I’m going to be honest.
It’s been a rough week around these parts.
The Mr.’s been working crazy long hours at a stressful job. The living room has been “in process” for over a month, which basically just means the furniture is stacked in the middle of the room, the floor is covered in tape wads and paint cans, and everything is draped with plastic. It’s a very soothing environment.
Add to that the arrival of the medical bills from my surgery, a cut back of hours at work, and the barrage of negative ad campaigns flooding our TV screens (thank you, swing state), and I’ve been feeling a bit…anxious. worried. exhausted. stressed.
But you know what I’ve realized is a great cure for all of those things? Baking.
The methodical scooping and leveling, the mixing, the whisking, the measuring. It forces my mind to slow down and focus. To stop the rush of questions and anxiety and just do this one thing. It gives me time to reflect, to pray, to settle my mind and my heart.
Then there’s that moment of letting go. Putting the pan in the oven. Shutting the door. Taking a breath. Trusting that the next 30 minutes are going to transfer that mess of ingredients into one amazing dessert.
There’s something wonderfully mysterious about baking. Even after all that precision–the careful weighing and leveling, scooping and sifting–placing that pan in the oven is an act of faith. We let the oven do it’s work. Let the heat mold and melt, taking those fragmented pieces and making them into something better, something whole and delicious.
The process forces me to stop and consider my own messy heart. And I must shut the door on the worry, the discontentment, the uncertainty. Take a breath. Whisper a prayer. Trust that God is doing the work. That He’s taking these pieces and making them whole, day by day, minute by minute.
By the time the buzzer calls out half an hour later, I find myself much calmer. My head clears. I realize life isn’t so terrible. In fact, I realize I have much to be grateful for, even on the most stressful days.
The weather outside may be dreary, but I’m safe. My family is safe. My windows don’t need to be boarded and I’ll be able to sleep in my own bed tonight.
I have a cupboard stocked full of food, enough sugar and flour to make dessert for weeks.
I have a home laced with the smell of cinnamon and pumpkin. I have a husband who walks through the door and takes time to kiss me hello, even after a long day at work. I have friends who’ll delight in this sweet, simple treat. The smallest offering of our abundance.
Who couldn’t feel blessed with a plate full of these bars in front of you? They’re my new favorite thing. They’re so easy to make and they have just the right combination of flavors and textures. Gingery, crunchy crust. Soft, creamy pumpkin centers. Melty chocolate and butterscotch, all topped off with toasty coconut and pecans. It’s a magnificent combination, a perfect example of the whole being much greater than the sum of its parts (and that’s saying something when the parts include such yummy things as semi-sweet chocolate chips, gingersnaps, and toasted coconut).
Warm from the oven they’re a gooey disaster (and totally irresistible). Let them set up in a fridge and all the different layers become a little more distinct. My favorite way to eat them? Just barely warm. A quick 20 seconds in the microwave melts the chocolate chips, but leaves you with a bar that will still hold together when you pick it up. In other words, juuuuust right.
When a fresh pan of pumpkin 7 layer bars is pulled from the oven, it’s impossible not to give thanks. It’s funny really. Sometimes God’s grace and provision is most evident in a humble plate of baked goods.
I hope today your life will be filled with glimmers of that grace. Whether it comes through a phone call from a friend, a song you hear on the radio, or just a safe place in the midst of a storm, I pray you’ll be able to shut the oven door and trust that God is doing a greater work than we could ever imagine.
Grace on a Plate...Pumpkin 7 Layer Bars
- 2 cups gluten free gingersnap crumbs (about 1 bag of Mi-Del cookies)
- 8 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup butterscotch chips
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup pecans
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You can use an 8 x 8 in pan for really thick bars, a 9 x 13 inch pan for really thin bars or an in between size for middle of the road bars. I chose the in between size and liked the thickness it produced. If I had to go with one or the other though, I would go with 8 x 8. They'll be rich so you can cut them small! Line the pan with foil, leaving at least an inch of overhang on all sides so you can easily lift the bars out of the pan for cutting.
- Place coconut and pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes. They don't need to get browned, we just want to get the toasting process started a little bit.
- Mix together the gingersnap crumbs and melted butter. Use your fingers to press the mixture into the prepared pan.
- In a small bowl whisk or beat together the sweetened condensed milk, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour mixture over top of gingersnap crust.
- Spread chocolate chips evenly over the pumpkin mixture followed by butterscotch chips, pecans, and finally coconut.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 25-35 minutes (this will depend on what size pan you use), or until the center appears set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before cutting. Or if you're like me, dig out a corner with a spoon straight from the oven because you're the most impatient person alive.
- But you're not like me, so I'm sure you'll place the pan in the fridge, allow it to set up completely, remove the bars from the pan using the foil sling, then cut them into perfect neat squares. I'm amazed at your self-control.
Recipe by Neighborfood