Heart-to-Heart with Diane

Hello and Welcome! Isn't raising a family the greatest!? I know I've got the best job in the world, just being Mom! I love sharing things I've discovered that make being "Mom" better, easier or more fulfilling, and that is what this blog is all about. Welcome!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Eagle Scout!


My son Ammon just received his Eagle Scout, and I am so proud of him! He chose a creative Eagle project that really reflects his personality: he organized a strings orchestra with teens and youth in our community to play at rest homes to cheer up the patients. He chose fun music that he thought they would recognize, and as a culminating event, he planned an "Hour of Music" for the community. He conducted the orchestra himself, and also performed a violin solo.

For a boy to get his Eagle Scout award takes a lot of Mom-motivating and Dad-going-to-campouts! It takes summer camps, weekly scout meetings, service projects and merit badges . . . and effort to become an Eagle Scout. Ammon is the last of my 4 sons, and I have to admit to a huge sigh of relief as his pin was fastened to his uniform. This part of my mothering journey is completed! He "did good" and I am so grateful. Seems just yesterday he was a little 8 year old cub scout. Scouting has been good for him!

I love what scouting does for boys. I found the scouting program to be an excellent add-on curriculum for homeschooling! I worked it into our school plans wherever it fit. The merit badge books are thorough and have great projects.

I was giving my children a little lesson at morning devotional on being a good Christian and developing good character traits, and found myself repeating the Scout Law: A (Christian) is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent! If every boy could live up to those ideals, what more would we want?

Just sharing my joy!

. . . a proud mama

Ammon's Eagle Scout award

My son Ammon (18) and my husband Rick


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thai Curry—Oh Yeah!

Better than ice cream: Thai Curry

My friend Debbie taught me to make Thai Curry. To me, it tastes better than ice cream. And now that I know how to make it, I wonder why I ever paid for it at a restaurant!? It is embarrassingly easy, and it tastes "wow!"

I'm going to teach you my way—transmuted from my friend Debbie's way—so this is not authentic Thai. It tastes Thai, but I'm sure I'm doing something non-authentic . . .

This is super simple, but you must buy the right exotic ingredients. Not expensive, but there aren't any easy substitutes. We'll be making Masman Thai Curry.

You will need a plastic jar of Masman Curry, which is a bright red paste of chilis, cinnamon, cumin, lemon grass, cardoman, and other spices. This costs about $3 and will make 10+ pots of curry. The other thing you have to have is fish sauce, which is a inexpensive bottle of salty fishy liquid, sort of like soy sauce on Chinese food, I guess. And you need cans of coconut milk. And if you can find kaffir leaves (lime leaves), buy them too! You can store the leaves in your freezer. They add a delicious taste.

Ready to get started?

Masman Curry

2 cans coconut milk (19 ounces)
1/4 cup (or more) Masman curry paste
2 tablespoons (or more) fish sauce
3 chicken breasts, cubed

Veggies: (all or just a few)
onions, sliced into thin wedges
red pepper, sliced into strips
bamboo shoots, canned
water chestnuts
potatoes, cubed
carrots, thinly sliced
green cabbage, shredded

Can add some fruit if you like:
lychees (canned fruit or fresh)
pineapple tidbits (use 1/2 of the can with juice too)
peanuts or cashews

Optional: kaffir leaves (lime leaves)

Open 2 cans of coconut milk and pour them into a pot. Add 1/4 cup Masman curry paste, stirring in with a whisk. Add 1 can of water. Put over medium heat, stirring. Taste the sauce. If you like it spicier, add another 1/4 cup of Masman curry paste. I like to use 1/2 cup—it has a soft creamy red tint and is flavorful with just the right amount of hotness. Yum! If you don't like spicy food, start with 1/4 cup paste.

Now add the veggies, fruit and meat and let simmer until the veggies are tender, about 20 minutes. How much? For tonight's curry I used: 4 boneless chicken thighs cubed, 1 small onion sliced thinly into wedges, 1/2 cup of sliced carrots, 1/2 cup shredded cabbage, 1 cup broccoli chopped, 1/2 cup pineapple tidbits, and 1 stalk celery, sliced. Just start adding and stop when it looks like a creamy soup with veggies in it. I use what I have. I know that broccoli, shredded cabbage, thinly sliced carrots aren't exactly Thai veggies, but they turn out great. It is the spices and coconut milk that make this dish so delicious, so don't hesitate to use whatever veggies you have on hand. I think sliced apples would be good in it too.

If you have lime leaves, put in 4, removing the central spine. (These are for flavoring and you don't eat them.) If you don't have them, it is still great. (My kids prefer not having stuff floating in their curry that they cannot eat, such as lime leaves.) Pour in 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. If you want it saltier, add more. Taste it as you go.

That's it.

Serve over brown rice, which is much yummier and far more nutritious than white rice. I also serve this with a plate of mango slices and pineapple spears. Super delicious!

In case you need brown rice directions, here they are:

Perfect Brown Rice
4 cups brown rice
8 cups water
1 tsp. salt
Put in a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes. Don't let it boil over—reduce heat if necessary. Don't peek, don't lift the lid. It will be perfect when you open the pot 45 minutes later!


For more of my favorite recipes, take a look at my cookbook, Hopkins' Healthy Home Cooking.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Sweetest Doll on the Market!

Every year I do a most-thorough search! It takes me weeks of research. I look at every website, in every specialty toy store . . . everywhere.

What am I looking for? The perfect doll, of course. A sweet, innocent, non-Barbie that a little girl can snuggle and sleep with and dress and rock to sleep and be a mother to. A soft-bodied dolly—not with a hard face. Amazingly, there are not that many dolls that fit those specifications. But I found just what I was on the hunt for!

May I present to you the sweetest doll on the market! She is 18" tall, which means she'll fit easily in standard doll clothes. She is super-easy to dress—a very important factor when you are considering happy play for your little one. She wears an easy to remove top and jumper that use velcro closings. She is snuggly and soft as can be, which is crucial if you are going to take her to bed. Her hair is thick and soft. And she radiates sweetness!

Lovely little details make her adorable, such as a charming little button nose, embroidered eyes and lips, bows in her hair, embroidered needlework on her jumper. Another detail that I always look for and appreciate is that she is wearing permanent undies, with a flower on the front of them. A nice touch! And she wears removable Mary Jane shoes—now that is very important to a girl!

And she comes in 4 different hair and skin tones so every little miss in your family can be delighted! Choose from Blonde, Brunette, Redhead and Dark. The dark doll has the cutest curly hair and dark tan skin tone.

Gotta love her!

See the sweetest doll here!

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

Umm, yum . . . these no-sugar pancakes taste deliciously like pumpkin pie, and they are healthy and nutritious!

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

3 cups freshly ground whole wheat flour (I prefer "white wheat")
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4. tsp. ginger
2 cups pumpkin puree* or canned pumpkin
2 1/2 cup sour milk* (more or less depending on moistness of pumpkin)
3 eggs

Mix dry ingredients in large bowl, making a hole in the center. Add pumpkin puree, buttermilk, eggs to center of bowl, and mix gently. Do not overmix. If batter is a bit stiff, add a little water until it can easily be spooned onto a hot lightly greased griddle. I use coconut oil to grease the griddle—it's healthy and it makes the pancakes smell and taste sweeter. Let pancakes bake until bubbles pop in the top, then flip—just one time. Do not press down—we want these to be light and airy! Serve with warm applesauce* for a healthy breakfast that tastes like dessert! Serves 6 hearty eaters.

Sour Milk
This can be in any form:
-raw milk that has soured (not pasteurized milk)
-1 tablespoon plain yogurt + water to make 1 cup
-1 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar + milk to make 1 cup
-1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice + milk to 1 cup. Let stand to clabber for 5 minutes before using.

Pumpkin Puree
Rinse and cut your jack-o-lantern in half. Or use a fresh pumpkin. You can cook it whole and remove seeds afterwards, or cut it in half. Either way is fine. It doesn't change the cooking time. Put in on a big baking tray in the oven at 350 degrees , cut side down, for an hour. Poke with a knife after an hour. When flesh is tender, scrape away from rind and blend until smooth in blender.

Fresh Orchard Applesauce
Wash and cut apples in quarters, removing core. Do not peel. Put in a big cooking pot with 1" water in the bottom. Simmer for 30-45 minutes or until applies are tender. Blend in blender until smooth. Can add 1/2 tsp. cinnamon per blender. Serve warm.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dinner Night

What's for dinner? I don't know . . . but my kids do!

You can teach your kids to take on the responsibility of cooking dinner once a week. Preparing a meal can be a very practical and empowering learning experience for children! Young ones can work with you to do the planning and be your kitchen helper. As they grow, they can use you as an assistant. Eventually, by 10 years old, they can prepare a simple meal without your help. What a valuable skill!

This takes a little patience on Mom's part, as every good thing does. There is fear that you won't get a decent meal. Or that you'll end up with Cheetos as one of the raw veggies. I have my children sit down and plan their meals and make up a groceries needed list. Then I do the grocery shopping so that all the ingredients are ready and waiting. (And so I can screen out the Cheetos!)

Before we get out the first pan, I use this chart to teach my children what a balanced meal looks like. Just glancing at it spurs the menu ideas, and help kids learn how to create a dinner meal and include all those nutritious vegetables that might get left out otherwise.

Here's how to do easy dinner planning:

1- Pick a complex carbohydrate: 
potato, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, cornmeal, brown rice, wild rice, tortillas, barley, oats, quinoa, etc.

2- Pick a protein: 
meat, fish, poultry, beans, eggs, nuts, cheese, yogurt, etc.

3- Pick a veggie to cook: 
broccoli, green beans, onions, green pepper, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, peas, yellow squash, zucchini, beets, winter squash, mushrooms, yams, artichoke hearts, etc.

4- Pick 2 or more raw veggies for a salad or raw veggie tray (crudites): 
avocado, carrots, green onions, radishes, jicama, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, sprouts, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, sweet red peppers, snap peas, etc.

If you are making a soup or casserole, foods #1- 3 (carbs, protein, cooked veggies) are included, making things simple. All you have to add is the raw veggie tray or a fresh salad and you are done!

We eat lots of fresh fruit too, in its raw form—at breakfast, lunch, snacks or as a dessert. For an extra-hungry teenage boy, you can set bread and butter at the table for extra carbs to fill him up.

Besides teaching our Balanced Meal chart, I prepare a "white meal" on my dinner night to teach my kids about eye appeal. I cook white fish, mashed potatoes, cauliflower, or a salad from the inner part of a light green cabbage, plus some pale-looking inside celery sticks. We have milk to drink. And I serve it on a white plate if I can. One look at this dinner and everyone understands how important color is to make things appetizing! My very "white meal" is nutritious and balanced, but not so appealing.

So, let's try creating a balanced meal:

1- Pick a carb
2- Pick a protein
3- Pick a veggie to cook
4- Pick 2 raw veggies

Here's one done for you—balanced and visually appealing:
1- Carb: Brown rice with a handful of wild rice added

2- Protein: Chicken

3- Cooked Veggie: Broccoli

(if you mixed #1, 2, and 3, and just added sauce and spices, you'd have a good casserole!)

4- Raw Veggies: Spinach salad with cucumbers

And another:
1- Carb: Corn tortillas

2- Protein: Ground beef, cheese

3- Cooked Veggie: Onions, Green Pepper, Tomato sauce

(hey, this sounds like enchiladas!)

4- Raw Veggies: cauliflower, radishes, jicama, carrot and celery sticks with dip

And a vegetarian version:
1- Carb: Red Potatoes

2- Protein: Milk, Cheese

3- Cooked Veggie: Broccoli

(how about baked potatoes topped with cheesy sauce with cooked broccoli florets)

4- Raw Veggies: Romaine lettuce salad with tomatoes and sprouts

And a raw salad meal:
1- Carb: Crusty wheat rolls

2- Protein: Cashews

3 + 4- Veggies, all raw this time—salad greens, grated carrot, sprouts, avocado
 slices, and grapes just for yummy

Play the "Making Dinner" game with your kids to teach them about balancing meals. Just brainstorm the carbohydrates you normally eat, and draw each one on a paper, fold and put in a bowl labeled "carbs". Do the same with proteins and veggies. To plan a meal, have a child pick out a paper from the bowl: 1 carb, 1 protein and 3 veggies (two to be eaten raw) and arrange these on a plate. Discuss what menu item could be made from the papers they drew out: soup, casserole, sandwich, pizza, etc. To make the game silly, add a few not-so-delectable items, drawing one on each paper to add to each bowl, such as: sprouting potato peelings, egg shells, spider webs, moldy bread, a rotten apple, worms, etc.

Challenge your older kids with a "Limited Ingredient Project"! My daughter arrived at her college cooking class to receive a grocery sack from her professor with just a few ingredients inside. Her assignment was to prepare a nutritious dinner out of them. It's fun to see what each innovative cook can come up with. They are allowed to use basics from the pantry: spices, condiments, flour, dressings, etc. to turn those basic ingredients into a balanced meal that tastes good! Fruit can be served as the dessert or as part of the meal.

Here are some Limited Ingredient Projects to try. Just put the ingredients in a paper bag, and hand them over to an older child to create with. This is what we mothers have to do every evening at 5 o'clock, right?!

Protein-chicken thighs
Veggies (raw + cooked)-beets, green onions, spinach

Protein-tuna fish in cans
Carb-Brown rice
Veggies (raw + cooked)-tomatoes, swiss chard, green beans

Carb-Whole wheat bread
Veggies (raw + cooked)-broccoli, onions, cucumbers

You are going to work yourself out of a job, Mom. Hope you don't feel too bad if you don't have to come up with what to cook for dinner!

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Make Your Own Holograms!

All of the toys we tested for our holiday offerings, this 3D Mirascope got the most "oohs" and "aahs"! Two parabolic mirrors facing each other create a 3-D hologram image! Put the toy frog (included) inside the bowl, and suddenly a frog seems to be sitting up on top. You can't believe your eyes though . . . even if it looks completely real . . . because you can't touch it!

We found a piece of round "wagon wheel" pasta to be the most entertaining. It looked absolutely real and everyone tried to pick it up! Try a coin and no one can resist.

Another great trick is to drop popcorn kernels or blueberries through the opening into the bowl. Instead of disappearing from view, they seem to bounce and "hop" right up on top.

If you have someone to buy for that stumps you, especially a pre-teen or teen, this is just the thing!
It's amazing! And at the right price—just $5.99.

Take a look here!

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