2 December 2011
Spice Rack Challenge – Cinnamon
While tracking down sale mint M&M’s on a recent trip to Target, I was arrested in my tracks on sighting cinnamon M&M’s. Since they were on sale, I decided to give them a try. At the checkout, the cashier (oh wait, I think they’re called associates at Target) asked if I’d had them before. She proceeded to tell me that they were all afraid to try them, because either they’d be really good (and thus dangerous) or they’d be really bad. She didn’t think there would be a middle ground. Apparently Target associates don’t get to try everything in the store, unlike Trader Joe’s team members. Anyway, I was still willing to take the chance and I’m here to tell you: yum! They’re not quite as good as the long-gone hot chocolate choxie bar, but they do taste like real cinnamon, not some fake “red hots” kind of cinnamon. The chocolate pellet is bigger than a traditional plain M, which also adds to the appeal in my opinion. I’m a big fan. Some of my family members think they are kind of odd, but nobody hates them.
And on a related note, one of my boys is a big fan of chocolate chex. Believe it or not, they (barely!) meet my criteria for sugar I’m willing to buy, weighing in at 8g of sugar per serving (my cutoff is 9). He mostly eats them as a snack (not breakfast), since Jonski Papa makes lovely whole wheat pancakes or waffles most mornings. The back of the choco chex box has a recipe for Mayan Chocolate Chex Mix. Even though it doesn’t strictly meet the challenge (there’s only cinnamon products), I present it anyway. Read on for another recipe that does include actual cinnamon.
Mayan Chex Mix
3 cups corn Chex cereal
3 cups chocolate Chex cereal
2 cups cinnamon Chex cereal
1 cup cashew pieces
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
6 Tab butter or margarine
2 Tab light corn syrup
2 tsp ground ancho chile pepper (I used 1.5 tsp ground chimayo chiles + .5 tsp smoked paprika)
1/4 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
1.5 tsp vanilla
1 cup cinnamon M&M’s (orig recipe calls for chocolate chips)
1. In a large microwaveable bowl, mix cereals and cashews.
2. In 2-cup microwaveable measuring cup, microwave brown sugar, nutter, corn syrup, chile and cayenne uncovered on high about 90 seconds, stirring after 1 minute, until melted and smooth. Pour over cereal mixture, stir until evenly coated.
3. Microwave uncovered on high 5 to 6 minutes, stirring after every minute. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Break into bite sized chunks, stir in M&M’s (chocolate). Store in airtight container.
It’s a bit too sweet, so if I were to make it again, I would add more nuts and some pretzels, and maybe more of the corn chex than it calls for. And to make it more in the spirit of the spice rack challenge – like, to actually use some cinnamon from the spice rack!! – you could add cinnamon with the chile powder.
Now on to some actual cinnamon. 4 or 5 years ago, we won a romertopf unglazed clay pot in a raffle. I haven’t been able to find many recipes to make with it, other than roasting chickens, but it certainly makes good roasted chicken! I borrowed Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking by Paula Wolfert from my library, but it only had 2 recipes for unglazed pots, so wasn’t any help either. More recently, I came across this one in my Epicurious app, and was inspired to try something similar. It was quite tasty, and made a nice change from our standard plain roast chicken. We had quite a bit of leftover bulgur (only the adults were willing to try it), but it was good on reheating.
Middle-Eastern-Inspired Clay Pot Chicken
2 ounces unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 red onions, cut into thick rings
1 clove garlic, sliced
2 long sweet red peppers, seeded and cut into rings
1 green peppers, seeded and cut into rings
2 long green chiles, seeded and diced
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large tomatoes, skinned, seeded and diced
2 ounces bulgur, washed
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 stick cinnamon
2 star anise (I might have left this out)
few sprigs thyme
1 package “pick of the chick” chicken pieces
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
diced dried apricots
1. Start the clay pot soaking.
2. Heat the butter and extra-virgin olive oil in a pan. Gently sweat the onions, garlic, peppers and chiles with the cumin and cinnamon for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables soften. Add the tomatoes, bulgur, chicken stock, cinnamon, star anise, and thyme and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, then cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper (and more cinnamon, if you wish).
4. Put the bulghur mixture into the clay pot. Sprinkle with the diced apricots. Top with chicken.
5. Cover and place cooker in center of cold oven. Turn on the oven to 450 F and cook for 50 minutes. Remove lid and roast uncovered 5 to 10 minutes to brown skin slightly. (If you don’t have a clay pot, the original recipe at Epicurious gives directions for using a casserole dish.)