In a medium bowl, sift together the first 7 ingredients; set aside. In a large bowl, combine shortening or butter or oil and vanilla, beating well. Gradually add brown sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs and pumpkin, beating well. Stir in dry ingredients, mixing well. Stir in coconut and nuts. Spread batter into a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan that has been lightly coated with non-caloric vegetable cooking spray.
Bake in a preheated moderate oven (350 degrees F.) for 30 to 35 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle of the bars comes out clean. Cool thoroughly on a baking rack before cutting into bars. May serve plain or sift confectioners' over cooled bars or frost with Cream Cheese Frosting, if desired.
Note: If not using coconut, add 1 cup dark or golden seedless raisins or coarsely chopped dried cherries to dough.
Variation: Reduce nuts or coconut to ½ cup; add ½ cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate or white chocolate pieces/chips
Cream Cheese Frosting:
enough frosting to frost a 13 x 9-inch cake
In a medium bowl, combine the first 4 ingredients, beating until smooth. Gradually add confectioners' sugar, beating until mixture is smooth and fluffy. Add additional half-and-half as needed to achieve to desired spreading consistency.