I discovered a fantastic recipe recently. It is a frugal, easy and healthy recipe that provides a good portion of beta-carotene. I found the recipe in an old cookbook called Homemade Snacks by Nell B. Nichols from Farm Journal. I was excited to try it because last year I got a dozen or so large cans of pumpkin puree on manager's special for $.25 and they are getting a little too far past sell-by date.
This recipe uses boxed pudding mix, although you could certainly use from-scratch pudding as well. I used the boxes pudding for a couple reasons. One: I got the boxed mix on a really, really good sale and have a lot in the stockpile. Two: I know that nutrition and cost have to be balanced with time constraints. The way I see it, while this uses a processed food, it is a reasonably nutritious snack and, being so simple to make, it is just as easy as buying pudding packs. This makes it realistic for working moms to make for kids lunches, or for anyone who wants a yummy dessert but who is short on time. It's one of the simplest desserts I've made.
Basically, you make a package of butterscotch pudding according the package instructions. Then you mix in 16 oz of plain pumpkin puree, 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice (or to taste) and mix it together. Allow to set up in the refrigerator. It won't set up as solid as straight pudding, but has a good texture.
To serve as Pumpkin Pie pudding, simply top with some crumbled graham crackers and a bit of lightly sweetened whipped cream. I also love to top it with vanilla ice cream. With or without crumbled graham crackers. With candied pecans. With a sprinkling of cinnamon. With a drizzle of caramel sauce. You could also use dried and crumbled leftover sweets like snickerdoodle cookies. Or add a pie crust cookie.
Sometime soon I want to try making this into a frozen pie. I think I'll bake a graham cracker crust, then fill with the pudding mixture and freeze. To serve, I'd add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It might be something fun to try.
Don't stop at pumpkin and butterscotch pudding. There are lots of fun ideas to try. Replace the pumpkin puree with cooked and mashed carrots or butternut/acorn squash. Maybe use applesauce and a caramel pudding. Use vanilla instead of butterscotch. Maybe even try chocolate. Add leftover mashed sweet potatoes. There are lots of ways to sneak veggies into dessert.
Most of us aren't going to give up having dessert just to be healthy. However, looking for ways to limit fat and sugar while adding nutrients will help us be healthier without feeling deprived.