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Sushi combos to please kids' palates

Prepared ingredients, including every kid’s favorite — cheese — may put sushi in the pantheon of chicken fingers and burgers.

LARRY CROWE | Associated Press

Prepared ingredients, including every kid’s favorite — cheese — may put sushi in the pantheon of chicken fingers and burgers.

Fast, no-cook, kid-friendly sushi may seem like a pretty tall order, but if you ditch the seafood and rely on just one healthy convenience food, it's easy.

The goal was maki sushi, the rolls that generally wrap a sheet of nori seaweed around white rice and fillings. Since the nori requires no preparation (and is widely available in the Asian section of grocers), that was a keeper.

But a substitute for white sushi rice (the sticky, short-grain rice) was needed. Sushi rice not only takes too long to prepare, it's also not as nutritious as whole grain. The solution was one of a growing variety of instant heat-and-eat brown rices available at the grocer.

After several attempts, Minute brand Ready to Serve! brown rice cups proved to work best in sushi when combined with seasoned rice vinegar, a traditional ingredient that gives sushi a sweet acidity.

If your little ones are adventurous eaters, you can fill the sushi with cooked shrimp (buy them already steamed from the seafood counter) or even strips of smoked salmon.

For those not ready for seafood, apples, carrots and cheese created an unusual but delicious combination.

For ease, buy bagged carrots already cut into thin matchsticks. Cheddar is easy to cut to a similar size, or buy string cheese and have the children pull them into thin strips. The apples are the only must-cut item.

For a dipping sauce, the traditional wasabi and soy sauce is good, but kids may prefer a bottled Asian peanut sauce, creamy salad dressing or even warm pasta sauce from the jar.

The only special equipment that is handy is a bamboo sushi rolling mat (most grocers sell them alone or as part of kits in the Asian section), but a sheet of sturdy plastic wrap or waxed paper works, too.

>>entree

No-Cook, Kid-Friendly Sushi

1 (4.4-ounce) cup Minute Ready to Serve! brown rice (sold as a two-pack)

3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

1 sheet nori seaweed (sushi wrapper)

Half a small apple, cut into thin strips

1/4 cup carrot matchsticks

4 to 5 long, thin strips of cheese (cut from a block of cheddar or pulled from string cheese)

• Remove the cover from the cup of rice and microwave on high for 1 minute. Transfer the rice to a microwave-safe bowl and mix in the rice vinegar. Heat for another 3 1/2 minutes.

• Remove the rice from the microwave and let rest for 5 minutes, stirring every minute, to cool.

• When the rice has cooled, place the sheet of nori flat on the counter on top of a sushi rolling mat. The mat should be in front of you with one of the shorter sides of the sheet facing you. If you don't have a rolling mat, a sheet of plastic wrap or waxed paper slightly larger than the nori will work, too.

• Wet a large spoon or silicone spatula with cool water, then use it to carefully spread the rice over the nori. The rice will seem thin in some places, but spread it nearly to the edge on all four sides.

• About an inch away from the short side closest to you, arrange a line of apple strips over the rice. Top that with a line of carrot sticks, followed by a line of cheese strips.

• Gripping the edge of the sushi mat closest to you, gently roll the nori, rice and fillings onto themselves, creating a tight cylinder. Just before you reach the far end of the nori, dip your fingers in cool water and run them along the cylinder. Continue rolling and gently squeeze the cylinder. The water seals the edge.

• Unwrap the sushi from the mat. Dip a sharp knife in water and trim away about 1/2 inch at each end of the roll, dipping the knife in the water and wiping it clean between cuts. Discard or eat the trimmed bits.

Now cut the roll into about 6 pieces of sushi, wetting and wiping the knife between cuts.

Makes 1 serving.

Source: Associated Press

Sushi combos to please kids' palates 04/01/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 6:00am]

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