The oats in these snack-size cookies are full of heart-healthy omega-3s. For an even bigger dose, substitute ¼ cup ground flaxseed for ¼ cup oats.

Barley and I finally baked together.

I’ll say it again with enthusiasm: Barley and I finally baked together!

It’s not that Barley really didn’t want to, or doesn’t like to bake. In fact, it’s quite the contrary—deep down, Barley loves to bake —but baked goods simply don’t fit into his rigid food pyramid.

I’d been preheating the idea on low for months. “But Dad, together, we can make baked goods healthy!” I pleaded. But there was always an excuse–it was too mild outside, baked goods don’t do the body any good, the oven was too fickle… even though it had been repaired. (Ever since the oven conked out on Barley mid-yeast cake rising last year, he has been skeptical about using it, as though the oven is controlled by something other than age.)

For whatever reason–perhaps the chill in the air was just right, Barley missed baking for the holidays like he used to, or that his baked potatoes have been doing just that–when I visited him last, the stars aligned. “Well, alright,” Barley nodded when I posed the idea, surprisingly enough, on a day that even I didn’t feel like baking. But I happily, quickly, pulled out the ingredients I had brought over in the fall before he could change his mind—oats, ground flaxseed, whole wheat pastry flour—the latter two instantly peaking Barley’s curiosity by adding new specials to his usual menu of ingredients. He contributed the rest: cinnamon, vanilla extract, canola oil, brown sugar, chocolate chips, and most notably, whole walnuts. When I tried to deter him from shelling the entire bag, claiming that it “takes too long” in my New York state of mind, I soon realized that nothing takes too long for Barley, and certainly not spending time with me. This is a man who soaks his beans for hours rather than using canned. Time is but a continuum.

Before I was even finished mixing the dry ingredients, Barley had shelled every walnut in the recycled Planters peanut jar.  When I suggested toasting the nuts (as I normally do), Barley looked in a book to ensure my 350 degree suggestion was accurate, not just approximate. I taught him that we’d know the nuts were done when they became fragrant; afterward, he taught me to stop and smell the pestle he used to grind the nuts. Fragrant indeed.  Normally, in my haste, I use a food processor and never have the chance to smell the blade. And to my surprise, the shelled walnuts tasted so much more organic, well-rounded, and well, whole.  So-this-is-what-a-walnut-really-tastes-like kind of flavor.  Kind of like the way getting to know Barley really feels like. “See what I mean about these walnuts?” Barley asked. I sure did.

I’m still trying to convince Barley to teach me how to make my grandmother’s crumb cake the old-fashioned way, with (gasp) real butter, so that we can come up with a better-for-you version.  It might (sigh) take some time.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chippers

1/2 cup canola or safflower oil
1 omega-3-enriched egg
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, or almonds), toasted

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Whisk oil, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in medium bowl until smooth. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in large bowl. Add oil mixture to bowl with flour mixture. Mix in oats, chocolate chips and nuts.

3. Chill dough 15 minutes in refrigerator.

4. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop cookies 1” inch apart using rounded tablespoonfuls.

5. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are just golden. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Per cookie: 92 cal, 1 g pro, 10 g carb, 1 g fiber, 6 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 6 mg chol, 5 g sugars

*Toast nuts at 350°F 5 to 7 minutes or until fragrant and slightly golden.

My grandmother's basement is full of old treasures.