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Thick and Chewy Granola Bars

A few weeks ago I had the good fortune of going to Ecuador with my husband and a group of his students.  They day before we left I should have been packing and cleaning and organizing and worrying about fatal snake bites.  But I wasn’t because I have my priorities straight.  I spent the day making granola bars – lots and lots of granola bars.  Because when you are about to begin a journey with a group of strangers the best way to become fast friends is to feed them treats.  

Thick and Chewy Granola Bars
Adapted from King Arthur Flour via Smitten Kitchen
1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats finely ground in a food processor or blender)
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup rice krispy cereal
*2 to 3 cups dried fruits, nuts, chocolate chips, etc.
1/3 cup peanut butter (or another nut butter), optional
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons melted butter
6 tablespoons corn syrup (or honey or maple syrup)
1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8” x 8” x 2” pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides.  Spray the paper and the exposed pan with non-stick spray.
Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, vanilla, melted butter, corn syrup and water.  Toss the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients until the mixture is evenly coated.  Spread in the prepared pan, pressing very firmly to ensure the mixture is molded to the shape of the pan.  It helps to press the mixture with the back of a measuring cup.
Bake the bars for 15 to 18 minutes, until they are just beginning to brown around the edges.  Cool completely in the pan.  Using the parchment paper as a sling, remove the bars from the pan and cut into small bars.
*suggested mix-ins: 
            raisins and toasted walnuts
            salted peanuts, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips
            dried cranberries and pecans
            macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips
            trail mix

*Notes on the recipe:
-The favorite combination of mix-ins was a combination of chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and chopped peanuts.  My personal favorite is toasted walnuts and raisins.  Pictured above you can see chocolate chips, craisins and pecans.  That one was good too.
-The King Arthur recipe called for a 30 minute baking time.  If you like your granola bars rock hard then go the full 30.  I prefer to leave my dental work intact…

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