Sometimes you have to roll with the punches, and other times, what’s most appropriate is rolling a nutrition-packed sea vegetable around sticky rice. You see, Ayane, my little food hero, loves sushi and requested a lesson in making her own homemade California rolls. In this segment, Ayane and I are both learning new things – in more ways than one.
In the kitchen taking pictures of the process is Ayane’s mom, Janice. Janice is a mother of four children – 1 girl and 3 boys between the ages of 2 and 9 – Ayane being the oldest. She’s also a beloved high school teacher of 10 years and is called “Miss” by her students. I often joke that Janice is the Michelle Pfeiffer of her high school, except, the struggles of her students witnessed on a daily basis is not the movies but real life. Here’s me and Janice in conversation throughout the day discussing her role as “Miss,” while balancing life as a wife and mother of four.
Janice: “As a mother, I always contemplate the food I offer my children; it can feel like a tug of war at times. I’m worried about creating healthy habits for them, but the foods they want are full of sugar and not balanced, so compromise needs to exist. But, regardless of the compromise I know my children are fed.
As a teacher, I have been blessed to work with the most wonderful students. Students who appreciate genuine support; who are transparent and raw and unfortunately ones who are hungry. It saddens me to know that my students, someone’s child is hungry, not out of greed but due to lack of food in their lives.
Before working at my school I only thought to bring my own lunch but as I began to know my students I came to understand that food was not always easy to come by. At this point, I would buy extra groceries and bring them to school for them. Sometimes, you see kids and they seem uninterested, tired, and we think its their lack of motivation, but in reality it could be due to hunger. These kids have many obstacles that they have to face before walking in their school doors.”
Why did you decide to become a teacher? Being a teacher was not my first idea. I wanted to be a psychologist at first but decided after my undergrad that I still was unsure of my path. I went to work and then decided to try teachers college. It was during my practicum placements working with students that I realized I could make a positive impact on young lives and enjoy what I do.
What grade and subject do your teach? I am a special education resource teacher (SERT) in secondary school and specialize working with “at risk” youth. I teach the GLE Learning Strategies courses, specifically the grade 11 and 12’s.
What is your goal for your students? My goal for students is their success, well-being and happiness. When working with disadvantaged youth you see the obstacles they face before even entering the school doors and I want to support them and help them overcome their obstacles and to open their minds to strategies so that they can break cycles and have higher expectations for themselves and do what they want to do and not what others have prescribed for them.
You mentioned that your students are often “hungry.” Does your school offer a food program? If so, can you tell us about it? If not, what resources do you think should me made available to support these students? Yes, a lot of our students come to school hungry. Our school does offer a free breakfast and lunch program to students regardless of their need. Some breakfast options are fruits, yogurt, and cereal. Lunch options vary on school supply but may be a sandwich, chili, or fries. By no means is the food supplied top grade or fulfilling, however the goal is to help give students energy to get through the day.
As a working Mom with four children, how do you and your husband (my big brother), handle meal times? Meal times can be hectic as not all of our children enjoy eating the same foods. I usually prepare the school lunches which are packed with fruits, vegetables, hummus, cheese, sushi, sandwiches and other healthy items. Breakfasts are usually rushed and small. My kids will eat cereal or a bagel. Dinners vary depending on who is cooking and what after school activities we are doing that day. But, a typical dinner meal would be pasta, vegetables and meat.
How did Ayane enjoy this experience; learning to make smoothies, cooking zucchini, rolling her own sushi? Ayane enjoyed her experience cooking new foods with her aunt. She is very hands on and is comfortable in the kitchen. With more exposure to different foods, my hope will be that her taste buds will widen and include a variety of healthy foods from different cultures and of course make her more independent in creating meals for herself and hopefully….her family.
Hi guys! Thanks for checking out the last of my there part series with Ayane. Ayane (pronounced Aya-neh) is my adorable 9 year old niece and we’ve been having fun in the kitchen cooking together. If you missed our first two segments together, please check out: Creating The Perfect Smoothie (part 1) and Zucchini Pizza Bites (part 2).
I believe that when you empower a child to make healthier lifestyle choices through experiential learning, highlighting healthy eating, nutrition, cooking skills and active living, these things can make a difference in promoting and improving their quality of life.
The experience making veggie sushi rolls reminded me of a well planned, hands on arts and crafts project. There was a lot of research involved including purchase of authentic ingredients and tools like the bamboo mats. With this dish alone, Ayane learned to cook with three different types of vegetables – carrot, cucumber, roasted seaweed (nori) – and one fruit; avocado. Among other things, we learned how to make sticky rice and our own spicy mayo (referred to as “the yummy pink sauce” by Ayane) from scratch.
Contrary to popular belief, sushi does not mean “raw fish.” As defined in the dictionary, “sushi” is a Japanese dish consisting of small balls or rolls of vinegar-flavoured cold cooked rice served with a garnish of raw fish, vegetables, or egg. The vinegar rice itself is referred to as shari. Raw fish served by itself without the rice is called sashimi.
- Start by cooking your sticky rice (recipe below).
- Prepare your vegetables and equipment (see instructional video: How To Make Simple And Delicious Sushi). This instructional video helped Ayane and I learn techniques for cutting the vegetables, rolling the sticky rice, topping the seaweed, and most important, how to roll the sushi with the bamboo mat. Having never made sushi before, this video was a good tutorial that worked for us.
- Wet hands, roll the sticky rice into a ball (see above pic). Flatten onto roasted seaweed.
- Top the center of the rice with sliced vegetables. At this point you can also top with sesame seeds.
The next important step was rolling the sushi with the bamboo mat and saran wrap. Learn the technique in the instructional video: How To Make Simple And Delicious Sushi.
Cooking with children isn’t just a nice-to-do activity. The kitchen, used properly, is a starting place for young people to get involved with meal planning and preparation – weaving together the realities of their nutritional needs. I also believe that it’s equally important to allow kids to have a choice and share what they’re thinking when it comes to teaching them how to prepare meals. It helps them to feel valued and could inspire creativity on both ends.
Veggie Sushi Rolls
Kid made. Kid approved for eating. Roll with it!
- 2 cups short grain rice
- 2 1⁄4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 large English cucumber, sliced
- 1 large carrot, sliced
- 1 ripe avocado, sliced
- Sesame seeds
Dips for Serving
- Tamari, or soya sauce
- Spicy Mayo (mix together mayonnaise and sriracha)
- 6 – 8 sheets roasted seaweed
- 2 Bamboo mats, for rolling
- Saran wrap, to cover the bamboo mats
- Chopsticks for serving
- Pour the rice in a large pot. Fill the pot with enough cold water to cover the rice and use your hands to vigorously swish the rice around. Pour out the water, which will be cloudy with starch. Repeat this step 3 to 4 more times, until the water being poured off is almost clear.
- Fill the pot with the washed rice with 2 1⁄4 cups water and cover. Over high heat, bring the covered pot to a boil (listen for the chattering). Reduce the heat to low and let the rice cook for 15 – 20 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed and all the grains of rice is cooked. Lift the lid to check inside.
- Remove from the heat and let sit, still covered, for 5 minutes.
- Scoop the rice in a large wooden bowl. Mix together the rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt and pour over the rice. The wooden bowl will absorb excess moisture. As the rice cools, it will become sticky.
To continue with your sushi making experience, see: How To Make Simple And Delicious Sushi.
Serve with pickled ginger.
Sea vegetables, the respectful term used to refer to the nutrition-packed plants commonly called “seaweed,” may not be as varied as “land” vegetables, but neither are they all dark and stringy or green and leafy. They vary by colour, shape, texture, and flavour and can be used in salads, as a condiment, or be eaten on their own.