These are a variation of my Cranberry-Almond Granola Bars. It's the same recipe except I used regular trail mix (almonds, peanuts, cashews, M&Ms, raisins) instead of the cranberry-almond mix. These granola bars are super delicious, and my 4 1/2-year-old daughter happily devoured one just now (it may have something to do with the M&Ms, since she won't eat the Cranberry-Almond bars). I'm really excited to have such a versatile granola bar recipe; you are limited only by the type of trail mix you can get your hands on.
I cut the finished recipe into 16 bars, but you can make them as small or big as you like. I put each bar in a snack-size zip-top bag, put all those bags in a large zip-top bag, and then keep them in the pantry (we eat ours within a week). For longer storage you can put them in the fridge or freezer.
As with the Cranberry-Almond Granola Bars, these granola bars are loaded with all kinds of good things, and they are dairy free, something that can be tricky to find in a commercially manufactured granola bar. And as with the cranberry bars, I didn't want to use corn syrup as a sweetener, and used brown rice syrup instead. Brown rice syrup is often used to sweeten organic and higher-end granola bars. It can be a little tricky to find, but if your grocery store has an organic section, you'll probably find it there (Or you can order it from Amazon). As far as cost goes, at about $5 a jar, it is more expensive than corn syrup, but since I can get 5 batches out of a jar, it's worth it to me to not be using corn syrup.
Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, I did add an extra 1/4 cup of M&Ms because I thought my trail mix was a little light on the chocolate ;) You can leave them out if your trail mix has an acceptable amount of chocolate, or you can add chocolate chips--whatever your heart desires.
Trail Mix Granola Bars
3 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups trail mix with M&Ms
1 cup crispy rice cereal
1/4 cup M&Ms (or chocolate chips), optional
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Heat your oven to 325. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, having two sides extend up and over the edges of the pan. I've found that using clothes pins to hold the parchment paper to the pan keeps it from slipping all over when you're spreading the granola bar mixture around.
2. Combine the oats, trail mix, crispy rice cereal, and M&Ms in a medium bowl.
3. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, combine the honey, brown rice syrup, and peanut butter. Heat it in the microwave for 1 minute on high and stir until smooth. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Add the honey mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until everything is evenly coated (be patient, this can take a fair amount of stirring).
4. Transfer the granola bar mixture to the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Tear a sheet of plastic wrap, place it directly on the mixture, and press down with only hand pressure (hand pressure = just the pressure you can get with your hands, not leaning in with your body; the plastic wrap keeps it from sticking to your hands).
5. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges just start to brown. Cool completely before cutting into bars. To cut, use the parchment paper to lift the slab out of the pan, place on a cutting board, and cut using a sharp knife.
Makes 16 bars.