Monday, March 1, 2010

brain food

It was an exceedingly wonderful weekend. Friends came to see me! We kicked off the weekend as every party should be started: with the spoils of some free cheese (thanks, mom and the SMSA), slushes from America's Favorite Drive-In, deep talks, and laughs. Lots and lots of laughs. My heart is warm. Thanks y'all!

Brother also came home this weekend to be studious. Kind of completely different from how I've ever seen him go at it before. But such is the life of a typical college student: long periods of slacking punctuated by brief, intense times of self-flagellation for said slacking by burying oneself alive in books and other study materials. I miss the days. Anyway, I wanted to do my part to help him study, so I googled "brain food" to see what I could cook up. Wheat germ...pass. Brewer's yeast? Who comes up with this stuff? But then...chocolate?! Yeah, I'll admit I kind of skimmed/didn't really pay attention to the rest of the findings once my eyes landed on chocolate (can you blame me?) I knew his favorite baked goods usually include oatmeal and nuts, so out of the pantry jumped chocolate chips and oats and walnuts like magic (seriously). My work was cut out for me.

Dorie came to the rescue, as that miracle-working wonder woman tends to do. (PS: I kind of want to be Dorie when I grow up. But that's just a dream.) Upon first chew, I observed that they tasted a lot like the oatmeal carmelitas introduced to me by the lovely Arijaan...minus the caramel (which I don't always have laying around), but plus three of my favorite words in the English language (which I do always have laying around)--Sweetened. Condensed. Milk. We have been ensconced in blissful unity since last year's southeast Asia sojourn, and my life (and morning coffee) has been so much sweeter (literally) because of you, sweetened condensed milk. Never mind that one can of you used to cost me the equivalent of three bowls of noodles or chicken sandwiches. Worth it!

Brother, here's hoping your study snacks helped you ace your test today!

Brain Food Bars
(adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars)

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9x13 pan with foil, then butter/Pam it well.

oatmeal layer:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups rolled oats (I used quick cooking, but I'm sure old fashioned would be fine too)
1 cup walnuts, chopped (or your nut of choice)

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or hand mixer), beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each one. Beat in the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture on low until just combined. Still on low, stir in the oats and walnuts.

Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the mixture, then press the remaining dough evenly into the prepared pan. Set aside and prep the chocolate part!

chocolate layer:
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (note: not evaporated)
2 cups chocolate chips (can also use 12 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup walnuts, chopped (again, you can use your nut of choice. Dorie also says to add raisins, but I put my foot down.)

In a double boiler, stir together the condensed milk, chocolate, butter, and salt. Keep stirring occasionally until everything is melted together. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and nuts.

Pour the warm chocolate mixture over the oatmeal layer and spread evenly. Scatter the reserved oatmeal mixture over the chocolate.

Bake 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown (it will still be gooey in the middle). Cool in the pan on a rack for 2 hours. At this point, you have a couple options: chill in refrigerator for an hour or so to firm them up some more, or eat as is. Dorie likes them cold, but I opted for the latter. Cut into rectangles, squares, or other brainy shapes.

What are some things that help/have helped you study? (Your answers will be especially helpful because I've got a little GRE action going on in approximately...4 weeks. Oooohhhh no.)


  1. the GRE!? really... dude you are 厉害! love you. and my study-aid: large doses of coffee and ultra buttery popcorn.

  2. calling friends for a much needed study break always helped me....
    hint hint ;)


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