Something I have been wanting to start for a while is a Cooking with Toddlers series. I firmly believe that involving kids as much as possible in choosing and preparing their foods helps them develop a healthy and curious attitude towards eating. For our first installment, I wanted to kick it off with something fun and sure to please. A word of advice, though — don’t attempt this when your toddler is overly tired and hungry. He was doing just fine until I had the nerve to try and roll up his sushi roll. Oy. So he had a truly free-form sushi, uh, salad.
Sushi Night: The toddler definitely inherited my love of sushi. It was his first dining experience, both sleeping in the car seat at 3 days old and the first eating-on-his-own (avocado rolls) at 9 months. Sadly, our sushi place has since changed management and our beloved server left, quality declined and prices increased. Throw in the new sustainable sushi guides which confirm that my favorite fish are both contaminated and unsustainable, and the time was definitely right to try sushi making at home. The toddler was gifted a lovely wood sushi set for his play kitchen on his birthday (thanks Aunt J!), and has been assembling and serving us sushi regularly with his great little velcro chopsticks.
Recipe: Sesame Veggie Rolls (vegetarian)
Preparation: The key to cooking with toddlers or young kids is prepping as much as possible before they join you at the counter. The last thing you want to do is leave a toddler with a measuring cup and container of sugar while you’re digging around for a forgotten seasoning … trust me! Sushi rice should be made ahead anyway to allow it to cool for easy handling. The tofu and vegetables were sliced and refrigerated until it was time to begin. Of course you can use any combination of vegetables, so make sure to include your kids’ favorites. While you can find sushi kits in many kitchen stores, the only thing you really need is a rolling mat. But even that you could do without if needed, just use a piece of parchment paper folded in half. We ate these as a side along stir-fry, but you could double the amount of vegetables and make several variations to make a full meal.
for the rice
- 2 cups sushi rice, cooked according to package instructions
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon and 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
for the tofu
- 1/2 block firm Silken tofu, chilled
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 large carrot, peeled
- 1 avocado, pitted
- sesame seeds
- 4 Nori seaweed sheets
- additional tablespoon of rice wine vinegar in a small bowl
Instructions: Cook the sushi rice – I used Lundberg’s organic sushi rice – according to the package instructions. At the end of the rice’s cooking time, put vinegar, sugar and salt into a small saucepan and heat over low until salt and sugar dissolve. Remove from heat and mix gently with the cooked rice in a non-metal bowl; allow to cool to room temperature. Thinly slice the tofu and sprinkle with garlic powder, sesame oil and 1 t vinegar. Cut the carrot and avocado into thin matchstick-sized slices. Sprinkle a little lemon juice over the avocado to keep it from browning.
When you’re ready to assemble, line up all the ingredients above your cutting board in the order you’re going to add them (rice, vegetables, tofu, sesame seeds and vinegar). Place a sheet of Nori on your rolling mat and help your toddler spread a layer of rice along the bottom inch, making sure it reaches to the side edges. Allow toddler to arrange toppings in the center of the rice, helping fill in any gaps. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, then carefully roll it up pressing gently to mold it together. Dip your finger in the vinegar and moisten the edge of the Nori to seal it closed. Use a sharp, serrated knife to cut it into 1″ pieces and let your child help arrange them on the platter. Will make 4 6-piece rolls, with plenty of extra rice. Serve with (reduced sodium) soy sauce, pickled ginger and (diluted) wasabi if your child’s brave enough, and enjoy!