Chocolate, Cherry & Pistachio Granola Bars

YIELD: 16

INGREDIENTS

1 cup old-fashioned oats (preferably gluten free)
¼ cup chopped pistachios
¼ cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
⅔ cup brown rice cereal crisps
⅓ cup dried cherries chopped
¼ cup creamy almond butter
¼ cup honey
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat an 8-by-8-inch or 9-by-9-inch square pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. On a baking sheet (preferably with a rim) combine oats, cereal, sunflower seeds and flaxseed. Bake for about 3 minutes, then add pistachios and bake additional 2 to 3 minutes. Watch closely; the nuts will burn if overcooked! Remove from oven and place in a large bowl. Add cherries, toss and set aside. In a small saucepan, combine almond butter, honey, vanilla and salt. Cook over medium-low heat while stirring gently until bubbly, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour almond butter mixture over oat mixture. Stir well with a large spoon or spatula until thoroughly combined. Transfer to square pan, spray spatula with cooking spray and press mixture flat with firm pressure. Once flat and even, sprinkle mini chocolate chips and gently press into top with spatula. Refrigerate until cool and firm, preferably a few hours. Once cool, cut into 16 bars and store in refrigerator in a baggie or container with a lid.