it’s the little things

Posted by on January 24, 2011 in cook | 9 comments

I've had a couple three-day weekends in a row, so this measly little two-day weekend felt far too short. I had all sorts of grand ideas for Projects-with-a-capital-P, but ultimately I only ended up doing a couple very small things (besides laundry, grocery shopping and other miscellaneous errands). So this is probably the most exciting blog post you will read all week, I'm sure. 

image from

First of all, I am overwhelmed with the state of our cupboards and closets. So I'm tackling them one at a time and doing some thorough cleaning out, scrubbing down and tossing of junk. I started with the spice/tea & warm drinks/sweeteners and small baking items cupboard. I like all my mis-matched, hand-labeled spice jars, but I also have a spice addiction, and am regularly bringing home new spices. I had organized them pretty well last summer, but the addition of two-tiered lazy susan makes it much easier to find what I'm looking for and fit them neatly into a fairly small space. I actually found a box of chamomile tea with a best before date of 1995. How is that even possible? I don't know, but yuck! Now that I thinned our tea collection down to just a half dozen or so, it's much nicer to make a cup or pot and know that it's relatively fresh and it's a flavor we like. 1995! Yeesh! 

I like this shelf a lot:

image from

Second of all, I don't know if I should even admit this, but I've never made oatmeal from scratch, and had no idea how to do it. I guess I must have known that there were directions on the can, but for some reason I thought it was really complicated and time-consuming. I don't know why, but I guess because I think of oatmeal as weekday breakfast, I was fine with a little packet of gummy, instant oatmeal, dressed up with some brown sugar and dried fruit. In the cleaning of the aforementioned cupboard, I unearthed no less than three containers of oatmeal, two steel-cut and one regular old-fashioned oats. I'll save the old-fashioned for cookies, but decided to try my hand at cooking the steel-cut. Just in case there are other oatmeal novices out there, the ratio is 4:1, boiling water to oatmeal. Just sprinkle in the oats when the water is at a rolling boil and heat to a simmer. Let it cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. I added a dash of salt to the water to get it boiling faster and for flavor. And now, I don't think I can eat those little packets of instant oatmeal ever again. I had a nice warm bowl with a little golden syrup and dried cranberries and almonds and cashews. I never thought I'd get cravings for oatmeal, but I think I might have some for dinner tonight, it was so delicious.

image from
Does anyone else not know how to make something that everyone else probably knows how to make? Am I ridiculous for writing about cleaning a cupboard and making oatmeal? I think I might be, but darn it, opening that cupboard door makes me pretty happy right now. 

And my Shelter yarn from Brooklyn Tweed arrived today, so I will be spending the rest of the evening winding it into balls and starting a new project! 

Oh, and the book of the week (on audio) is Leviathan , which I am really enjoying. It's imaginative and original and a rollicking adventure. 


  1. I cleaned my spice cupboard two weeks ago and it still makes me happy to open it and stare…I love this post!
    As for oatmeal I often eat steel cut oats but if I am in a hurry I heat water to boil in the tea kettle and pulse a scoop of oats in the mini food chopper to cut them to tiny pieces. Then I make it like the instant oatmeal packets–pouring the boiling water into my bowl over the chopped oats. They have to sit in the bowl an extra minute or two and use more boiling water than you’d think.
    You inspire me to learn to knit. Maybe this will be the year!

  2. mmmm, golden syrup…
    I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I have to look up how to hard boil an egg each year before Easter. I can cook a roast dinner, no problem, but I can never remember how long an egg should be boiled…

  3. Clean cupboards are so satisfying, aren't they?! I will try your quick method, since I can't cook four servings of oatmeal for 30 minutes every day, and we won't eat that much. I saved the leftovers and re-heated them later, but it wasn't as good as the fresh. Thanks for the tip! 
    I love knitting, you really should give it a try :o) 

  4. I've seen golden syrup on various UK blogs, and came across a can at a fancy grocery store, so I had to try it. It's so delicious! I might be addicted :o) 
    I'm glad I'm not the only one! I can roast a turkey and make creme brulee, but never made oatmeal? I'm glad I finally just did it. My secret for foolproof boiled eggs-just bring the pan to a boil, and then cover it and turn off the heat and just let it stand for 7 minutes. I sometimes forget and leave them longer, but they always come out good. Of course, if you want soft cooked eggs, you'll have to look up the time, I have no idea how to do that :o) 

  5. you mean there is oatmeal other than the apples & cinammon instant packs!?!?!? i had NO IDEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HAHAHAHA. i don’t cook much so you by far impress me with your skills and the want to make oatmeal. i don’t have the patience i guess. and i once decided to clean out my cabinets like you….it was the same…amazed to find meds from millions of years ago and spices that had no smell anymore…probably not a good sign. 🙂

  6. I know! There's a whole world of oatmeal out there that I had never seen! Cooking it from scratch was ridiculously easy, though. I don't know what was holding me back all this time :o) 
    I cleaned out the medicine chest a year or two ago and found so much expired stuff too! I think it's time for another quick de-cluttering, but it shouldn't be too bad this time.

  7. I bought some organic whole vanilla beans recently. For years I read how to make your own vanilla extract. So tonight I made some with vodka and whole vanilla bean. I’ll let you know if it works out in what, 6 to 9 months. Everyone in the world has done this but me.
    Oatmeal is lovely with a sprinkle of vanilla sugar (that is sugar that has been incased with a vanilla bean in the sugar jar for awhile) or a splash of maple syrup. Welcome to soluble fiber. Or as Alton Brown puts it, “I pity the man that doesn’t eat oatmeal.” Said like Mr. T in the A-Team. lol

  8. Wait, I haven't made vanilla extract yet either! I will be waiting anxiously to hear how it works out. 
    I like brown sugar on my oatmeal too, and I have a sugar container that I add my used vanilla beans to, so I'll have to try that sugar as well. I recently bought some really good maple syrup. I have to keep stopping myself from taking a big swig, it's so good :o) 

  9. I think any effort at cleaning up and getting rid of old stuff you don’t use should be applauded. It made you feel good, didn’t it? I have a beautiful pantry in my kitchen, but it hasn’t been emptied out in five years and I know a bunch of the stuff in there is out of date. You’ve inspired me to tackle at least the top shelf.

say something nice...