(Post by Carol Harrison)

By far, my new beau in the pantry this year is barley flour. It’s also my go-to healthy whole grain for holiday baking.

Come December, with three birthdays in our house plus Christmas, I hit the ground running. Determined to enjoy every moment—my strategy is to plan ahead.

I’m making a list, checking it twice, all while being a dietitian looking to strike that balance between naughty and nice (cue: roll your eyes!).

Here’s part of my to do list and some terrific recipes featuring barley flour. If you’re new to baking with barley flour, rest assured, it’s easy, the results are terrific and the whole grain goodness provides loads of health benefits.

Holiday to do list:

To do: Get teacher gifts.
Solution: Pack up this Cranberry Orange Loaf with some herbal tea.
Clever idea: Use mini loaf tins (adjust the cooking time accordingly) and one batch will make you a few gifts.

To do: Make cookies for cookie exchange.

Solution: Spiced ’n Iced Pecan Coconut Cookies. This recipe makes 50 cookies so you’ll have plenty to share!
Clever idea: Make these cookies with barley flakes, grains of barley that are steam-rolled, similar to rolled oats.

To do: Keep healthy snacks on hand.

Solution: A family fave at our house, Blueberry Barley Muffins.
Clever idea: When we take the kids out skating, I’ll pack a thermos of hot chocolate and some muffins. With a family of five, it saves me a bundle and I know the kids are getting a wholesome snack.

To do: Make something for a potluck

Solution: The holidays are a time to share traditional foods like this Old Fashioned Steamed Carrot Pudding.
Clever idea: This recipe makes plenty of caramel sauce. Enjoy the extra sauce for dipping with apple slices.

To do: Make cookies for Santa

Solution: Olde Fashioned Gingersnaps
Clever idea: Rather than bake all four-dozen cookies, freeze half the dough.

Freeze the one-inch dough balls on a baking tray (for about an hour) then transfer to a heavy-duty freezer bag (keeps for four months).

Bake the frozen dough balls a few minutes longer than directed.

As busy as the holidays can be, I plan to enjoy some quality downtime baking with the kids. It’s my gift to myself. And now that I’m a mother, I understand why my mom always said she never needed anything for Christmas; she enjoyed the time with her family and that was more than enough.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

— Carol Harrison @GreatMealIdeas