Chocolate-Chip Pumpkin-Seed Granola Bars

Natalie Buscemi-Hindman's family was always cooking. "I started working when I was 12 years old at my dad's sit-down restaurant, Mr. BoJingles, in Roseville," recalls the New Baltimore mom of two grown children, now 24 and 28. Buscemi-Hindman began washing dishes before bussing tables, greeting guests and doing every other job imaginable at the eatery. And when she graduated from high school, her party was held there too – just before it was sold.

In November, when Buscemi-Hindman's father passed away, she started pondering how to share her interests and passions with others. Her zest for cooking good food came to mind. She turned again to her blog she'd left relatively untouched since 2011 – Pers~a~Natalie – and began regularly posting family recipes.

Her advice for making homemade, healthy meals easier at home: "Keep a well-stocked pantry and freezer!" Chicken stock, canned diced tomatoes, frozen vegetables and other quick add-ins can make a simple recipe feel more gourmet without a lot of extra effort. Just like these simple granola bars.

Equipment

  • Two bowls (one microwave-safe)
  • 8-by-8-inch pan
  • Foil/wax

Ingredients

  • 2 cups crispy rice cereal
  • 2 cups quick oats (can use gluten-free)
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup Craisins
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Put the first four ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Place honey, peanut butter, brown sugar and cinnamon into a microwaveable bowl and cook for one minute. Stir until smooth.
  3. Add to peanut butter mixture to dry ingredients and incorporate well.
  4. Once the dry and peanut butter mixtures are combined (make sure it's not too hot or the chips will melt), add mini chocolate chips.
  5. Prepare the 8-by-8-inch pan with a piece of foil or wax paper overlapping on two sides and spray with cooking spray.
  6. Pour mixture into pan and press down to make even.
  7. Put into freezer to set for about an hour.
  8. Once done, pull two sides of foil up to remove from pan; then slice as you like!

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