Culinary Corner: Eating thru exams

It’s that time of year again: Finals week is nearly here and Ephs everywhere are buckling down and getting ready to take on their many projects, papers and exams. What does this mean for hardworking, studious Ephs? Well, with food-friendly libraries and below-freezing weather outside, students tend to stock up and live on snacks in the cozy carrels of Sawyer and Schow so as not to interrupt their studying – or face the cold to get a bite to eat. With that in mind, I took on the challenge of preparing some finals week-style noms.

Finals week snacks should be easy and quick. That’s why, when I heard the chocolate chip cookie dough truffles my entrymates made for entry snacks last weekend didn’t require an oven, I knew that they’d be perfect for reading period. My friends used a simple recipe they found online and were able to scavenge the (pretty standard) ingredients left over from entry snacks in weeks past. All you need to do is mix flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, butter, milk, vanilla and chocolate chips and roll the dough into small, bite-sized balls. If you insert a popsicle stick into each truffle, you don’t have to get your hands dirty once you eat them and can therefore prevent messy smudges on your notes or laptop keyboard. If you have extra time, consider rolling the balls around in a bowl of rainbow sprinkles, which keeps them colorful and undoubtedly will brighten anyone’s mood after hours in the library.

Other than cookie dough, my entry is very big on sandwiches. One of my entrymates introduced me to English muffins, sliced in half and toasted and spread with butter and honey on top. To keep it warm, just wrap it in tinfoil, but these definitely taste good at room temperature as well. For entry snacks one Sunday, two of my friends made Nutella-banana sandwiches on challah bread, perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth. They added some butter and cinnamon for extra flavor and grilled the sandwiches panini-style, which also tastes amazing.

Another sweet option, inspired by the dessert served at the Williams College Jewish Association’s Shabbat dinner last Friday, is puppy chow. You melt peanut butter, butter and chocolate chips in the microwave, stir the mixture and add a little bit of vanilla, if you have any. Then, take the bowl of cereal or mix of your choice – Chex Mix is the standard, but some prefer Crispix cereal or a personalized mix of your favorite snacks – and pour the mixture on top, mixing everything together until all the solid bits are covered. Next, fill a large Ziploc bag (or small garbage bag for a large batch of puppy chow) with powdered sugar and put what you’ve already made into the bag. Shake the bag until the puppy chow looks evenly coated in white powder, and put it in the refrigerator for as long as it takes to harden. Though it’s a little time consuming to prepare, it’s very rewarding once it’s done and very filling, making it last a long time.

If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to these treats, your best bet is to go with fruits. Grabbing bananas from the dining hall and investing in a small container of your favorite peanut butter can really pay off. Bananas are abundant in potassium, a mineral very important to brain function, and peanut butter is loaded with protein, which is not only good for you but also very filling. Also, if you pre-cut strawberries or pre-slice apples before you start working, you won’t be left with any inconvenient bits to compost when you’re done eating. I also especially recommend kiwis because they’re in season during this time of year and clementines are said to help wake you up, which can be extremely useful in the late hours of the night.

Other practical options include ready-made snacks you can pop right into the oven. My personal favorite is the Nestlé Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie dough that comes already cut into squares. All you have to do is separate them, place them evenly on a tray and slide the tray into the oven. They’re impossible to mess up unless you make a mistake with the temperature or slip up setting the timer. The standard package comes with 20 squares, or 20 cookies, and takes less than 20 minutes to bake.

If you’re in your room and feel like taking a study break with friends, I recommend making “dirt.” All you have to do is grab some chocolate Jell-O or pudding, crumble some Oreo cookies and sprinkle the bits on top and stick some gummy worms in the cup. These are very quick to make, though a little messy from the cookie crumbles, but definitely more fun to make and eat with fellow Ephs than by yourself.

Finals week snacks can be lifesavers during such a serious and stressful time, so I hope these ideas will inspire you to go out and make some of your own snacks. Though it might be tempting to stay in all day, don’t forget to emerge from your carrel or room once in a while and take a break over some real meals with other Ephs.