from How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
written and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
Seems like everywhere and everyone is surrounding us with pumpkin spice. From Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks to Wendy’s new Pumpkin Spice Frosty, we can move from our breakfast jolt of caffeine to a scrumptious dessert after dinner. (Or a midnight snack, anyone?)
I have a wonderful recipe for pumpkin muffins that I adapted from a friend’s pumpkin cake recipe. I like to pull it out this time of year, especially for the cream cheese frosting. I bet my muffins would have won a blue ribbon at our county Fair, but I didn’t read the entry guidelines carefully. The judges don’t accept anything that needs refrigeration. Well, d'oh! BTW, The Simpsons is entering its 35 season. More on that next week.
So, pumpkin muffins. The recipe, like most of what I own, is old. I got it from my friend 50-ish!! years ago, and I’m sure it wasn’t new then. Delicious, and the only spice is cinnamon! Cinnamon goes especially well in dessert recipes. It blends well with other spices, too. But spicing up our coffee and dessert is only cinnamon’s recent cup of tea, so to speak.
Cinnamon has an interesting history. It is derived from the interior bark of a cinnamon tree also called kurundu tree, a native of Sri Lanka. Until 1972, Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon. British rule ended in 1948, but the name Ceylon remained until Queen Elizabeth II was no longer its political head. The prefix Sri translates to the English word resplendent. The word Lanka is as old as the ancient story of a kidnapped princess, Sita and her rescue. Lanka simply means Island.
As early as 2000 BCE, merchants traveled the Spice Routes to acquire and exchange cinnamon from Sri Lanka. The primary reason for embarking on these treacherous journeys was the economic advantages of trade. Cinnamon was once more valuable than gold. By the sixteenth century, it was the most profitable spice the Dutch East India Company traded (TimesNowNews).
Other spices were traded, but none could compare economically with cinnamon. Other goods, and knowledge of the world were traded, too. Traveling and stopping at ports along the Spice Routes, also known as the Silk Road, encouraged trade of ideas, languages, and artistic and scientific skills.
Besides its interesting history and economic value, cinnamon has many medical uses, both ancient and modern. Ancient Egyptians used cinnamon oil in their mummification process. Cinnamic acid is an antibacterial.
It is important to do your own research and consult with your medical professionals, but according to the National Institutes of Health, (NIH), “[c]innamon is one of the most important spices used daily by people all over the world.” The NIH continues, “[i]n addition to being an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, anticancer, lipid-lowering, and cardiovascular-disease-lowering compound, cinnamon has also been reported to have activities against neurological disorders, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.”
Cinnamon can interact with prescription medicine, so be cautious. More than one teaspoon can be harmful, but a dash on a bowl of oatmeal, a cup of Celestial Seasoning’s “Bengal Spice Tea,” or a pumpkin muffin (or two) might be just the thing on a brisk Fall day.
Pumpkin Spice is also called Pumpkin Pie Spice. You might already have a jar in your cupboard, but here’s an easy recipe from allrecipes.com that only takes 5 minutes.
HOME MADE PUMPKIN SPICE
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Mix together all ingredients in a small bowl.
Store in a small, airtight container in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, pumpkin spice will last up to three years.
In case you want to try those delicious pumpkin muffins, here’s that recipe, too.
SHARI’S PUMPKIN MUFFINS (adapted from Kathy’s family Pumpkin Cake Recipe)
1/2 Cup salad oil
1/2 Cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 Cups sugar
2 Cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 16-ounce can solid pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix or filling)
1 Cup chopped pecans
Mix all ingredients then beat with mixer until well blended. Ladle evenly into 24 muffin cups. Bake at 350º F for 40-45 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean)
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
1 stick butter
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 Cup chopped pecans
1 lb confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
NOTE: 1/2 recipe frosts 2 dozen muffins.
NOTE: Muffins and frosting freeze well.
I just finished a slim volume: Terrorist’s Son: A Story of Choice by Zak Ebrahim with Jeff Giles (Simon and Schuster/TED, 2014). Zak Ebrahim was only seven years old when his father, El-Sayyid Nosair, shot and killed Meyer Kahane, leader of the Jewish Defense League. Then while Nossair was still in prison, he helped plan the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. This important memoir tells how a young child raised with hate learned to turn away from that hate and took those he loved with him. Here's a link to the author’s TED talk.
-—Be curious! (and use common scents-like cinnamon)