Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A New Rhythm: Gooey Pumpkin Bars

Everything is happening a little too fast around here... I started listening to Christmas music a full two weeks prior to my self-imposed "start date," which has been a fast and furious rule around here, for as long as we've been married.  Thanksgiving came out of no-where.  Boxes of Christmas decorations have been pulled out of storage since last Thursday.  The tree... up since last Saturday.  I have a wreath hanging on my door.  A WREATH... before Thanksgiving day.  This is not cool.

But it's a necessity this year. 

It's probably not a surprise, but the Christian calendar provides a lot of stability in my life.  That long season of Pentecost... which always seems disproportionate with the actual length of the life of Jesus, comes to an an abrupt halt.  And we leap into Advent... breathing in the breadth of possibility and hope and new life in the midst of gray skies and dry, crunchy leaves.  I spend all year, longing for Advent... for the rhythm of waiting and sitting and anticipating and hoping for things not necessarily hoped for throughout the rest of the year.  I wait for the nesting and the baking and the smells of warmth and the glimpses of peace, in the midst of chaos.  Christmas lights make me weep and snow blanketing the ground, fills my spirit with much needed renewal.  I find warmth in the chill and comfort in the bustle.

But this year, it's all different.  We'll be gone for week two and three, of Advent... and I've lost my orientation, my rhythm.  I don't know how to "do" Advent and Christmas, without the week to week progression, the hearing of our biblical story, and the steady climb that we make, as church, to the birth of a newborn baby... the birth of hope.

So I'm satiating, with disproportionate amounts of butter and sugar.  And I made Paula Deen's Ooey-Gooey Pumpkin Bars.  Though they won't do a lot for renewing the spirit, they're quick and easy and they get the job done.  And I guess sometimes, that's all you can do.

What you'll need for the cake:

1 Yellow cake mix
1 Egg
8 Tablespoons butter, melted

What you'll need for the filling:

2 Cup pumpkin puree
1 8-Ounce package cream cheese, softened
3 Eggs
1 Teaspoon vanilla
8 Tablespoons butter, melted
3 Cups powdered sugar
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
1 Teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the cake, combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Pat the mixture into a lightly greased 13x9-inch baking pan. And at this point you're thinking... well, this isn't SO bad (at least not for Paula Deen).  I mean, 8 Tablespoons of butter?  Yeah, that hurts a little bit... but it's not gonna kill me.  And then you make the filling...

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and EIGHT MORE Tablespoons of butter... and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well.

Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to over bake as the center should be a little gooey.  Then serve it to your family... and have the car running in case anyone can't handle their butter.

It's won't bring about world peace or sooth the weary soul, but you can eat it, knowing that it's not the last dessert you'll ever know... and just enjoy it for what it is... a little over the top, a bit cheapened by the commercialized-out-of-a-box taste, different than what you'd normally make...but still beckoning the holidays.

Blessings to you all this Thanksgiving Eve... may you know a rhythm of peace and joy and hope... even if it's a little different this year...

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