Welcome Back!

Welcome back to a new school year! I took off the whole summer to focus on the renovation in my home and transitioning my kids into their new preschool. I also spent some time setting up my new classroom and getting ready for the new school year. I am back to being a full-time art teacher at an elementary school in Las Vegas. The blog is gonna take a little bit of a different turn now, it’s gonna be directed towards what I’m doing in my classroom and less what I’m doing in my personal life. My Petite Picassos are going to be my students, and there’ll be a lot less about my own children.

My classroom is pretty large and we have a computer, laptop, a smart projector, a kiln, and a storage room. The kiln has its own separate storage area. I have lots of storage in my classroom with cabinets under my two sinks and two cabinets that roll.

I found this idea of dripping paint on Pinterest for my bulletin board. Took about an hour to cut it out perfectly, but I’m really pleased with the results. I have one bulletin board set up to be the one that I present our new lesson plans on. The other bulletin board I’m using for our art vocabulary word wall. With the art vocabulary word wall I simply printed out the vocabulary words such as diagonal, bright, photography, portrait, etc. on computer paper and cut them out and laminated them. They’re stuck to the word wall with sticky tack so I can easily remove them from the word wall and attach them to a reproduction that we are learning about.

I also like the way I set up all of our tables this year. I continued the drippy paint idea and cut out blobs of paint from construction paper in different colors and tape them to each table to signify each table, and better organize the kids. I also have the tables set up in sort of a C-shape. This allows for a lot of community discussion, however I can going to the center and pass out materials or teach from the center of the C.

For our first project back to school I like to do something very small, easy, and communal. At our school we have a community garden that I’m tying into a Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflower’s art project. I’ll be posting more about that next month.

Also in the beginning two weeks of school I really like to lay out all of my procedures, rules, and expectations for the students. I use CHAMPS in my classroom for laying out my expectations as we move through transitions. I only have three rules in my classroom which is to respect me, each other, and the materials in the art room. I go through what that means, as I walk around the classroom and show the students how to safely use the art room. We practice drills, we practice passing out materials, we practice cleanup.

I’ll be posting every two weeks during the school year. You can also follow my classroom on Instagram @mypetitepicassos. Happy New School Year!

Break

I’ve decided to take a break from blogging for a little while. I’m going through a transition from working at home to working outside the home and over the summer back to teaching. Once I go back to teaching I’m sure I’ll start the blog in a little bit of a different direction focusing more on teaching art from the art teacher’s perspective along with some parenting articles. If you have been following this blog for some time I just wanted to give you a heads up and let you know what’s going on with me and the blog. Thank you so much for following and see you in the summer!

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.

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.

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 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!

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 

 

 

Cinnamon Salt Dough Turkey Sculptures

This past weekend my friend and her daughter came over for a play date. I wanted to do a project that would be Fall or Thanksgiving themed. I decided to whip up a batch of cinnamon salt dough. If you’re not familiar with salt dough-it’s a simple homemade dough that dries over night. By adding cinnamon you get a wonderful smell and a tan color to the dough.

Cinnamon Salt Dough Recipe

2 c. salt

2 c. flour

1.5 c. water

2 tbs. cinnamon

1 tbs. cooking oil

Combine the dry ingredients first using a wooden spoon in a large bowl. Add water and mix until a play dough consistency is formed. Add oil to create elasticity.

Once our cinnamon salt dough was formed we tried pressing leaves we gathered in our yard to create imprints. While the kids liked this-it wasn’t enough of a project we felt. So we decided on making simple turkeys using our cinnamon salt dough, small pebbles, twigs, and leaves from my yard.

To build the turkeys we simply rolled a large ball and a small ball. Small ball for the head, large ball underneath for the body. To make your turkey fat and jolly smush the large ball onto a hard surface so the bottom flattens out and expands.

For tail feathers we used the leaves from my backyard and for the eyes/beak we added pebbles. The twigs created his legs and clawed feet.

We had so much fun building our turkeys. My turkey will be proudly displayed in my buffet spread for Thanksgiving. However, he will be the only actual turkey in the buffet as we are vegetarian! I’ll be sharing in my next, bonus, post my pinned recipes for our vegetarian Thanksgiving meal. I can’t wait to gobble it up!

Four Fall Sensory Bags 

It’s definitely not fall here!  It’s been over 100° F for the last few weeks! Frankly, we don’t really get much of a fall in Las Vegas. My kids sure don’t experience the fall that I had growing up in Buffalo, New York!

As a child I remember picking apples, raking colorful leaves from the ground and jumping into the pile, and drinking homemade apple cider!  In Las Vegas we try to have fall by going to a pumpkin patch and farms.  With the excessive heat it makes it difficult to really enjoy the day. So I came up with these four easy sensory bags with the theme of fall in mind to allow my boys to experience fall with all of their senses. The best part is they do not require any special supplies, most likely these are items you have laying around the house!

For sight we had the colors of fall through out all of my bags. We had the sound of fall through my tissue paper leaf bag, it sounds like leaves crunching when you squish it in your hand! With every sensory bag project there’s always the sense of touch being included with different textures the children will feel from our squishier to our crunchier bags. Smell could and taste from the walnut sensory bag that we ate the contents of as we made it!

Shaving Cream Sensory Bag

For this bag I focused on the color red, however you can try a different color such as gold or orange to focus on. I filled the bag halfway with shaving cream then added red food coloring.   I squished the bag around to mix the food coloring and shaving cream together until it was evenly mixed. Then I added red glitter. This bag felt like a stress ball. My oldest child loves squishing it. He would not stop squishing it in fact this was his favorite!


Tissue Paper Fall Leaves Bag


For this bag I used half a bottle of orange hair gel that I got at the Dollar Tree. Then I added in brown, green, yellow, orange, and red tissue paper squares. You can also pick these up at the Dollar Tree. They are a huge time saver! Then I added gold glitter and strings of brown yarn. The brown yarn stuck together creating sort a viney-tree trunk effect. Once I closed up the bag and squished it and made the crunchy sound that leaves make in the fall as you walk across your yard.

Cotton Ball Bag

For this bag I again chose red as the main color. I think if I was going to do this project again I would do an orange or gold bag for the shaving cream and keep this one as my red bag. Red is so synonymous with fall. For this bag I added a full bottle of clear hair gel and I filled up the bag halfway with cotton balls. Then I added in some red Pom Poms and strands of red yarn.  Lastly,  a few drops of red food coloring to swirl as the children played with it.

Walnut and Burlap Bag 

This bag is made of used pieces of burlap that I cut into basic shapes like triangles and rectangles. Then I added in walnut halves from my pantry.  The main ingredient is steel cut oats. They look almost like sand. I gave it a nice grainy texture. With this one the children could see different shades of the same color: brown. My oldest son could tell me the different names of the shapes. My youngest son could feel the different textures from the more flimsy burlap to the very hard, curvy walnut halves.

My three-year-old and I put all of these and three bags together in about an hour one afternoon while my 20 month old slept. Both boys had a great time playing with them. In fact they’re still playing with them! One thing I like to do is use clear tape on the top of all of my sensory bags to make sure they stay shut. Another idea is taping them to a sliding glass door or a big window so the kids can look inside of them better and see all the different variations of colors.
I hope you and your children have as much fun as we did with this project. It’s a great project for kids three years old and younger.  Older kids can even make it for their younger siblings!