Mix It Up-Kid Friendly Sushi

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Earlier in the week I shared a recipe that Shawna’s daughter Grace entered into the PBS Lunchtime Challenge. During that post, I also told you to stay tuned for the story of my own daughter’s last-minute entrance into the contest.

So here it is: PBS Lunchtime Challenge Part 2.

Mix It Up  kid friendly sushi

Quick recap: Shawna told us about a contest where 8-12 year-olds enter a kid-friendly recipe that follows the healthy My Plate guidelines that they develop in collaboration with their parents. One child from each state wins a trip to Washington D.C. to have lunch at the White House with the First Lady, Michelle Obama.

We found out about the contest on the 29th of April. The due date was the 30th. Plenty of time! (Please read this with at least some sarcasm.) Dr. Jones’ (my 8 year-old’s) favorite food is sushi.  I’m not kidding. She really wanted to enter a sushi recipe. I honestly tried to talk her out of it since sushi doesn’t seem a like a super kid-friendly dish. But she was adamant, and it is her entry, after all. So I agreed. We make sushi at our house from time to time. So it wasn’t a big stretch to make it for the contest.

And let’s just get this out of the way. Sushi DOES NOT MEAN EATING RAW FISH. Sushi refers to the manner in which the rice is prepared and has nothing to do with fish or seaweed or anything else.

While my daughter was at school, I ran to the store and got all sorts of stuff to try.  Then I prepped all the ingredients.  She invited her friends over after school and we had a taste testing party to decide what exactly would go into her recipe.  They tasted all sorts of combinations. We figured that each of them ate at least 12 pieces of sushi (which is a lot for little bodies.)

They voted on which ones were the tastiest. They certainly liked the ones with sweet fruit in there, but the red peppers got nixed pretty quickly. Some of the ingredients they couldn’t even taste, like the broccoli stems. We kept those things in to add to the nutrition since it didn’t hurt the taste at all.

We got to writing down the recipe and she worked on her essay. She came up with the name because you can really add whatever you want to the sushi and “mix it up.”

Mix It Up Sushi

The recipe contest mandates that the dish be made with lots of veggies and whole grains. So, this sushi needed to made with brown rice instead of the traditional white. I’d never made sushi with brown rice. But good news! I had exactly NO time to figure it out. Good thing, it turned out to be easier than I anticipated.

Brown rice has to be cooked longer than white rice. And the method I used (and it works like a charm) was to boil the rice in way more water than you would use with white rice. After it boiled until it is just this side of tender, I drained the water out, covered the pot with a towel and the lid and then let the remaining moisture steam the rice the rest of the way.

After it is cooked, but still warm, you dump the rice it into a non-metal bowl and add the seasoned rice vinegar. This is a fun part where the kids can get involved. While you gently fold and stir the rice, your kids can fan the rice. The warm rice will draw in the vinegar as it cools making the rice flavorful from the inside out.

Here is the recipe. But make sure you keep scrolling down because there is more to the story.

Mix It Up Sushi

Yield: Makes about 8 sushi rolls


  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice, rinsed well
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 8-10 roasted seaweed wrappers (nori)
  • 8 ounces cooked shrimp, crab or even imitation crab
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into long matchsticks (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small bundle watercress, washed
  • 1 avocado, peeled, seeded and cut into thin slices (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large broccoli stem, washed, the fibrous outer layer peeled away, and the remaining inner core cut into small matchsticks (about ½ cup)
  • ¼ small pineapple, peeled cored and cut into matchsticks (about ½ cup)
  • ½ small mango cut into matchsticks (about ½ cup)
  • 4 ounces low-fat cream cheese, cut into large matchsticks (it’s easier to cut if you freeze the cream cheese for 20 minutes before preparing the rolls)
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce (optional)


  1. Bring water to a boil in stock pot. Add salt & rice. Boil, uncovered for 30-35 mins Or until almost tender. Turn off stove. Drain rice over strainer in sink. Return rice to pot. Place a kitchen towel over the pot opening & cover with lid. Let sit for 10 mins. to allow remaining water & heat to steam rice & cook the rest of the way through.
  2. Turn warm rice out into a non-metal bowl. Drizzle rice wine vinegar over rice while gently stirring & folding rice with a wide spoon. Continue stirring & working rice until no longer warm, about 10-15 mins.
  3. You will need a bamboo sushi mat covered in plastic wrap. Place one seaweed wrapper on bamboo mat, shiny surface facing down. Wet your hands & gently spread thin, even layer of rice over seaweed. Re-wet hands as needed. Don't mash the rice. Cover to edges
  4. Carefully flip the seaweed paper over. Start placing your filling on the nearest 1/3 of wrapper. Place a few matchsticks or slices of veggies & fruit horizontally across seaweed paper. Make sure ingredients reach both edges of seaweed paper. Add cream cheese & shrimp or crab. Top with a few leaves of watercress.
  5. Lift bamboo mat with your thumbs while gently keeping filling in place with your fingers. Fold wrapper over the filling. Continue rolling in a jelly-roll style. When the edge of bamboo mat has almost been rolled under the sushi, pull out that edge & continue rolling.
  6. Unroll bamboo mat & allow the sushi roll to sit for a few minutes before cutting.
  7. Cut each roll into 8 equal pieces with wet knife.
  8. Serve with soy sauce as desired.

One of the benefits of submitting an entry the day the contest closes, is that you don’t have to wait as long for the results.

A couple days later we found out that her recipe was chosen as a finalist!

What does that mean? It means that she was one of three kids from the state of Utah selected as a finalist. She has a one in three chance of meeting the First Lady! We now have to wait patiently until sometime in June to find out the final results. And the Kids State Dinner will take place “in the summer.” Which is helpful for planning purposes :)

I had to fill out an 11-page, notarized affidavit and return it within about 4 days. Quite the effort for a kids competition. But I guess they have to be careful that no crazy kid terrorists visit the White House.

Dr. Jones was very concerned that her cousin would be disappointed and maybe angry or upset. But one of the benefits of entering lots of contests (like Shawna’s kids do,) is that you learn that you win some and lose some and Shawna’s daughter has been very gracious.

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  1. Linda jean says

    Congrats to Dr. Jones! I learned a lot from this blog entry. The sushi sounds delicious and I’m intrigued by the simplicity. I’m going to have to give it a try! Good luck in the finals – how exciting to be so close to winning a trip and a visit with the First Lady!

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