There's no comparison between the taste of store-bought and homemade granola bars. If you and your child work to make your own, you know exactly what's going into them and can customize them to your child's tastes. Use ¾ cup of any combination of nuts and seeds that you'd like. Use whole-wheat flour instead of white flour. Swap in honey or molasses for the maple syrup. Substitute raisins, cranberries, dried blueberries or chocolate chips for the dried cherries.
Once your bars are cooled, cut them and wrap each one separately in plastic wrap. Put the wrapped bars in a zipper-lock bag or airtight container and place in the freezer. Bars can go straight from the freezer into the lunchbox, either the night before or the morning of a school day.
CHERRY AND MAPLE GRANOLA BARS
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cherries
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch- square baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, making sure the foil is tucked into all the corners and that there is at least 1 inch overhanging the top of the pan on all sides.
2. Spread the oats, nuts and pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and bake until they are lightly toasted, stirring once or twice with a spoon, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let the mixture cool completely.
3. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small mixing bowl.
4. Combine the oil, maple syrup and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl, and mix until smooth. Stir in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture until it is just combined. Stir in the oat mixture until well combined. Stir in the dried cherries.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake the bars until they are set, 25 to 30 minutes. Let them cool completely on a wire rack.
6. Grasping the overhanging foil on either side of the pan, lift out the bars and place them on a cutting board. Cut them into 16 squares. The bars will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Makes 16 bars.