The recipe for these gooey, candy-topped oatmeal bars has been playing musical desk drawers since 2007. It showed up five years ago when my day job office put together an employee cookbook.
A student employee, John, brought the recipe card to work to submit to the cookbook. He has since moved on within the company but the recipe has stayed in my work group ever since, moving from desk drawer to desk drawer, even between buildings.
I added peanut butter to the crust but you could skip it if you want. And be creative with the toppings. Butterfinger pieces might be an excellent choice in place of M&M’s. You could even add chopped nuts or crushed pretzel pieces to add a salty crunch.
The original recipe was called Pizza Bars, but that seemed a little too plain for these hyped-up, caramel bars loaded with chocolate and oatmeal. So, they have a new name now, along with a new home — my recipe box, and yours.
Cosmic Caramel Oatmeal Bars
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cup flour
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 package caramels
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup mini M&M’s
1 cube vanilla almond bark
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a jelly roll pan. Unwrap caramels and place in a small saucepan. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine soda, salt, flour, and oats. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl cream butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating until combined. Press mixture into greased pan.
Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. While it’s baking, melt sweetened condensed milk and caramels over low heat in a small saucepan. Stir constantly as it burns easily. Remove from heat once creamy.
Pour the caramel over the baked crust. Toss the chocolate chips onto the hot caramel and let sit for a couple of minutes, just until the chocolate is soft. Gently spread the chocolate over the bars. Top with mini M&M’s.
In a small bowl, melt almond bark and oil in microwave, stirring until smooth. Drizzle with a fork over the bars. Let cool for a couple of hours before cutting. Store in an airtight container. Do not store in the refrigerator as the caramel sauce becomes hard.
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