Point of fact: I am not good at the holidays. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the food and family and friends part of it… but the planning and the decorating and the making-it-all-look-effortless part? Not so much.
The other day, a friend commented to me that they normally had their Christmas tree up by now, and my mind went spinning. I haven’t thought past Thanksgiving yet (not to mention Hanukkah falls on the same day this year), but now I’m supposed to consider what comes after?
Last year, I had a grand plan of buying a big wreath for the front of our house. Something simple that would keep us from sticking out like a sore thumb amongst a neighborhood full of twinkling lights and decorations. Then I went wreath shopping, and discovered that real wreaths — nice wreaths — are not exactly cheap. (Read: expensive as hell.)
For a moment I contemplated taking matters into my own hands and getting my DIY on… but you know that didn’t happen.
This year my mother asked me, “so, now that you have a puppy, are you going to put up lights for the holidays?” First of all, I’m not even sure how that’s supposed to make sense… do dogs appreciate Christmas lights? Secondly, I have yet to open a string of lights and have it work properly, without half the string being dead on arrival. Fiddling with tiny bulbs and tangled cords is just another level of stress I don’t need around the holidays!
Fortunately, T-Hubs and I have the pleasure of going to visit our families over the holidays, and not the other way around. I’m off the hook until it comes time for us to host… then I’m in trouble.
Then again, perhaps if I shove something tasty at people as they walk through the door, they might not notice the lack of decor?
I think these Pumpkin Pecan Blondies would work nicely. They’re moist, gooey, and flavorful, and full of holiday goodness. Plus, you can’t say what they are without wanting to say “Pum-Pecan Blondies”. (Go ahead, try it. Pum-Pecan. It just feels right.)
What is it about pumpkin and cream cheese that’s so perfect? I’m not normally big on cream cheese anything, but if it’s on top of a carrot cake, or swirled through pumpkin, I am all in. In fact, my only gripe about these beauties is that there wasn’t enough cream cheese. I’ve revised the recipe below to include making a second layer of swirl — pour half the batter into the pan, swirl with cream cheese, then pour the rest, and repeat — instead of just one swirl on top. Perfection!
Pumpkin Pecan Blondies with Cream Cheese Swirl
Makes about 24 blondies – adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 TBSP vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks, or 12 TBSP) unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/8th tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt)
3/4 tsp. baking powder
2 cups homemade pumpkin puree (instructions here – or about one 15oz. can)
1 1/2 cups pecans, roughly chopped (or walnuts)
Optional: other add-ins, like chocolate chips, toffee bits, or mini marshmallows
(I used rounded measurements on all the spices, because that’s how I roll)
For the cream cheese swirl:
4oz. cream cheese, room temperature
3 TBSP granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
For the cream cheese swirl mixture:
1. In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and egg, until completely smooth. Set aside.
For the blondies:
1. Preheat oven to 350f., and grease a 9×12 inch baking dish. Line with parchment paper, and set aside.
2. Whisk together flour, spices, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat well. Add the pumpkin puree and beat to combine.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and fold with a rubber spatula until no pockets of flour remain. Fold in the pecans, and any other add-ins.
5. Pour half of the batter into the prepared baking dish. Dollop about half of the cream cheese mixture over the top of the batter, placing a spoonful here, a spoonful there, around the pan. Use the tip of a knife or a toothpick to swirl the dollops around — do not over-mix, or the swirls will disappear into the batter.
6. Pour the remaining blondie batter into the pan, and smooth the surface. Dollop the rest of the cream cheese mixture on top, and swirl again with the tip of a knife or toothpick.
7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.