Many years ago, when I was in Grad school, some friends and I began to think seriously about nutrition. Grad students on the whole aren’t known for their interest in nutrition, but we discovered a vitamin that’s not very well known: vitamin O. Vitamin O deficiencies are pretty common, and can have serious affects on your social life. Your body can’t store it, and so you need some every day. Jogging, for example, completely strips your body of it. Vitamin O is very important for mental health. And we WERE studying Psychology, after all!

People with severe vitamin O deficiencies find themselves at parties isolated, morose, sitting in a corner chatting to the palm tree about the funding needs of public radio. Please don’t get me wrong–I’m a lifelong supporter of public radio, but let’s face it, the palm doesn’t care. And it’s not the thing that exactly livens up a party.

Luckily, vitamin O is found in many common foods. DoritOs, cheetOs, buritOs, OreOs, chOcOlate, pOpcOrn. It’s not in Pizza, though. That’s why we need to add pepperOni. Or artichOkes. It’s in cOca-cOla, but not in pepsi. It’s only found in certain kinds of pasta: raviOli, rigatOni, tOrtellini. Not in spaghetti, tagliatelii, lasagne. Adding mOzzarella makes it better. Or tOmatOes. Can you see how you have to be careful to balance your diet?

When we moved to Belgium, we had to search out new sources of O. We don’t have DoritOs, cheetOs, buritOs, OreOs here. Many common Belgian foods are deficient as well. Frites (fries), for example, have no O. Here we eat them with mayO. ChOcOlate, of course has a double dose. But what can we do to substitute for the common sources of O?

LOcal food is a great source of it, and is easily available here. RisOttO is common at our house. And POlenta. Water, eau in French, (pronounced – you guessed it–”O”) is consumed in mass quantities chez nous.

One important source of O for me has traditionally been cOOkies. But I’ve been having problems with my old wheat allergy, and I now have to avoid eating anything with wheat. This means that I’m at risk for losing an important source of vitamins. What to do? HA! Not to be foiled, I’ve developed a recipe for Oat shOrtbread cOOkies, using Oat flour instead of wheat. QuadrOOple O! WahOO!

Actually, you’ll be wahOOing as well after you try these. And I know you will! They have the wonderful delicate buttery crunch of traditional shortbread, with a deeper flavor from brOwn sugar and Oats.

Oat ShOrtbread COOkies

110 g / ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
110 g / 1 cup ground almonds
110 g / 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons oat flour
110 g / 2/3 cup salted butter, softened

  • Preheat oven to 160 C / 325 F
  • Combine dry ingredients and ensure that they’re well mixed.
  • Add butter, and mix to form a dry mass. I use my hands for this because I like to play with my food. My hands are usually clean before I start. The mixture will be very crumbly. You will have to pick it up in your hands to form it into a ball.
  • Roll it out on a floured work surface. I roll it very thin, using bamboo skewers to guide my rolling pin. That way they’re all the same thickness. This dough is so soft that I also rolled this out between two sheets of cling film. That way the dough didn’t stick to my rolling pin or to the counter top.
  • Cut the cookies into whatever shape you like and transfer to baking sheets. I used silpats, so I’m not sure if you need to grease them or not. I’d think not, though—there’s lots of butter in these.
  • Bake for about 15 minutes, or till they start to get a little darker. You don’t want them too brown, but they need to start to brown.
  • Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 3 dozen 5 cm / 2 inch cookies.


  • I think that these cookies are gluten free, but I know that oats are sometimes suspect when it comes to gluten. Mine are organic, certified gluten free, produced in a plant that does not process gluten grains. However, I’m not celiac—I’m allergic to wheat. If you’re celiac, you should of course use your own experts’ advice about whether oats are safe for you or not.
  • One nice thing about these cookies is that you don’t have to worry about overworking the dough—there’s no gluten in it so they’ll never get tough!
  • I cut these in squares because I like that shape. I think that you need a simple shape with this fragile dough. It can be hard to pick up after it’s rolled out. I use a bench scraper—a pasta maker’s tool. You can also use a metal spatula.
  • You can also cut the cookies and then peel them off the cling film. If the dough gets too soft, roll it out and put it in the freezer for about 5 minutes to chill the butter. It will be easier to handle.
  • These cookies are fragile when they’re hot. I bake them on silpats and then just slide the silpats off the baking sheet onto my countertop to cool for a couple of minutes before I transfer them to a wire rack. That way the cookies are less likely to break. 

Kate McNally

Kate McNally

Born and raised in Atlanta, with degrees from UGA and UT Knoxville, Kate never lived above the Mason-Dixon line. That is, until she moved to Belgium. She now lives in the Belgian Ardennes, near Germany and The Netherlands, in an area where three cultures clash and co-exist. She used to have a stress-filled life, living in Washington DC and working as a management consultant all over the US and Canada. About 9 years ago, Kate and her husband Dan quit their jobs and moved to Europe. Now they teach English as a second language to business people there. They went there for two or three years. They're still here. Kate loves to cook, to travel, to paint and to write. She tries to do all of those as often as she can, and she shares tales of her life there in her blog. Kate says, "My blog is called 'Serendipity'. That pretty much sums up our life here in Belgium: serene with a little ‘dipity’ added. You’ll find here tales of our life as we sometimes struggle with other languages and other ways. You'll also find some paintings. And more than a few recipes, because I love to cook. My husband loves to eat. Perfect!" You can find her blog at