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November 30, 2020

Hot cocoa sprinkled with cinnamon in a terra cotta mug

Nothing says “happy holidays” like a cup of hot cocoa! This year, treat yourself to a homemade treat—spiced cocoa from scratch!

Sure, opening a premade mix is easy, but once you try these delicious homemade options, it will be hard to go back to the packets!

Enjoy, and happy holidays from The Food Factor crew!


Yellow flowers turned brown.

Gardening Tasks for December

November 27, 2020

12/12. We’ve finally reached the end of 2020. I think everyone can agree that it’s been a heavy year. Here’s to 2021, right? I hope staying active in your lawn and garden has brought you a sense of normalcy during this crazy year. If anything, hopefully it’s been a good distraction!

Oven-roasted carrots in a clear glass bowl

The Food Factor: Balsamic Roasted Carrots

November 24, 2020

Need a quick side dish? Tired of your usual preparation methods? Try these Balsamic Roasted Carrots for a budget-friendly, flavorful veggie that goes with almost any main dish!

roasted turkey on a platter with herbs, cranberries, and orange slices

Don’t Rinse Your Turkey!

November 20, 2020

Before you put that giant turkey in the sink, STOP! Rinsing your bird before baking won’t reduce your chances of foodborne illness.

In fact, if you rinse the turkey, you have a greater chance of getting sick because of cross-contamination.

Butternut macaroni and cheese in a clear glass bowl.

The Food Factor: Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

November 16, 2020

For many people, macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. Traditionally, this calorie-laden dish is loaded with fat, fat, and more fat, plus simple carbohydrates in the pasta. Definitely not on the menu for people interested in healthier foods!

But wait! You can have your mac and eat it too!

Closeup of ornaments and lights on a Christmas tree

How to Care for a Real Christmas Tree

November 13, 2020

Choosing, cutting, and bringing home a real Christmas tree is a fun, family tradition that makes memories to last a lifetime. If you plan to have a real tree this year, be sure to observe some safety rules.

A woman smiles in a kitchen.

How Nutrition Impacts Diabetes

November 9, 2020

More than 308,000 Mississippians live with diabetes, and approximately 600,000-750,000 Mississippians have prediabetes. Managing diabetes starts with maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Balancing what you eat is a great place to start. Here are a few tips!

A close-up of a campfire.

How to Build a Campfire

November 6, 2020

Video by Michaela Parker

Cooler temperatures mean it’s campfire season! There’s nothing like spending time outside roasting marshmallows over an open fire. Whether you’re in your back yard or on a camping trip, knowing how to build a campfire is a skill everyone needs to know! You never know when knowing how to build one will come in handy. 

  • Prepare your area. It’s recommended to select an area away from flammable materials. Choose an open area that’s clear of trees. If you’re building a campfire from the ground up, build a
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pumpkin spice oatmeal muffins on a colorful plate

The Food Factor: Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal Muffins

November 3, 2020

Whether you love or hate the pumpkin spice craze that takes over every fall, you can’t deny that pumpkin is a healthy food! High in fiber, low in calories, and packed with vitamin A, pumpkin is a terrific addition to your diet.

When shopping for pumpkin puree, be sure you don’t buy pumpkin pie filling. For even healthier muffins, substitute whole-wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour. You can make these in a mini-muffin pan or in a standard-size muffin pan.

A man raking leaves into a wheelbarrow.

Gardening Tasks for November

October 30, 2020

Video by Michaela Parker 

The year is winding down. The weather is finally cooling off and the leaves are slowly, but surely, changing colors. Cooler weather means fewer things to do in your garden. (Are you rejoicing or feeling bummed?) Before we wrap up the year, however, complete a few tasks in your lawn and garden to be ready for the spring! Here are four tasks to do in November:

  1. If you’ve ever wanted to plant trees or shrubs in your yard, now is a good time to do so. Wait to plant your tree or shrub until after the soil
  2. ...
Banana in aluminum foil

The Food Factor: Banana Boats

October 27, 2020

Do you ever feel like you have to trick your kids into trying new foods or eating healthier options? Sometimes all it takes is a different cooking method to turn a finicky eater into a fan!

Most people don’t think of fruit as a hot treat unless it’s a sugar- and fat-loaded pie or cobbler. These Banana Boats can be cooked on a grill, in the oven, or even over a campfire or fire pit! The best part is their versatility. The original recipe calls for a tropical combination of banana, pineapple, and coconut. But you can try other combinations, too: banana and strawberry, banana and blueberry, or even banana and peanut butter!

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About Extension for Real Life

Extension for Real Life is a product of the MSU Extension Service’s Office of Agricultural Communications.

That’s a long way of saying we are professional communicators who get to talk about food, families, 4-H, flowers, and farming for a living.

Blog content is created by a core team of communicators, including Susan Collins-Smith, Ellen Graves, Natasha Haynes, Keri Lewis, Michaela Parker, and Jonathan Parrish. But we get by with a lot of help from our friends in Ag Comm and Extension!

You can reach us at 662-325-2262 or extreallife@msstate.edu