Moroccan Cinnamon Chicken with Orzo

Happy Weekend, Fellow Foodies!

Here in the USA we love cinnamon. It is one of the most popular spices sold, but usually we only use in sweet preparations such as: Apple pie, apple sauce, hot apple cider, mulled wine, sweet rolls, mixed with sugar for our toast, ice cream, etc...

Cinnamon is so much more than just a dessert additive. In Indian, Middle Eastern, and Northern African cuisine, cinnamon is added to sauces and rubs in savory preparations. It is a wonderful spice that add so much depth of flavor, and zest to whatever it has been grated or sprinkled into.  There are hundreds of recipes available on the net for preparing every kind of meat you care for with cinnamon, but here is one of my favorites. It is easy to make, and even though the ingredient list is a bit long you should have most of it already in your spice holder. You can use pork, or lamb, or even smoked tofu instead of chicken in this recipe, so there is no reason not to try it. If you don't want to use Orzo pasta you can simply cook a bit of your favorite rice in place of orzo too!

Moroccan Cinnamon Chicken with Orzo

1.5 Lbs. of chicken (white or dark meat, or a combination)-cut into 3/4 inch cubes
4 cloves (2 Tbs.) garlic
1 tsp. kosher salt
7-10 black pepper corns
2 tsp. smoked paprika (plain will work too)
1-3 tsp. excellent quality cinnamon (depending upon your personal tastes)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (OPTIONAL)
1 Tbs. first cold pressed olive oil (or any oil you have will do)
1 cup diced onions
1 cup raisins
2 cups petit peas
1/2 cup water (or chicken stock)
Garnishes of your choosing (see below)

12 oz. package orzo
1 Tbs. turmeric

With a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic along with the salt and pepper.

If you do not have a mortar and pestle just mince the garlic by hand. In the mortar, or a small bowl add the next 4 ingredients (and cayenne if using), and stir with a small spoon until you have a thick paste.

In a nonreactive bowl, place you chicken pieces and with your very clean hand mix the spice pastes and the chicken together. Allow to stand in the fridge for 20 minutes-24 hours.

When you are ready to cook: Heat a little olive oil in a 12 inch sauté pan over high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the onion and turn the heat down to medium low. Cook the onions 9-12 minutes stirring often. Bring the heat up to high and add the chicken and spice mix, and toss with the onions to mix them together.

Cook for 3-4 minutes without disturbing to brown the meat darkly on one side. Add the raisins, peas, and water, and stir. Cover the pan turn the heat down to medium and allow the mix to simmer until the meat is cooked through.

Meanwhile bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add the turmeric and orzo, and cook according to the package directions.

Once the chicken is cooked; remove the lid and allow the water to evaporate. Drain your cooked orzo and spoon onto your serving plates. Spoon some chicken mixture over the orzo and serve with a few garnishes on the side:

Chopped cilantro
French fried onions
Hot chili sauce such as Sriracha or sambal sauce
Pickled onions
Sliced pickled garlic
finely sliced green onions or chives
Oil cured (or Kalamata) olives-chopped
Cayenne Pepper

HEALTH BENIFITS OF CINNAMON 

  1. Blood Sugar Control – Several studies have found that Cinnamon has properties that help those with insulin resistance. It is therefore very popular with Type 2 diabetics who take it to control their blood sugar variations.

    Ceylon Cinnamon is particularly popular because it has low levels of Coumarin. compared to Cassia Cinnamon found in your grocery store. In case you did not know Coumarin in high doses can cause liver damage.

  2. in another study Ceylon Cinnamon was found to have an effect on blood sugar control in a rat model. If you are taking Ceylon Cinnamon for diabetes, take it in moderation as part of a healthy program of diet, proper nutrition and moderate exercise.
  3. Candida Yeast Infections - Cinnamon has shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections. This applies to Escherichia coli bacteria and Candida albicans fungus. This study discovered that Cinnamon Oil was one of three leading essential oils effective against Candida. Another study was found Cinnamon Oil to be effective against two strains of Candida, C. orthopedics and C. parapsilosis. A third study found that Cinnamon Oil was effective against three strains of Candida, Candida albicans, Candida tropicalis, and Candida krusei. Real Ceylon Cinnamon Tea infused with Cinnamon Bark Oil could be an excellent way to fight internal Candida infections and boost your immune system. For topical applications (except genital areas and mucous membranes) 1% Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf Oil mixed with a carrier oil could be an extremely effective treatment option.
  4. Stomach Bug/Flu - By far and away the best remedy for a horrible stomach bug is Cinnamon. It make sense because Cinnamon is a powerful anti-bacterial. Research has shown Cinnamon is one of the most effective substances against (click the links for the research) Escherichia coli Salmonella, Campylobacter. Another study found Cinnamaldehyde from Cinnamon Bark Oil in its various forms is effective against adenovirus. Another reason to have our Cinnamon tea which is infused with Cinnamon Bark Oil that has high levels of Cinnamaldehyde (over 75%).
  5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – As a digestive cinnamon dramatically reduces the uncomfortable feelings associated with IBS especially the bloating. It does this by killing bacteria and healing infections in the GI tract and enabling the gastric juices to work normally. A Japanese study apparently showed it to cure ulcers but this cannot be verified. But if you do have stomach cramps or upsets, a cup of Cinnamon tea 2-3 times  per day will dramatically reduce the pain.
  6.  
  7. Cancer Preventer – Research shows that Cinnamon oil is a promising solution in the treatment of Tumors, Gastric Cancers and Melanomas. Research studies show that sugar maybe causing or sustaining cancer cells and cinnamon may have a mitigating effect by controlling blood sugar levels in the body. Another study found good results with leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells. Cinnamon in its various forms has two chemical constituents called Cinnamaldehyde  and Eugenol (From Cinnamon Oil). These have been used to develop nutraceuticals in this study that have proven fairly effective in fighting Human Colon Cancer Cells (Eugenol) and Human hepatoma cells (Cinnamaldehyde). So the evidence seems to suggest that Cinnamon is starving cancer cells of the sugar needed to sustain them.
  8. Arthritis/Osteoporosis –  The widely cited Copenhagen university study is a hoax. Most of the evidence that Cinnamon helps arthritis is from personal testimonials. Some people claim drinking Cinnamon tea helps the pain from arthritis while others claim a Cinnamon Oil based massage oil helps ease the pain.

    What we do know is that Cinnamon has high levels (73% DV in two sticks of Cinnamon) of Manganese which is used to build bones, blood and other connective tissues, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The body needs manganese for optimal bone health, so people who are deficient in the mineral are more likely to develop osteoporosis. Of course another factor causing Osteoporosis may be excessive dairy consumption.

                                     
  9. Anti-Bacterial/Anti Microbial - Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf Oil is a powerful anti-bacterial and makes a great natural disinfectant. Cinnamon oil had the best anti microbial activity among three oils against Escherichia coli , Staphylococcus aureus , Aspergillus oryzae , and Penicillium digitatum.
                              Dilute it with water to disinfect kitchen counter tops, sinks, your refrigerator, door knobs, toys and many other things. If you have young children and don't want to use harsh cancer causing chemicals use Cinnamon Oil. Cinnamon sticks are also a good anti bacterial but you would need a lot of it to make a difference. If you want a mild disinfect, like to wash your face, then a couple of Cinnamon sticks boiled in hot water might be an idea.
  10. Food PreservativeCinnamon is effective in inhibiting bacterial growth. This maybe one reason why it is widely used in food preparation in hot Asian countries. In Sri Lanka, virtually every dish has a pinch of Cinnamon in it. In addition to great flavor, Ceylon Cinnamon in combination with other spices like Turmeric and Chili may have been an indigenous solution to preserve food without a refrigerator. This study for using Cinnamon Oil coated paper as a preservative found a 6% Cinnamon Oil solution was responsible for complete inhibition of mold in sliced bread packaging. This study listed on Feb 2013 also found cinnamon oil effective in developing insect resistant food packaging film. Cinnamon also came on top in this study, even against All spice and Clove Oil as very effective for making edible food film.
  11. Odor NeutralizerPure Cinnamon Leaf oil not only smells great but is an effective odor neutralizer as it kills bacteria that creates bad odors and not just mask odors. All you need is 2-5 drops of Cinnamon leaf oil mixed with water on a diffuser and within minutes all odors are neutralized. Alternatively spray diluted Cinnamon Leaf Oil and wipe down toilets, floors and kitchen counter tops, garbage cans and the interior of vehicles to rapidly remove foul odors. Far better than any chemical sprays. It also has the effect of improving your mood. Especially great as a cure for the winter blues.
  12. Alertness, Memory & Cognitive Development –  According to a by Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, Director of Undergraduate Research and associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, WV. Cinnamon may keep you more alert and decrease your frustration when you are behind the wheel.

    This hard to verify German study cited in this article those taking Cinnamon improved their response times and memory recall. While not scientific, our personal experience suggests pretty good results in alertness and concentration.
  13. Anti-oxidant – With an ORAC value of 267536 μmol TE/100g (USDA 2007) cinnamon is one of the top seven anti-oxidants in the world. The suggestion is that Anti-oxidants reduce the formation of " Free Radicals " that cause cancer. A study found Cinnamon has sufficient anti-oxidant properties and makes for improved food palatability.
  14. Weight Reducer – Cinnamon apparently has the effect of thinning your blood thereby increasing blood circulation. Increased blood flow generally boosts your metabolism which is why it may be helpful in weight loss. This blood thinning property of Cinnamon also helps it in acting as an anti clotting agent especially for those suffering from heart disease. However care must be taken to NOT to take it with other blood thinning medication. The main ingredient that causes your blood to thin is Coumarin which is present in high doses in Cassia Cinnamon (4%) but not in Ceylon Cinnamon (0.04%). However Coumarin causes liver damage. So taking Cassia Cinnamon for weight loss may end up causing liver damage.
  15. Massage Therapy – Cinnamon is a well known warming agent. Combined with a carrier oil it is highly effective in relaxing and relieving muscle pain. Some put a few drops in their bath to relax and to sooth tired and aching muscles.
  16. Anti-Fungal – Got a bad case of athletes foot? Perhaps a toe nail fungus? Cinamon's powerful anti fungal properties are the perfect natural alternative to killing the athletes foot fungus. You can use Cinnamon sticks or even better a few drops of powerful Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf Oil (not to exceed 1% cinnamon oil to water) and soak your feet. Usually good results in three days with the oil. Similar results for toe tail fungus.
  17. Lowering LDL cholesterol & triglycerides – According to a Mayo clinic article the only possible way Cinnamon could lower cholesterol is indirectly via how the body processes sugar and fat. But there is no direct effect on cholesterol. Still another study in Pakistan found Cinnamon reduced triglyceride (23-30%), LDL cholesterol (7-27%), and total cholesterol (12-26%). A review in 2011 found The consumption of cinnamon is associated with a statistically significant decrease in levels of total cholesterol, LDL-C, and triglyceride levels, and an increase in HDL-C (the good cholesterol) levels, but qualified it by saying that applying it to patient care is difficult. Still, worth a try in our book.
  18. E-coli Fighter/Salmonella – One of the most effective E-coli fighters because of its anti microbial properties. Mix cinnamon oil with hydrogen peroxide and spray your cutting board and kitchen sink especially after you have cut meats. Spray it in your refrigerator. It’s safe and natural. A  concentration of 2 microl/ml from cinnamon was enough to inactivate Salmonella Enteritidis, E. coli, and L. innocua in apple and pear juices and 8 and 10 microl/ml from cinnamon for melon juice and tryptone soy broth.
  19. Tooth Decay and Gum DiseaseAgain the anti-bacterial properties of Cinnamon play a crucial role in getting rid of harmful bacteria without damaging your teeth or gums. It’s one of the reasons that Cinnamon Oil is often used in chewing gums, mouthwashes, toothpaste and breath mints.
  20. Nutrients –  One teaspoon of Cinnamon Powder (a realistic dose) has 0.33mg (16% DV) Manganese, 0.76 mg (4% DV) Iron, 24.56 mg (2% DV) Calcium.
  21. Insect Repellant – The anti microbial qualities of Cinnamon Leaf oil is often used for head lice treatment, black ant control, bed bugs, dust mites, and roaches. It is well known as a defense against mosquitoes'.
  22. Cold, Sore Throat and Cough At the first sign (within 5-10 minutes) of sniffles or an itch in your throat take some Cinnamon Tea or Cinnamon stick Tea. It is said to stop an impending illness in its tracks. Again this is related to the anti bacterial properties and warming properties of Cinnamon and its propensity to increase blood flow and thereby improve blood oxygen levels to fight illness. Chinese traditional medicine commonly recommends Cinnamon for phlegm coughs.
  23. Alzheimer’s Disease An Israeli study done at the University of Tel Aviv that found sufficient evidence to conclude that Cinnamon can delay the effects of five aggressive strains of Alzheimer's inducing genes. Another study also finds that orally administered Cinnamon extract has had good success in correcting Cognitive Impairment in Alzheimer's Disease in Animal Models.

    The latest finding indicate that two compounds found in cinnamon — cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin — may be effective in fighting Alzheimer's. According to a study by Roshni George and Donald Graves in 2013, two scientists at UC Santa Barbara, Cinnamon has been shown to prevent the development of the filamentous “tangles” found in the brain cells that characterize Alzheimer’s.
  24. PMS - Again because of the high levels of Manganese Cinnamon may be an excellent candidate to mitigate the effects of PMS. According to the University of Maryland web site women who ate 5.6 mg of manganese in their diets each day had fewer mood swings and cramps compared to those who ate only 1 mg of manganese. These results suggest that a manganese rich diet may help reduce symptoms of PMS. Another clinical study found that 46 patients with PMS had significantly lower amounts of calcium, chromium, copper, and manganese in their blood. You should not consume more than 11 mg of Manganese per day (about 12 cinnamon sticks) according NYU. FDA guidelines establishes a daily value of 2mg (about 2 Cinnamon sticks).
  25. Depression/Reduced irritability/Mood Enhancer Ancient folklore says the smell of Cinnamon is the best cure for the winter blues. The only scientific evidence we can find to support this thoery is this study by Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, Director of Undergraduate Research and associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, WV. The study found that the scent of Cinnamon reduced driver irritability.

    But Cinnamon may be an excellent cure for depression in a more round about way. There is some evidence that certain types of gut bacteria may make you more susceptible to depression. Cinnamon as a powerful stomach anti bacterial may help you remove the bad bacteria. However since Cinnamon removes both bad and good bacteria from your stomach you would be advised to repopulate your body with good bacteria by drinking a good probiotic or eating fermented food after taking Cinnamon.

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