Better kid Lunch=Bento Box Lunch (sticky rice recipe)

With the recent addition of a very cute Hello Kitty Bento box set my daughter got from her Auntie Isa and Uncle Matt.  I ventured into making the new way of packing a lunch with a healthy and colorful attitude.  If you never heard of Bento boxes they are a Japanese way of a packed lunch box which is small, nutritiously balanced and appealing to the eye.  Think 3 part carbs (usually rice), 1 part protein and 2 parts fruit and vegetables. Traditionally no sweets, but I usually stick some sort of treat if I can fit it. You want to make it nice and compact. I use silicone cup cake liners to help separate foods and add some color, you can also use slices of fruit or vegetables.

I am waiting to get more stuff for my stash to make it even more cute with the addition of nori cutters to make faces out of nori or sea weed. Thinking your kids wont eat sea weed, duh don’t tell them! Just make the cute faces or shapes and they are sure to eat it up!  I have read online of using scrapbooking cutters to cut nori. I tried it and it worked! I just had to adapt to make faces.  Not as cute as the real face cutters but it will do for now. She ate healthy and it made her smile- Mission Complete!

One of the favorites for my daughter is making hot dog octopus. You just take a hot dog and cut it half way up, then cut the bottom half into more slices to make tentacles. Make eyes with nori or something edible like apple skin or a vegetable. Spread out legs onto blue tinted rice.  Too cute with some cheese cutout star fish!

I started with making the onigiri rice balls. These are sticky rice smashed up tight into a ball shape.  There are many recipes out there for sticky rice that make it seem very intimidating. Let me tell you the truth, totally not that complicated! I used my vegetable steamer and it was a breeze!  The rice balls can be made into cute animal faces with a little decorating and imagination that your little one will love to chow down, plus be the envy of all the little classmates.

My daughters friends like to see when she brings a bento to see what kind of lunch is inside. It is all about color and interesting things to make them eat, you will be surprised to see how you can get them to eat veggies or meats cut up into shapes!

First off lets talk rice… The rice must be short grain. NOT Basmati rice.. This is most important!  It just will not stick into shapes if you do not get the short grain.  You will also need some rice vinegar.  This will add a nice slightly sweet/sour taste to the rice ball.

Recipe for sticky rice in a electric vegetable steamer:

Sushi rice (short grain rice)
Seasoned Rice Vinegar (I like Mitsukan-no MSG!)
food coloring (or colored broth from red cabbage)

Before you start you must rinse the rice!  so put 1 1/2 C rice into a bowl and add cold water, swish with your hand. You will see the rice clouds up the water. Pour out water and repeat 2-3 more times. Until water is clear in bowl. Let this now sit for at least 4 hours.  This step is very important if you want nice soft texture to the rice. Preferred method is to let sit for 24 hours. 

I like to color the rice to make it even more kid friendly. You can use many vegetables cooked down like red cabbage to get pink to purple color. I just use a high quality food coloring.  I place enough color to make the water that the rice sits in strong enough to color the rice, more or less to  make the shade you desire.  Shade will also depend on how long you let rice sit in colored water.

After you let the rice sit up to 24 hours I then put the rice into the steamer bowl (with a slotted spoon to only put in the rice, reserve colored water) that came with my electric steamer. I add the water to the higher level indicated on the steamer bottom. place attachments needed put bowl inside steamer. I then only added enough of the colored water to just cover the rice in the steamer bowl attachment. Put the lid on and set timer for 45 minutes.  Half way I mixed up the rice and checked for tenderness and stickiness. You will know it is done when rice is somewhat translucent, but taste it. That is truly the way to test texture. My steamer takes the whole 45 minutes. 

 After it is done I dump the rice into a bigger bowl and add a couple tablespoons of the rice vinigar to taste, folding it into rice. 
The easy way to make a rice ball is to get a little plastic sandwich size baggie and put some rice into it and squish it into the corner of the bag, form into a ball or whatever shape you like. I even used it at this point to push into a large flower cookie cutter (baggie and all) it made a nice shape and did not stick to cutter.  I have even made a half ball shape, put some spam in the middle then added more rice to make a stuffed onigiri sticky rice ball. That one was a huge hit! You could probibly fill it with whatever leftover meat you had the night before.

Obviously this will make quite a few balls. So make sure unused rice balls are stored with a damp paper towel in a ziplock baggie with air removed. I only store up to 5 days as rice looses its nice texture if too old.

So try to make a bento box. You dont need a fancy box.  I was using a ziplock brand storage container, it was nice and had compartments even! You will be rest assured your little one is eating healthy and have fun doing it also.  I have even heard some women eat bento style and have lost weight in the process! I will definitely try that one out for me just minus the hot dog octopus!

Momma says; Go Bento – Go healthy – Go FUN!

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