Back in 2008, a glutened-up version of this recipe acted as an urban family matchmaker of sorts for me. At the time, I was asked by my friend Cyndi to send out a recipe as part of an email recipe-exchange. I chose to send out my Chewiest Granola Bars recipe because it had served me so well over the years, and I thought that everyone would love it. I believe that only two people on that list ever acknowledged the recipe, the original person who started the recipe-exchange (the pun-tastic Gadsden Times editor and writer, Cyndi Nelson), and Laura Catoe. I knew who Laura was (we had mutual friends, and I was familiar with her graphic design work, as well as her writing, for the Gadsden Times); didn't know her personally. But, once the recipe ended up in her inbox, planets began to align in the perfect order for us to meet and become friends. There have been many shared recipes and many shared meals that have transpired since our first meeting (and Laura even dedicated a post to them once, which she updated when I discovered my gluten-free status), so I feel like I owe a debt of gratitude to the magic of the granola bars...
Here is the recipe, as I make them now, with a bit more gluten-free detail. They are super easy to make:
Chewiest Granola Bars
(I recommend organic ingredients, when possible)
1c Brown Sugar
½ c Light corn syrup or honey (I usually use honey)
½ c Butter, room temp.
2/3 c Peanut butter
2 ts Vanilla extract
½ c Sunflower seeds
1 1/2 c Bob's Red Mill Oats (or store brand oats, if you are not gluten-intolerant)
1 1/2 c Puffed Rice Cereal (I use .59 cent Walmart brand)
½ c Coconut, grated
1/3 c Ground Flax Seed (or Wheat germ, if you are not gluten-intolerant)
½ c Dried Fruit (raisins, cherries, etc.)
1c Nestle Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips (they are gluten-free)
1c Toasted Nuts (I use half pecans, half walnuts)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat inside of 9X12 glass baking dish with veg. oil. In large bowl, combine br. sugar, corn syrup, butter, peanut butter, and vanilla-stir well to the consistency of a paste. Stir in remaining ingredients and work the mixture so that several large clumps adhere together. Using fingers, press the mixture into baking dish (be sure to mash pretty hard, or you will end up with bars that fall apart, which is not so bad, either, because they are still edible). Bake at 350 for 18-20 min. until golden brown. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars. I wrap each individually, and haven't missed store bought granola since I first discovered and tweaked this recipe. They freeze well, too.