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 trail mix, crispy rice cereal, and oats 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.