marshmallow free cereal bars

If we ever bump into each other at the supermarket you will notice several boxes of cereal in my cart. The wanna-be health nut in me is totally embarrassed but trumped every time by practicality. I’m a mom after-all.  And as much as I would like to say my kids have smoothies, or oatmeal, or homemade vegan pancakes every morning — I’ve accepted that this is just not realistic. For obvious reasons, sometimes morning food must be quick. Cereal they can fix for themselves. (Except for when they spill the milk all over the floor – but nothing is perfect, I take my chances). Cereal is a no-brainer and leaves me time for more important things – like figuring out what to wear or taking pictures of my own smoothie.

I do make a point of trying to pick more healthy varieties – low sugar, high fiber, etc. But I’m still embarrassed to admit that there are weeks where we go through 2-3 full boxes. It’s excessive.  And it’s expensive. Cereal is not cheap. And when I cut corners I usually get burned. Sometimes my picks just don’t score with the kids. Plain, generic brand, o-shaped cereal was a fail. Cheap, low sugar – and tasteless apparently.

Not willing to throw it away after it goes stale in a few weeks, I decided if you can make squares out of rice krispies, I could make squares out of O’s. Right?

I used honey and brown sugar to stick the goods together. The dates soften too and add a bit more stickiness. No marshmallows here. I added sunflower seeds and cranberries for a little bit more nutrition and flavour. Any kind of nut would do in place of the seeds but I wanted something that could go in their lunch boxes (nuts are not allowed in our school).

These little bars are perfect for those crazy mornings when sitting down for breakfast just isn’t an option, and guess what? No milk disasters!

The OJ is another story.

Sunflower and cranberry cereal bars
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Ingredients

  • 8 cups plain o-shaped cereal
  • 2 cups plain popcorn, popped (I used a snack sized bag of "natural" microwaved popcorn)
  • 1 cup pitted dates, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (raw or roasted and salted)
  • 2/3 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. In a small saucepan add brown sugar and honey. Over medium heat, bring sugar and honey to a boil. Stirring often to avoid burning. You want the mixture boiling to the point where you can't stir the bubbles down. Pour the hot sugar mixture over the cereal mixture and toss well. It will be very sticky. Pour into the baking dish. Bake at 300 for 10 minutes. Allow to cool at least 15 minutes then cut into squares.
  4. Remove from the oven and stir gently. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Toss again and then press firmly into the dish. Let sit for 15 minutes, then remove from the dish and cut into squares. They are easier to cut when they are still warm. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.