Pumpkin Coconut Bars

For a lot of folks, the first recipe they ever prepared was printed on the back of a box, a package, or a can. Nestlé Semi-sweet Chocolate Morsels gave us Chocolate Chip Cookies. Lipton Onion Soup Mix turned into Lipton Onion Dip. Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup became Classic Green Bean Casserole. After all, why not depend on the makers of a favorite product to have some good ideas about how to use that product?

It was that kind of thinking that led Joanne to the inspiration for this dessert. Reading a recipe for pumpkin pie filling on the back of a can of pumpkin puree last Thanksgiving, she thought, “If we use a simple cookie crumb crust instead of a pie dough, we can turn this filling into tasty pumpkin pie bars with no sweat.” The very first version was delicious, but I thought we could jazz it up even more. So we exchanged coconut milk for the milk in the filling, and gingersnap cookies for the vanilla shortbread cookies in the crust. It turned out very well.

Makes 12 Bars
Hands-on Time: 15 minutes
Total Preparation time: 35 minutes

Forty 2-inch gingersnaps
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 large eggs
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon table salt
One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (no pie filling)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Grind the gingersnaps in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade to make crumbs (about 2 cups). Melt the butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan over low heat.

Stir together the gingersnap crumbs and melted butter in a medium bowl; pat the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 5 minutes, until the crumbs begin to darken.

Meanwhile, whisk together the coconut milk, eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, and salt until smooth. Stir in the pumpkin puree and spread the mixture evenly over the crumbs.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the center has set. Transfer to a rack and let cool slightly. Cut into 12 bars and serve warm; refrigerate any leftovers.

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