Every year about now I always get a hankering for the pumpkin bars my mother used to make. She only made them during this season, usually on Saturday morning, and the batch never lasted passed Sunday night.
I was thinking that the other day as I surveyed the pumpkins at a stand alongside the road I pass every evening my way home from work. These vegetables have always fascinated me. Even as a kid I watched with wonder when they would swell from tiny green globes to giant orange balls in our garden.
Back then I thought of them less as food and more like a living, growing, form of entertainment. I still recall with fondness my siblings and I gathering around the kitchen table as Dad made the first cut into the pumpkin we selected as our carver. A debate would ensue whether we wanted a happy or scary face, usually ending in a vote and more years than not Dad’s knife would carve out a big toothy grin below triangle eyes and a round nose. Then a taper candle would be fitted inside and the creation was placed on our doorstep to greet trick-or-treaters on Halloween eve. One year Dad even added a walkie talkie to this decoration, and we roared with laughter at the reaction of our guests when he would greet them with an eerie, Draculian, “Goooood Eeeeevening. Hahahaha.”
Another memorable pumpkin event was the year I hosted a Halloween party and actually carved more than 30 of these gourds to use as decorations. Even to this day, my pumpkin carving skills are phenomenal and over the years I have fascinated young and old with this talent. Happy faces, sad ones, scary or goofy, you name it, I can carve it.
But the reason why I had stopped at this roadside stand was to purchase a pie pumpkin, namely because my craving for pumpkin bars was becoming more than I could ignore. In fact, a few days ago, even my son Jake made the comment, “I’m hungry for Grandma’s pumpkin bars,” so I know I’m not the only one to have this urge.
After I had chosen just the right pie pumpkin I couldn’t help but look over the carvers. In fact, I ended up purchasing one just for the heck of it. I convinced myself I was hungry for the seeds, but I have decided, just for old time’s sake, I’m going to carve one up for Halloween this year. I don’t get lots of trick or treaters, yet just the same, I think a glowing face flickering into the frosty night is just what I need. Happy Halloween.
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
15-ounce can pumpkin
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tps. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.