Monday, April 25, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 4/18 - 4/24

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
* I did something I swore I would never do. I used Roundup in the front garden. I hated to do it, but the poison ivy was totally out of control. Trucker has been pulling it up, but I can't expect him to keep going out there constantly. Last year I was barely able to go into the garden because of the sheer volume of poison ivy and the horrible disfigurement I experience when I am exposed. I finally after a lot of thought and delay, I decided that I would spray as little as possible as infrequently as possible so I could get back into the garden. I love spending time in the garden, and want to be able to keep up on both gardens, lawn and tree line this year. I made the dilution a little lighter than it called for and sprayed once on a still day. The poison in one bed is pretty well dead; the other may need a second spray. I will not spray more than I absolutely have to. Hopefully after that second spray I will be good.
* I planted some Little Finger carrots. I wasn't planning on growing them this year, but just decided to go for it. We'll see if I get anything.
* I fed the bunnies radish greens from the seconds bin.

* We had tacos a couple of nights. I found ground beef on sale for $3/lb. We used half a pound each night. I added lettuce (free from seconds bin), peppers (fried; manager's special), black olives (on sale) and cheese (on sale). I strained off a large amount of fat and saved it in the refrigerator to use in cooking. While some people are squeamish about animal fats, I've always preferred them to margarine or shortening. I use them in moderate amounts, so I'm not overly concerned with saturated fat content. Plus it's free!
* Trucker made his amazing french toast to use some bread and eggs getting a little past their prime. Seriously the best breakfast ever. He always makes extra for me to have for breakfast for a couple days after (I just pop it in the toaster and it's almost as good as fresh).
* For our anniversary, Trucker made dinner. He made steak (on sale, $6), baked potatoes ($.15/lb at Aldi) and green beans (canned since we are out of our dehydrated stores for the year).
* I cooked some chicken with Thai seasoning that I got on manager's special ($2/lb). We used it to make wraps for lunch one day, with leftovers.
* I made beef stew with some leftover steak, carrots (manager's special), broccoli (manager's specialstant), radishes (seconds bin), turnips (seconds bin), Swiss chard (seconds bin), a can of corn, and a box of instant mashed potatoes (salvage grocer; I would have used regular potatoes, but didn't realize we were out. I got these for $.40/box, so I had two boxes to use in a pinch). I served it over pasta. We had lots of leftovers for lunches.
* I went to the grocery store for a cheap shop. I only bought items on manager's special: $.88/loaf bread, $1 fancy hamburger buns, $1.50 for a giant bag of mustard greens (I will likely get some greens from work, but I can eat a lot of greens. Also, I don't think I will get any mustard greens for free and I like them enough that that matters. hehe), and $1.50/8 oz brick of cheddar cheese (usually $2.50).
* I made tuna salad for lunch one day that Trucker worked. He will eat tuna if there is nothing else to eat, but he won't be happy about it. I have some in my stores that I got at a fantastic price at the salvage grocer. I added a rib of celery, several grated radishes and baby turnips and served it on a manager's special hamburger bun.

* We went on a couple of coffee dates. We brought our travel mugs.
* My friend messaged me one day and asked if I wanted to go with her to a salsa class at a nearby restaurant. It was starting in 20 minutes. I have always wanted to learn to dance, but have been hopelessly nervous and awkward about it. I remember one awful time a friend took me dancing and my feet never left the floor. I decided to go for it this time. The class was amazing. I am not good (yet???), but had so much fun. I was able to dance a little bit by the end of the class. I want to go more often as I can. The cost was only a $5 donation to charity.
* This week was our nine year wedding anniversary. We went on a cheap date the day of, and had a nicer date the next day. On our anniversary, we went to the second-run theatre for a cheesy-as-heck sci-fi movie. Cost: $4.50. Afterwards, we went to Steak n Shake with a BOGO coupon for milkshakes. It cost $4 before tip.
* The next day was our fancy date. We went to a bar downtown known for cheap prices. Afterwards we walked around downtown and along the river, laughing and talking. That night the symphony was putting on a concert with $10 tickets (for the bad seats). It was a smaller theatre than the one we usually go to, so even being in the back half of the second balcony, we were still able to see really well. The concert was beautiful.
* My friend, Daisy Duke, came over one afternoon and had coffee with me. It is always so nice to be able to just hang out and talk with a good friend.

* We went hiking at a metro park near us. It was a hot day, so we only went for a couple of miles, but it was nice.

* I made a double payment to a credit card.
* I haven't been driving to and from work. The beauty of this is unbelievable. I save $8.50 a day over driving to my factory job, plus reduce my need for 4 oil changes a year, for a savings of $180/month. This translates into a "raise" of $1.05, tax free. This means that even with technically getting a lower wage than at the factory, I break even. Plus, my work day is 8 hours and 15 minutes from the time I leave the house til I get home. The factory kept me away for 13 hours each day.
* Now that I don't work at the factory, I can wear whatever hygiene items I want. At the old job, the chemicals in certain products could interact with the paint, causing problems. Unfortunately, most of the items that were acceptable were really expensive (during that time, I wore the expensive items on work days and cheaper items on off-days). Now I can use whatever I find affordable. This means $1 shampoo instead of $6, and $2 deodorant instead of $5.

Waste Reduction:
* I donated 8 large boxes of random items that were cluttering up the house. Better to donate them to a good cause rather than let them languish in my house. Some of the clothes I thought maybe I'd use for a craft, but after a year if they hadn't been used, they probably wouldn't be.
* I composted lots of weird things.
* I used the last little bit of shampoo at the bottom of the bottle as bubble bath.

* I returned my uniform to my second part time job. Even though I didn't have to, I thought since I'd barely worn them, it made sense to let them use them for someone else. I brought one of my coworkers some apple chips since she and her daughter loved them. She knew I had to come in for my last check so she had saved several boxes and some bubble wrap for me. So sweet. I'll miss them all a lot.
* I got to take home seconds from harvest day. I got two bags: one of lettuce and Swiss chard, the other of radishes and turnips with greens. We got a few meals out of it.
* I was off on Saturday, but stopped by the second farm site for the kick-off for a little bit to volunteer. It was a smaller event than the previous week. We got in potatoes and onions. My boss teased me a bit for planting onions in heels, but I was on my way to another event and forgot to bring a second pair.
* I found a pair of muck boots at a thrift store for $5. I hadn't used the ones I bought from Tractor Supply, so I will return them this week.

* I started taking my permaculture class again. They've upgraded the program so I'm starting over. It keeps track of what I have taken and what I haven't. This is nice so that, even if I don't pay for certification, I could always screen save the course list to show how many lessons I've taken.
* Trucker got another table for flea marketing at a fantastic price.

* We went walking a few times. I've also been working really hard at the farm which is lovely. When harvesting, planting and weeding I'm basically doing squats all day. I also went dancing which worked muscles I didn't know I had.
* We realized (again) this week that we have to be better about staying hydrated. Especially since we are both working as laborers now, it is very important. My problem is forgetting to drink anything; Trucker's is that he drinks coffee all day and forgets to drink anything else.

* While I was working in the yard one afternoon, I met my neighbor that lives catty-corner from my backyard. She is an adorable 88-year-old who still gardens and tends her house and yard. We had a good talk. I hope to get to know her better this summer.
* Trucker gave a huge box of chips to my coworkers. He had got them on auction for $3 for a box of 30 bags (value $30+). He is so thoughtful. Everyone was telling me I had a keeper.
* My friend and I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity at a Women Build clinic. We helped to build door and window headers while playing with power tools.
* I let Daisy Duke borrow some of my garden tools so she can put her garden in. Considering I won't need them for another week, it costs me nothing to let her borrow them and saves her the cost of having to buy all the supplies just for a small patio garden.
* My boss said during our weekly meeting that she wanted to plant a pollinator garden, but we didn't get the grant for it. That same night, I found a thrift store selling seeds for $.25/pack. I bought 17 packs of flower seeds, focusing on flowers that were both pollinator-attracting and self-sowing. I also brought in all of the extra flower seeds I had in my stash (this is my cleanout year). So we will be able to get that garden in.
How was your week?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 4/11 - 4/17

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
* I fed the bunnies radish leaves (scraps from job) and leafy tree trimmings.
* I put a scarecrow out. It was some random thing I picked up at a barn sale I go to on their free day. I was thinking of putting it at the curb because it was too broken to sell. However, I loved him, so I decided to find a way to keep him.
* The garlic is looking fantastic. I love growing my own garlic. It is so easy to grow a year's worth of garlic and it's super easy to store as well.

* I made a pasta and veggie dish with cheese sauce. I used sugar snap peas (manager's special), Swiss chard (from my job), radishes (from my job), onions, garlic, celery and carrots. I used a very small portion of pasta mixed in and a load of veggies. I added just a tiny bit of ham for flavor.
* We ate leftovers and items from the pantry/freezer a lot this week.
* I cooked chicken bones and veggie scraps down to stock. I used the bones twice before tossing them in the compost bin.
* I made chicken noodle soup using homemade stock and the bits of chicken I pulled off the bones after cooking. I also added Swiss chard, carrots, celery, garlic, onion, zucchini (dehydrated) and a small handful of green beans (dehydrated).

* We went out for a couple of coffee dates.
* My mom took my sister, Trucker and me out for ice cream when they were in town. It was so lovely to be able to talk with them.

* We went hiking at a local metro park. We also went to a living historical farm on site.
* I am absolutely blissed out while working out in nature. I love learning more about growing plants. Birds fly over us while we work and sing all day. My boss is amazing with animal prints so she points out all the different animals that cross our beds (deer, rabbits, coyotes, etc). Every day when I walk home from work, I am completely happy. I'm sure all this Vitamin D is doing me a world of good.

* I paid off a couple of debts! I paid off a credit card (There was a special promotion, so by paying it off by May, I paid no interest for a savings for $40) and my medical debt. Total, this saves me $75 a month that can go to other things.
* Ray absolutely loves her tree. It is so fun to watch her run, jump and climb up the side of it.
* I cut flowers from the front garden to bring inside. I love having fresh flowers in the house, but don't do it often because of the cost. I haven't cut flowers from my garden in the past, but plan to do so more often this year.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted lots of weird things.

* I am happy beyond words. I love this job. My boss and coworkers are amazing. The work is wonderful. I love working really hard knowing that it is making a real impact. I've always struggled in jobs when I didn't believe in what I was doing. This job makes me want to work harder, smarter, more efficiently.
* I was able to take home some seconds produce from my job. While we would never take anything that could be used for feeding the community, there are some items so damaged that they would otherwise be thrown in the compost bin, such as cracked radishes, or items with excessive bug nibbles. We are encouraged to take those items so that we can talk with our clients/customers about our produce. I brought home several cracked radishes (I cut out the bad spots and sliced them), some parsley (tiny pieces that couldn't be bundled) and Swiss chard (trimmings from cleaning up some plants that had extensive leaf miner damage; since I cooked them, it was no issue). All of this would have simply been composted otherwise.
* I packed lunch each day I worked. Trucker ate for free at his job.
* We had a Spring Kick-off event at the farm this weekend. The day before I got to go out canvassing the neighborhood (and racking up some major mileage). I loved getting into conversations with some lovely people and sharing recipes with a cute little lady down the street. The event was fantastic. It was so wonderful to get to spend time with some wonderful volunteers and fabulous neighbors. A company nearby sent 12 workers there for the day  and they knocked through so many projects.  Trucker showed up for a bit, as did my mom and sister. Overall, it reminded me that there are a lot of good people in the world and that I am very happy that I moved into this neighborhood.

* I packed a tin with a couple protein bars, first aid items and feminine hygiene items and placed it in my car to have on hand just in case.

* Trucker got a great bargain on a folding table (75% off). We are wanting to get into flea markets this year or next, so we are starting to source supplies.

* My blood pressure is much lower than it was. Last year when I was at the doctor and at my physical for my factory job, my blood pressure was technically in Stage 1 hypertension. That being said, I do have a pretty strong case of white-coat hypertension, so that number was probably higher than it was actually. When I tested while relaxing before work (and I always felt quite calm in those early mornings before work), it was around 138/85. Now it ranges from 103/71- 111/76. Not bad at all. The two big changes that I have made have been to significantly reduce stress (Actively avoiding situations that caused stress/angst in the past) and I've cut back to just a cup or two of coffee a day.

* I spent the entire week immersed in our community. Between growing food for people in my neighborhood to meeting chefs at local sustainable restaurants to canvasing the neighborhood, I felt very connected. I am very happy.
* After the kick-off, one of the worker's sent me home with some leftover muffins she had made for the event. She had too many for her family to eat and didn't want them to go to waste. I enjoyed them for breakfasts and sent Trucker with some for him and his boss the next morning.

How was your week?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 4/4 - 4/10

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.

* I harvested a cup of baby kale from the indoor garden. Last year I'd started to get a good little harvest from the container, but the moment I brought it outside, the bugs devoured it all. I think I'll keep it indoors this year for as long as it gives me produce.
* I fed the bunnies tree trimmings. They absolutely love it. Their contented little grunts are too cute for words. Nurse Ratched devours hers in seconds. Frank eats his and then plays with the twig. Hazel-ra eats what she wants, then promtly pushes the twigs out of her space.
* All except one okra seedling has died. So it is. Okra is a food that I love, but won't suffer if I can't have a huge amount. Fortunately the farm grows okra. Yay!

* I made stir fry one evening with leftover beef, carrots ($.49/lb), celery ($.69/pk, Aldi), onion ($.33/lb, Aldi), and snow peas ($.99/lb on manager's special). I cooked the rice in the beef cooking water for extra flavor. I had enough stir-fry leftover to use as a work lunch (with some peanuts added for a bit of extra protein). I had lots of rice leftover also.
* I used some ham from the freezer, some pineapple from my job, some leftover rice and sweet and sour sauce to make a Hawaiian casserole. It was pretty good. In the future, I'd add sauteed bell peppers and onions.
* In preparation for my new job, I froze some small containers of bottled tomato juice. I opened a bottle ($.69/salvage grocer, usually $3+), but have a hard time finishing the whole thing. This will reduce my waste, while also providing a nutrient-dense, refreshing drink for sweltering days on the farm. I'll pull it out of the freezer before heading to work, and it should be thawed later in the day to provide a great afternoon pick-me-up.
* Trucker stopped at the grocery and got some good deals: mushrooms (manager's special, $.99; He is allergic, but gets them for me since I love them), snow peas (manager's special, $.99/lb), steak (manager's special, $3/lb), southwestern dip (manager's special, $1.20; regularly $3.99).
* We went to my parents house for dinner one night. My mom made tacos. We brought tortilla chips and the southwestern dip. She made her famous apple pie for dessert.
* I made brownies to use up a mix from the pantry, eggs that were getting a tad old and some peanut butter chips from the pantry.
* I made a weird casserole that Trucker liked. I thought it was okay, but it wasn't something I'd look forward to. I mixed together some leftover rice, a can of drained tomatoes and chilis, a can of cheese soup and a can of buffalo chicken (I didn't have any meat thawed other than the ham and I couldn't bare the thought of more ham). I topped with bread crumbs and a little cheese and baked til heated bubbly. It was filling and prevented pizza takeout, so it worked.
* I made quiche using ham, kale, fried peppers (manager's special for $1) and lots of manager's special eggs. I added just a tiny bit of cheese to the top.
* I wanted to get some food prepped for the coming week. I'm starting my new job and suspect I'll be too tired and sore to want to cook. Plus, I'll need some easily portable lunches. I hard boiled a dozen eggs and made calzones. To make the calzones, I made a batch of pizza dough and rolled into smallish circles (6 inches?). I spread a little pepper spread on half of each, then topped with a little tomato sauce. I added fried peppers, ham and cheese. I folded in half, pinched the edges closed. I brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with Italian seasoning and baked at 350 til golden.

Food Preservation:
* I froze a lot of fruit from my second part time job.

* We went out for a coffee date. Thank you, Vicki!

* We went out for a short hike at a local metro park. It was a particularly frigid day, but it was so good to get out into nature for a bit to enjoy the sunlight, fresh air, and wonderful companionship.

* I reduced driving as much as possible

* This was my last week at both of my part time jobs. It was so hard to say goodbye to so many good coworkers. Everyone was incredibly sweet. My bosses at the factory said that they'll put in a request so when I come back in the fall, hopefully I go back to my regular department. I'd love that because I really enjoyed working where I did and with all of my coworkers and bosses. My boss at the other job offered me (and Trucker) work at the holidays temping. I am planning on doing it when possible because I really enjoyed working with them all, and the money can't hurt either.
* It was kind of funny. I had a really interesting realization recently. My dad has a joke he tells regularly: An old man was working at a gas station. One day a couple pulls up, and as he's pumping their gas, they say "We're thinking of moving to this area. What are the people like here?" He pauses, then asks, "Well, what are the people like where you live now?" They respond, "Oh, terrible! They are rude, loud, inconsiderate. Just the worst people you could ever imagine." "Well," he said mournfully, "you'll find that they're just like that here." An hour later, another couple pulls up. They say, "We're thinking of moving to this area. What are the people like here?" He says, "Well, what are the people like where you live now?" They say, "Oh, they are just lovely. Kind, considerate, quick to help out. Just the nicest people you could possibly imagine." "Well," he says, "you'll find that the people around here are just like that." When I was interviewing for my new job, my new boss asked me to describe my ideal boss. After I did, she asked me if I usually worked with bosses like that (Sneaky, sneaky :) ). When I thought about it, I do. While, of course, I've gotten along with some people at jobs better than others, I can't think of anyone I actually disliked at either of my jobs. My bosses were very nice. One of them in particular was always walking around looking for ways to help each of us out. Every day at the end of the shift, she'd walk around and take out everyone's trash so as soon as shift was over, we could go home instead of spending 5 minutes cleaning up. I found that my coworkers were just lovely people, good to talk with, helpful, funny, just about the best group of people you'd hope to work with. This realization makes me really hopeful for the future.
* I packed a lunch each day I worked at my regular job.
* I brought a lot of fruit scraps home. I will freeze most of it.
* I sent Trucker with brownies for his boss, boss's wife and the cashier at the auction house. He said they loved them.

* We had another good pay period at the booth. It wasn't our best month yet, but it wasn't bad either.

* I've been lifting hand weights to try to get ready for my new job. I know that this is in no way enough, but perhaps better than nothing.

How was your week?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 3/28 - 4/3

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
* The okra sprouted! Only four of the dozen or so I planted, but I'm happy. I also have a few more pepper plants and several tomato plants.
* I've started breaking off twigs of problematic shrubs in the landscape and feeding them to the bunnies. They get so excited, squeal and devour them before considering the pellets. Lower feed costs + happy bunnies = a win!

* I made applesauce from some of the storage apples that were getting a bit past their prime. I used very little sugar and loads of cinnamon.
* I cooked some steak from the freezer. I used half of it to make tacos with sale tortillas, manager's special lettuce, salvage grocery salsa, manager's special taco sauce and on-sale sour cream. I saved half of the steak for another meal.
* We made popcorn for a snack.
* We ordered pizza out one evening when we didn't plan our meal better. By the time we got our errands done, we were starving and it was late. While I wish I'd planned better, we did use a promo code to get 50% off and we used the loyalty program to earn points towards a free pizza.
* I made pumpkin pie pudding. So yummy

Food Preservation:
* I froze more fruit from my job. This is going to be great for the summer.

* My sister came out one day to go thrifting with me for the chain's half off day. I made us breakfast before we went out: fried eggs, pork belly and toast with coffee.
* Trucker got discount movie tickets for us to see King Georges. I am a culinary nerd, so I was delighted. He got $5 tickets that included a small popcorn (I was very happy when after a couple bites of the theatre popcorn, Trucker leaned over and said he thought my homemade popcorn was much better).
* We went to a free concert at a local coffee house. It cost $4.30 for our coffees. The power went out shortly after it began. Fortunately, it was an acoustic duo and they were good sports. They played several more songs and everyone in the packed house sang one of them. It reminded me perfectly why I love live music.
* I took my friend out to lunch for her birthday. I saved half of my meal to give Trucker for his dinner that day. We also went thrifting together. I got a little inventory, but avoided spending anything on myself.

* When Mom was in the hospital, I accidentally misplaced a bill. I realized it this week, but it was a couple days past due. There was a $25 fee. I called and explained what had happened and told them I'd just mailed the check. They were very understanding and since I've never been late before, they waived the fee. It never hurts to call and ask. I was very pleased that they were so good to me.

I love seeing the weeds sprout each spring. Time to start foraging!
* I put in my notice at both of my other jobs. It was so hard because I really like everyone I work for/with. I know that I'm doing what I need to for my future, but it doesn't make this part any easier. In the end though, I think its best to do what needs to be done and not just what is comfortable.
* We got sent home early one day from my regular job, and a little early both days at my second job due to lack of business.
* Fortunately, I was able to pick up an extra day at the regular job. I worked at the factory that my dad works out, so I was able to have lunch with him and my sister's fiance. I got to meet some of his coworkers and hear some funny stories. Plus, the time-and-a-half pay made up the difference from the lost hours.
* I packed a lunch each day I worked at the regular job. I nibbled on fruit scraps at my second job and was able to bring home a large container of them.
* Trucker's boss's wife brings in a hot meal for them each longer day they work. So incredible sweet of her. I got to meet them this week. They are really nice and I'm happy that he gets to work for good people.

* I took my physical and lift test for the new job. While overall I did fine, I did realize I need to work out my triceps more.
* I've started lifting weights to try to get a little more prepared for the outrageous work load I'm undertaking.
* My blood pressure is staying at a nice, healthy level.

* The more I find out about the farm, the more excited I get. I just found out that there is a program to deliver fresh produce to the door of home-bound seniors in my community. How cool is that?

How was your week?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Healthy Snacks: Pumpkin Pie Pudding

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.
Pumpkin puree is a fantastic thing to put into pudding. It doesn't detract from the flavor or sweetness of the butterscotch pudding, but only has 80 calories per cup (compared to 260/cup for pudding). It contains no fat (compared to 5.6 grams in pudding), no cholesterol (1 cup of pudding contains 85% of the cholesterol you should eat in a whole day!), 10 grams of sodium (versus 436 grams in pudding) and very little sugar (8 grams vs. 41 grams). It also adds a whopping 10 grams of fiber, which is something Americans are desperately short on (and honestly, given the horrific health issues that can result from a low-fiber diet, we'd all do better to add as much as we reasonably can) and a moderate amount of protein. Due to the beta-carotene and other antioxidants, they may help the eyes, reduce cancer risk, and protect the skin. It also contains a good amount of Vitamins C and E, potassium and iron. In short, it is a fantastic thing to include in the diet, especially when it helps you cut back on something less healthy.

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.

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