I’ve signed up for National Blog Posting Month which means I’m blogging every day of November, 2013.

I’ve been keeping chickens for a couple of years now. Right around this time every year their egg laying starts to drop off. This is because the days are getting shorter: chickens need 14 hours of sunlight each day for maximum egg production.

How to Keep Your Chickens Laying Eggs in the Winter | Healthy Green Kitchen

While you can certainly let nature take its course and wait until spring to have lots of eggs again, most people who keep chickens prefer it if they keep laying eggs in the winter. It’s pretty easy to make this happen. You just have to “trick” their bodies into thinking the days are longer than they actually are.

chicken | Healthy Green Kitchen

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I’ve signed up for National Blog Posting Month which means I’m blogging every day of November, 2013. Is this crazy? Possibly, but I love a challenge.

I mentioned this homemade mint extract recipe a while ago on my Facebook page but I figured I should share it here, as well, since not everyone who reads my blog is a follower over there. This simple mint extract was inspired by this recipe on Nourished Kitchen.

Homemade Mint Extract | Healthy Green Kitchen

I made a batch of this mint extract over the summer, but I am going to make some more while I still have the mint to give as gifts (we recently had our first frost and while most of my plants bit the dust, my mint and some other herbs are still going strong). You should make some, too: all you need to make homemade mint extract is fresh mint and rum (or bourbon or vodka)! And if mint extract doesn’t excite you, you can make vanilla extract instead (here’s a post from Simply Recipes which describes how to do that).

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Last night, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to sign up for National Blog Posting Month (aka NaBloPoMo). NaBloPoMo is an annual blogging event that takes place each November: participants commit to posting on their blogs each day of the month. This means you’ll be hearing from me more frequently over the next four weeks…I hope that’s ok with you :)

To keep my goal of posting every day in November an attainable one, my posts will most likely be shorter than usual. There will be recipes, of course, but not every day…some days may just be brief musings on topics related to general health or nutrition. I have a few giveaways planned, too :)

Today, I have an easy, tasty recipe for candied pumpkin seeds for you.

Candied Pumpkin Seeds | Healthy Green Kitchen

I made this recipe with the seeds I took out of the pumpkin I used to bake this Pumpkin Stuffed with Cheese, Sausage, and Pasta. Whenever you “play with” pumpkins, you always end up with a sloppy mess of pumpkin seeds, right? Don’t dump them in the compost (or worse yet, the garbage)…use them to make a healthy snack instead! (I am being more conscious about my food waste than ever these days, since I am participating in this program.

Seeds (and nuts and grains and some other foods) naturally contain something called enzyme inhibitors. To increase the amount of nutrients available to your body when you eat these foods (and to make them more digestible), it’s good to give them “a good soaking”. This is why I recommend soaking your pumpkin seeds in salted water before roasting them (doing this also simplifies removing all of the pulp that may stick to the seeds upon removal from the pumpkin).

These fiber and zinc-rich goodies are perfect for topping salads and side dishes. They are also wonderful eaten on their own.

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Macaroni and cheese is comfort food at its best…who doesn’t love it? It’s not something I make very often (translation: I never make it) so I was excited when Stephanie asked me if I’d like to review the brand new book she co-wrote with Garrett. It’s called Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese.

book photo 2

From the first moment I opened the book, I knew it was a winner. Melt is a beautifully photographed celebration of artisanal cheeses, and it’s filled with numerous unique ideas for how to pair these cheeses with pasta (but not just pasta: some of the recipes in the book don’t involve pasta at all). The writing is fun and engaging.

It did not take me long to decide which recipe from the book I wanted to share on my blog. The Pumpkin Stuffed with Pasta, Fontina and Italian Sausage Macaroni on page 128 was too much of a stunner to pass up! I’ve now made it three times since I received the book.

book photo 1_

Sugar pumpkins are incredibly nutritious and make a lovely receptacle for this delectable dish. I actually doubled the recipe for the mac and cheese (and only baked 1/2 in the pumpkin) because I wanted to have plenty of leftovers to send with my kids to school for lunch. I love Fontina and was excited to use it, but I had a little trouble finding Gruyère: I substituted Provolone and it worked out great.

pumpkin mac_text

Stephanie and Garrett say this is a flexible creation and suggest different ways you can tailor it to work with what you have on hand (see the recipe below for more details). I opted not to use macaroni: I made this with organic Conchiglie produced from a company called Montebello (a brand imported from Italy that I buy it at my local natural food store). The other changes I made are noted below in parentheses.

If you decide to buy the book (come on…do it!), be sure to enter the Melt Le Crueset Giveaway! Stephanie has the info about it over on her blog.
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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Glad in conjunction with their #SAVEITSUNDAY program. With #SAVEITSUNDAY, Glad hopes to educate the public about the consequences of food waste, and I am proud they’ve asked me to be a part of the program. I am being compensated to share my #SAVEITSUNDAY experiences; all opinions are 100% my own.

Food waste is a huge issue around the world: here in the US, the average family throws away at least 25% of the food and beverages they buy each year. Food waste has potentially devastating environmental consequences: food represents the single largest component of municipal solid waste reaching landfills. Food waste eventually converts to methane, a greenhouse gas implicated in global warming.

Food waste also means many of us are basically throwing away an awful lot of money. The annual cost of food waste in America is in the billions! On average, families in this country are tossing 200 pounds of food in the trash and saying “bye bye” to $1,500 per year because they don’t use everything they purchase.

Glad wants to help us get a handle on our food waste. By showing us how to change habits, such as the ways in which we wrap and store our food, the things we buy may last significantly longer and we will waste less. This will allow us to help preserve the environment AND save our hard-earned cash.

I readily admit that I am no “pro” when it comes to addressing food waste (my fellow #SAVEITSUNDAY bloggers, Kristin and Mavis, know far more about this topic because they blog about it more regularly). In fact, I’ve always sort of relied on composting as a way to feel okay about some of the things I buy that don’t get used. Plus I have chickens, so they get plenty of stuff, too (here they are eating some organic baby greens that were past their prime).

chickens and greens

But composting and having chickens shouldn’t be an excuse for being lazy…for me not storing my food as best as I can. So I took the #SAVEITSUNDAY Pledge so I can learn how to do better in the food storage department.

My partnership with Glad means I’ll be posting monthly about my efforts to cut down on food waste in my home. This month, I’ve been focusing on bringing a recipe-driven shopping list with me every time I go to the store. When I have this type of shopping list, I am more likely to avoid buying things I won’t use. I’ve also been trying to shop every Sunday morning and I’ve been putting Glad’s food protection suggestions to use as soon as I get my food home. When you prep and protect your food as soon as you get home, it keeps fresher for longer.
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