At the risk of sounding like a whiner, I’m going to go ahead and admit something: I’m still not used to this whole “work thing.” Remember how you felt at the end of the semester? Like you were barely hanging on? Like your world was crumbling around you? Like one more late night would literally be your breaking point? You were always able to push through because you knew that Christmas break was waiting for you on the other side: 2 magical months of rest, relaxation and holiday frolicking. And Thanksgiving was always the first glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel: just one more week of class after Thanksgiving, finals and DONE. You were SO close.

And then, BAM…you’re in the real world. No winter break. Thanksgiving isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel – it’s just a long weekend, and life is waiting for you on the other end. Are you depressed yet? I’m sorry…it’s not really that bad. (Seriously, I’m not usually this dramatic.) I just had a WEEK this week, if you know what I mean. By Friday, I’m pretty sure that most of the people close to me were more than a little concerned about my mental health. But this weekend, somewhere in between the Container Store’s Gift Wrap Wonderland and Michael Buble’s “Let it Snow,” I realized something.

This year especially, Thanksgiving IS the light at the end of the tunnel – it’s not only a much-needed long weekend but also a much-needed reminder of everything I have to be thankful for: a home, family, friends, a job to stress over…Sometimes, in the thick of it, it’s a little too easy to lose perspective.

And so, to get in the holiday spirit, I started to go through my favorite holiday recipes. These pumpkin bars have been one of my absolute favorites for as long as I can remember. They’re dense, perfectly spiced and iced in a thick layer of fluffy cream cheese frosting. They also happen to be a perfect mid-season fall pick-me-up. Trust me.

Gather Up:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup minus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 cups solid-pack pumpkin
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pecans, for garnish

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 cups (about) confectioners’ sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
¾ cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and butter a 12×17-inch baking pan. (We use a jellyroll pan.)

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, baking soda and salt into a bowl and mix well.

Beat the sugar and oil in a mixer until blended.

Add the pumpkin and mix well.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients gradually and mix well.

Pour the batter into your buttered pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges pull from the sides of the pan.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Prepare the Cream Cheese Frosting:
Combine the confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Beat until the frosting reaches spreading consistency and is light and fluffy. (Tip: to get fluffy frosting, stop the mixer and scrape the edges of your bowl down every 30-45 seconds!)

Spread the cooled pan of pumpkin bars with the cream cheese frosting and let stand until set. Cut into bars. Garnish with chopped pecans, or place a pecan half in the center of each bar. (We didn’t garnish this time, but the pecans look beautiful and add a nice crunch!)

We hope that you have a blessed Thanksgiving weekend. That this weekend is just what you/I need – a time of rest and relaxation and time spent with family and friends. We hope that you have as much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving as we do. Happy, Happy Thanksgiving!! We’ll see you on the other side…for a full month of Christmas meals and sweets!!