In case you've missed the commercials and advertising that we have been inundated with since mid-July, it's Back-to-School time! Parents everywhere are reluctantly turning their attention to that universally dreaded task—packing the lunchbox. While I am a well-known proponent of unexciting lunches, I do like to dazzle the children with a variety of homemade treats.
Have you ever picked up a box of granola bars in the grocery store and wondered if you could make them yourself? Now you can! These homemade granola bars are so easy to make and they are customizable for your family's tastes. They are chewy, crunchy, and full of goodness. They are also nut-free, which makes them a perfect school snack!
Were you obsessed with Little House on the Prairie when you were a kid? I sure was! I remember Ma baking a pie and pressing her handprint in the top of the crust. Pa would say that there was nothing sweeter than Ma's handprint—it was baking with love, pioneer-style. I thought of that while I made this recipe, because the key to getting these granola bars to hold together is to press the mixture into the pan with all your might. Flatten your hands, press, press, and then press some more. If handprints add love to a recipe, then there is a lot of love in this one! Your children will surely feel the love when they open their lunch boxes and see these scrumptious homemade granola bars!
Prepare an 8x8 square baking pan by lining with parchment paper. Allow the parchment paper to overlap and hang over the sides of the pan—these will be your "handles" to lift the granola bars out of the pan, so allow for a few inches on either side of the pan.
In a large bowl, stir together oats, crispy rice cereal, flaxseed, shredded coconut, mixed dried fruit, and chocolate chips. Set aside.
In a small saucepan over low heat, melt together honey or maple syrup and coconut oil, stirring constantly. When the mixture starts foaming and bubbling, remove from heat. Add vanilla extract and salt, and stir well.
Pour liquid over the dry ingredients and mix very well until the dry ingredients are all coated. Place granola into the prepared pan and, using wet hands, press down very firmly. Press, press, press. Press the mixture until it is flattened and firm, and then press some more. Put your weight into it!
Place pan in refrigerator and chill for at least 5-6 hours (overnight is ideal). When granola is well chilled and set, remove from pan by using the parchment paper "handles." Cut into bars; store in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
(Yield: 12 delicious bars)
Make sure the parchment paper overlaps the pan. Press. Press. PRESS WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT.
Lift the granola out of the pan using the parchment paper, then cut into bars.
Hey, where did they all go? Magically disappearing granola bars.