Pumpkin Pie Bars with Pecans

Pumpkin Pecan Crumb Bars

“Don’t play like a girl,” a little girl on the soccer team I coach said to another this weekend. We were mid-game, standing on the sidelines, talking about a play my daughter, Paige, 8, just made as goalie. She’d caught the ball — the first time anyone did this season.

It was our second game, and the girls rotate positions. After we cheered for Paige, I said to the girls near me that catching the ball to stop a play can be scary but they should never be afraid. They can do it.

The little girl’s words hit me like an icy shot to the heart. As a woman, as a mother, as someone raising a daughter to be fierce, images of Brandi Chastain and Michelle Akers immediately came to mind. As a young girl myself, they were among the women soccer players showing people everywhere that women players could be fierce and competitive. Back then, the Women’s World Championship (now the FIFA Women’s World Cup) was just beginning — it was held for the first time in 1991.

I couldn’t get a response out fast enough.

“Absolutely play like a girl. Always play like a girl, because girls are awesome. Girls can do anything. Just don’t be afraid of the ball. No one should be,” I said, or at least said something very close to that.

Playing like a girl means playing like retired professional soccer player Mia Hamm, who played with the United States women’s national soccer team for 17 years and won two women’s World Cups and two Olympic gold medals. She joined the national team at age 15, and was the youngest member of a soccer team to win a World Cup — ever.

It means playing like fiery goalkeeper Hope Solo, a two time Olympic gold medalist who played impressively to help her team win the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Though she was suspended from the U.S. team for remarks following an August game, she is still considered the all-time greatest women’s goalkeeper.

And it means playing like Abby Wambach, the two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women’s World Cup champion, who played forward. She scored 184 goals over the course of her soccer career (she’s retired now) — more than any other player (male or female) ever in the history of international soccer. Wambach, whose autobiography “Forward: My Story,” was recently released by HarperCollins Children’s Books, is a six-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year award.

But where does that sentiment come from? I admit, there was a time when I might have said the same thing. When the idea that somehow ‘playing like a girl’ meant something other than being brave, fierce, unstoppable and fabulous. If there’s one lesson I can impart on my team — this group of girls who are learning to trust each other, work together and play well together — it’s that playing like a girl is the best thing you can do. Being a girl is wonderful.

Girls are fierce. Women are fierce. And I hope all the girls on my soccer team — along with my daughter, sister and all the other important young women in my life — know that they are fierce too.

There’s nothing we can’t do.

There’s no easy transition to this week’s recipe. Well, except maybe saying that being fierce in the kitchen is pretty awesome too. Nonetheless, let’s get to the dessert, shall we?

Layered Pumpkin Pie Bars

For my whole life, pumpkin pie has been my favorite dessert, my favorite pie, my favorite sweet. Something about the spiced squash center just makes my tastebuds dance with glee.

These Pumpkin Pie Bars have all the great flavors of the center of pumpkin pie, but with a sweet, crisp, slightly salty crust and the nutty goodness of pecans. With a mix of flavors and textures, these bars are a wonderful, forkless way to enjoy the classic in a new way.

You start by making a cookie layer that will serve as the crust for the bars. Reserve a little of that mixture for the crumb layer, while you’re at it.

Pumpkin Pie layer mix

Then you whip up the pumpkin layer — it’s really as simple as whisking together a few simple ingredients. Spread that over the cookie layer.

Then you mix up the topping — that reserved cookie mixture is mixed with pecans and spread on top.

Pumpkin Pie Bars Recipe

Then bake. And cool. And cut. And love.

Pumpkin Pie Bars with Pecans
Serves: Serves 8-10
Cookie/crumb layer
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into slices
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
Pumpkin layer
  • 1 15-oz can pumpkin purée
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Grease a 13 x 9-inch glass baking pan with butter. Set aside.
  2. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and brown sugar for the cookie/crumb layers. Add the butter and cut in using two knives or a pastry blender.
  3. Reserve 1 cup of the cookie/crumb mixture and press the remaining cookie mixture into the prepared pan.
  4. Whisk together the pumpkin, egg, sugar, flour and pumpkin pie spice for the pumpkin layer. Spread evenly over the cookie layer.
  5. In a small mixing bowl, combine the reserved 1 cup of the cookie mixture with pecans, and then sprinkle all over on top.
  6. Slide the bars into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden.
  7. Let the bars cool and then slice into 1.5x1.5-inch bars.


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.