Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares, and Living Gratitude All Year

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

A good life is when you smile often, dream big, laugh a lot and realize how blessed you are for what you have.” – Unknown

About 10 years ago, I awoke in the throes of the most severe asthma attack I had ever experienced. It landed me in the emergency room of a Connecticut hospital, where I fought to breathe and for my unborn son’s life.

Amid the bustle of doctors and nurses all around me, I remember one resident leveling with me: If I couldn’t breathe, neither could the tiny fetus inside me, and the chances were I was about to lose the baby I’d only recently come to know was there.

By some miracle, my son survived. The head of pulmonology at the hospital personally took over my care, treating me throughout that pregnancy– and ever since.

Today, my son Will is a healthy 9-year-old who loves to play soccer. He is a budding ice skater, a voracious reader and an eager student who loves to learn.

As Thanksgiving approaches and I reflect on what I’m grateful for, my children are foremost. So is that doctor in Connecticut — to him, I owe a lifetime of gratitude.

Pumpkin Cheese Cake with Pilgrim_WEB ART

While this sentiment always becomes prominent this time of year, it’s worth remembering that thankfulness is not an annual rite, but daily ritual.

Last week, BDN features writer Natalie Feulner wrote about teaching kids gratitude. It’s a topic that crops up when the calendar page shows late November, when we are thinking about all the things for which we are grateful.

But instilling gratitude in kids isn’t about one day of the year, when many of us, around the table, tell everyone what we’re thankful for. A daily commitment is what takes gratitude beyond words alone, especially those spoken just once a year.

As a parent, I try to live gratitude. From helping others to expressing sincere thanks for the kindnesses shown us, to being the kind of person who shows up for others, I hope my kids see this and take it to heart.

Both Will and sister Paige are generous souls who love to help others, which is something I was grateful — no surprise there — to hear recently at their school parent-teacher conferences.

This effort to be grateful helps families overcome even the biggest changes. Like this year, when my family will gather around the table on Saturday for our Thanksgiving. Big changes this year mean that we can’t be there Thanksgiving Day.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bar

But whether it’s celebrated on that day or any other day, the gratitude in my heart will be for all the blessings we have — not just the ones this year.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars_WEB_final

Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12
  • 1½ cups finely ground ginger snaps
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper (it should rise up the sides of the pan).
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the ginger snaps crumbs and the butter. Press into the bottom of the pan, spreading it to the edges.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese, pumpkin, brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Beat until smooth. Add the eggs and beat again until fully combined. Add the vanilla extract and beat again until combined.
  4. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the prepared pan. Tap gently to even it out.
  5. Slide the baking pan into the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out cleanly.
  6. Let cool slightly before slicing into squares.

Sarah Walker Caron

About Sarah Walker Caron

Sarah Walker Caron is editor of Bangor Metro magazine and senior features editor for the Bangor Daily News. She is the author of "The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook," (Sept. 2018, Rockridge Press) and the co-author of "Grains as Mains: Modern Recipes Using Ancient Grains" (March 2015, DK). Her recipes have appeared in the BDN, Betty Crocker publications, Glamour.com and more. She also writes about food at www.sarahscucinabella.com.