This post is in partnership with Voya. All thoughts and opinions and the recipe are my own. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
Ah, the holidays are in full swing and I’m starting to feel frazzled already. It’s always my goal to just ENJOY this time of year with my family instead of get caught up in the mayhem of gift buying, wrapping, running all over the place…you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve definitely made progress in this area but am always in the market for time and money-saving tips, especially during the holiday season.
Voya’s Holiday Hal Is Sharing Money-Saving Tips
Voya Financial Inc., a financial services company whose main mission is to help Americans plan, invest, and protect their savings with their eye on retirement – is helping us make the most of the holidays again this year with the help of their cozy little spokesperson, Holiday Hal. You might wonder what a financial services company has to do with holiday tips. Voya has been named a 2016 World’s Most Ethical Companies, is certified as a 2016 Great Place to Work, and is recognized as one of the Top Green Companies in the US 2016 by Newsweek. They are FOR REAL committed to people first. So it’s not just about money. It’s about quality of life, and that’s what we’re all after this time of year.
In his third year as our go-to snowman, Hal is back to help Americans get through the hustle and bustle of the holiday season while keeping retirement savings goals in sight. Save money and stress less. Sign me up, Hal. Voya knows the holiday season can stretch both patience and wallets thin, but there are smart actions we can all take to stay organized and continue to save during the holiday craze.
Now through New Year’s Eve, you can stay connected on Voya’s various social media channels to learn more about all the smart ways we’re helping Americans stay organized and save money during the holiday season. From DIY décor to shopping and saving tips, Holiday Hal will help everyone make smart decisions that can save money and alleviate the holiday stress.
Food is a major part of the holidays. Work socials, baking with the kids, class parties, on and on. All these treats can be time consuming to make, and if you choose to buy them at a bakery, they’re pricey. Holiday Hal suggests making your own homemade treats (and I’m with him!). It saves you the dough (get it?) and homemade cooking is just so much more in-the-spirit.
I love these budget friendly chocolate covered pretzels that Holiday Hal has shared. So easy, the kids can handle most of this. And they are perfect for any holiday shindig from my husband’s work event to my son’s 2nd grade class party.
Easy Gooey Chocolate Caramel Bars Recipe
In the spirit of saving money by making my treats homemade, and saving time by using a few handy shortcuts, I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes for Easy Gooey Chocolate Caramel Bars. My Mom used to make these occasionally when I was growing up and for some reason they fell off the dessert radar for a while. Well they are BACK and they are SO good.
Go ahead and drool. I ate one of these for lunch and I’m not sorry.
The great thing here is that they start with a boxed cake mix so they’re easy to make. No flour, sugar, not much to measure at all. All of the ingredients are pictured above. Get the kids to help you unwrap the caramels. That’s really the hardest part! (Note: That’s a 12oz can of evaporated milk pictured above. The recipe calls for a 5oz can. Been there, done that with that mistake. Get the 5oz. can, not the 12oz.)
You’ll divide the dough in half and bake half of it for a few minutes in the bottom of the pan. Then add chocolate chips, walnuts, and melted caramel. Drop hunks of the remaining dough on top and bake some more. That’s it! Find the recipe below.
- 14-16oz bagged caramel candies (Kraft has a 14oz bag. Werther's has an 8.1 oz bag. Use one bag of Kraft, 2 bags of Werthers)
- 5oz. can of evaporated milk, divided
- 1 package of German Chocolate Cake Mix
- ½ cup melted butter (1 stick)
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- ½ cup of chopped walnuts + a handful more
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a small sauce pan, place the unwrapped caramels and ⅓ cup of the evaporated milk. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine remaining evaporated milk with the melted butter and cake mix.Stir until combined. The batter will be thick. Put half of it in an ungreased 9x13" pan and use the back of a rubber spatula to press it down, evenly covering the bottom of the pan.
- Bake for 6 minutes. While it is baking, place the saucepan with the caramels and milk over low heat on the stove and stir continuously until melted and smooth. They should be pretty well melted by the time your pan is ready to come out of the oven.
- Remove pan from oven after 6 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate chips and ½ cup walnuts evenly over the crust. Pour the caramel evenly over the top. Space teaspoons of the remaining dough over the top of the caramel. Sprinkle a few more walnuts on top.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting. These firm up better the next day and are easier to serve and just as gooey!
A quick note that I did try to melt the caramel in a double boiler and that doesn’t work very well. Just put it in a sauce pan to melt it.
We definitely dug in as soon as they were cool enough to eat, but they are actually better a day later. They firm up a bit but are still plenty gooey. Cut them up and serve them in cupcake liners to make life easy if you’re sharing them at a party.
Trust me. Everyone who gets their hands on one of these is going to love them. They’re homemade, I didn’t spend a fortune at the bakery, and I didn’t spend hours making them. That’s what we call a holiday trifecta.
Learn More About Voya
In addition to the budget-friendly tips Holiday Hal is sharing this holiday season, I know many of us make financial goals in the new year. It’s a great time to get acquainted with Voya as you think ahead to 2017. You can learn more on their website, and they regularly share practical financial tips and messages of doing good in the world on their social media accounts. Follow on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.