Lately I’ve been feeling like if I didn’t get back to cooking in the kitchen with my kids we were all going to go crazy. I didn’t realize just how much fun and connection cooking provided us until I stopped doing it for almost two months! It dawned on me when, for what seemed like the 100th day in a row, my kids were acting up, aimless, bored, and fighting with each other after school while I was trying to make dinner.
I was wondering, “What happened? They used to get along better. Maybe it’s China? Maybe it’s the new school schedule?” And then I realized, I often cooked with my kids before dinner time. Sure, cooking with kids is not a cure-all – but it is a great alternative to TV time or fighting over toys, and as soon as I told them we’d be making this snack the mood shifted (and it wasn’t just about delicious coconut sugar-rice) they were interested in what they were doing, worked cooperatively, waited patiently, and we had a great time.
In this way, I think cooking with our children serves a function beyond just having fun with kids, or just teaching them about cooking and the accompanying skills. I think it must serve some kind of bonding, important family tradition and even behavior problem-solving mechanism. Think about it – did the cave people have time to bicker over toys when they needed to get some food for dinner? I know, silly analogy, but cooking organizes our thoughts, time, and actions into a purposeful, fruitful activity. It serves a real human need to satisfy hunger and cravings for connection and delicious flavors. If we did some real research on the topic, I’m sure we’d find all kind of cool innate drives to hunt, gather, cook, eat that even basic cooking in the home satisfies. But I don’t need to find that research study, I’m convinced on my own about the importance of cooking in the home.
I recently found this cookbook, Time (for kids): Kids in the Kitchen. As soon as I saw frushi, I had to make it. It was so easy and delicious (I may have eaten more frushi than my kids did.) While not real sushi, it is inspired by Japanese sushi, and you could discuss with your kids why we are calling it frushi, the origin of sushi, as well as how you really make sushi, if they have not yet been exposed to sushi yet.
Just a hint: If you want to make the process go more smoothly and quickly, I suggest making the rice mixture the night before or several hours before the kids get home from school so that it is chilled and set to shape and decorate with toppings. If you decide to make it with your kids from the start, just know my kids weren’t all that interested in waiting for the rice to cool, and had more of a coconut rice pudding with fruit experience, which they didn’t seem to mind at all…this stuff tastes really good. But the next day, the leftover frushi rice had set wonderfully and we enjoyed second helpings that held together nicely.
I do want to say: please don’t feel overwhelmed by this list! Sometimes I come across lists like this on blogs and my head spins thinking I’m supposed to click and do everything, and then I just give up. Don’t worry about that – just scan below and if you find something that looks cool to you or your kids, feel free to tack it on to the recipe-making. Keep it fun!
Practical life activities – practicing rinsing rice using a bowl of water and a sieve, measuring sugar, pouring water between two cups
Sensory activities – tracing letters or shapes in a tray of rice (some people like to color the rice for fun), tasting seaweed snacks, smelling Japanese tea
Science – Study the different grains of rice and the way they react to cooking, purchase a few varieties and have a taste and feel test, have your kids describe the differences. You can check out the Whole Grains Council’s handy rice info page to learn more; plant a Japanese maple tree
Mathematics – Sort and count small objects relevant to Japan; Japanese fabric is known for fascinating and intricately beautiful repeating patterns, print and look at the patterns for repetition and recognizable shapes
Art – Learn about Japanese Furoshiki, a creative way to wrap gifts in fabric; Let your children explore the ingredients in new ways (my kids used the star fruit in an art project), there are a lot of ways to use rice in art as well; learn about the Japanese art of bonsai
- 11⁄4 cups water
- 1 cup short grain or sushi rice, rinsed until the water runs clear 1⁄4 cup coconut milk
- 1⁄4 cup sugar
- Dash of salt
- 1 T shredded coconut (optional)
- Variety of cut up fruits: banana, peach, raspberries, mango Vanilla yogurt to dip the frushi if desired
- Parchment paper or silicone mat
- Rinse the sushi rice several times to remove all the starch.
- Bring the water and rice, combined, to a boil in a saucepan, stirring a bit every 1-2 minutes until the
- water comes to a boil, then immediately turn down to a simmer and cover for 15-20 minutes until the water is gone and the rice is plump. It should not be too firm when you taste-test it, but also not too mushy. Check every 6-8 minutes or so to ensure the rice isn't burning.
- Once the rice is done, pour into a bowl with the coconut milk, sugar, and dash of salt. Mix to combine, then cover and let rest and cool for 20 minutes.
- At this point, you should be able to gather the rice together into a little roll by scooping with a spoon and forming into an oval shape. If the sushi is too loose - I recommend re-heating it to reduce the liquid. Coconut milk's consistency can vary from brand to brand, so it is possible there is too much liquid (this was the case when we made the recipe.) So if you reheat, just be sure to give another cool- down period before your children work with it. As I mentioned in the post, letting the mixture cool in the fridge for several hours or overnight will yield the best results.
- I recommend using parchment paper or a silicone mat to place the fruity rolls on, as they can be sticky to remove. Form the rolls and have your kids help to decorate them, you can use a dab of honey to help the fruit stick if needed.
- Place in the finished rolls in the fridge to cool for a 15 minutes (if your kids will wait!)
- The sticky rice mixture will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.