Nate and the boys and I keep finding ourselves at holiday parties all over the place – tis the season – and we're noticing an interesting trend this year. People aren't hosting big sit-down things like they used to, opting instead for small plates and cookie potlucks. We don't always have time to eat on our own before we head to a party, so I've been trying to come up with extra-hearty recipes to bring along. These caramel apple bars are just the ticket!

These caramel apple bars are perfect for a holiday cookie potluck

Filling oatmeal and layers of fresh apple with decadent caramel sauce make these a hit everywhere we go.

Caramel Apple Bars with Crumbly Oatmeal Streusel

The recipe was originally created as part of a sponsored post by Lunchbox with Kraft, but we've baked these so many times that I've come up with a couple little tweaks to make it my own.

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Caramel Apple Bars with Crumbly Oatmeal Streusel
Ingredients
  • 2 cups old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
  • 1 1/ 4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 package KRAFT Caramels 11 oz.
  • 1 granny smith and one red delicious apple chopped
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Line 13x9-inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Mix oats, 1 cup flour, baking soda and spices until blended.
  3. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture until blended. Reserve 1 cup oat mixture; press remaining onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake 15 minutes.
  4. Microwave caramels and milk in microwaveable bowl on high for 2 minutes or until caramels are completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring every 30 seconds.
  5. Sprinkle apples over crust and drizzle with caramel sauce. Crumble remaining oat mixture over caramel sauce.
  6. Bake 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely. Use foil handles to lift dessert from pan before cutting into bars.

You can use any apples you want in this, but I have a special combination that we use every time. A lot of people say that you shouldn't use red delicious apples when baking, but I like how their neutral flavor meshes with granny smith. Plus, these are baked for such a short time that the flesh stays pretty firm.

Caramel Apple Bars with Crumbly Oatmeal Streusel

Kraft usually adds milk to the caramel sauce to make it easier to spoon out over the layers, but I prefer the consistency of a thicker batch so I just melt those bad boys straight from the bag and pour it out quickly. It comes out in a long and pretty ribbon of deliciousness. Sometimes, I even use two whole bags instead of one. I'm a rebel like that.

Caramel Apple Bars with Crumbly Oatmeal Streusel

Kraft also separates out some of the flour and oats to make these a bit more layered, but I like to mix it all up and sprinkle bits of oatmeal-flour streusel on top so it bakes up with a nice crispy top and bottom filled with a gooey, apple-caramel center. If you have ice cream on hand, there is nothing like a bowl full of this heated up with a big heaping scoop of vanilla on top.

Caramel Apple Bars with Crumbly Oatmeal Streusel

After all the filling treats, our kids inevitable konk out. Happy, full, and dreaming of sugar plums. Or caramel apple bars. Whatever.

Kraft

Get more hearty recipe ideas over on the Kraft website. It's full of quick and easy ideas that use stuff most families have in their kitchen all-year-round.

Caramel apple bars with crumbly oatmeal streusel - love this filling dessert for a party when we don't have time to eat before

Pin these caramel apple bars for later!

Does your family have any filling go-to recipes for those “in-between” meals?