It's hard to imagine the holiday season without the aroma of goodies bein' baked, aromas comin' from our kitchens, sendin' delicious smell's throughout our homes. There are certain spices, such as vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, that seem to be the holiday spices.
Bakin' is such an important part of the holidays, and it just wouldn't be the same without these spices. It's hard to find a Christmas cookie or cake or even some candies that don't have at least one of these ingredients in them.
Vanilla - Was brought to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors. Vanilla has a rich flavor and comes in three forms: whole pod, powder, and extract. It is one of the most used flavorin's in the kitchen.
Cinnamon - Is one of the oldest and most used spices in the world. It has a variety of uses and you can find it in most any kitchen. It is made from the bark of a cinnamon tree. Durin' the dryin' period, the bark rolls up into what is known as a cinnamon stick. It is easily recognized by its aroma and adds a warm sweetness to pies, cakes and cookies. It is also used in a lot of meat dishes.
Nutmeg - Is the dried seed of the nutmeg tree. It has a sweet taste and is especially good in puddin's and custards and when makin' French toast. It is best when you grate it yourself from the whole nutmeg.
Cloves - Is one of the earliest spices to be used for trade. Cloves are from Indonesia and are actually dried flower buds. Ground cloves are used for bakin' gingerbread, spice and fruit cakes, nut or raisin bars.
Allspice - Many people believe that allspice is a mix of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg but it is a dried fruit of a small evergreen plant. It is used in cakes, cookies and pies.
You can use a mix of these spices in your cookin' to come up with interestin' flavors or may be used individually. The key is to buy good quality spices that have strong flavors and aromas.
I don't know about you but the smell of any of these spices bakin' in somethin' in my kitchen can bring a whole lot of memories comin' back.
Some of these spices have been around since pertneer the beginnin's of time. And in the last few years I've read about the health benefits associated with certain spices.
Cinnamon can relieve nausea and diarrhea and aids congestion. It is good for circulation of the blood and can warm the body. It helps with digestion and metabolism of fats. It fights fungal infections and is useful for diabetes, weight loss, yeast infection and uterine problems.
Cloves have a antiseptic and anti-parasitic element and can aid digestion.
There are a whole bunch more spices out there with all kinds of medicinal properties to them, and in the olden days people used them for medicine. So just think about this the next time you're makin' up a batch of cinnamon rolls or cinnamon chicken.