Friday, June 19, 2015

5-Minute Microwave Banana Oat Bars & Study Goals

With ten days left until my USMLE Step 2 CK I'm realizing that I need to be using my time more efficiently. With getting home late some days and having end-of-year BBQs and potlucks occupying other evenings, I figure that my best chance at getting in a few solid study hours is in the early morning. So for the next ten days I've committed (in my planner, at least) to waking up early and going to sleep early -- and will be posting somewhat sparsely again (sorry).
usmle step 2 ck studying
At least the days are uber long -- today sunrise is at 5:05 am and sunset is at 10:05 pm (which means the sky stays blue-ish until close to 11 pm!) -- which somehow makes studying a little less soul-sucking.
edmonton sky
5:30 am skies
usmle step 2 ck studying
When I'm busy or running short on groceries (um the past few days) one of my staple lunches is banana oat bars. Essentially they're those two-ingredient cookies you've seen floating around the web, shaped into bar form. I first started making them on my emergency rotation in med school and found it so convenient that they were dense (a high calorie to time-spent-eating ratio), transportable, and kept just fine out of the fridge. They're also cheap and quick and easy to make!
microwave oat bars recipe
While living out of a suitcase in random people's rented rooms while on fourth-year electives I packed banana oat bars along for lunch pretty much every day. This is also my go-to eat-in-the-car meal -- you're not going to end up wearing it when you go to shift gears (not that I wasn't eating yogurt and granola while driving just last on the edge).
microwave oat bars recipe
I tend to make two lunches worth of banana oat bars at a time, by using:
  • 1 cup oatmeal (large flake or quick oats)
  • 1 large banana
Then, depending on what I have on hand, I may add in:
  • dates (my favourite! -- I mash them together with the banana)
  • raisins (carefully -- I've had these burn with microwaving!)
  • chopped almonds
  • desiccated coconut
  • chocolate chips
Because I'm lazy when it comes to doing dishes, I just use one large plate for both preparing and microwaving the bars. I use a fork to mash the banana (+/- dates) on the plate, then pour on the oats and fold them in with a fork (admittedly this step would be easier in a bowl...). I add in any additional ingredients (sometimes none) and use the fork to push the oat mixture into the shape of a large rectangle, about half an inch thick. Using the fork, I slice the rectangle into four smaller ones, push them apart from one another, and push around their edges with the fork to ensure that each is densely formed.
microwave oat bars recipe
ready for the microwave
I pop the plate into the microwave for two minutes, then take it out to flip each bar and push around their edges again with the fork if they're falling apart (careful, hot!). Then back into the microwave they go for another minute. I let the bars cool on the counter to set before sticking them in a ziploc or tupperware for lunch. Easy!
all done (chocolate chips = a little messy, but so worth it!)
I find that two oat bars, plus some veggies or fruit, makes a good-sized lunch for me. I know it doesn't look like much (I was once reproached by a nurse for not eating enough) but there is half a cup of oats in two bars, which is enough to fill me up when it comes to oatmeal. Plus I always have plenty of snacks on hand to eat when I need to!
microwave oat bars recipe
All right, off to pack my lunch! I'll leave you with a gallery of previous oat-bar lunches...
microwave oat bars recipe
microwave oat bars recipe
microwave oat bars recipe
microwave oat bars recipe
cookie-shaped, with raisins...eaten in the ER
microwave oat bars recipe
with dates and almonds
microwave oat bars recipe
with pumpkin (unfortunately not as good a they look -- stick with banana!)
microwave oat bars recipe
cookie-shaped, with cranberries


  1. Can you maybe write a post on how you stay so disciplined? And what´s your secret how to get up early in the mornings? Best of luck with step 2!

    1. Oh gosh I actually think I'm pretty bad at staying disciplined! For brief periods of time (pre-exams) I force myself to stay focused, but it's not without struggle, and is mostly out of desperation because I procrastinated so much in the first place! The things that have helped me most have been: using a planner/study schedule to set daily study/to-do goals (I almost never get everything checked off and that's totally okay), finding a distraction-free location conducive to studying, getting up early to get stuff done, and staying busy with other stuff (I know that's counter-intuitive, but the busier I am, the less free time I have, so the more pressure there is to use that time well!).

      In terms of getting up early in the mornings, you've got to sleep early :) If I'm getting bored of studying in the evening I just go to bed and wake up fresh in the morning (ideally...of course, this doesn't always happen...there are definitely days when I sleep in!). You don't need to wake up at 4 am either (that's kind of crazy and only necessary when I'm really desperate for study time)...just try getting up an hour earlier than usual. Oh and I also try to wake up early on weekends to get some extra productive time in. But if you're not a morning person, don't force yourself to be one -- get your work done at night :)

      Good luck! And thanks for the well wishes!


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