Friday, June 16, 2017

Tuna Onigiri

I am a huge fan of Japanese cuisine.  Sushi, obviously.  But I find it to be such a comforting food culture.  We got to take a trip to Kyoto two winters ago and it is BY FAR my favorite place I have traveled.  NYC would be a close second.  The people were so welcoming.  The three of us idiots knew no Japanese and were very ill-prepared, but never felt like we were a nuisance or unwelcome.  But the food.  The food was everything I want.  Kyoto is particularly known for tofu and vegetarian dishes, but you can find all the typical Japanese food that tourists are looking for like sushi, ramen, soba, tempura, etc.

What I found so fun is eating at convenience stores and grocery stores.  Here is some stuff we got from a grocery store:

Those maki rolls have WAY too much rice (as I write about a recipe that is literally a ball of rice), but I will forgive them this time.  The rest was super good and very affordable.  That box of assorted sushi was less than $5.  On the far left, that is Inari sushi.  It is sushi rice wrapped in this thin piece of tofu that is coated in a sweet glaze.  Birk's fave.    

One of my favorite convenience store/grocery store snacks is the Onigiri.  In the picture below, you can see the 3 Onigiri triangles in the top right corner.  The only trouble we had was that there were so many different types of fillings and our phone translators didn't do a good job telling us what they were!  Surprise every time. 

So what is Onigiri?  It is a triangle ball of rice, filled with fish or veggies, and wrapped in nori.  The rice is typically not seasoned like sushi rice, but could be.  A very friendly filling is a tuna salad, so that is what the recipe below has in it.  It seems so simple, but what does it for me is the crunchy nori.  

You can make these two ways.  The first way is above, using a fancy wrapper (which you can buy here).  The wrapper prevents the rice from touching the nori, which is what makes it crunchy.  These Onigiri are available everywhere in Japan and I have also seen them in big cities like San Francisco and NYC.  They are such a great snack.  I loved them for breakfast.  The second way is in the photo below, just wrapping a normal piece of nori around the rice ball.  The nori will remain crunchy if you eat it right away or if you keep the nori separate from the rice ball until ready to eat.  Or if you want the same texture as sushi (soft nori), you can wrap in advance.

The fun of Onigiri for me is unwrapping it.  Genius packaging!  Here is a video of me unwrapping and eating it.   Trigger warning:  1. horrible video; 2. horrible audio; 3. sort of weird, right?

I like to eat with a little soy sauce, as shown in the video.  Other typical fillings include flaked, cooked salmon or a preserved plum.  I honestly wish I didn't have to make these and could just buy for $1 anywhere, as is the case in Japan.  But they are so satisfying that I will continue to make them until I move to Japan.  

PS:  I know my photography skills are problematic!  I will work on it.  I swear I will not hold every thing I make up to our window and take a back lit photo.  Did you hear the videos? 

Onigiri (filled with Tuna)
by foodforscot

3 cups of cooked sushi/short grain white rice (~1.5 uncooked)
3 full sheets of nori roasted seaweed, cut into thirds (or ~7-9 seaweed wrappers, here)
1 can of tuna, liquid drained
2 tbsp of mayo
2 tbsp of chopped pickles
1/4 tsp of garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp-1/4 cup of sesame seeds

Prep your rice:  If you need directions on how to cook steamed rice without a rice cooker, see this recipe.  I would recommend that you use a rice cooker because it will always do it better than you.  I have this Cuisinart model and it has horrible reviews because if you make more than 2 cups, it overflows and makes a pretty big mess.  However, it STILL makes better rice than me so I have been using it for almost 10 years.  How am I old enough to EVEN say that.  This is how you write recipes, right?

Prep your filling:  mix together tuna, mayo, pickles, and garlic powder.  Use a fork to mash up tuna so there are not big chunks.  Season with lots of pepper, and salt to taste.

Prep your nori:  if you are using regular nori sheets, cut each sheet into three pieces.  If you are using the wrappers to allow you store and eat later, get all the annoying stickers ready. 


Use a mold (here):  rub your surface with water and sprinkle with a little salt.  Place mold on top.  Place cooked rice to fill half the triangle mold and press to compress.  Add a few spoonfuls of tuna mixture.  Fill the rest of the mold with rice and press to compress.  Sprinkle or roll is sesame seeds, and wrap in nori or wrapper.

Here is a video that shows what I just wrote (your choice if you want to be soothed by the audio):

Without a mold:  Rub your hands with a little water.  Sprinkle salt on hands rub together.  Grab about <1/4 cup of cooked rice.  Using a cupping motion with both hands, form ball.  Make a small indentation in the middle and fill with a spoonful of tuna mixture.  Redip your hands in a bit of water and add another <1/4 cup of rice to cover the tuna mixture.  The amount of rice doesn't need to be exact.  1/3-1/2 cups of rice per Onigiri seems reasonable.  Those numbers seem off based on the video.  Continue to mold using a cupping motion with your hands.  Once ball is formed, you can form into a triangle.  Just watch the video this is impossible to explain.  Sprinkle or roll is sesame seeds, and wrap in nori or wrapper.

Here is a video that shows what I just wrote (one of the creepier things I have done, also audio is optional and probably should be avoided):

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Healthy School Treats


Yikes.  A lot of life happened.   Super cute that my last post was "How I fed my baby during his first year".  Baby is now in preschool and I am still nearly as anxious that I am going to destroy him by feeding him the wrong food.  Something I am well aware I am worrying too much about but we all need something to spend our time on.

I have wanted to make it back to writing and sharing recipes so many times.  In fact, I have drafted many posts and later deleted them.  So, I figured, let's start with baby steps.  Healthy School Treats.

Birk just finished his third year of "preschool".  And guess how many schools hes been at?  Four.  Oh, man.  And, I have been so lucky to find schools with good, healthy food policies.  Amazing teachers.  I have loved his schools SO much.  However, the thing I still can't get on board with is school treats.  There are holidays, celebrations, and 75 birthdays each semester, and they so often bring with them a hugely celebratory treat.  I am ok with Birk celebrating a relevant occasion with dessert, but I just don't think that needs to happen at school.  It seems that there is one per week!

However, instead of being a party pooper, I thought that I could at least come up with some healthy school treats.  I have sent these three different treats to school with great success.  And these were tested on a group of 3-6 year olds who are used to getting real treats for other birthdays and holidays.  The three are:

1.  Berries - strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.  The kids liked them so much, they requested the leftovers for their second snack.  Seems simple, maybe a little expensive for some, but a huge hit.

2.  Frozen yogurt covered banana - these were super popular.  The teachers said the kids had so much fun eating these.  See recipe below and photo above.

3.  Raspberries with a dark chocolate chip inside.  I got this idea from Annie's Eats, as she puts these as a treat in her kid's lunch boxes sometimes.  I sent these for valentine's day in a tiny paper cup.  A serving was 3, because raspberries are very expensive.  But sometimes when a treat arrives in a small portion, it tastes so much better.  The kids also loved these.  See photo below!

Next time, I will return with adult human food. 

Frozen Yogurt Covered Bananas
makes 3 pops (math for more)

1 banana (make sure they are ripe!  not green but not mushy yet.  )
1 cup of whole milk yogurt
1-2 tbsp of honey
sprinkles (I like these)
3 Popsicle sticks

Cut the banana into three equal pieces.  Insert a popsicle stick into each piece and set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Make sure the baking sheet can fit in your freezer!

Whisk together yogurt and honey in a bowl or a cup suitable for dipping.  Taste and adjust sweetness to your liking (doesn't need to be very sweet, though, because bananas are so sweet).  Dip each banana on a stick into the yogurt mixture and return to baking sheet.  Once finished dipping, sprinkle with sprinkles.

Place in freezer uncovered overnight or until completely frozen.  Once they are completely hardened, you can put them in a freezer safe bag until you are ready to deliver to school.  They can all be placed in a gallon size bag together, they do not stick for me (as long as they aren't allowed to melt and refreeze!).