My child is only in preschool and I already feel like I have lunch fatigue. Luckily I found these containers one day while tooling around amazon and they have really stepped up my lunch game. There is something about all the little compartments that inspires me to try lots of different foods. And I think toddlers respond well to lots of different choices and shapes and textures. The winner in this lunch was definitely the onigiri (better known in my house as sushi balls!!!) As per wiki- onigiri is a Japanese food made from white rice formed into triangular or cylinder shapes and often wrapped in nori.
My three year old loves sushi. This still cracks me up because I didn't even know what sushi was until I was in college. The problem with a three year old eating sushi however, is that an unfortunate amount of it ends up on the floor. Lately, he pulls the nori out and discards too which invariably sends rice flying everywhere. So while I've known about onigiri for awhile and their prevalence in adorable bento- I've never made them before. But then one night I suddenly had a moment of inspiration when it occurred to me that they were essentially sushi in a smaller easy to eat portion with no nori (at least wen I made them...) So I made some sushi rice and seasoned like normal then dumped in some random chopped up veggies and fish and rolled them into little balls. Honestly I liked them too- it was way faster than making sushi. (Sushi was one of my pregnancy cravings with this son and I got pretty adept at making it as a result)
Little Veggie Onigiri Balls
1 cup sushi rice
carrots, broccoli and/or whatever veggies you have around/ kid likes
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tbs mirin (or sugar)
small cucumbers and/or furikake seasoning
Prepare your sushi rice as instructed. I have tried lots of ways of doing this and honestly haven't loved any of them. The only thing that I think is essential is soaking and rinsing your rice well before cooking. When the rice is done cooking turn off the heat and add the vinegar, mirin and salt. (Sugar is traditional I just started using mirin because I didn't want to add sugar it also saves you from having to dissolve the sugar in the vinegar.) Stir gently and let cool a bit. Meanwhile steam and chop whatever veggies you are using to smallish pieces. I used the food processor, just leave a bit of texture. (I also used leftover veggies so I didn't steam them first.) If they are freshly steamed you may want to squeeze out a bit of water and then add them to the rice. Strain some tuna (I used a nice canned variety- if I was making this for adults I might spring for some sushi grade tuna and put it on top, but that seemed excessive for a little kid.) I didn't include amounts for the veggies and fish, because it's entirely up to you. You just need enough rice for it to stick together. Other than that it's a matter of taste. Stir everything together, pinch of bits and roll them into balls. Having slightly wet hands will help stop the rice from sticking to you as much. I got impatient and made them more like two biters, but I found the smaller the better where the toddler (and the mess) were concerned. I stuck both cucumber slices and some furikake seasoning on top, but they were good without too. Next time I want to experiment with a brown rice variety- I almost never eat white rice anymore and not only to I like the health benefits of brown rice, at this point I like the taste better too.
This post is an entry in the Back to School Healthy Lunch Blog Challenge hosted by Friends of Great Kids Farm. Friends of Great Kids Farm is a 501(c)3 foundation partner to Baltimore City Public Schools' Great Kids Farm. Friends financially supports, enhances, and promotes the Farm's experiential gardening and nutrition education and career training programs to benefit as many of Baltimore City Schools' 85,000 students as possible. In 2008, an overgrown, unused property owned by City Schools was transformed into a working farm and dynamic outdoor classroom. This unique facility now provides: a working farm where students connect with healthy foods through cross-curricular, hands-on learning activities; fresh produce for school cafeterias and nutrition education programs; a professional kitchen where students cook and taste Farm produce guided by a chef educator; classrooms for healthy food demonstrations and tastings linked to core instruction; internships for high school students in agriculture and the culinary arts; and support for the development of schoolyard gardens throughout the district. The Back to School Healthy Lunch Campaign seeks to bring attention to healthy eating and support innovative education with local creativity.
Find more info, other healthy lunch ideas and fun printables at: http://www.friendsofgreatkidsf