Vegan Shakshuka

I have been vegetarian since I was 13 years old. I’ve always eaten eggs and dairy with brief moments of being a vegan. As I got older I am more interested in becoming a vegan as it has become more accessible and more of a health concern for me. My egg eating has become a concern for me with my classroom and my digestion. So I’m giving veganism another shot.

I’m really enjoying all of the new vegan restaurants in my town and vegan options that are out there including vegan donuts. My oldest son and I stop at Whole Foods and grab one every Sunday on the way home from swim class. I have switched out the margarine, butter, creamer’s for my coffee, to vegan options. My youngest son likes the chocolate almond milk, however my oldest son only likes the chocolate soy milk. They are both lacto-ovo vegetarians , however with me introducing some dairy free options I’m hoping that their colds will be easier to manage. They say that cutting back on dairy will loosen up any mucus causing illnesses. With both of my boys in daycare we’ve had a lot of colds this year.

My husband is a flexitarian. He still eats meat and fish from time to time, however he does enjoy my vegan and vegetarian options. As the cook in the house I only prepare vegan or vegetarian food so he only eats vegan or vegetarian food 75% to 80% of the time.

So one of the challenges lately is that he wanted something different for Shabbat dinner. I had been cooking a lot of quiches prior to going vegan, with my new dietary restrictions comes new recipes and challenges. Last week I looked on YouTube for some good ideas on how to cook an Israeli food favorite: Shakshuka vegan style. I came across a video featuring an actual Israeli woman named or Ori Shavit who is a vegan activist and cook in Israel. She uses sweet corn meal to replace the eggs in the shop sugar. She mentions that polenta is made from a technique that she’s using. You can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/jrfiaIizzns. With it being Shabbat, for which I cook several dishes and being short on time I decide to go straight to the polenta.

I have never been a fan of polenta, I never really knew so much how to use it. After watching a few episodes of Rachael Ray, however I did learn that it should be creamy and it can even be cheesy tasting! So I took a store brand Trader Joe’s log of polenta, crumbled it in my hands, put in a pot with some coconut milk and nutritional yeast cooked until it became a grits-like consistency. It was delicious on its own. I was so pleased with how it came out. It was so easy and quick to put together as well!

The final test came at the dinner table. I was already really happy with how the shocks you collect, have a tomato sauce tasted, but the final decision had to come to my Israeli husband. He absolutely loved it and we even had the leftovers last night!

Ingredients:

4 large-medium sized heirloom tomatoes (I used red mainly, but also green and yellow)

1 log of store bought polenta

1 tbsp. nutritional yeast

1 tbsp. Smoked Paprika

1 small can of tomato paste

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1 orange and 1 red bell pepper, washed and diced

1/2 c. coconut milk

1 c. water

2 spring onions

7 white mushrooms, chopped

1 tbsp. Olive Oil

1 chili pepper-use only the bottom, sweeter half and chop

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a pan over med-high heat. Add garlic, peppers, and mushrooms to sauté until softened. Chop tomatoes into medium sized cubes and add to the pan along with water, paprika, and tomato paste. Lower the heat to simmer, partly covered on medium heat. Allow the tomato’s to soften, the water to evaporate, and sauce to thicken until there are no more bubbles around the edge of the pan.

While that is happening, into a saucepot crumble your log of store-bought polenta. Add your half a cup of coconut oil and tablespoon of nutritional yeast. Cook on medium high, using a potato masher to further mash the polenta and coconut milk together into a thickened, grits- like consistency

Once there are no longer any bubbles in your tomato sauce, spoon the polenta into the tomato sauce in oval shapes around the pan. It should be mimicking what an egg would look like if you were using eggs. One of the key components to Shakshuka is it’s red and yellow look. You can eat it with pieces of sliced up bread, warmed pita, Challah, or on its own. It’s a delicious and warm salad entrée.

Ten Ways I Show My Kids I Love Them

With Valentine’s Day around the corner we are thinking of showing our loved ones we care. Prior to having kids my husband and I went BIG on Valentine’s Day with special dates, dinners, and surprises. We agreed we had to, after all our last name is Amor.

Now with two little boys we try everyday to show we care and love them. As an attachment parent I truly believe in building a strong relationship and foundation of family is the essence of building self-esteem in kids. I want my boys to know that I have their back no matter what, and that I truly have their best interests at heart. Home should be a safe, nurturing space where my boys can relax and put their cares away.

1. I try to make one on one time with each boy. For my oldest it’s swim lessons every week, for my little guy it’s cuddling at bedtime.

2. I have dinner with them every day. We sit down at eat together.

3. I ask them about their day and listen to their answers.

4. I try to make time to do activities every day after school with them-time at the park or Gymboree, cooking together, cuddle and read a story before bed.

5. I tell them how much I love them and how special they are to me.

6. I give them small treats-a donut after swim, a printed coloring sheet I brought from work.

7. I apologize-if I lose my temper or make a mistake I say I’m sorry and talk to them about it.

8. I let them make choices:jeans or sweatpants; hotdogs or pizza for dinner-it shoes I respect their decisions and value them.

9. I start my day with a cuddle. When we first wake up we put on a cartoon and cuddle for 20 minutes. It’s the best way to start the day.

10. I try to challenge them at their own pace. Kids need to grow and develop but I don’t want my boys to have anxiety about new experiences. I recently weaned my youngest-it took 9 months. It felt like it never would happen! My oldest weaned in a matter of weeks! Different strokes for different folks.

Hug your littles and let them know they’re special this Valentine’s Day! Share how you make your kiddos feel loved in the comments below.

Healthy Rice Crispy Treats, Rich in Omega-3 Fats!

When I first became a vegan in high school one of our favorite snacks amongst my friends and I was to make rice crispy treats with peanut butter. It’s a really easy and simple recipe, my boys even helped me with it! I have updated my peanut butter-based rest crispy treats to be even healthier by using puffed brown rice, organic creamy peanut butter, and organic coconut oil.


Omega-3 fats- which are great for your brain are tough to come by when you’re vegan or vegetarian. A lot of people get their omega-3 fatty acid’s from fish. As a vegetarian I get mine from nuts and oil’s. Avocados are another great source. Neither one of my boys right now like avocados, so I’m focusing on healthy oil’s and nuts. A simple way to get my boys to eat more omega-3 fatty acid’s is to use a seeded or nutty bread such as Dave’s Killer Bread which has 440 mg of omega-3 fatty acid’s along with some organic peanut butter. That’s a pretty typical lunchbox lunch for my boys.

Ingredients:

5 c. puffed brown rice cereal 

6 tbsp. coconut oil

6 tbsp. organic, creamy peanut butter

3 tbsp. maple or agave syrup

1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips or carob chips 

Directions:

Combined 4 tablespoons of coconut oil, 6 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter, and 3 tablespoons of maple or agave syrup in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for two minutes, the coconut oil and peanut butter should be melted.  Stir all ingredients together to create a batter- like consistency.  Combine with 5 cups of puffed brown rice in a large mixing bowl. Pour into a parchment lined 9″ x 12″ baking pan. Spread the rice crispy batter evenly throughout the pan. To create the chocolate topping: combine 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and half a cup of chocolate or carob chips. Microwave for 2 minutes on high-stir chips and melted coconut oil together and drizzle over the rice crispy batter.  

Place the pan in the refrigerator for at least three hours.  Cut the rice crispy treats into squares, serve and enjoy!

Warm Riced Cauliflower and Garlicky Greens Salad with Crispy Chickpeas

I don’t know about you, but between all of the holiday weight that I’ve gained and the illness that my family has had with a rough couple months of flus and colds I am definitely looking for a health boost. So in my attempt to eat healthier, lose weight, have more energy, have less aches and pains, and promote healthy eating within my family I am trying to move towards a more plant-based diet. I’m trying to cut back on dairy, eggs, processed foods, adding more fruits vegetables nuts and seeds.

So one of my simple swaps is to use ricedcauliflower instead of rice in my vegetarian dishes. You can find it in just about any supermarket now! I saw it at my local Kroger Smith’s, I’ve ordered it through Amazon Prime Now, and Trader Joe’s has had it for well over a year. Using it instead of white rice or even brown rice in my dishes will save me hundreds of unwanted calories, and add folic acid to my meal.

If you have been reading my blog of the years you know my oldest son is a very picky eater. One way that I can get some veggies in him is by putting about half a cup of the riced cauliflower in with a cup of brown rice and mixing that together. If you cook them together in your rice cooker with some water, olive oil, salt, and pepper it is almost indistinguishable from the brown rice.  I typically make that for him one night a week.

To make a simple, plain riced  cauliflower I will give you my recipe and steps below. It comes out having a very similar texture to rice, it looks like white rice, and if you add some olive oil and salt it doesn’t have that strong, cauliflower taste anymore.

Simple Riced Cauliflower

1 packaged frozen or refrigerated riced cauliflower

water to cover

1 tbsp olive or coconut oil

1 tsp salt

Directions

In a deep pan pour your riced cauliflower, cover with water, add olive oil and salt.  Cook, uncovered on your stovetop, on high until the water boils.  Reduce heat to medium and cook covered for 10 minutes until the water is absorbed.  Fluff with a fork.

Garlicky Greens

4 c. Greens of your choice (collared, arugula, spinach, kale-I used a 50/50 salad greens mix)

2 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt to taste

Directions

In a deep pan add olive oil and turn your stove’s heat up to high.  Add 4 cups of greens in bunch, by bunch , sautéing with a wooden spoon. Add 1 tbsp of garlic after about 2 cups of greens have been sautéed in the oil and wilted, then continue adding greens.  Sauté the greens with the last tbsp of garlic and then turn off the heat.  Salt to taste.  Enjoy!

***For this recipe I made the riced cauliflower while heating up my oven for the chickpeas.  Then I divided my cooked riced cauliflower into two bowls, used the same pan for the greens to cut down on dishes.  While the greens were being sautéed , the chick peas were in the oven crisping.

Before adding the chickpeas, I added sunflower seeds to my husband's salad

Crispy Garlicky Chickpeas

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tbsp olive oil

salt to taste

1 tbsp garlic 

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 375 F.  On a baking sheet pour your chickpeas, olive oil, and garlic.  Mix together with your hands and spread evenly across the baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and place in the oven for 30 minutes. When they come out they will be crispy and warm.

To layer the salad-I placed the riced cauliflower in the bottom of our dish, then I topped it with the garlicky greens and crispy chickpeas. For my husband, who doesn’t eat much during the day, I wanted to add some more protein and crunch to the salad so I sprinkled sunflower seeds on top as well.

To accompany this salad with a simple vegetable soup with chickpea noodles.  It’s a very nutritious, healthy kick start to the New Year!

These are the chickpea noodles I picked up at Smith's.

Neon Trees for Tu B’Shevat Using Art Materials From Around the Home

One of my favorite art subjects to paint are trees. I love Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt and I used that curvy, linear tree he depicted to influence these three simple trees my two year old and I made this morning using materials found around the home.

For these trees I used Crayola neon tempera paint, cotton balls, white card stock, a toilet paper roll, a Sharpie marker, and a household sponge.

To start I drew simple curvy, linear trees using Sharpie marker on 9″ x 11″ card stock. I copied the tree 3 times. Permanent marker is a must as it won’t smear when paint is applied on top.

For the first tree I used a cardboard toilet paper roll and cut slits all the way around using scissors, folding the ends outward to create a brush. Then my son dipped his brush into the paint which I laid out on a plastic lid. Then he stamped the tree with it.

For the next painting he used cotton balls to “dot” paint onto the trees and for the third a piece I cut from household sponge. It’s important to dampen the sponge before painting with it.

We did these paintings in conjunction with the Jewish birthday of the trees-Tu B’Shevat. The boys have been learning about this holiday in school. I like to support their learning with books and crafts at home.

Tu B’Shevat is January 30th this year, and it’s the first of several Jewish springtime holidays. In Israel it is celebrated as also a day of ecological awareness.

Going along with that theme of caring for our planet, incorporating the concept of recycling in art, we used simple household materials for these projects. Whether you’re a mom on a budget or an art teacher trying to create an art program on limited funds-art can be an affordable, meaningful activity. You don’t need expensive materials to have fun and be creative!

Holiday Break

Hi there!  If you’re following and keeping up with the blog you may have noticed I didn’t post last week.  Ben was home sick on top of the eight crazy nights of Hanukkah.  So I’ve had my hands full!  In the upcoming weeks we have December holiday break, family visiting and Adam turning two on New Year’s Day.  So I’m going to take a much needed break from blogging and resume next year.  Happy Holidays!!!

Hanukkah Collage with Melissa and Doug Dot-A-Dot Markers


As Hanukkah approaches I am trying to think of fun activities that my boys can try this year and we haven’t done before. We have never made a Hanukkah menorah with removable flames. The idea behind this is that each night of Hanukkah the boys can safely “light” their menorah.  My boys can do this in conjunction with us actually lighting our home menorah and feel an active part of the tradition rather than just an observer.

If you are not familiar with the menorah lighting, there are eight candles that are lit during the holiday of Hanukkah. One candle is lit each night for a total of eight nights. There is a helper candle that is often located in the middle of the menorah called a shemash. The shemash is the first candle lit and it is used to like the other candles each night.  During the lighting there is a blessing set of the candles to celebrate specifically the holiday of Hanukkah and the tradition of lighting a candle each night.  Along with the blessing, our family sings many traditional songs in Hebrew or English each night. It’s really a special part of the day that separates regular day today life and the holiday for us. As we continue on going to school, running errands, and working during this holiday we come home each night to light the candles which gives us a feeling of celebration.

To start creating our menorah poster with removable flames I use painter’s tape and taped out the shape of the menorah on white card stock. It’s really important with painter’s tape to use a thick and study paper, so I highly recommend card stock for this project.  Then I had my boys use their Melissa and Doug Dot-A-Dot Markers to add color.  When they were finished I remove the painter’s tape and the shape of the menorah came out white.


Just the painter’s tape menorah was a beautiful project on its own, but to take it another step further I decided to create removable flames.  We cut out from orange and red card stock flame shapes. The red flame was used for the shemash candle, and was a little bit larger in size than the other eight flames. Then I used a Velcro dots on each claim as I attached them to the paper with the boys.  I would recommend if you have a laminating machine available to you to laminate the poster before adding the Velcro flames. You could also use contact paper. This would make the poster reusable for years to come.  I however, do not have these items available to me right now so I did not do that.  I will just have to be careful to remove the flames gently each night and have the boys attach them only.


If you follow me on Instagram, make sure to look out for the boys lighting their menorah posters each night.  Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah Sugar Cookie Decorating Party for Toddlers

For a recent play date my friend and I decided to make sugar cookies and let the kids decorate them. Neither one of us have made sugar cookies before, so through trial and error we were able to figure out a recipe that worked. Our first attempt at dough came out too crumbly. Once we got the dry and wet ingredient ratio worked out we had a buttery, smooth cookie dough.

Recipe for Sugar Cookies:

Ingredients

2 1/3 c. flour, sifted

1 tbsp. vanilla pudding mix

1 c. white sugar

1 large egg

2 sticks of butter-room temperature

Directions:

First we combined dry ingredients and then added the wet using a stand alone mixer on medium. We mixed them together for 10 minutes, scraping down the sides.

Once the ingredients were combined we kneaded with our hands for five minutes and then rolled it to 1/4″ thickness using a rolling pin. We used metal dreidel shaped cookie cutter to cut out our shapes.

The cookies baked in a 350 degree oven for 9 minutes on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Once cooled we could begin adding our colorful royal icing.

Recipe for Royal Icing:

Ingredients:

1 c. confectioner’s sugar

4 tbsp. milk

Directions:

Pour sugar into a medium sized mixing bowl, add milk. Whisk together until smooth. Spoon into 3 small bowls, add one drop of food coloring and mix to create blue and gold.

We laid out a easy wipe tablecloth with a festive print, a paper plate for each child, small bowls with the royal icing, one bowl with Star of David sprinkles, and tiny spoons for decorating.  The children decorated each cookie one by one, spooning one the icing and creating a marble effect.

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This activity was a hit!  The kids were involved with each step of the baking and decorating process.  They loved decorating the cookies the most-each child decorated 10 cookies!  We had so much fun and will definitely be doing more cookie and baking activities with our kids for future holidays!

Fall Leaf Deer Crown Craft

For our fall themed play date my friend and I created our Cinnamon Salt Dough Turkeys and these fall leaf deer crowns with our littles.

To create these crowns you’ll need:

faux or real fall leaves

hot glue gun w/ glue sticks

2″ inch wide 8″ inch long construction paper strips

scissors

pink and black construction paper

a pencil

To make the headband I hot glue gunned two strips of construction paper together. I waited for it to cool and then wrapped it around my kid’s head to measure. Then I glued the headband closed.

Next I folded my black and pink construction paper into sixths. I drew a shape like a deer’s ear on the paper and cut it out. A similar, but smaller shape for the inner ear. My boys helped me glue the ears together (pink on top of black) with Elmer’s, but you can hot glue gun them on your own.

Then I glue gunned on the leaves, layering different colors and shapes. Voila! My boys were fall time deer in no time and they loved wearing their crowns!

My Favorite Vegetarian Pins for Thanksgiving

Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds with Goat Cheese, Cranberries and Balsamic Glaze

 

Yes, there will be no turkey in my house, if you don’t count a gingerbread cookie turkey made from a Trader Joe’s kit.  I will be making my second vegetarian Thanksgiving feast this year and I can’t wait!  Some recipes are tried and true like the sweet potato rounds and pecan pie, others are new like the Pumpkin Dump Cake and butternut squash risotto.

If you are looking for some vegetarian ideas to accompany your turkey this year or are actually going meatless you can check out my pins that I’m sharing here.  Simply click the link and they will take you to the actual pin on Pinterest or follow me on Pinterest at: https://www.pinterest.com/lizaamor/pins/.

scg-butternut-squash-risotto-longpin

Brown Butter Garlic Honey Roasted Carrots – the best roasted carrots ever with lots of garlic, brown butter and honey. SO good | rasamalaysia.com

Sparkling Apple Cider Sangria Recipe. This is a great idea for party punches this fall and winter. Try this crowd pleaser, easy, pitcher drinks or pitcher cocktail for a crowd at one of your holiday (hello, Halloween and Thanksgiving) parties this year! You'll need, apples (it's a great way to use them up), cognac, cider, cava, and pomegranate seeds or arils. This contains alcohol, but we've got an alternate recipe to make it non-alcoholic too.

Creamy, comforting green bean casserole made completely from scratch! Easy Thanksgiving side dish. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Pumpkin Dump Cake | The First Year

Easy Pecan Pie! (Made without Corn Syrup) - Spend With Pennies

If you are looking for some unique DIY Fall projects for your Thanksgiving check out these two pins I created:

Blog – My Petite Picassos

Fall Handprint Plate Keepsake

and

Fall Craft -Lazy Susan DIY Thanksgiving

Fall DIY Lazy Susan