I nodded in agreement. "I know! They're very rich."
I didn't mention that earlier in the day I had consumed two. In a row. I hadn't even really wanted the second one, but the act of resisting the decadent treats for the previous five hours had been disastrous for my iron will. I hadn't been able to stop thinking about them since cutting them that morning. It didn't help that I had to stare at them throughout the entire hour and fifteen minute corporate meeting/pseudo-birthday celebration for my boss. Nor did it help when my colleagues moaned and groaned about how good they were. My mouth was watering like a hose by the time I finally sat down with one after lunch. I shoved it in my trembling oral cavity with reckless abandon and then immediately reached for another that I told myself was "too cute to resist."
Approximately five minutes later, my stomach ached in protest, and I sincerely wished that I had resisted. But the bars were good. Really good. So good that I almost felt guilty for all the hate that I baked into the batter.
I didn't want to make the bars. I don't do a lot of baking in my apartment (iron will issues), so the only dry ingredients I have on hand are oatmeal (for my breakfast), flour (for dredging), and cinnamon (for the aforementioned oatmeal). My cabinets are loaded down with herbs and spices, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and various other items that have nothing to do with destroying my diet. I can bake like a miniature, poncholess Martha, but that doesn't mean I spend my Sunday afternoons toiling away in the kitchen so I can bust the zipper on my skinny jeans. I like to spend my weekends toiling away in front of the television.
Because I don't have loads of baking ingredients idling away in my cupboard, I was slightly resentful when I was charged with the task of bringing in a treat for my boss' birthday celebration. While I knew that I could probably skate by with some stale cupcakes from Ralph's or fake and bake with Nestle Tollhouse refrigerated cookie dough, my pride wouldn't let me do it. "Diana Takes a Bite" does not do store-bought, and I most certainly do not do mixes!
A quick flip through my mom's Great American Brand Name Cookbook brought me face-to-face with the solution to all my lean cabinet woes. I had made the chocolate and oat bars before and knew that they were a relatively simple, yet delectable treat that was sure to impress even the stodgiest of my co-workers. I planned to put a minimal effort into the bars, but pan problems and various other egregious happenings quickly steered me off my no-fuss/no-muss course. I whined. I groaned. And I nearly chucked the whole thing in the garbage when the pan emerged from the oven spewing up the sweetened condensed milk I'd used for the center. My roommate and her boyfriend were more than amused -- convinced that all my negative energy would transfer into the bars by osmosis.
Yet as I sat down to sample one later that evening, I was shocked to discover that my ill will had not impacted the integrity of my baked good at all. Despite my worst intentions, they were more than okay -- a verdict that my boss and fellow co-workers also reached the next day when they begged me to share the recipe.
I suppose those bar-swippers aren't so bad afterall, but I think I'll stick to "Project Runway" reruns next Sunday.
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup quick-cooking oats (I used regular oats)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
6 oz chocolate chips
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1. Grease a 13x9'' pan (except don't use a 13x9'' pan -- there is NO way that batter is making it across a pan that size. I opted to use my roomie's 8.5x11'' glass pan, but I recommend finding one that is slightly bigger if you prefer a thinner bar).
2. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees (325 if using a glass pan).
3. Toast 1 cup chopped walnuts until just fragrant. (Keep a close watch on them so they don't become over toasted and turn bitter!)
4. Mix softened butter with brown sugar. Add flour and oats.
5. Press half of the batter into the pan and bake for 10 minutes (may need to bake a couple minutes longer if using a smaller pan than recipe calls for).
6. Decorate the cookie bottom with chocolate chips, walnuts and sweetened condensed milk (use less than the whole can if using a smaller pan -- gotta make some judgment calls when messing with any recipe!). Cover with the rest of the batter.
7. Return to oven and bake for another 25-30 minutes (again, add more time if using a smaller pan). The bars are done when they are slightly brown on top (see above).
8. Let cool a couple hours before attempting to eat one. Mouth burnage is a serious possibility and these bars taste exceedingly better at room temperature.
9. Serve with milk or tea -- not hate! And do not, under any circumstances, eat more than one in a sitting.