgers. These are comprised of ground beef patties, bacon, and veggies (carrots, onion, bell pepper) and complemented with Cheddar cheese, among other things.
Save this tip for colder days: these burgers can be cooked under a broiler. For a charcoal-grilled taste, use smoked mozzarella or other smoked cheese in place of the Cheddar, or add a drop or two of liquid smoke to the ground beef mixture.
Grilled Pork Tenderloin
A festive lunch ready in 20 minutes! Add crushed garlic cloves and cover with soy sauce for extra flavor! Tip: Reserve the marinade in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Serve with the grilled pork.
Sides & Salads
Roasted Red Potatoes
Red potatoes taste terriﬁc when roasted in olive oil and tossed in a dressing composed of bacon, green onions, and parsley. For a quicker clean-up, use precooked bacon or bacon bits instead of frying bacon in a skillet.
Roasted Vegetable Medley
Hearty roasted vegetables ﬂavored with thyme, honey, andbalsamic vinaigrette. Vary the ﬂavor with sesame ginger, rosemary, white-wine vinaigrette.
Twenty-Four Hour Salad
It is a fact that the ultimate make-ahead salad actually tastes better after you leave it be overnight. The ﬂavors in this bountiful bowl play off each other deliciously. To save a little prep time, buy hard-cooked eggs at the deli counter when you’re buying the turkey and blue cheese. Pick up some pre-cooked bacon, too!
German Potato Salad
What better pair for your grilled meat than a potato salad? This warm variety is especially good at the end of barbecue season when autumn is in the air! Customize your potato salad with two tablespoons snipped chives, one tablespoon mustard or two tablespoons chopped red bell pepper.
The great thing about this recipe is that it makes a big batch, which is perfect for a family and friends gathering. Not to mention they’re done in only 7 minutes!
If there are any S’more cookies left after the party, the best way to store them is placed in a single layer in a wide, shallow plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. If you must stack the cookies in two or more layers, place a sheet of waxed paper between the layers to prevent the marshmallows from sticking the cookies together.
Banana Split Crepes
These fruit-ﬁlled crepes with hot fudge topping are a wonderful take on everyone’s favorite ice-cream sundae. Prepare the batch of crepes the day before and store in the fridge. Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds before serving and garnish with the topping given in the recipe or with your personal favorite. Complete with a cherry on top!
Strawberry Cream Freeze
This heavenly combination of sweet strawberries and rich cream is the best dessert to beat the summer heat! Choose ripe strawberries for the best flavor and color. As an alternative, try adding fresh blackberries and raspberries.
Beer might be the most beloved Labor Day drink, but there must be something for the little ones. What about refined ladies? We’ve got them covered too!
Fresh strawberries and lemons combine for a fantastic fruit drink. You’ll never reach for store-bought powdered lemonades again. Healthy and delicious!
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Sparkling Party Punch
Hello, ladies! Orange juice, lemon-lime soda, and champagne create a colorful, light, and festive punch. A decorative ice ring adds the perfect ﬁnishing touch. To ensure a crystal-clear ice ring, use distilled water. Boil the distilled water and let it cool before filling the mold.
Happy Labor Day everyone!
Summer is almost over and it will be dearly missed. But aren’t you looking forward to a delicious fall? The season of warm and cozy delights is ahead of us! Boy, are we eager to start making pumpkin, ginger and, above all, cinnamon recipes.
We’d better start preparing.
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Cinnamon Time Travel
Can anyone imagine Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas without this fragrant spice? Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the bark of the cinnamon tree. It is one of the healthiest and tastiest spices in the world, widely used in both sweet and savory recipes.
Let’s go back in time and find out more about its origins.
Ancient Egypt. The use of cinnamon goes back to the ancient Egyptians, who used it as medicine and embalming agent. Due to its multiple uses and scarcity, cinnamon was valued more than gold and was offered to monarchs and gods.
The Bible. The Bible mentions cinnamon several times, most commonly as a perfume for clothes and bed sheets, as well as anointing oil. This oil was made from the bark, leaves, or twigs of the cinnamon tree.
Ancient Greece. Greeks were the first to mention the term ‘cassia’. The word is found in one of Sappho’s poems dating from the 7th century BC. Herodotus claimed that cinnamon grew in Arabia, together with other valuable plants like myrrh, incense, and labdanum, protected by winged serpents.
Ancient Rome. Pliny mentions cassia being used to flavor wine, adding that it was as expensive as a ten-months’ salary! This means that the spice was reserved for the rich only. The legend has it that Emperor Nero burned a year’s worth amount of cinnamon at the funeral of his wife.
The Middle Ages. The cinnamon traders kept the source of cinnamon a secret to Europeans. Gullible European peoples believed all sorts of strange stories like the one that cinnamon was collected in nets from the Nile or that giant birds collected cinnamon sticks from an unknown land. These stories circled until the 11th century, when it was discovered that the spice is native to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar.
The Renaissance. By this time, Chinese and Europeans also came to widely use cinnamon, as both a healing agent and a spice. As a result, cinnamon’s value increased and it became one of the most popular trading goods.
Whoever traded with cinnamon had enormous power. Venetian traders were the first to hold a monopoly on the trade in Europe, distributing cinnamon from Alexandria. Their dominance was disrupted with the rise of the Ottoman Empire, which motivated Europeans to search alternative routes to Asia.
In the 16th century, Ferdinand Magellan was searching for spices on behalf of Spain and found a cinnamon species in the Philippines that was similar to the cinnamon found in Sri Lanka (Ceylon). The Dutch became main traders in the 17th century after expelling the Portuguese from Sri Lanka. In the 18th century, the British took control of Sri Lanka from the Dutch.
The Difference Between Ceylon Cinnamon and Cassia Cinnamon
Not all cinnamon is created equal. Since the cinnamon tree is now growing all over the world, over 250 different cinnamon species have been identified. However, there are two main types widely used: Ceylon cinnamon (often referred to as ‘true’ cinnamon) and Cassia (also called ‘fake’ cinnamon).
Both kinds of cinnamon have a somewhat similar, spicy taste and smell due to the presence of cinnamaldehyde. Other than that, they’re quite different in taste, appearance and especially in their medical properties
Ceylon and cassia come from two different but related cinnamon trees. Ceylon cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka and Thailand and is rarer. That is why this variety is more expensive and harder to find in grocery stores.
Cassia cinnamon is also known as Chinese or Saigon cinnamon. It is cheaper and more widely available. This is the kind of cinnamon we buy and use regularly.
Appearance & taste
As far as taste is concerned, Ceylon cinnamon is said to have a milder, sweeter, and more citrusy taste than cassia, which is deeper and spicier. The Ceylon variety is also lighter brown in color. When it comes in the form of sticks, Ceylon cinnamon is multi-layered, thinner, and softer than Cassia.
Of the two varieties, Ceylon cinnamon is definitely the healthier one. Cassia cinnamon contains high amounts of compounds called coumarins (1000 times more than the Ceylon variety!). These compounds are potentially toxic and when consumed regularly, they can cause serious health issues like liver damage.
Buying and Storing Cinnamon
Ceylon cinnamon oil and powder can be found in specialty and health food stores, as well as online.
Check the label to determine which type of cinnamon you’re buying. If there’s no indication of the type, it is probably cassia cinnamon. You can also check the price; if it’s higher than usual, it’s probably Ceylon cinnamon.
Cinnamon sticks will keep for a year, whereas the powder has a shelf life of six months. Store cinnamon in tightly sealed glass containers and keep in a cool, dry, and dark place. For longer shelf life, cinnamon can be stored in the fridge. In that case, check the smell before use. If it doesn’t smell sweet, throw it away.
You can also purchase cinnamon sticks and grate fresh cinnamon yourself using a small hand-held grater.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
When talking about health benefits of cinnamon, we’re thinking about the real, Ceylon cinnamon. Consuming just a ½ teaspoon of cinnamon a day has the following health benefits:
– Cinnamon is rich in antioxidants that reduce oxidative damage and slow the aging process. In fact, cinnamon contains over 40 such compounds and ranks #7 on the list of most powerful antioxidant foods on the planet, as well as #1 on the list of top antioxidant spices!
– The antioxidants in cinnamon have anti-inflammatory effects, which help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, brain problems, and more. These compounds also help relieve pains and severe allergic reactions.
– Cinnamon is very efficient in protecting the heart by lowering high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and high triglyceride levels. It also acts as a blood coagulant and increases blood circulation.
– Cinnamaldehyde has an ability to inhibit tumor growth, causing the cancerous cells to self-destruct. Moreover, cinnamon has been shown very efficient in cancer prevention, especially in reducing the risk of colon cancer.
– Cinnamon is known for its antidiabetic effects as well. It helps lower blood sugar levels, improves sensitivity to insulin, a hormone vital for balancing blood sugar levels, and reduces the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream after a sugary meal.
– The antioxidants in cinnamon protect the brain against age-related and neurodegenerative brain disorders, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases by activating the neuroprotective proteins in the brain.
– Cinnamon is a natural antibiotic, anti-microbial, antiviral, and anti-fungal agent. It boosts the immunity and protects against bacteria that affects the skin, digestive tract, and causes flu.
– The anti-fungal properties cinnamon has can help stop the occurrence and growth of Candida in the digestive tract by boosting the immune system and fighting candida-causing yeast in the digestive tract.
– Cinnamon fights bacteria in the mouth that could cause tooth decay, cavities, bad breath, or mouth infections.
– Cinnamon helps fight common allergy symptoms by reducing inflammation. It also boosts immunity and helps regulate the digestive system, which may be helpful after consuming food allergens. Cinnamon can also help relieve asthma attacks.
– Applying cinnamon oil directly to the skin can help with various skin conditions including rashes, irritations, acne, redness, swelling, infections, pain, and allergic reactions. Due to its pleasant smell, cinnamon essential oil is also used in beauty products like perfumes and shampoos.
Cinnamon health precautions: Cinnamon does not cause any allergies, especially if used in small amounts (as it usually is). However, when combined with too many cinnamon-based supplements, it can cause certain health issues, especially in pregnant women, diabetics or those who have liver problems.
Make sure to check the recommended dose of cinnamon extract/supplement on the label or consult with your doctor. When using cinnamon oil on the skin for the first time, apply a small amount on a limited surface to check for possible reactions or irritations.
Cooking with Cinnamon
Due to its delicate flavor, cinnamon is used in almost all cuisines of the world. It is added to both sweet and savory recipes, from cinnamon rolls and cinnamon toasts to popular Middle Eastern and Asian specialties like lamb, curry, rice and more!
One of the biggest advantages of cinnamon is that it can be used to sweeten various dishes without added sugar. It contains no calories or sugar, which makes it a healthy addition to many recipes including tea, coffee, fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, and baked goods.
Whole cinnamon sticks can be added to various liquids like mulled wine, to give them a distinct flavor and infuse them with nutrients.
Cinnamon oil has a similar flavor to the powder, only a bit stronger. It is suitable for use in ice creams, teas, condiments, baked goods, candies, and soft drinks. Look for diluted, food grade cinnamon oil approved by the FDA.
Due to its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, cinnamon can also be used as food preservative, without the need to add artificial chemicals. In this process, the use of cinnamon also prevents discoloration of fruits and veggies as a result of oxidation.
Tasty Cinnamon Recipes
Glazed Cinnamon Buns
There’s nothing better than the smell of cinnamon buns baking on a chilly Sunday morning! Tip: To make sure your buns rise perfectly, put the pan with the dough slices in a 200 degrees F oven for one minute. Then, turn the oven off, close the door, and leave the buns for about half an hour inside. They’re done when they double in size!
Pecan Cinnamon Rolls
This traditional light & flaky cinnamon rolls recipe is complemented with a creamy pecan filling and a sweet glaze on top.
These super-soft cookies are made from a cake mix. They’re rolled in cinnamon sugar and baked to golden perfection. Tip: Adding a ¼ cup ﬂaked almonds to the mixture will contribute extra texture to the recipe.
Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake
A delicious cake made with sour cream as a secret ingredient inside the batter and a crunchy pecan streusel as frosting on top. Tip: Let the cake cool on a wire rack. This way, the circulation of air around the pan will prevent the cake from ending up soggy at the bottom.
Swiss Cinnamon Roll
Perfection comes as an apple-and-cinnamon blend in this simple cinnamon rolls recipe. Tip: To easily change the flavor of the dessert, replace the cinnamon filling with almonds. Add flaked almonds over the parchment with the sugar and a few more over the apple butter filling.
Cinnamon Swirl Bread Pudding
The classic bread pudding is reinvented with the addition of cinnamon swirl! Tip: If you want to impress a hungry crowd, sweeten the buttery bread pudding with a 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips instead of the raisins.
Glazed Cinnamon Cookies
These sweet and spicy bites have a nutty, cinnamon ﬁlling rolled up inside a sugar cookie dough and a drizzle of sweet glaze over the top. Tip: To complement the sweetness with a tangy note, add four tablespoons of chopped dried cranberries, dried cherries, or raisins to the filling.
Cinnamon Meringue Slices
Crispy, sweet pastries topped with spicy and slightly chewy meringue produce a delicate treat that pairs beautifully with your morning cup of coffee. Tip: Take this delight to another level by preparing chocolate meringue! Just replace the cinnamon with cocoa (use 1–2 tablespoons cocoa powder).
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Cinnamon Nut Crescents
How to turn plain crescent rolls into sweet, nutty, cinnamon-ﬁlled delights? This recipe will reveal the secret! Make sure to serve them warm and they’ll disappear in no time! Tip: to make these rolls attractive, top them with a simple glaze. Just combine ½ cup confectioners’ sugar and 4 teaspoons milk in a small bowl. Stir until smooth and lightly drizzle the glaze over the tops.
These tasty cookies are ﬂavored with spicy cinnamon, ground almonds, and a twist of lemon. Pair them with a warm cup of coffee or a glass of milk. Tip: To make Italian stuffed peaches, process 3 crinkles, 1 tablespoon each sugar, and softened butter in a food processor. Halve and pit 2 peaches, spoon the filling into the peach halves, and place in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of red wine or grape juice and bake at 350˚F for about half an hour.
“Mexican food is so full of color, life, and music. It seems like a piñata exploding in your mouth” – Kate McLennan
What better way to describe this flavorful cuisine? Mexican food is the perfect fusion of deep, savory flavors and lightness that comes from the generous use of fresh vegetables, herbs, and citrus fruits. It is colorful, vibrant, delicious, fresh, and utterly fun. There’s so much more than tacos and burritos to Mexican food and we’re taking you on a trip that will reveal it all!
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The History of Mexican Food
The history of Mexican food is long and diverse. Just like other ancient cuisines, Mexican cuisine is comprised of cooking techniques developed over thousands of years. It is a blend of native cooking with Spanish influences that entered after the conquests in the 16th century.
Mexican Food Before the Conquest
Authentic Mexican food is believed to originate from Mayan cooking. It is believed that Mayans, who were nomadic hunters and gatherers, ate corn tortillas with bean paste in addition to tropic fruits (avocado), wild game, and fish.
With the prosperity of the Aztec Empire in the 14th century, the Mayan, new ingredients were added to the cuisine including chili peppers, chocolate, honey, and salt. In addition, some wild animals like ducks and turkeys were domesticated.
The natives of Mexico used to cook food over an open fire, using cast iron and ceramic ware. They also used banana & cactus leaves for steaming. Pieces of meat were placed on the leaves and placed over boiling.
They had various grinding tools like ‘metate y mano’ made of stone or lava rock or ‘molcaiete’, a small bowl and pestle made of stone, marble, or wood.
Besides the three main Mexican food staples – corn, beans, turkey, and chili peppers – Mexican natives also consumed the following staples:
– wild game, seafood, and fish;
– a wide variety of fruits like avocado, squash, guava, mango, banana, pineapple, sapote (Mexican apple), prickly pear, and cherimoya (custard apple);
– vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini, spinach, potatoes, cauliflower, mushrooms, jicama;
– pulses, seeds, and herbs;
– vanilla and cocoa;
– edible flowers, especially those of squash, banana & cactus leaves, and insects.
Before corn was cultivated, agave hearts were the main source of calories for the native people. Since 1200 BC, when corn was domesticated, it has been the basic starch in Mexican cuisine. This didn’t change even after the introduction of wheat and rice.
Corn finds its way in all regional cuisines and almost every authentic Mexican food recipe. Corn can be eaten fresh, dried, or ground into a masa dough. The dough has two varieties, fresh and fermented, and is used to make dishes like pozole and tamales.
Masa ball Soup (Mexican Corn Dumplings in Chicken Soup)
However, the most popular way to eat corn is as a tortilla which is served with almost every dish. No wonder the native people considered corn to be a gift of the gods!
In the past, meat was more difficult to obtain and beans were the main source of protein. Other widely-used protein sources were turkey and amaranth, as well as less appealing alternatives like insects (grasshoppers and ants), turtle eggs, and iguanas.
Mexican Layered Dip
Besides beans and corn, chili peppers are the third staple in Mexican cuisine. It is believed that these peppers have been used since 5000 BC! Records state that the natives wouldn’t even start a meal if without chiles. They were first introduced to Europe by Columbus in the late 15th century and further spread by the Portuguese. In the past, chiles were used not only as cooking ingredient, but also a ritual food and medicine.
Chili peppers give Mexican food its signature spiciness, heat, and flavor. Even today, Mexican people consider chiles a part of the national tradition and use a great variety of these peppers. They add it to every single dish, especially salsas and sauces, even to sweets and fruits. If there’s no chile at hand, it is usually replaced with hot sauce.
Chili-Spiced Chicken Legs
Mexican Food After the Conquest
After the Spaniards invaded Mexico in the 1520s, the Spanish tried to impose their own eating habits to the natives but (luckily) they failed and the two cuisines began to combine.
The most important ingredients brought by the Spanish were meat and dairy, which raised the consumption of proteins. Before that, the native Mesoamericans ate very little meat (mostly turkey) and no dairy at all. Nowadays, cheese is the most popular dairy product in Mexico. It is considered a national specialty prepared in many households and sold nationwide.
Vegan Mexican Cheese (Three Ways)
Cream Cheese Bean Dip
As far as cooking techniques are concerned, Europeans introduced frying foods in pork fat.
Here is a full list of ingredients introduced by the invaders:
– livestock (pigs, cows, chickens, goats, and sheep);
– dairy (especially cheese);
– onions and garlic;
– wheat and rice;
– olive oil;
– sugar cane;
– new types of herbs and spices like oregano, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves.
Besides Spanish influences, Mexican cuisine was also impacted by other cuisines, like Caribbean, Chinese, Lebanese, West African, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese especially during the 19th century, when a great number of immigrants settles in the country. These influence made Mexican food what it is today – rich and delicious, with a large number of regional varieties.
The Importance of Mexican Food
Authentic Mexican food is an important aspect of the country’s culture and tradition, so much so it was added to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO!
Traditionally, cooking in Mexico, especially in rural areas, is considered a women’s work and it is seen as a most important talent a woman can have! The ability to cook well is called ‘sazón’, which translates as seasoning. Food preparation for the family and for special occasions is considered a mean to building and nurturing social relationships and is an inevitable part of all festivities.
Fun fact: most Mexican homes don’t own or use ovens!
Breakfast is quite hearty compared to western countries. It usually consists of leftovers from the day before which can include meat, eggs, soup, enchiladas, and tacos, along with fruit juice and coffee.
Mexican Breakfast Potato Bake
Mexican Breakfast Cups
The main meal of the day is called “comida” and refers to dinner. It usually consists of chicken soup combined with pasta or, alternatively, ‘dry soup’ (flavored rice or pasta), followed by a meat-based dish served with salsa or sauce on the side and complemented with tortillas or baked beans. Beer or fruit juices are commonly consumed during comida.
Mexican Taco Soup
Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup
The leftovers from this main meal are eaten in the evening. If there aren’t any leftovers, Mexican people turn to sweets: sweet bread, chocolate, and coffee.
Mexican Street Food
Mexican street food is extremely rich and versatile. It includes tacos, quesadillas, tamales, pambazos, alambres, huaraches, al pastor, carnitas, roasted chicken and many more!
Pork Carnitas with Pickled Red Onions
Tacos are definitely the most popular street food. Their origins go back to the pre-conquest period, when natives used them as utensils, i.e. for picking up other foods. Tacos are usually not eaten during the ‘comida’ but rather as a midday or late night snack. They consist of a tortilla stuffed with almost anything that comes to mind – meat, rice, corn, beans, cream, sauce, and of course, chili peppers or salsa!
Fiesta Taco Bake
Chipotle Orange Pork Tacos
Torta is another popular Mexican street food, especially in the capital. This food originates from the 19th century, when it was largely under the influence of the French immigrants. It consists of a roll stuffed with several ingredients. Early versions of torta were made with beans but today they also contain cream and hot chili peppers.
Besides food, street vendors also offer drinks like aguas frescas and tepache, as well as treats like tostilocos and bionicos.
Popular Mexican Beverages
Besides being the main staple food, corn is also used to make beverages. One of them is atole, a hot drink flavored with chocolate, fruit, and rice. Pozol and tejuino are cold drink made of fermented corn.
Agua fresca is a drink made with water, sugar, and fruit. Mexican people also love horchata, drinks based on hibiscus iced tea.
Watermelon Lime Agua Fresca
Boozy Rum Horchata
Alcoholic beverages from Mexico include tequila (the base of the most popular cocktail margarita), aguardiente, pulque, charanda, and mescal. Rum and brandy are also widely consumed but beer tops the list as the most consumed beverage with food.
Coffee is also very popular, especially café de olla, coffee brewed with sugar and cinnamon.
Favorite Mexican Food Recipes
Mole, especially mole poblano in Central Mexico, is considered the most important food for special occasions and festivals. It is served at birthdays, weddings, and funerals, as well as at Christmas, Easter, and the Day of the Dead. Since this dish is quite complicated to make, other foods like carnitas and barbacoa have taken become predominant festive foods in the last decades.
Crispy Quinoa and Mole Sweet Potato Tacos
Salsa means ‘sauce’ in Spanish. It has been around since Aztec times when it was sold on markets. Salsa is uncooked, sometimes chunky, sometimes pureed smooth. Some of the main ingredients for salsa include tomatoes, chipotle, and avocado.
Monkfish & Tomato Salsa
The word enchilada means ‘in chile’. The origins of this food which uses tortillas as wraps for other foods goes back to Aztec times, whereas in the US, the first recorded enchilada recipes date from the 1880s.
Sweet Potato Enchiladas
Can you imagine the world without chocolate? Aztecs were the ones that discovered chocolate and used to drink it rather than eat it in the form of a foamy, bitter drink, flavored with chili peppers and vanilla. The Spaniards brought it to Europe in the 17th century and made it sweet.
Mexican Churros with Chocolate
Mexican Chocolate and Almond Ice Cream
Tamales are filled cornmeal dumplings steamed in corn husks or banana leaves. They originate from the pre-conquest era. In fact, they were one of the first food served to Spaniards by the Aztecs in the 1550s. Like mole, tamales are also served during festive occasions.
Turkey Tamale Pies
Tomatillo uses can be traced back to 800 BC when the Aztecs domesticated this fruit. The tart tomatillo has never become as popular as regular tomatoes, except in Italy where it is often used in green sauces.
Guacamole Tacos with Tomatillo Steak Sauce
Veggie Tacos with Avocado Tomatillo Salsa
Mexican Food Near Me – Mexican Food in the US
Authentic Mexican food is very hard to find outside Mexico. In the States, Mexican food is mostly Tex-Mex (or Cal-Mex), which means the dishes are mostly based on the northern Mexican cuisine with influences from the Southwestern parts of the States. The most popular Tex-Mex inventions are burritos, salsa, nachos, fajitas, corn chips, quesadillas, chimichangas, and chili con carne.
Grilled Steak Fajitas
Chili Verde con Carne
Even authentic Mexican foods like tacos, enchiladas, and tamales are cooked and served differently in the United States. The difference in the American versions is in the use different spices and herbs, especially in the extensive use of chili to make the food very hot, regardless of personal taste.
American varieties of Mexican foods also use large amount of cheese, melted or shredded, which is rarely seen in authentic Mexican recipes. Same can be said for sauces; Americans tend to use lots of different sauces with all Mexican dishes.
Even the simple and easy guacamole is done differently in the States. The original recipe consists of onions, chili, spices, lime juice, and most importantly, slices of avocado. Diced tomatoes are optional and added in small amounts. The Americans usually mash the avocado into a paste and add too much cilantro or tomatoes.
Guacamole with Pita Chips
In the States, the portions are quite larger. It is safe to say that they’re overcrowded, with different foods mixing with each other in the same plate. Unlike in Mexico, where corn tortillas are used instead of bread and are considered a side dish, in the US they are fried and served with almost every Mexican food.
Traditional Flour Tortillas
Cheesy Tortilla Triangles
Mexican street food has also been largely influenced by American fast food since the 20th century, resulting in delicious fusions such as Sonoran hot dogs which are made of a hot dog wrapped in bacon and served in a bun along with tomatoes, onions, and jalapeño peppers.
Mexican Food Restaurants Near Me
You can always use our amazing recipes to recreate the tastiest Mexican dishes, but if you’re still wondering “Where to find the best Mexican food near me?”, we’ve got you covered. Here is a list of 15 amazing Mexican food restaurants in the US (that are not Taco Bel or Hacienda) provided by our friends at Food Place Near Me!
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Empellon Cocina – New York, New York
Nopalito – San Francisco, California
Rocio’s Mole de los Dioses, Los Angeles, California
Fonda San Miguel, Austin, Texas
Nuestra Cocina – Portland, Oregon
El Sarape, Boston, Massachusetts
Distrito, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
El Charro Cafe, Tuscon, Arizona
Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana, Memphis
La Super-Rica Taquería, Santa Barbara
Topolobampo – Chicago, Illinois
Barrio Cafe, Phoenix, Arizona
Taquería del Sol, Atlanta, Georgia
Bonito Michoacan, Las Vegas, Nevada
Jacala, San Antonio, Texas