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Back to School Snack: Nutty Energy Bars

Nutty Energy Bars are nutritious, easy to make, and are great for after-school snacks as well as for grab-and-go morning bites. The bars are far less expensive than the store-bought versions, taste much better, and take only a few minutes to mix up. They also offer plenty of license for variation--such as swapping out the peanuts for almonds and the peanut butter for almond butter. You also can vary the type of dried fruit you use. I usually buy the 10-ounce packages of trail mix at Aldi that include pumpkin seeds and mixed dried fruit, because they're relatively inexpensive and perfect for making two batches of energy bars. Costco also offers giant bags of trail mix, which include a variety of nuts, fruits, and sometimes chocolate (yeah!). Feel free to use whatever types of nuts, seeds, and add-ins that you like! Just keep in mind that you'll need two cups of them.

Nutty Energy Bars

Nutty Energy Bars -- Makes 12+

1/2 cup of oats (old fashioned)

1/2 cup of crispy rice cereal

1 cup of roasted peanuts (unsalted, preferably)

1 cup of mixed seeds and dried fruit

1/4 - 1/3 cup of mini chocolate chips

1/4 cup of corn syrup (check to make sure it does not include high fructose corn syrup)

1/4 - 1/3 cup of peanut butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil. Coat the foil with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the oats, rice cereal, peanuts, mixed seeds and dried fruit, mini chocolate chips, corn syrup, and peanut butter and mix everything well. You want to coat all the dried fruit and nuts with some of the corn syrup and peanut butter. The mixture will be sticky. Dump the mixture into the prepared pan and, with a spatula coated with non-stick cooking spray or your hands, press the mixture evenly and firmly into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake the mixture for 20-25 minutes, let it cool, and cut it into bars. You can use the foil to lift the bars out of the pan, if you'd like. Munch, munch, munch. Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch.

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