Lunchbox Onigiri

Foodista Cookbook Entry

Category: Main Dishes | Blog URL:

This recipe was entered in The Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest, a compilation of the world’s best food blogs which was published in Fall 2010.


Steam the rice in a rice cooker or on the stove.
Most people we know who are addicted to them use a rice cooker to prepare the rice. If they're making them for their kid's lunch, they add the rice and water the night before, program the cooker, and then when they wake up, all they’ve got to do is add the filling.)
Wet your hands in water so that the rice won't stick.
Rub some salt on your hands, too.
Shape the rice into balls.
Make a dent in the center of the rice and place about 1 tsp. of the filling inside.
Wrap the rice around the filling and then shape the rice into a round or a triangle, by pressing lightly with both of your palms. Wrap the rice ball with a strip or two of the nori.
Wrap in plastic to keep them moist.




I read the other day in the New York Times (New Policy Outlaws Bake Sales in City Schools) that the Department of Education has banned bake sales during lunch as a part of its new wellness policy. (School store and vending machine items will also be restricted). Parent groups and the PTA can sell those brownies, cupcakes and rice krispie treats after 6 PM on weekdays, and once a month after lunch had ended.

I remember when Grace was in first grade and an emergency PTA meeting was called because a new mother wanted to start a Ban The Bake Sale movement. I went to the early morning meeting because, well, I thought it was a perfectly good idea, considering the obesity epidemic among kids. And while we were at it, could we ban those Dunkin munchkins and other highly processed sweets from our classroom breakfast get-togethers?

At the meeting, as in the comment section of the New York Times article, you got the standard pros and con responses.

Those for bake sales said:
It’s a tradition.
It’s how we raise money.
You can’t tell my kid how to eat- that’s a personal decision that should not be dictated by the state.

Those against bake sales said:
There are other more creative ways to raise money – sell school supplies withthe school logo, etc.
The obesity crisis is so severe that we have to convey the message in a strong way.
Excessive sugar at lunch impedes learning. The kids go back to the classroom with a sugar rush and then they crash.

The reality is that those schools who’ve actually banned the bake sale during lunch and creatively (and that’s the operative word here) introduced apples and carrots and fresh fruit or even fresh popcorn into the school at lunch and at school functions, actually made more money in the long run.

Susan McQuillan, a New York City parent and author of the Sesame Street's C is for Cooking: Recipes from the Street Cookbook said “There are so many other occasions—birthdays, holidays, religious events and even snack time at home—where kids get plenty of cake, cookies and candy. There's really no reason for them to have access to so much junk food at school. But I'm also glad they are allowed to have bake sales once a month, though, because it's a tradition.”

At our elementary school bake sales, it was the fifth grade families that provided the baked goods. (The proceeds from the bake sale went towards the fifth grade trip and graduation). Because I was friends with the mom coordinating the bake sales (and who worked her butt off every week along with a few other moms), I felt donating a baked good once every three weeks was the least I could do.

But have I mentioned that I’m what you’d call a reluctant baker? There’d be no pretty decorated cupcakes with sprinkles, no cookie cutter cookies coming from me. I do make a killer lemon square, but if I’m going to be in the kitchen, I much prefer improvising a great soup or pasta dish from ingredients I’ve purchased at my local farmer’s market.

When I bake, I get distracted. I forget that I melted the butter in the microwave for the apple cake recipe, and then discover it there the next morning when I go to reheat my tea for the eighth time. Or I add the flour, but can’t remember if it’s the first cup or the second cup that I just put in the mixing bowl.

So I wasn’t the ideal person to be baking for the bake sale. No instead, I found the perfect solution- I made Grace do the baking. Grace is easy to bribe and the bribe here was “You bake, you can eat all the batter.” (OK, I know that’s unhealthy but licking the batter was a highlight of my childhood, and well, like climbing a tree, it’s a requirement of kidhood).

That’s how Grace became the bake sale baker. She’d make brownies or blondies with a fool proof recipe from Cook’s Illustrated (easier than my beloved Maida Heatter recipes) and since they’d been thoroughly tested, I figured she couldn’t ruin them. And she never did.

But while I do feel there is a place for homemade baked goods, if we want to get away from all the sugar of all those bake sales, I have the solution. Yes, folks, it’s rice balls. (In Japanese, they’re called onigiri).

At Grace’s school, we had a sizable Japanese population and while most of the kids were either eating school lunch or bringing bologna sandwiches from home for lunch, these kids always packed rice balls wrapped in nori or seaweed. At certain school fundraising events, the Japanese moms would make them and sell them and make a fortune. Eventually, many of the other kids, including Grace, started loving rice balls and began making them at home. They’re the perfcet Ban the Bake sale food!


4.0 servings, 2 onigiri per serving


Thursday, December 31, 2009 - 11:42am


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