Cinnamon-Vanilla Oatmeal

cinnvanoatmeal1 So… It’s been a month (or more) since I posted here, and a lot has happened. I’ve been busy, went to three weddings, visited with ton of family, and celebrated lots of fun things, like the fourth of July. This summer is just so busy, I’m not even sure what to do about it. On top of this mass amount of travel, celebration and busyness I’ve taken an amazing apprenticeship over on I am loving every minute of it. I’m learning so much and getting so many opportunities to try delicious food. Check out my posts over there, all summer long – I’ll be once or twice a week throughout the summer – and I’ve got some really great pieces on the horizon! I’ll try to cross post a bit, or give you a roundup periodically.

cinnvanoatmeal2 Another thing that’s been getting to me? This summer’s heat. I’ve been barely cooking – have on hand salads and delivery seem to be BF’s and my primary food recently, I don’t have the motivation to cook and nothing has been inspiring me. So, alas, my information for here has been, lacking. I mostly just want to spend my afternoons napping and my evenings drinking icy glasses of white wine. Our poor kitten is straight up melting, I don’t think she’s been doing much of anything at all, aside from drinking lots of water, which I occasionally add ice cubes to; she can’t sweat I should give her some way to cool off.

cinnvanoatmeal3 As I write this post I have a baking project looming large and sauna like – a train cake for my favorite little boy’s fourth birthday. He has requested a red Thomas, and I so clearly must oblige. This evening I will make the cake, tomorrow I will frost it, and Saturday will see the birthday boy in all of his glory. Blowing out candles and being fiercely awesome. I’m trying out a few all natural dyes for his colors too, since the artificial ones make him crazy. The brand I’m trying is called India Tree – I’m hoping it gives me some strong, true, colors.

cinnvanoatmeal4 In mid-June when it was cold and rainy (and I would have given anything for this heat) I made a lot of this cinnamon-vanilla oatmeal. It’s my own creation, and it’s only masquerading as healthy food. The oatmeal, the cinnamon, the vanilla, the golden raisins, it all comes together in a sublime breakfast that truly can’t be topped. I definitely think this will be back in the fall, when the air is cooler and there isn’t enough heat that going outside makes me instantly need a shower.
cinnvanoatmeal5 Cinnamon-Vanilla Oatmeal
Note: I usually follow the ratio recipe on the Oatmeal box when I make oats, the addition of things is of course my modification. I find this makes two large portions, but if you like smaller bowls it would comfortably serve four, especially if accompanied by a fried egg or some toast.

  • 1 1/2 cups quick or rolled oats
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4-1/2 cup golden raisins (I do two medium handfuls)s
  • 1 scant Tbs cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla (I use vanilla bean paste)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2-4 Pats(?) salted butter
  • Cream, optional but it really adds something
  • Bring the water and salt to a rolling boil. Add the oats and raisins. Stir gently to evenly dampen everything. Let cook 1-2 minutes, until oats are soft.
  • Mix in the cinnamon, vanilla and brown sugar. I like to mix my oatmeal a lot so it comes out like risotto – really starchy and delicious.
  • Serve the oats. Tuck a pat of butter into each bowl as you serve it. The creaminess and saltiness of the butter really make this a perfect dish.
  • Top with a drizzle of cream and a few raisins.
  • This is not your mother’s oatmeal. But it’s so good, and a perfect breakfast – well if you like oatmeal. or cinnamon. or vanilla. or raisins.

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake: A Sweet Bitter Cake for a Sweet Bitter Feeling.

Some days are just bad. You wake up feeling blue and it continues until you finally stop moping and DO SOMETHING about it. I feel that way a lot recently – looking for work is a challenging and depressing venture with a lot of grasping straws and missed opportunities, or worse just not being good enough. That’s how I feel most of the time, not good enough. I keep hoping that something will change with every job application I submit but with every rejection (and there are a lot) I just feel overwhelmed. I feel like finding full time work that I find meaningful isn’t going to happen. So I retire to my kitchen and I bake. I listen to music and empty my mind a bit. The repetition of measuring, mixing, kneading, frosting – whatever is soothing and comforting. Like cuddling up to a good book, I know that kitchen time can make me feel better. So I try to force myself into the kitchen to bake, or cook, or just… be.


This cake is one of those I need to bake cakes. It got me into the kitchen and out of my head – singing along to some good music and methodically measuring out ingredients. I was soothed by the repetition – also the leftover grapefruit syrup, which made a delicious cocktail. I was calmed by the familiarity. Recently I’ve been toying with the idea of grad school, but, honestly, I was not such a great student in college – my grades will hinder my grad school chances. How do I resolve that? I’ve been thinking going back to school for another BA, this was met by vehement and loud nos from all my grad school graduate friends. But I’m at a loss. I just feel not good enough for anything. Maybe I’ve lost perspective. Or maybe I should just eat more cake.


I should eat more of this cake. It’s not too sweet so you can eat a lot of it without falling into a sugar coma and with the grapefruit comes a subtle tang of bitterness that makes it a standout in really decadent ways. But – there’s no butter, it’s an olive oil cake and the citrus in it is only enhanced by the fruity oil. It fits exactly what I’m looking for in a cake right now – it’s unassuming and it delivers a lovely punch. It is a cake for tea time or dessert or breakfast or elevensies (the dictionary for WordPress tells me this is not a word. WordPress you are WRONG). Make it. Eat it. Indulge in it. But make extra of the grapefruit syrup and make a gin cocktail with it. I’ll come help you drink it.


I actually didn’t change a thing from Joanne’s recipe over on her blog, Eats Well With Others (she waited for her cake to cool completely before glazing, I didn’t – my time was tight). So just follow that. Then send me some of the cake. I could use a touch of sweet in my life.

Celebration Cakes


My birthday lands right at the beginning of April – it’s a time when the temperatures can jump from 75 to 45 in a single afternoon and there’s more likely than not going to be a blizzard. Every year I keep my fingers crossed for a nice warm birthday – where I can wear a sleeveless dress and flip flops. I wish for a birthday that will see me sipping a cocktail on some patio in the warm rays of an afternoon. This is all entirely unrealistic. So, instead I settle for giving myself a day of baking – the kitchen is always warm with the oven on and it is quite sunny.


Each year I see my birthday as a baking challenge – a chance to try something I haven’t tried before that I’m daunted by. My birthday is an opportunity to try those recipes that could be potential flops – that way if I mess up someone’s birthday cake it’s MY birthday cake. No harm no foul, right? This year was no different. EXCEPT instead of going out for dinner with BF and my sister I chose to conquer Momofuku Milk Bar.


I threw a dinner party. I made a ton of pasta and asiago cheese riddled focaccia. I invited BF’s and my favorite people over, we drank wine and ate good food. Dan and Mandi made a great sauce that went perfect with the I-drank-too-much-wine-last-night day that followed. Megan made a lovely spinach salad and there was liberal pouring of wine and beer. It was, truly, the best birthday I could ask for. But, in my brilliance, I decided that making two cakes that both required at least three separate pre-made ingredients and a whole bunch of love was the best way to top off this grand evening of debauchery.


I made both of these cakes pretty much exactly according to the recipes – my variation was that I used liquid cheesecake in the chocolate chip cake instead of passion fruit curd. The cheesecake was WAY more accessible. I’m not sharing these recipes today – they are too complex and my pictures are MIA as my hands were typically too much of a mess to photo-document this process. SO all we have left of this cake is a remnant and these pictures. There were twelve of us at the party. We ate most of both of these cakes. I loved them.

And I will assuredly be baking from Momofuku Milk Bar again soon.

On My Shelf: The Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook


Sometimes you need something to aspire to. Sometimes you need to step out of your comfort zone and just have a book that you can look at and know, with certainty, that it’s a hair out of your range.  That is why I own the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook.  I find this book incredibly daunting – like a giant sundae when I’ve already had too much to eat. But I can’t stop myself from picking it up every few months and thinking I should give it a try.


For the record – I’m usually a show no fear kind of cook.  I’ll try anything at least once – I’ve made my own bacon and babysat my own sourdough starter so I always think I can handle this cookbook. Which means I pull it out and look up a cake – now a cake in this book has at least four separate ingredients that must be cooked/mixed/pureed/blended before I even consider the possibility of putting it together. I did mention I found the book daunting, ya?


Most people look at this book for the pictures I think – okay the crack pie is fantastic and the compost cookies are extraordinary but the rest of the book is meticulous. Everything is weighed and soothed into the rest of the ingredients. But maybe that’s why I love it, it’s a book of challenges and dares me to break my boundaries a little bit.


I do plan on actually tackling a few of these recipes in the next couple weeks – I’ll share my results. Don’t you worry. Though I’m still a tad intimidated, at least I’m building my own birthday cake so I won’t wreck someone else’s birthday, right?

Candied Ginger

candiedginger_1There have been a few very fortuitous things happening for me recently – not in actual life, but here on Kathy Can Cook. First, my sister offered to write me a guest post on ginger, which I jumped at of course! Second, Jess asked me to help her make a cocktail with candied ginger in it. Third, I was invited to A Spoonful of Ginger at the MFA to help benefit the Joslin Center for Diabetes Research. So, obviously, there was a need for a BLOG SERIES.

candiedginger_2 So, candied ginger. Candied ginger is a perfect snack or palate cleanser, it’s a moment of sharp heat and sweetness when you need it most. It’s great in cookies, cocktails, and on it’s own. It’s basically magic (the ginger syrup that you get as a byproduct is pretty awesome as well). My sister had a couple of good comments on candied ginger on her post about ginger too – go read up on it!

candiedginger_3 I ended up making this because I just needed to. I read the recipe that Jess had chosen (she posted the full cocktail on her blog) to highlight, essentially a dark and stormy – but infinitely better. So I read the recipe and noted that there was A LOT of fresh ginger being used – two large hands is nothing to sneeze at. But I did it, peeled and chopped two hands of ginger, and got roughly a quart of peeled ginger that was BEAUTIFUL, bright yellow, and lovely.

candiedginger_4 I don’t know that I will buy premade candied ginger again – because here’s the thing, this was perfect. It tasted fresh and gingery, it had that sharp ginger flavor without a weird old ginger aftertaste and I totally could have made a small amount. I also loved that I didn’t have to coat it in sugar, and make it candy sweet, if I didn’t want to.

Candied Ginger
Note: This recipe is adapted from a recipe that Jess got for a Goslings Rum and Ginger Cocktail, created by Ming Tsai. I am sharing only the recipe for candied ginger, because it was AWESOME, you can see the cocktail over on Jess’s blog.

  • 2 cups ginger, roughly two medium hands or one large one
  • 4 cups sugar, plus 1 1/2-2 cups for sugaring
  • 2 cups water
  • Peel and cut your ginger. I find ginger is easiest to peel with a spoon, you can run the tip of a spoon right over the skin and it’ll fall off, this also works for those little nubbins and nooks where a peeler or knife wouldn’t fit.
  • To cut the ginger cut it unto 1/8 inch thick rounds or strips, either will work one way you’ll see the fibrous ends of the ginger and it’ll be a little bit rougher and with the grain you’ll get smoother pieces but they’ll be tougher.
  • Combine the chopped ginger, 4 cups of sugar, and water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring this to a simmer.
  • Reduce the heat to low and allow the ginger syrup to simmer for 10-15 mins, until it is about 1/3 reduced
  • Preheat the oven to 200 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the syrup into a heatproof bowl. Reserve this syrup, it’s great in club soda as homemade ginger ale.
  • Combine the strained ginger and the rest of your sugar in a large bowl – gently toss the ginger with the sugar until it’s sparkly with sugar and mostly separate pieces. I found that a pair of gloves would be ideal here.
  • Spread the ginger in a single layer on your prepared baking sheet and put it on a middle rack in the oven.
  • Bake the ginger for 3 1/2-4 hours, rotating it occasionally. The ginger will be mostly dried out after this.
  • Allow the ginger to cool completely before touching it. MOLTEN SUGAR IS HOT. I left mine in the cooling oven overnight, and it was perfect the next day.
  • Break the ginger apart gently, this is easily done using a gentle pressure and pinching the piece of ginger between your fingertips – they should fall right apart.
  • Enjoy! I love to add a touch of the syrup and a couple slices of the candied ginger to lemon tea, or club soda (with a splash of rum).