Homemade Granola Bars

I stumbled across this recipe for granola bars recently and was surprised how easy they were to make, with a few modifications, and how tasty the end result was. They cut into 12 even slices and fit perfectly into Ry's new PlanetBox (there's a long, skinny compartment I'm pretty sure must be intended for granola bars). I think it'd be easy to mix and match ingredients with this recipe. I swapped out the butter for shortening because I wanted dairy-free. I also wanted nut-free, while Ry can have tree-nuts, there are other kids at school who can't. His class and the table he eats lunch at is free of all nuts. With a shocking 2 kids estimated to have allergies in a classroom, I think having nut-free snacks is going to get more and more important.

Homemade Granola Bars (dairy-free, nut-free)

2-1/2 cups oats

1/3 cup honey

1/4 cup palm shortening

1/4 cup brown rice syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup flax seeds

Optional: 1/4 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots (or other dried fruit)

1/4 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet, then place oats on it to toast. You may also add seeds at this time, if you prefer. Toast for about 5 minutes, then stir, and toast for another 5 minutes.

2. On the stove, combine the shortening, honey, syrup, vanilla and salt. Cook until the shortening melts and the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.

3. In a large bowl, place the oats, then pour the liquid mixture over them. Mix well, until the oats are evenly and thoroughly coated.

4. Let cool for a few minutes, then add the remaining ingredients: flax seeds, sesame seeds, raisins, chopped apricots and chocolate chips.

5. When thoroughly mixed, press into a 8x8 pyrex, lined with aluminum foil. You want to press really hard for a minute or two, so they really stick together.

6. Chill in the fridge for a couple hours, then cut into twelve bars.

7. Enjoy!

p.s. I made these Sunday night & they lasted through Thursday (they would've taste good through Friday, but the kids finished them off before then)