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I’m delivering a freshly baked batch to Barley tomorrow. For a more decadent dozen, add antioxidant-rich dark chocolate chips to the batter.

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup safflower or canola oil
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup natural cane sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 omega-3-enriched eggs
1 1/2 cups finely grated gold zucchini (about 1 1/2 medium)*

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line or coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

2. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg in large bowl.

3. Beat oil, sugars, and vanilla extract until well combined, adding eggs one at a time, about 2 minutes. Add zucchini, then flour mixture, in batches, until just combined.

4. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Bake 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins

Per muffin: 189 cal, 3 g pro, 22 g carb, 2.5 g fiber, 11 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat, 36 mg chol, 12 g sugars

*Gold zucchini yield a slightly softer muffin,  but green are just as moist and tasty.


My ever-patient, best childhood friend picked me up from the train…again. And as we drove past Barley’s house to find a parking spot, I knew he’d be there–I could see into the screen door. Moments before visits like these, there’s a certain feeling that takes hold of my stomach. Kind of like anxious butterflies. Not like the first-day-of-school butterflies I had this week, but more like the fluttering anticipation of bittersweetness. Days spent with Barley are a melt-in-your-mind experience, followed by the bitter aftertaste of separation. It’s really no wonder I love chocolate; I love just like chocolate.

Upon greeting, Barley closes his eyes as I hug him and I can’t help but wonder when the last time he had one was. A real, no frills, I-love-you hug. Not one of those nice-to-see-you, pity hugs. He knew I was planning to come sometime soon–I wrote it in my last postcard–but he is always pleasantly surprised to see his youngest, just like any other Dad.

There’s hardly time or space to paint a complete portrait of the day, but here are a few bittersweet things I learned about Barley during my visit:

1) Barley has a drawer (with my name on it) which houses all of the mail I send him, or anything that makes him think of me, really. From my college football team’s scores (dating back to my years there) to magazine mastheads bearing my name.

2) Barley now keeps a key (with my name on it) in a secret hiding spot just for me. (He also kept the note I left in the mailbox the last time I couldn’t get in, right next to an old Christmas present that I gave him. He has since rewrapped it in the same paper and labeled its contents for safekeeping.)

3) Barley’s oven broke awhile back and although it was fixed, he hasn’t really baked since. He’s going to test it out before my next visit, so that we can start baking together. (Likely something with dark chocolate.)

A prized card and wrapper from chocolate I once sent to Barley, and a comic strip that made him think of me.

Shaped like biscotti, these omega-3-packed treats crumble like cookies:

1 cup oat flour*
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond meal**
3/4 cup natural cane sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 omega-3-enriched eggs
1 cup canola oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup chopped toasted almonds
1/2 cup sweetened, dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat lightly with oil. Set aside.

2. Combine flours, almond meal, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in large bowl.

3. Whisk eggs, oil, and vanilla and almond extracts in small bowl.

4. Make a well in center of flour mixture. Add egg mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in cranberries and almonds.

5. Place dough on prepared baking sheet and shape into a flat loaf using hands. Bake until light brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

6. Use a serrated knife to cut loaf into 1/2″-thick slices, cutting longer pieces in half. Lay flat on baking sheet and bake, in batches, 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Makes 2 dozen pieces (halved)

Per piece: 210 cal, 4 g pro, 20 carb, 2 g fiber, 13.5 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat, 27 mg chol, 8 g sugars

*Make your own oat flour using old-fashioned oats in a food processor.
Make your own almond meal using raw almonds in a food processor.

–Recipe inspired from Organic and Chic by Sarah Magid.

This weekend marks my second attempt to bake with my Dad, Barley, since I tried to visit him in the winter. Last time, a best friend graciously picked me up from the train station, and even stopped so that I could get eggs and walnuts on the way. I was hoping to learn how to make his Cinnamon-Walnut Foldovers, a cookie that he used to bake around the holidays.  I knew it would be a challenge, because that was back when Barley used real butter, but as a food and health editor, I thought we could put our heads together and come up with a just-as-tasty, butterless version.

After ringing the doorbell multiple times, I searched the garage hiding spot for the key, while my friend patiently waited–one of the few friends who, like me, can find the comedy in these situations. (Growing up next door to me, Barley was once a close friend of her parents, and she still calls him “Uncle.”) I couldn’t find the key amidst all of the “collectibles” Barley finds when he’s out on his many walking excursions. Plus, now that his big blue Volkswagen Vanagon no longer runs, it’s permanently parked  in my grandmother’s garage, leaving little room for wedging oneself around the clutter. I told my friend that I would just wait, it wasn’t that cold, and Barley would be back soon, I just knew it.

Eventually, she drove me back to the train station, in exchange for a dozen eggs. I later learned that Barley was home, just napping, or “recharging his batteries,” as he often does. So this time, instead of buying ingredients, I’m bringing Crumbly Cranberry-Almond Biscotti with me. Here’s hoping I don’t have to enjoy it all by myself!