Tuck bakes up the perfect food

In a perfect world, there would be a snack that was cheap, healthy, delicious and dead easy to make, and would help you lose weight and lower your cholesterol level.

Well, my friends, the world isn’t perfect (insert anti-Trump diatribe here), but the snack exists. For years, when I was a competitive athlete, it was my go-to afternoon snack and post-dinner dessert, and it helped me maintain a body weight 25 pounds below my natural set-point, partly because it’s so healthy—a veritable greatest hits list of superfoods—and partly because it’s so tasty you can curb your lust for the bad stuff: the brownies, the carrot cake, the tiramisu.

This recipe takes absolutely no skills. All you need is a cookie sheet with sides, two bowls, a stirring spoon (I prefer a French whisk), an oven and the ingredients.

Tuck’s Perfect Food

Dry stuff:

3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (it behaves just like white flour)

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup oat bran (the cholesterol killer)

1/2 cup flax seed meal

1/2 cup brewer’s yeast

wheat germ, to your liking

2 teaspoons lecithin

5 cups rolled oats

4 cups cranberries/raisins, in any ratio

Nuts, any variety, to your liking

Wet stuff:

1 cup olive oil

20 oz., or one normal-size jar applesauce

2 cups brown sugar, loose

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1) Mix all the dry stuff in a large bowl. 2) Mix all the wet stuff in a small(er) bowl. 3) Add the wet stuff to the dry stuff. 4) Spread mixture on a walled cookie sheet. 5) Damn, you forgot to preheat the oven again—turn on oven to 400 degrees. 6) Go watch YouTube videos while the oven gets to operating temperature. 7) Bake batter for 43 minutes. 8) Check for doneness with the tip of a butter knife; remove when knife comes out clean. 9) Let stand for a few minutes, then cut into bars.

Cleanup is messy. The bars tend to be crumbly, and the shrapnel gets everywhere. Every time I make this recipe, I wonder why I don’t make it more often—until cleanup time, when I swear I’ll never make it again. I am usually stuffed by the time I’m done, just from “tidying up” the collateral damage. To halve the cleanup chore, make a double batch. You’ll bake half as often, and the mess isn’t noticeably worse.

Predicting exact baking time is tricky. I start checking at 40 minutes, and if it turns out to be 60, so be it. I actually remove a plug from the center of the pan to get an accurate sense of doneness (hey, I’m not serving it to the Pope or anything). Remember, it will continue to cook after you remove it, so a slightly undone look is ideal.

You can tweak this recipe in a hundred ways.

Hypoglycemic? (I am)—add some protein powder. Don’t like egg yolks? (I don’t)—use egg whites, double the number of eggs, and add some arrowroot. Don’t like sugar? (I don’t)—take out as much brown sugar as you like and add in compensating amounts of stevia or Splenda for baking (they both work fine). Don’t like overly sweet? (I don’t)—keep lowering the sweetener level until you’re happy. Don’t like the taste of olive oil? (I do)—any healthy cooking oil will do. Not fond of cranberries or raisins? (I am)—any dried fruit will work. Want less fat? (I do)—reduce the oil and add a commensurate amount of water. Chuck in any magic supplement that floats your boat. Like maca? (I do)—add maca.