Thanksgiving treats: Impress friends and family over the holidays

By: Sydney Adamson, Lead Designer,

As frugal college students, we live on cheap pasta and dining hall food. But on Thanksgiving, we like to eat like kings.

Not only do we get to eat an obscene amount of home cooked food, but we get to do so while surrounded by our loved ones. Thanksgiving truly is the bee’s knees.

But I do have one bone to pick with this holiday: pumpkin pie. I don’t like it. The texture is gross. It’s bland. My opinion is likely an unpopular one, but blech.

These caramel pumpkin cheesecake streusel bars on the other hand are, how you say, delicious AF.

I’ll be making them for The Towerlight’s annual Thanksgiving get together and I can’t wait for my workplace proximity acquaintances to taste them. I would make them for my family on actual Thanksgiving too, if my nieces weren’t so dead set on eating pumpkin pie.

I know it might be hard to switch out your beloved pumpkin pie in favor of this UPO (unidentified pumpkin object, duh), but I promise it will be worth the taste.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8-by-8 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Make the sheet bigger than you need so you’ll be able to pull out the bars easily. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix the crust ingredients until a thick dough forms. Press the mixture into the bottom of the baking pan. Admire the pretty, even crust you just made. Contemplate why you don’t have your own cooking show. Move on to next step (but don’t forget about your dreams of being a Food Network star). In another bowl, combine the room temperature cream cheese (melting the cream cheese will make it bumpy and you don’t want bumpy cheese), sugar and vanilla. Beat until completely smooth and creamy with a hand or stand mixer. High five yourself for a job well done.

Remove 1.5 cups of that mixture and spread it on top of your awesome, cooking show-worthy crust.

To the remaining mixture, add the egg, pumpkin puree, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice and mix until combined. Allow yourself a taste of the deliciousness that’s basically mocking you from the bowl.

Pour the pumpkin layer on top of the plain cheesecake layer being careful not to combine the two.

Streusel topping:

In a bowl, stir together the brown sugar, white flour, oats and cinnamon. Add the butter and vanilla and mix together until well combined. Get distracted by the smell. Snap back to reality.

Sprinkle mixture all over the pumpkin cheesecake layer. Top with pretzel bits.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until the cheesecake has set. Remove from oven and top with white chocolate chips right away. Remind yourself to turn the oven off so you don’t burn the house down.

Let cool on counter for an hour, then place in the fridge for one to two hours.

Drizzle sauce all over top of bars using a spoon.

Marvel at your hard work and pretty dessert. Consider yourself the next Martha Stewart. Dig in!



2 8 ounce packages full fat cream cheese (make sure it’s room temperature)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Streusel and Topping
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white flour
1/4 cup quick cooking oats
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup thin pretzels, crushed
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
Caramel topping (ice cream sundae topping is perfect)

10 to 11 full sheets cinnamon graham crackers, crushed
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter

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