Without a doubt, these are way better than your store-bought granola bars, and you can customize them with the nuts seeds, spices, and treats that will most please you and your kids (did someone say chocolate chunks? Yes, please!). The recipe yields many servings, so it's great if you're having a group together or the kids need snacks for a couple of days. Enjoy!
2 cups old-fashioned or quick-cooking rolled oats (gluten-Free, if needed)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped (by hand or in a food processor)
1/2 cup unsweetened plain almond milk (I used almond breeze)
1/2 cup multigrain hot cereal, use GF, if needed (I used Bobs Red Mill 10 Grain)
1 cup natural, unsweetened almond butter
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment paper and then spray with nonstick spray. Spread the oats and pecans on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 6 to 8 minutes, shaking halfway through, until golden and fragrant.
Transfer to a large bowl; add the chopped cranberries.
Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Stir in the multi-grain cereal and remove from the heat; let stand for 2 minutes.
Add the nut or seed butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt. Cook and stir the mixture over low heat for 6 to 7 minutes or until thickened; remove from the heat and stir in vanilla extract.
Immediately add the cereal mixture to the oats mixture, mixing with a spatula until coated.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and flatten with the back of a measuring cup. Place a large piece of parchment paper or wax paper atop the bar mixture and use it to spread, flatten, and very firmly compact the bars evenly in the pan. Cool completely. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until firm.
Using the liner, lift the mixture from the pan and transfer it to a cutting board. Peel off the foil or parchment and cut into 16 bars.