Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars

Thanksgiving is just about here, and as Gamecock fans we can all add last weekend’s win to the list of things for which we’re grateful. This week’s recipe has a little celebration and gratitude in it, too – and the taste of fall as well.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars are as easy to make as pumpkin pie but also have the added richness of a pumpkin cheesecake. Be sure to allow them time to chill and firm up before you slice and serve them. I added a little spice to the original Taste of Home magazine recipe, in the form of ground ginger and cinnamon, just to amp up the flavor a touch. I sprinkled a bit of cinnamon on top, too.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars

Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted

Filling:
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, brought to room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 (15-ounce) can solid-pack pumpkin
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 13x9x2-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

In a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs and sugar; stir in butter. Press mixture evenly into the bottom of the baking dish. Cover and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the pumpkin, flour, spices and vanilla. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Pour over crust and smooth the top.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours, preferably overnight. Cut cheesecake into bars, arrange on a plate and sprinkle a little cinnamon on top. Makes 20 bars.

PHOTO: ANN THRASH