Since the oats/nuts/seeds are usually toasted first regardless of the recipe, I say why use the oven twice when you can just use the frig to do the last step.
For the "glue", I've tried honey. It's OK, but at least for me it seems to turn into a tough, chewy, tooth filling-grabbing, taffy-like goo. And I'm not sure if that's what happens to honey when you bake it, or if the same thing happens with refrigeration as well. Lately I've been using agave instead of honey; it's milder tasting and less viscous, so it blends nicely with a nut butter (peanut, almond, etc.).
And speaking of almond butter. Mmm, it's delicious. Better than peanut butter, by a neck maybe. Thank you, hubby, for giving me the motivation to buy some since you said you weren't thrilled with the taste of peanut butter in your granola. I'm good with the almond butter. But it is to be used wisely and in moderation ... it's expensive!
A lot of ingredients are expensive if you choose organic ones. And I do so choose. I'm willing to pay the extra because it's important to me. If there's a choice I usually go with organic. But I also realize that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to afford to make that choice. If I had my way the entire planet would be organic and there wouldn't be a choice to be made. Anyway, I won't specify "organic" for ingredients listed. But it can be assumed that's usually what I try to use.
Feel free to use other types and combinations of nuts and seeds and dried fruit. Also, I snuck in a tiny bit of almond extract because I wanted to try it, and some coconut oil because I love the stuff. I think it would be just as good with just the vanilla extract, and I'm not sure the coconut oil did much of anything (but I still love the stuff).
Fruit & Nut Butter Granola Bars
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup almond slivers
1/4 cup walnut pieces
1 tbsp flax seed meal
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
Wet Stuff to Melt:
1/4 cup almond butter (or peanut butter), smooth or chunky
1/4 cup agave
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1/4 tsp vanilla extract + 1/8 tsp almond extract)
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp (or more) virgin unrefined coconut oil -- optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a square or rectangular dish/pan with parchment paper (I used a 10"x6" dish).
Bake the oats, seeds, and nuts for 8-10 minutes until lightly toasted. (Keep an eye on them because the different sizes will toast at different rates.) Cool for a few minutes then transfer to a medium-to-large bowl. Add the flax seed meal, then the dried fruit to the bowl. Stir to mix thoroughly.
In a small saucepan on low heat, melt the almond butter and agave together. Add the vanilla/almond extract, salt, and coconut oil (if using). Stir until combined and mostly melted (the almond butter will still have some relatively solid chunks). Add to the dry ingredients using a spatula to thoroughly mix the wet with the dry.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared dish, using the spatula to spread it as much as possible. Then, with wet fingers, press down the granola firmly to even it out. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or two. Cut into squares with a sharp serrated bread knife or other sharp knife.
Storage: Depending on the indoor temperature (and how gooey or solid you want it), either store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.