Finding the Right Rice

When there are so many types of rice at the grocery store, it can be hard to decide which one you need. Here’s a cheat sheet:

Short-grain rice is short and wide. It’s softer and stickier than other rice when you cook it up. So it goes best with foods like sushi. Use short-grain rice to make recipes like our Adorable Onigiri.

Medium-grain rice is slightly longer and thinner than short-grain rice. This type of rice is less sticky too, and tastes tender and chewy when cooked. This is the kind of rice in risotto or paella.

Long-grain rice is long and thin, sometimes more than double the length of short-grain rice. It stays more spread apart when cooked, and that makes it good for saucy dishes. Basmati is a popular long-grain rice you might be familiar with. Try it with our Mexican Rice recipe!

Not sure which is which? Stack your rice grains side by side on the counter. The longest and thinnest is the long-grain, and the shortest and widest is the short-grain. And here’s a fun fact: wild rice is not actually rice! It’s a member of the grass family but is called “rice” due to its appearance. Who knew?

If you enjoyed these foodie facts, check out our monthly kits for more fun learning.

Noodle Tips

Do you know your noodles? They come in so many shapes and sizes. Next time you go to the supermarket, try to see how many kinds you can find! 

Soba – thin and made from buckwheat flour. Deep in color and flavor, it has extra protein and tastes great hot or cold. 

Udon – thick and chewy, these are popular in soup and so satisfying to slurp!

Somen – these thin white noodles are springy in texture and often served cold. 

Ramen – medium-thick and wavy. What is traditionally used in a ramen soup. 

Rice – unlike the others, these are made from, you guessed it, rice! Making them a great gluten-free alternative. 

Now you’re ready to get slurping! Check out our Mouthwatering Miso and Oodles of Noodles recipes, and mix it up with different noodle pairings to find your favorite. Be sure to check out our soup-making tips before you get started, and work on a Soup Scramble as your dish cooks! Just follow the package directions for exact cooking times.

For more fun learning and foodie facts, subscribe to our monthly kits.

How to Grate Fresh Ginger

A Chef’s Secret: How to Grate Fresh Ginger

Introduce your young chefs to ginger, a zesty ingredient that will give a boost of flavor to any dish. This all-star ingredient featured in our Bento Box kit pairs perfectly with Asian dishes, like our Oodles of Noodles and Baked Salmon. Here’s a pro tip: you can also add it to any entrees, smoothies and drinks, or desserts for an added kick! 

Ginger might appear intimidating, but it’s simple to prepare. A grown-up can help peel with a veggie peeler, then simply rub the ginger against the shell of our Turtle Grater, or a standard grater. Depending on the recipe, you may also dice up the ginger root with a paring knife.

This plant is chock-full of benefits, it’s practically medicine. It can help reduce nausea, soothe tummy troubles, and boost immunity. Who knew something so tasty could be good for you! 

If you’re looking for other ways to lend some Asian flair to your dishes, consider these delicious add-ins: bok choy, tofu, mirin, miso, sesame oil, bean sprouts, or nori (seaweed). Don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly kits for more tips on how to cook up culture right in your kitchen!

Dining In

Fancy it up! You don’t need to dine out at a French restaurant for a grand dinner.

Here are our top Kidstir tips for having a restaurant experience at home and turning any simple meal into a special occasion. Making a meal feel a little fancy is a great way to bond, teach manners and celebrate a great day. 

Start by getting your little one excited. They can write out a menu of what they are making — picture menus work too! Next, set the table, and fold napkins just like how they do it at restaurants. Now the important question: what’s for dinner? You could cook up this month’s kit, or prepare a Kidstir classic. You’ll feel like five stars making our Baked Salmon or Pasta Caprese

After you’re done cooking, everyone dresses up and comes to the table in style. Turn on music, light some candles, and say “Cheers!” For a cherry on top, add a vase of flowers, and serve on your best plates. Remember, use your best table manners: say “please” and “thank you,” and kiss the cook!

It’s great to slow down and celebrate the little things. You could toast a day of chores well done, a new skill learned, or a scholastic achievement. You could even encourage good habits — like letting your little chef host a meal when they finish a book and having them tell you all about it over dinner! By taking the time to acknowledge these moments, you motivate good behavior and create great memories for the whole family.

Onigiri

Onigiri

Onigiri, or rice balls, are a popular snack in Japan. Some people even eat them for breakfast! These little rice shapes take many forms and have been around for hundreds of years. Starting in the 1600s, many people began adding nori to the rice, to keep their hands from getting sticky while eating. 

Nori would grow to become a popular way of decorating, too, and today, creative folks make all kinds of creatures and shapes out of this delicious dish. Who says you can’t play with your food? 

Try recreating some of these fun onigiri for yourself:

  • Use your nori to make eyes and a mustache for a little onigiri man
  • Surround your rice with ramen to give a mane to your onigiri lion
  • Drop in some food coloring and add sesame seeds for onigiri watermelon slices

Kawaii

Photo of Kawaii Food

Have you ever heard the term “kawaii”? If not, you’ve probably seen it. This term loosely translates to a “culture of cuteness” that Japanese people hold dear. It’s the reason why so many characters, designs, merchandise, and cartoons that come from the island nation are so, well, adorable. 

Interestingly, the word kawaii originally comes from “kao hayushi,” which means “blushing.” Characters that are considered cute within Japanese culture are often shy or bashful, which means people tend to care for them more.

You might have spotted a few kawaii characters hidden throughout our Bento Box cooking kit. Can you name other examples of these loveable designs?

 

Natural Food Dyes

Natural Food Dyes

For a fun (and healthy) cooking project, try making food coloring at home! Kids may be surprised to learn that the first paints and pigments in history were made from many of the plants and minerals around us. 

These fruit- and veggie-based dyes not only make beautiful food art, but they’re also packed with lots of healthy nutrients (and no artificial chemicals). That’s a win for kids and parents! Keep reading for easy recipes that span a rainbow of colors.

Pink:

  • Wash, dry, and peel one raw, red beet. Using a vegetable peeler (or knife if you prefer), cut several long, thin slices, and add them to frosting, mashed potatoes or pretty much anything! Stir for several minutes to let the color mix in, and add more slices of beet as needed. When you like the color, pick out the beet pieces with a spoon, and … voila!
  • Baking for a long time may change beet-dyed color so you may want to stick to things like frosting, mashed potatoes, and pancake batter.

Yellow:

  • Dissolve 1 teaspoon of powdered turmeric in ½ cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the liquid down about halfway and you’re done! 
  • Add in very small amounts to your food and mix to get the right hue. 
  • Turmeric can have a bitter taste, but the boiling will help. Still, use it very sparingly and only for savory dishes.

Blue:

  • Lightly mash 1 cup of blueberries and squeeze through a cheesecloth, nut bag, or clean white T-shirt into a bowl, adding a little water if needed to create a blue dye. Mix in one teaspoon at a time until you’ve got the right hue of blue. Best for desserts. 

Green:

  • Throw one bunch of washed spinach in a blender, adding a little water if needed. Squeeze the mixture through a cheesecloth or other strainer into a bowl and you’ve gone green!
  • Spinach makes a light green so you may need to use more than the other dyes to achieve the color you want. 
  • Luckily, the flavor is so mild, you can add it to most anything.
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How to Measure Flour

Follow these fool-proof tips to fluff up all your homemade muffins, cookies and quickbreads!

It may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes the little things we do (and don’t do) in the kitchen can make a huge difference! Flour is the delicate fairy dust of baking, and it needs aeration to work best in your recipes. Believe it or not, many home-bakers over-pack their flour without intending to, resulting in muffins and cakes that are flat and heavy instead of tall and light. 

So how do we get from flat to fluffy?! Here are our top do’s and don’ts when measuring out flour for basic cookies, muffins, cakes, and quick breads:

Flour Do’s:

  • Fluff up your flour with a large spoon prior to measuring it out. Make sure you get to the bottom of the bag where the flour may have gotten packed down while sitting in the pantry.
  • Gently fill your measuring cup with heaping spoonfuls of flour until you reach the measuring line as closely as you can, and level the top, or scrape off any excess, with a butter knife.

Flour Dont’s:

  • Never shake or tap your measuring cup to even out your flour. It will cause settling and you may end up using way more than you need.
  • Fight the temptation to dip your measuring cup into the bag of flour, as it also tends to pack it down. 

Now it’s time to tackle that oven and revisit your favorite feel-good recipes! We hope you savor the fluffy results! *

*Of course, if you or the kids like your baked goods a little denser, adding more flour is the way to go. Experiment and enjoy!

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Baker’s Secret

It’s time to take your Choc Full o’ Chips Cookies to the next level! Remind you little bakers to follow these oven-savvy tips for best results:

  1. Check cookies at 8 minutes, and watch closely from there. Oven temps and personal tastes vary, and cookies bake fast!
  2. Remove cookies just when they start to turn a touch golden on top. Or if you like them crunchier, keep going! (In our team some folks took them out at 10 minutes while others waited longer.)
  3. Encourage kids to write notes in their cookbook pages about timing, ingredients and any other preferences they discover along the way. Happy baking!
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Mini Meals

Mini Meals
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Why do kids love mini food so much? Perhaps it’s because it fits in the palm of their hands and can be eaten in just one bite. Plus, it’s fun to serve it up on fancy platters to family and friends. Here are simple tips for cooking up small plates for some big fun.

Start with a small plate recipe
Have your kids write down a menu of appetizers to cook up. Try the Sesame Meatballs or Happy Hummus on kidstir.com. Look at the recipes in the Amazing Appetizers kit for more ideas. Consider making bite-size versions of other favorite foods, such as mini sliders or mini kebobs. Then round out the menu with foods to serve on party picks or toothpicks, such as cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, or tiny pieces of cheese.

Make a dinner of small plates
Encourage your kids to cook up their mini meal menu. They can choose one item from their menu to serve before the family dinner as an appetizer. Or, they can make three of four mini foods and cook up a complete small plate supper.

Serve it at a party
Once your kids have become mini meal pros, encourage them to host a party with friends and serve finger foods. Have them line a platter with a doily for fun, and remind them to arrange the food so it looks yummy. Add some fun extras to the table like a vase of flowers, party picks, and cocktail napkins. Enjoy!