Ringin’ in the New Year with INSANE caramel bars

Happy 2011 to ya! Can I fill you in on a little secret? I’m not a huge fan of making New Year’s Resolutions – my feeling is that I can (and should) start making positive changes throughout the year, so why wait until January 1st to really put them into action? That being said, my resolution this year is to floss every single day. What what! Pearly whites come at a price 🙂 I actually started about a week ago – so far, so good! (Talk to me in mid-July and we’ll see how I’m doing…)

Last night I whipped up a pan of caramel bars to take with me to Natalie’s friend’s house, where we rang in the New Year. If you know me or my family at all, you know these bars are our go-to “dish” for any party, potluck, Groundhog-day celebration, you name it. While some people mistakenly call these Heavenly bars (when you try them, you’ll see why), Heavenly bars are a recipe for another day. So…on to the recipe for my mom’s absolutely divine caramel bars (which, I must add, she got from one of my dad’s old co-workers at one of our holiday parties; I’m forever in debt to that woman, Michele): moist bites of decadence, swirling with caramel strands and partly melted semi-sweet bits of chocolate. Did I mention the crumbly, brown sugar/oat topping? COME ON!

Caramel Bars


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup melted butter (a stick and a 1/2)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
  • 32 caramels
  • 5 Tablespoons milk

Mix together the flour, oatmeal, and brown sugar.

Then add the baking soda and salt.

Finally, add the melted butter (I nuked it in the microwave for 17 seconds ha)

Take out 1/3 of this mixture and put on a piece of wax paper or in a separate bowl (you’ll be using this as the topping later on).

Put the remaining 2/3 of the mixture in a 9 x 13 pan. (I use a small piece of wax paper to press it down into a thin layer that covers the bottom of the pan. If you try to use your hands to press it down, the butter will make it super sticky.) Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

While that’s baking, unwrap the caramels (make sure there’s no plastic wrap that sneaks in there!)

Mix the caramels with the milk in a pot over the stove (put it on low so the caramels don’t burn).

(Here’s before…)

(Here’s after!)

When the bottom layer has cooled a bit, spread the chocolate chips over it.

Then, pour the melted caramel/milk mixture over the chocolate chips.

Top with the remaining mixture (that you had reserved earlier). Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Let cool, then enjoy DEVOUR!

I have no words for this.

If you bring caramel bars to a party, you will be a hit, I promise! So many people have asked me for the recipe over the years, and beg our family to bring these to parties & other events.

Now, enough of that. If you haven’t already left me for the kitchen to make your own batch of caramel bars, I want to quick share 2 beautiful meals my mama made us yesterday (while the kids were all still home!).

Numero uno: Sesame Pasta Chicken Salad – teeming with al dente bow tie pasta (also called farfalle for you fancy dancy folks), tiny sesame seeds, shredded, cooked chicken, and hints of soy sauce, sesame oil, ground ginger, and fresh cilantro.

I kind of went a little crazy with the cilantro.

Numero dos: a brand-new recipe out of the cookbook Andrew got for Christmas. (He loves it!) I’ve gotta admit: I’m not a huge fan of steak, so I jumped at the chance to slice it real thin and do an open-faced sandwich rather than having a big old (pretty) hunk of steak on my plate. My mom’s red-whine reduction sauce was out of this world! (Paula Deen, anyone? 🙂 )

My mom should be a chef. This could be the cover of a magazine, no?

After that fantastic dinner, Natalie came over and we got ready – the theme was classy, so we tried 🙂

My good friend Elizabeth even made an appearance!

Cousin Sandwich!

Such a fun night — and so good to catch up with friends (and laugh at Natalie, who is seriously one of the funniest people I have ever met).

Now, it’s off to relax a bit and do some reading…

I’ve got a semester abroad in Rome and a family trip to Greece to plan! 🙂

And I Ask You: Did you make a New Year’s Resolution? Do you even bother?! If you’re not too embarrassed (hey, mine is to floss…), tell me about it.



About ciaotochow

ciao to chow: initially created as a little spot on the web devoted to the "chow" I find while studying abroad in Rome. But really, ciao to chow is about my life: the day-to-day experiences, funny stories, moments of laughter, and the food...that continue to inspire me and make me grateful for each new day.
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7 Responses to Ringin’ in the New Year with INSANE caramel bars

  1. Thank you for this recipe!! This looks really similar to something a family friend used to make, and I’ve never been able to find the recipe. This will be a keeper 🙂

  2. Kristina says:

    Thanks for commenting so I could find your blog:) I saw your header pic and knew I was in the right place-love! haha. The recipe looks great-and super yummy! Looking forward to following:)

  3. Pingback: 2010 in a (wal)Nut Shell | ciaotochow

  4. you look gorgeous in those photos!! and i freakin need some of those barss!

  5. MareMare says:

    Happy New Year, AC — your dental hygienist thanks you very much!!

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