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.

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IMG_0100Barley recommends an overripe banana and heaping tablespoons of Wheat Germ. To add even more protein, use fat-free plain Greek yogurt.

“It’s Cameo White over Rustoleum Yellow,” Barley said as I entered the yard through the back gate. He was in the enclosed porch, or “solarium,” as he calls it, painting the trim. It was fair, sunny, and dry–perfect weather for painting, Barley noted, as I watched him, clad in a white lab coat and matching goggles, repaint the last quarter of the trim. It was like watching a chemist named Bob Ross host a home-improvement show, as he explained that the marigold-colored paint he originally chose clashed with the silver siding. I nodded in agreement, realizing where my artistic eye must come from. Come to think of it, my high school studio art teacher always described my talent as “conscientious.”

Barley, in fact, is very artistically inspired. Travel books and newspapers, his monthly calendar, even matchbooks open all kinds of creative windows for him: Recently, he repaired the top-half of a broken picture frame by putting a waterfront scene inside and securing a window shade, pulled halfway down, to cover up the crack in the glass. For me, it’s inspiring to see how he takes pride in his work just by hanging it on the wall…regardless of how few are lucky enough to witness his genius. He also gave his shed a French Country-style transformation, adorning a vibrant window frame with a flower box full of geraniums. When I was maybe 10 years old, I came home from school to find Barley busy painting a new “tree house” he built for me, meaning it had a bark-brown trunk and a leafy-green roof. It was complete with plexiglass windows and curtains, too. Despite my mother’s incredulousness at the new structure that consumed the side of our backyard, it was rooted in love. And I loved every minute that I spent inside of that thing.

Barley's Artistic To-Dos

One of Barley's artistic to-do lists

When they were ready, we shared Barley’s “Better” Banana Cream Pies at at an outdoor cafe–a bistro table and chairs that he set up for us next to the garden. Simple, wholesome, and delicious, Barley’s recipe is exactly like one of my own. Discovering these commonalities gave me an appetite to discover even more of them, while adding color to my palate and new meaning to the term “comfort food.”

Here’s our little version of creamy white over banana yellow:

3/4 cup organic fat-free plain yogurt
Generous dash pure vanilla extract (we like Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon)
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 medium banana, sliced into 1/2″-thick rounds
2 Tbsp Honey Crunch or Original Toasted Wheat Germ

1. Combine yogurt, vanilla extract, and cinnamon in glass measuring cup.

2. Place banana in small serving bowl. Pour yogurt mixture on top to coat. Garnish with additional cinnamon, if desired.

3. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze 3 hours or until firm.

4.  Top with Wheat Germ before serving.

Makes 1 serving

Per serving: 230 cal, 13 g pro, 48 g carb, 5 g fiber, 2 g fat, 0.5 g sat fat, 4 mg chol, 24 g sugars

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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.

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.