Steel-Cut Oats, part I.

“And in that moment…I swear we were oatmeal.”

Steel-cut oatmeal, that is.

And you are what you eat.

(Also: this is my first official blog post. Perhaps I should celebrate with confetti. Or more oatmeal.)

Before you run away screaming because the sight of the word “oatmeal” conjures up memories of your mother forcing some goop down your throat during the winter months, just let me tell you with confidence that this is no ordinary oatmeal.

Here’s the backstory on how this blessed miracle came to be: my friend Kathryn took her mother’s advice and decided to order steel-cut oatmeal from Amazon. What she didn’t realize, however, was that she received not one, not two, not three, but four boxes (17 servings apiece) of steel-cut oatmeal. The following conversation then occurred:

“Hey, Caty, I have a ton of steel-cut oatmeal. Wanna make some?”

“Sure.”

After all, who am I to refuse a temptation of real breakfast food, especially at 7 in the evening when my brain is already completely fried from classes and midterms?

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Unfortunately, from the photo, you can’t truly appreciate the general uncleanliness and incredibly close quarters of our dorm kitchen. To all those with sanitized, spacious, well-equipped kitchens…count your blessings. Your blessings are probably more commonly known as spoons, hot pads, whisks, baking sheets, strainers, and spatulas.

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There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne.

And it tastes like the breakfast of the angels.

(Or nighttime snack.)

(Do angels even eat?)

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Let’s talk about this for a moment. What makes steel-cut oats different from regular ol’ rolled oats (say that three times fast!)? Steel-cut oats are, according to Wikipedia (yes, I still look up stuff on Wikipedia), the inner portion of the oat kernel. Ooh, fancy. This means they’re less processed and take longer to cook than traditional oatmeal. The extra twenty-odd minutes are absolutely worth it. There’s nothing mushy or runny or – dare I say it – slimy about it.

They’re chewy, satisfying, substantive, definitely “oat-y”, even a little nutty…the way oatmeal should be. Don’t be off-set by the “health food!!” implication. If seasoned correctly, it’s a little like eating an enormous, soft oatmeal cookie with a spoon.

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See? One enormous cookie made on the stove.

Yes, we had to stir with a knife. There was a distinct lack of spoons in any of the drawers. Sigh.

Honestly, though, you don’t even need to pretend you’re eating something sinful. It’s okay to embrace food that just happens to be delicious and healthy at the same time. Who says it needs to be boring? Go bonkers. Spice it up. Sprinkle nutmeg, shower blueberries, smash up bananas, stir in yogurt or granola or nut butter, whatever floats your root beer. Life is too short to eat food that isn’t delicious.

It only took one taste to convert me from traditional oats to the goodness that is steel-cut oats. Thank God Kathryn has over three and a half boxes left.

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Just don’t add any honey. Please, I implore you. Trust me. (or prove me wrong)

Do, however, feel free to add fruit and milk and maple syrup and sugar. And cinnamon. Lots and lots of cinnamon.

Steel-Cut Oats, adapted from the Arrowhead Mills box
(serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 3 cups water
  • dash of  salt – optional, but recommended
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp vanilla extract (or another extract of your choosing, such as almond or hazelnut) – optional

Instructions

  1. Add the oats and salt to water. Add extract and stir briefly. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  2. After the water boils, reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the oats, stirring occasionally, for about 17-25 minutes. The amount of time will depend on how much liquid you like in your oats and whether you prefer them to be chewier (less time) or softer (more time).
  3. Douse with cinnamon, sweetener, fruit, yogurt, or whatever else you desire. Bid “audieu” to all other kinds of oatmeal mush and devour.

(The two middle photos were taken by Kathryn. I bake and then blog about it; she’s the one behind the scenes with an eye for photography, generally artsy ideas, and a fancy iPhone. We make a good team.)

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Bonjour!

I made an important decision today.

I decided to start a blog.

Hi, nice to meet you.

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I’m sorry, I’m shy.

Actually, I’m a little less shy on the Internet than I am in normal human social situations.

Let’s forget about my social anxieties for a minute and get down to business.

To defeat the huns? No. (Well, we can move onto that once you’ve finished reading this post)

I’m Caty. That up there is a picture of my face, or at least most of it. I’m  a poor college student with a passion for music, reading, cats, and food. Once upon a time, my family instilled within me a love of food – all kinds of food. Only I didn’t embrace it at the time because I was still stuck in my “picky eater” stage (although I willingly drank grape fruit juice and ate garlic by the clove). At some point or another, when I realized I either had to eat whatever was in front of me or go to bed hungry, I (sort of) truly began to appreciate food.

You know what I specifically appreciated? Baked goods.

cake

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I mean, I’ve always appreciated them. What kid doesn’t love risking salmonella and sneaking cookie dough behind their mom’s back, or smelling a freshly opened bag of milk chocolate chips, or parking themselves in front of the oven and watching as a cake slowly but surely rises? My favorite dessert as a child were Monster Cookies – oatmeal, peanut butter, M&Ms, chocolate chips, even a little (gasp!) food dye. Mmmmm. Going to the mall was always something exciting – enough persuasion would earn me a hot M&M cookie from Mrs. Field’s. Back then, I didn’t care about the calories or chemicals lurking within the soft dough – all I cared about was the sweetness, the warmth of the crumbs on my tongue, the tantalizing scent that remained on my fingers long after the cookie had disappeared into my digestive system (seriously, though, why has no one made cookie-dough scented perfume yet?).

Then, one day, my mother decided to “retire” from being queen of the kitchen (at least, when it comes to sugary sweets) and set me in charge.

For a while, I was content with box mixes. Easy, simple, delicious – open the box, aim the mixture into a large bowl, add oil, make sure you don’t get any egg shells in the batter, mix it all up for a few minutes, throw it in a pan…and, 35 minutes later, you have pure bliss. Or the “break ‘n’ bake” cookie dough cubes. And store-bought cookies? Nothing beats finding out how many Chips Ahoy! you can fit in your mouth.

Then, a few summers ago, I realized that homemade baked goods completely from scratch not only taste better, they are better. Not only are you liberated from unknown (and unnecessary) ingredients, you get to tweak. You get to experiment, take chances, be a little (or a lot) risky and creative. You are given liberty to completely screw up a dish because you deviated slightly from the recipe even though it sounded incredible in your mind and then have a mental breakdown over the apocalyptic catastrophe, just as long as you collect yourself before you start swearing you’ll never bake again. Yes, you’ll invest more time – but you’ll also invest more love.

Go scratch or go home.

Ok, so I still make exceptions.

angel food

That, my friends, is an exception.

But usually?

I’m a scratch kinda girl.

This blog was inspired by Joy the Baker, who is, in my mind, the queen of clever, relatable, delicious food blogging. In addition, this is a tribute to my grandmother, who, unfortunately, I never knew very well. But we have many things in common – including the preference of red lipstick to any other color, a tendency to laugh very loudly, and a love of baking.

So, this is Cakey Bakes. Because I bake, and sometimes cook (hopefully, this is the beginning of broadening culinary horizons), and want to share it, even if I am an amateur. This is an experiment. This is an endeavor. This is an adventure to embrace mistakes, embrace learning, embrace experience. For the first time in my life, I know I’m ready for this.

I can’t wait to see how everything turns out.