Homemade Granola Bars

I've tried a couple different recipes for homemade granola bars and this is the BEST in my opinion. It is another recipe from Barefoot Contessa (altered by me to my taste preferences). These are so much heartier and tastier than store bought granola bars, and if you like my granola recipe, you'll love these!

4 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
2 c. sliced almonds (can use pecans too)
1/4 cup sesame seeds (optional)
2 c. shredded coconut
1 cup wheat germ
6 TBS butter
1 c. honey
1/2 c. brown sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1-1 1/2 cups dried fruit (raisins, craisins, etc.)

-Preheat oven to 350.
-Toss oatmeal, nuts, wheat germ, and coconut together on 11x17 pan and bake 15 minutes. Transfer mixture to large mixing bowl.
-Butter 11x17 pan and line it with parchment paper. Reduce oven temperature to 300.
-In saucepan combine butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Bring to a boil, cook for 1 minute then pour over toasted oatmeal mixture. Add dried fruit and stir well.
-Pour mixture into prepared pan. Wet fingers (or use spoon/spatula) and firmly press mixture evenly into pan. Bake 35 minutes, until golden brown. Cool at least 3 hours before cutting into squares.
-When cutting, I like to empty the granola sheet onto my granite counter top, peel off parchment then cut with my big butcher knife.

Note: The dried fruit REALLY sweetens the granola bars up. I prefer to use less vs. more of the dried fruit for this reason...I also can't wait to experiment with different spices and ingredients like my granola to come up with some different granola bar versions!

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