Last month, I was planning to make fruitcake cookies but changed my mind and made shortbread cookies instead. So now I have a bunch of dried fruit and seeds sitting in my cupboard. I wasn't really sure what to do with them. I thought, "Well I guess I can just toss them together and make trail mix." But then I remembered the trail mix chewy granola bars I used to love. They were made with nuts, which my 7 year old is severely allergic to. So this week, I decided to make an allergy-friendly version of my favorite granola bars. Not only are they nut-free, they're also dairy-free, wheat-free, soy-free and vegan :-)
These chewy granola bars taste so much like the ones I ate growing up. They're jam-packed dried cranberries and sweet raisins. Instead of nuts, I used roasted pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. And as an added bonus, I also mixed in some healthy oat bran along with some puffed rice cereal.
The kids really loved them! They even asked if I could make their favorite fruit and seed combo to pack for school. My 7 year old likes dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds while my 3 year old likes raisins and sunflower seeds. Hubby and I like all of them mixed together. I also tried to make a batch of plain granola bars and they tasted just as great as the ones with fruits and seeds so you can leave them out if you prefer. Or you can add chocolate chips. That's what I'd do of course :-)
Allergy-friendly Fruit and Seed Chewy Granola Bars
Makes about 16 bars
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tbs. molasses (I like to use blackstrap molasses)
2 Tbs. orange juice
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups puffed rice cereal
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, apricots, cherries, etc)
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup allergy-friendly chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Mix together rolled oats, vegetable oil and salt. Spread evenly on prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. Allow to cool then transfer into a large mixing bowl.
Add in puffed rice cereal and oat bran...
...and dried fruits and seeds. Set aside. Lower the oven to 325 degrees F.
In a saucepan, mix together dark brown sugar, molasses, orange juice, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Cook over medium heat until brown sugar has dissolved.
Pour into the mixing bowl and stir until all the granola mixture is coated with the sugar syrup. Line a 9x9 square pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Brush the lined pan with vegetable oil.
Pour the granola mixture onto the prepared pan. Place a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper over the granola mixture and press down gently.
Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely then cut into 16 bars. You can wrap each granola bar in parchment paper or store in an airtight container for up to a week.