Posts Tagged ‘Skiz’s Original Spice Blends’


I don’t usually reprint articles from other blogs in full, but I thought the information in this particular piece was important enough to share. It comes from the blog of one Joel Fuhrman Ph.D., a New York Times Best-selling author and nutritionist.

Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon 

The two major types of cinnamon used in food preparation are Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum or Cinnamomum zeylanicum), native to Sri Lanka, is also known as “true cinnamon.” This is NOT the predominant spice typically sold as cinnamon in the United States. What is commonly found at your grocer is a closely related and less expensive variety called Cassia cinnamon. Cassia is native to Burma and also grown in China and Vietnam. Cassia is slightly darker in color compared to Ceylon, and has a stronger, more pungent flavor. While both Cassia and Ceylon are derived from the inner bark of Cinnamomum trees, Ceylon cinnamon is preferable. Ceylon cinnamon is considered a finer quality spice due to its sweeter, more delicate and complex flavor.

In addition to flavor, a critical difference between Ceylon and Cassia is the coumarin content of Cassia. Cassia cinnamon is the main source of coumarin in the human diet.1 Coumarin is a naturally occurring toxin which has the potential to damage the liver in high doses. Cassia contains high levels of coumarin, whereas Ceylon contains either undetectable levels or only traces of coumarin.2 Coumarin can cause liver toxicity in several species, and was found to be carcinogenic in rodents.3

Recent studies have revealed that regularly consuming Cassia cinnamon powder could be problematic, resulting in potentially harmful levels of coumarin intake. For example, one study estimated that small children eating oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon a few times a week would exceed the established safe upper limit of exposure. Similarly, they concluded that adults who are heavy consumers of culinary cinnamon or take powdered cinnamon supplements could also reach potentially unsafe doses.3-5

For food preparation, Ceylon cinnamon is the clear choice for health, quality and flavor. Reflecting these standards, Dr. Fuhrman’s Apple Cinnamon Date Nut Bars and Pop’Ems contain Ceylon cinnamon, and powdered Ceylon cinnamon is available on DrFuhrman.com.

Cinnamon promotes healthy blood glucose levels
Cinnamon is one of the oldest and most widely used natural supplements for reducing blood glucose. The bark of Cinnamomum trees contains phytochemicals that enhance insulin signaling and facilitate glucose uptake and storage by the body’s cells.6-9 Supplemental cinnamon powder and cinnamon extracts have been shown in numerous studies to reduce fasting blood glucose in diabetic individuals.10,11

Cinnamon-containing supplements, such as Glucotect, may be used as an adjunct to a high-nutrient eating style and exercise program as described in Dr. Fuhrman’s book The End of Diabetes, to assist those with diabetes in achieving favorable HbA1C and fasting blood glucose. However, when using such a supplement, always take note of the source of the supplemental cinnamon. Most of the human trials that have demonstrated glucose-balancing effects of cinnamon powder have used Cassia. However, powdered Cassia supplements can expose people to excess coumarin.

Although Ceylon cinnamon is preferable for culinary purposes, it hasn’t been adequately studied in humans for its effects on blood glucose levels.12 Water-soluble cinnamon extracts have also been used in several trials and are effective at lowering blood glucose levels. Since coumarin is fat-soluble, water-soluble cinnamon extracts can maximize the active glucose-lowering cinnamon phytochemicals while minimizing or excluding the coumarin.10 For supplements, cinnamon extracts provide the optimal balance of safety and efficacy. Glucotect contains a safe cinnamon extract, plus essential nutrients and additional plant extracts with natural glucose-lowering effects.

1. Woehrlin F, Fry H, Abraham K, et al: Quantification of flavoring constituents in cinnamon: high variation of coumarin in cassia bark from the German retail market and in authentic samples from indonesia. J Agric Food Chem 2010, 58:10568-10575. 
2. Blahova J, Svobodova Z: Assessment of coumarin levels in ground cinnamon available in the Czech retail market. ScientificWorldJournal 2012, 2012:263851. 
3. Fotland TO, Paulsen JE, Sanner T, et al: Risk assessment of coumarin using the bench mark dose (BMD) approach: children in Norway which regularly eat oatmeal porridge with cinnamon may exceed the TDI for coumarin with several folds. Food Chem Toxicol 2012, 50:903-912. 
4. Abraham K, Pfister M, Wohrlin F, et al: Relative bioavailability of coumarin from cinnamon and cinnamon-containing foods compared to isolated coumarin: a four-way crossover study in human volunteers. Mol Nutr Food Res 2011, 55:644-653. 
5. Abraham K, Wohrlin F, Lindtner O, et al: Toxicology and risk assessment of coumarin: focus on human data. Mol Nutr Food Res 2010, 54:228-239. 
6. Nahas R, Moher M: Complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Can Fam Physician 2009, 55:591-596. 
7. Imparl-Radosevich J, Deas S, Polansky MM, et al: Regulation of PTP-1 and insulin receptor kinase by fractions from cinnamon: implications for cinnamon regulation of insulin signalling. Horm Res 1998, 50:177-182. 
8. Jarvill-Taylor KJ, Anderson RA, Graves DJ: A hydroxychalcone derived from cinnamon functions as a mimetic for insulin in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. J Am Coll Nutr 2001, 20:327-336. 
9. Anderson RA, Broadhurst CL, Polansky MM, et al: Isolation and characterization of polyphenol type-A polymers from cinnamon with insulin-like biological activity. J Agric Food Chem 2004, 52:65-70. 
10. Davis PA, Yokoyama W: Cinnamon intake lowers fasting blood glucose: meta-analysis. J Med Food 2011, 14:884-889. 
11. Akilen R, Tsiami A, Devendra D, et al: Cinnamon in glycaemic control: Systematic review and meta analysis. Clin Nutr 2012, 31:609-615. 
12. Ranasinghe P, Jayawardana R, Galappaththy P, et al: Efficacy and safety of ‘true’ cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) as a pharmaceutical agent in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabet Med 2012, 29:1480-1492.

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Cinnamon is a fun spice. While  most people typically use it for sweet applications, I like to use a whole stick in curries and even to subtly flavor rice. The cinnamon we get in Sri Lanka, home of the cinnamon tree, is a dusty light brown that crumbles easily and grinds to a peppery sweet powder. Also try some cinnamon oil sometime, which is the extract of the leaves and much more concentrated in flavor. The ‘cinnamon’ available in the U.S. is more often than not, cassia, a tree of the same family, but much harsher in taste and harder in texture, not to mention darker. Because of the dearth of real cinnamon here, and the exorbitant expense (Penzey’s sells a 4 oz. bag for $11.29), I’ve decided to go into the cinnamon business, and share with you all the amazing Pure Ceylon Cinnamon I get from my cousin in Sri Lanka, who gets it directly from the growers. Cinnamon is one of those products like coconut oil, whose benefits people in the west are just discovering. Sri Lankans use cinnamon on a daily basis–and not just in the morning porridge–and they are all the better off for it. Once you taste real cinnamon, and discover it’s many uses, you will never go back to cassia.

Here’s the 411:

Cinnamon spice of many uses
Cinnamon is the dried bark of the perennial tree of Cinnamom varum syn. C.zeylanicum of the Lauraceae family. True cinnamon is the native to Sri Lanka and originally grown wild in the central hill country of Sri Lanka.  Several species of cinnamon occur sporadically in places such as Kandy, Matale, Belihull Oya, Haputale and the Sinharaja forest range.  Although cinnamon cultivation is presently concentrated along the coastal belt stretching along from Kalutara to Matara, it has also made inroads to the inland of Kalutara, Ambalangoda, Matara and Ratnapura.
There are eight cinnamon species in Sri Lanka. Among them only Cinnamomum verum Presal (C. zeylanicum Blume) is grown commercially. Traditionaly, there were several types of cinnamon categorized based on the taste of the bark in Sri Lanka and they are;
Pani Kurundu
Naga Kurundu Pani Miris Kurundu
Weli Kurundu
Sewala Kurundu
Kahata Kurundu
Pieris Kurundu
As mentioned above Cinnamon provides various outstanding benefits. Cinnamon bark is widely used as a spice and it is largely available in the form of quills which is unique practice to Sri Lanka. Quills are made by rolling the pealed bark and join several of them together to get a pipe like structure of the required length. Other than that pieces of bark are available as chips, quillings or featherings.
Cinnamon is unique plant which has essential oil in leaves, bark and roots but chemical composition of them are completely different from each other. Essential oils are produced from both bark and leaves; major chemical in bark oil is  Cinnamaldehyde and in leaf oil Euginol. It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavoring material. It is also used in many dessert recipes, such as apple pie, doughnuts, and cinnamon buns, tea, hot cocoa, liqueurs, salads, confectionaries, soups, stews and sauces.
In addition, did you ever know that Cinnamon is comprised with innumerable health benefits as well? Followings are some of the health benefits of cinnamon. But it should be noted that before taking cinnamon for medicinal purposes it is wise to consult a doctor as overdoses will lead to complications.
Blood sugar Control:  According to many studies, there is evidence 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.
Anti-Bacterial/Anti Microbial properties:  It is said that Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf Oil is a powerful anti-bacterial and has natural disinfectant properties. According to recent researches, Cinnamon oil has the best anti microbial activity among three oils against Escherichia coli , Staphylococcus aureus , Aspergillus oryzae ,and Penicillium digitatum . Therefore it is wise to use cinnamon leaf oil with water to disinfect kitchen counter tops, sinks, your refrigerator, door knobs, toys and many other things.
Anti-oxidant: Cinnamon is one of the top seven anti-oxidants in the world. Anti- oxidants reduce the formation of Free Radicals that cause cancer and according to researches, Cinnamon has sufficient anti-oxidant properties and makes for improved food palatability.
Weight Reducer: Cinnamon apparently has the effect of blood thinning thereby increasing blood circulation. It is said that increased blood flow generally boosts metabolism which helps in weight loss. This blood thinning property of Cinnamon also acts as an anti clotting agent especially for those suffering from heart disease. However it should be strictly noted that it should not be taken with other blood thinning medication.
Arthritis/Osteoporosis: Drinking Cinnamon tea helps the pain from arthritis and Cinnamon Oil based massage helps to ease the pain. Cinnamon has high levels of Manganese which is used to build bones.
Lowering LDL cholesterol/triglycerides :  LDL is also known as the harmful cholesterol.  Reducing it may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Cognitive Development: Cinnamon improves response times and memory recall.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Cinnamon significantly 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.
Cold, Sore Throat and Cough: At the first sign of sniffles or an itch in the throat, it is advised to take some Cinnamon Tea or Cinnamon stick Tea. This is associated with 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.
Therefore it is worthwhile to incorporate this precious spice “Cinnamon” that can be easily found here in Sri Lanka.


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I originally made my raw and roasted Sri Lankan curry powder at home and gave it out to friends and family, who were the first to encourage me to actually market my brand. When my book came out, this seemed like a no brainer as most of my recipes called for either a raw or roasted curry powder. Since I’m on a mission to promote Sri Lankan food, one of the last undiscovered cuisines of Asia, far and wide, it only makes sense to flog my curry powders. I truly stand behind my product, and firmly believe that these are the most complex and original spice blends you will find anywhere. My family and I cook with them regularly. Not only do they make for delicious dishes, but they also have myriad health benefits as all the spices used have applications in the ancient Ayurvedic system of medicine. In short, this is the real deal.

I started selling my spices exclusively in an artisanal food site called Foodoro.


I also sell them locally at two retail outlets:

The Milk & Honey Market in Baltimore


and Bazaar Spices @ Union Market in DC


Now, I’ve just set up another online store on Open Sky, which I hope you will visit and follow me as I need 20 followers to open the store:


Skiz's Orig.011


Skiz's original logo

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Rice & Curry Cover Final

Only one year ago I opened the New York Times to discover that my humble, little cookbook, Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking, had made that esteemed publication’s list of most notable cookbooks of the year. Such recognition came as icing on the cake, the culmination of a long journey for me as well as the realization of a life-long dream–to learn to cook the cuisine I grew up on and to introduce this food to the world. In the past year, I have done just that, hosting Sri Lankan Supper Clubs in New York, Baltimore, DC, Chicago, Sonoma, and San Francisco; conducting Sri Lankan cooking classes; participating in food seminars and events such as the recent CIA World’s of Flavor Conference in Napa; and spreading the gospel of curry with my own small-batch spice blends, Skiz’s Original. The book has also performed far above my expectations sales-wise, and is well into the second printing. If you haven’t copped your copy yet, it makes a perfect (and cheap) holiday gift, on sale at Amazon right now for only $13.57!!!


Skiz's original logo

In order to help promote the book, I also started making my own blend of Sri Lankan roasted curry powder, which is essential to many of the recipes in the book (I also do a raw curry powder). Now Skiz’s Original Spice Blends has assumed a life of its own, and sells through word of mouth through the artisanal food site, Foodoro.com. In 2013, I hope to expand the reach of my curry powder and bring it to store shelves. Until then, you can still order it at the link below. (If you live outside the U.S. contact me directly at curryfiend@gmail.com so I can work out international shipping.)


Coming from a media background (journalism, music, film, and TV), I am thankful to have had this opportunity to make a small splash in the world of food, and I hope to continue to do so in the years to come. As someone who is inspired by a passion for what I do, my main aim is not for money, but to spread an appreciation not only for Sri Lankan food, but for the country as well. This land, after all, is where my parents were born, and though I am a hyphenated American, the eastern values that my parents instilled in me make me proud to claim the Sri Lankan part of my heritage. Though we are not Christians, my family here has come to celebrate Christmas, and we often give each other gifts that are hand-made in order to bypass the more crass and commercial aspects of the holiday. So in keeping with that spirit, I offer these things that I have made to all of you–my larger family who have followed me on this blog. And I wish you all a safe, pleasant and peaceful holiday season filled with happiness and cheer!


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A serious week of eating in and around the Bay Area was capped off by yet another Sri Lankan Supper Club last week as I introduced this food mecca to something which is a bit of a rarity around these parts—rice & curry. In the interests of full-disclosure, there is a Sri Lankan restaurant located about 45 minutes outside the city, but this is the first time San Francisco residents could venture down to the iconic neighborhood of Haight Ashbury and have a full, traditional island meal which included heirloom red rice direct from Sri Lanka (courtesy of Rural Returns) as well as a very special Sri Lankan cocktail called the Aria—with Arrack (courtesy of White Lion V.S.O.A.), lime juice, palm sugar and water.


Outside the BBF Wholesale & Mercantile Store at 1740 Haight St., San Francisco

The event was co-sponsored by Buyer’s Best Friend, a broker for small artisanal food producers (like myself), who have recently opened a store on the Haight, and are about to open a couple more locations around the city. The BBF Wholesale & Mercantile Store provides an intimate, homey environment for discovering new, small-batch products like Skiz’s Original Spice Blends, and the best part of the experience is that everything is open for tasting, sampling, touching or sniffing. So while the staff was busy arranging a single long table and laying place settings, supper club attendees could browse the various merchandise racks while enjoying a complimentary cocktail courtesy of White Lion V.S.O.A (which stands for Very Special Old Arrack), which is available now in SF and LA.


Skiz’s Original Sri Lankan Roasted Curry Powder — available through BBF

In addition to red rice, I also prepared chicken curry, fish ambul thiyal, dahl, mallun (sautéed greens), a beet curry, salad, and fish cutlets for the appetizer.  I also made Caramel Pudding, the Sri Lankan version of flan for dessert. The recipes for all of these dishes may be found in my cookbook, Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking (Hippocrene Books, 2011) As the dinner was served buffet style, plates were piled high, and the 30 in attendance did serious justice to all the food, leaving very little in the way of leftovers, which was a very good sign.


some satisfied customers

Despite all the planning and work that goes into these events, the dinner was a blast! I saw many old friends, whom I had not seen in a while, made some new ones, and threw back some good food and drink while introducing Sri Lankan food, one plate at a time, to an eager and enthusiastic bunch of eaters.


My music crew: Dub Gabriel, Professor Shehab, me, Sean Leonard

Thanks to Joyce & Adam at BBF for letting me cook in their kitchen and serve dinner in their store, Anna & Shea for helping with the cooking and logistics, and my good friends, Sean, Sassan, Gabe, Kelly & Laurie, who did a lot of work behind-the-scenes, and really helped make this dinner a big hit! Also thanks to Rural Returns and White Lion for co-sponsoring the event.

All photos by Kelly Freedman


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Book sales are brisk thanks to all of you who have bought a copy of “Rice & Curry,” and supported this project from the beginning. I have also been cooking Sri Lankan food at dinner parties all over the country, introducing people to this last great undiscovered cuisine of Asia. If you would like me to come out to your town, and stink up your kitchen, send me an email at curryfiend@gmail.com, and we can discuss how to make that happen.

The latest good news I have received is that a Kindle edition of the book is now available at Amazon! I might have to buy a Kindle just to see how it looks! Anyway, if the Kindle is your machine, you might want to check out this link:


Meanwhile, sales of my spice blends have also spiked since the book was released, which shows that people are taking the time to try my recipes with some authentic Sri Lankan spices. Coming soon to store near you, but right now, you can buy Skiz’s Original Spice Blends at:



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I originally started making my own curry powder just for fun. As someone who’s always been interested in spices, it was a way to recreate the flavors I’ve known since childhood when my mother used to make rice and curry. Then I started to get really positive feedback from family, and then friends about my spice blends (Sri Lankans use a roasted blend for meat and fish curries and raw blend for vegetables). Why not package it and sell it, I thought.

Now with my cookbook released, this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of my pre-made spice blends, which are hand-crafted in small batches, salt-free, and gluten-free, and sold through two online gourmet food sites:



Since most of the recipes in the book use these blends, my spices will save you a lot of time when you actually get down to cooking some rice and curry in your very own kitchen.

Maryland Public TV got a whiff of my curry powder at a local store where I sell it. They contacted me soon afterwards to do a small piece about it in their show “Your Money And Business.” My segment starts at around 19:40.



Skiz's Original, available online at Foodoro.com or Foodzie.com

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