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Fruit and Nut Trail Bars

Nothing beats a chewy trail bar as a snack during an afternoon hike. So when a few friends and I decided to explore the Indiana Dunes, I went in search of a homemade granola bar recipe that could tag along with us to the beach.

I tend to eat quite a few store-bought granola bars, but what came together in less than 30 minutes was a bar so good, I might never go back to store-bought. It was soft, chewy, full of peanut butter flavor, and I could identify every ingredient in there. And if you can make Rice Krispies treats, you can make these.

I also like how customizable it can be, swapping out different fruits or nuts, depending on what’s on hand, and even making a vegan version with agave nectar instead of honey. If you weren’t concerned about the bars wilting in the heat, you could add carob or chocolate chips in place of some of the fruit. I bet shredded, unsweetened coconut, chocolate chips and chopped dates would be delicious.

If you were making these bars for a snack, rather than a hike, I’d recommend cutting them in half since they are both rich in flavor and calories. However, after climbing a steep dune and getting sand in our boots, we were ready to indulge.

Fruit and Nut Trail Bars
Adapted from Eating Well, January/February 2010

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon flaxseeds, preferably golden
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 cup unsweetened multi-grain cereal
1/3 cup cranberries
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup light agave nectar or honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8-inch-square pan with cooking spray.

2. Spread oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and sesame seeds on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the oats are lightly toasted and the nuts are fragrant, shaking the pan halfway through, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a large bowl. Add cereal, cranberries, apricots, raisins and cinnamon; toss to combine and make sure the fruit is not sticking together.

3. Combine peanut butter, sugar, agave nectar, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles lightly, 2 to 5 minutes.

4. Immediately pour the peanut butter mixture over the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon or spatula until no dry spots remain. Transfer to the prepared pan. With a piece of wax paper, press the mixture down firmly to make an even layer.  Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes; cut into 8 bars.

Wrap bars in wax paper and store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Also can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw at room temperature.

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2 comments to Fruit and Nut Trail Bars

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