Pumpkin bars

Pumpkin not only adds color to our meals but it also adds nutrition. Keep this in mind when planning your desserts for Thanksgiving. In addition to the large amount of vitamin A in this orange vegetable, it is also low in fat and sodium.

When I started researching pumpkin, I was surprised at the versatility I found. I knew that it can be used in almost any way as sweet potato, but I never expected to find pumpkin in ice cream, cheesecake, soup or bread pudding, to mention a few of the unusual recipes I found.

Last fall, my granddaughter Christi, who is planning a career in the food field, shared a recipe that her culinary teacher made using pumpkin. It is really delicious. Even those who are not pumpkin fans like her Pumpkin Dump Cake. The fact that it is easy to make using yellow cake mix is a bonus.

Toffee bits are optional in this dessert, but I think they should be used because toffee is one of my favorite candies. This just might become one of your favorite holiday desserts.

For several years, Mike West has shared some great recipes with me, so it didn’t surprise me when I found some wonderful pumpkin bars among his specialties. The other main ingredient in this recipe is dried cranberries, which marry well with the flavor of pumpkin.

PUMPKIN DUMP CAKE

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 (10 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup toffee bits, optional
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13x9x2-inch baking pan lightly with baking/cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, brown sugar, eggs and pumpkin pie spice. Stir to mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle entire box of cake mix on top followed by pecans and toffee bits. Pour melted butter evenly on top. Bake 45 to 50 minutes until center is set and edges are lightly browned. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

PUMPKIN CRANBERRY BARS

  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • ¾ cup butter, melted
  • ¾ cup chopped dried cranberries

Frosting:

  • ½ cup butter
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons milk

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine eggs, pumpkin and butter. Mix both bowls together until well combined. Stir in cranberries. Spread in greased 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted near center. Cool on wire rack.

To make the frosting: Heat butter in saucepan over medium heat for 7 minutes until golden in color. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes. Stir in confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and 4 tablespoons milk. Add remaining milk as needed until spreading consistency is achieved. Spread over bars and let set before cutting.

Contact Prudence Hilburn at prudencehilburn@aol.com.