Oatmeal Carmelitas

            Oatmeal Carmelitas       

2 cups flour
2 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats
1 ½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup butter, melted
1 (12 oz.) package semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 (14 oz.) package caramels
1/3 cup half-and-half

    Preheat oven to 350°.  Stir together first 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Add butter, stirring until mixture is crumbly.  Reserve half of mixture (about 2 ¾ cups).  Press remaining half of mixture into bottom of a greased parchment paper lined 13x9 inch pan.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips and, if desired, pecans.
    Microwave caramels and 1/3 cup half-and-half in a microwave-safe bowl at MEDIUM power for 3 minutes.  Stir and microwave at MEDIUM 1 to 3 more minutes or until mixture is smooth.   Pour over chocolate chips.  Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.
    Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until light golden brown.  Cool in pan on a wire rack.  Use parchment paper to lift out of pan.  Cut into squares.

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