So… here’s the deal. If you’ve read any of my other blogs that I have written, you know that I have this tendency to get in over my head trying to make things “special“. I end up expending stupid amounts of energy, time, and patience in a solid attempt to delight my kids. I think I’m what the cool, teenage kids would call… extra? *cue laughing and hilarity because we all know how ridiculous I sound*
BUT! This time I attempted something that I assumed would be ridiculously hard and frustrating, but was actually not that hard at all! Maybe a little time-consuming, but besides that it was relatively easy. So that’s a win.
(Also, it is not lost on me that one of my most recent blogs was about letting go of doing things to make your kids’ childhood magical… thankful that God isn’t done with me yet!)
Last week, my oldest son’s school had a bit of a “pumpkin pick” for them. They brought in a bunch of pumpkins to the field and let the kids pick one out. It came home in his backpack and much to my delight, this pumpkin seemed to be a little pie pumpkin! Suddenly, I had ideas and visions of how we could use this thing to make something fall-inspired and delicious.
My first thought was pumpkin pie, but seeing that I’m a reformed over-achiever (HA!), I decided that I wasn’t going to commit to cooking a pumpkin and making up pie crust all in one sitting (I’m not reformed enough to go buy pie crust yet, sorry). Then came the idea for something potentially even more delicious… pumpkin cream cheese swirl bars!
I looked online and found a recipe, and then adapted it for real pumpkin, and here is what I found:
So without further ado, here’s what I did!
Preparing, Cooking, and Pulverizing Your Pumpkin
The picking of the pumpkin was a job that was done for me, so I can’t speak too much into that. From what I know, it benefits you greatly to select a pumpkin that is meant for cooking versus carving, simply for the sake of ease. Carving pumpkins tend to have a smaller usable flesh per pound ratio, whereas the pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins have more to give you. However, if you think you’ll be able to get enough pumpkin puree out of your carving pumpkin, go for it. I’d look into how to cook it though because it will likely be different than what I’ve got here!
First things first, preheat your over to 350 degrees. Wash your pumpkin and dry it off well, don’t need it slippery and sliding around when you’re wielding a giant knife. Get out a cutting board and cut the sucker in half down the middle from stem to the bottom. It was recommended to knock the stem off ahead of time, but try as I might, I couldn’t get the stem to budge so I cooked it with the stem on. Worked fine for me.
Once you’ve got the pumpkin cut (please be careful with that knife!), get out a roasting pan and line it with parchment/wax paper. Grab a spoon and scoop the seeds out, and save them to roast later! Place your pumpkin halves cut side down into the lined roasting pan and stick it in the oven! Roast it for about 45 minutes, or until you stick a knife in through the peel and meet no resistance.
When you’ve got the pumpkin fully cooked, allow it to cool for a bit and then separate the flesh and the skin. Most likely it will be easy and the skin will just peel away, but you may need to scoop a bit, too.
Then comes the fun part… blending it up! I used my Nutribullet blender, but you can use a food processor or an immersion blender (I’m not allowed to use one of these anymore after an unfortunate incident involving steamed carrots and my index finger). You want it thoroughly blended into a soft, smooth puree.
Once blended, you’ll want to drain as much liquid out of the pumpkin puree as you can. Use a mesh strainer over a bowl and allow the pumpkin to sit in there for quite a while, even a couple hours if you can spare it. If you’re like me though and want to accomplish something quickly, you can take some more wax paper and place it over the pumpkin and put some weight on top to speed things along. I let it sit like this for about 30-35 minutes.
As soon as it is drained, it’s ready to use. You can use it all right away or you can freeze it in portions to use later. My small pumpkin made exactly one cup of pumpkin, perfect for this recipe.
Cue the recipe!
For the Cream-Cheese Filling:
- 8 ounces of cream cheese (1 package if using a block, 1 cup otherwise)
- ¼ cup of sugar
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
For the Pumpkin Batter:
- 1 cup of pumpkin puree
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup of vegetable oil (however if you aren’t able to strain your pumpkin for very long, you may want to reduce this to ¼ cup, as the batter will be a bit runnier and need to cook a bit longer)
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice (or substitute 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of ginger, ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg, and ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves)
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- ½ teaspoon of baking soda
- ½ teaspoon of salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan and set aside.
Mix all of the cream cheese filling ingredients together with a hand mixer until creamy and set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix pumpkin puree, sugar, egg, and oil together until just combined. Stir in all dry ingredients until well mixed.
Pour the pumpkin mixture into the 9×13 pan and spread evenly. Take spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture and drop them along in the batter. Once all is used, take a knife and cut through the mixture, width-wise and then length-wise, to create your swirls.
Bake for about 28 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for a bit, cut and enjoy! Keep them in the fridge, if any are left after they hit your counter.
Well there you have it! This is my new favorite fall recipe! While it does take a bit of time and planning, these bars come together really easily. Of course, if you want to make it using canned pumpkin, go for it! Just make sure you use the full amount of oil and potentially reduce the cooking time by a few minutes, as pumpkin puree will have less moisture. Either way, I think you will find these to be completely scrumptious!
Let us know what you think! What are your favorite fall recipes?