Do you know why Valentines day is all about love? Well there are actually many different legends, and many different opinions where the holiday started. There are actually even many different St. Valentines amongst the Christians saints. Personally, I am a romantic and enjoy all of the different legends told about a man fighting for love. My favorite of the legends is actually based on St. Valentine of Rome. He was a priest while Emperor Claudius II was the ruler. The emperor had outlawed marriage based on the belief that single men would make better soldiers. St. Valentine saw the injustice in the decree and defied the emperor by continuing to marry couples in secret. As no secret is really kept a secret for long the emperor became aware of Valentine’s actions and had him imprisoned and sentenced to death. While he was locked away, awaiting for his sentence to be carried out, he was visited by the daughter of the jails guard. They quickly became friends, and Valentine fell madly in love with her. The last thing he did before being put to death on Feb 14 was leave her a love letter, signing it “from your Valentine” which is still used in Valentine’s Day cards now.

Yes its a sad tale, but it’s of someone who did everything for love. The fact that he, himself was able to experience love at the end just makes it all the more sad romantic. I used to always think getting married our engaged on valentines day was really cheesy, but with this legend in mind it seems to be the perfect way to celebrate the life of St. Valentine….Not that I am getting married. Nope, I’m good for now 😛

But I will continue to celebrate the spread of love in my own little way… even if it’s a little bit weird and involves sushi 😉

I know a lot of people hear the word sushi and get afraid because they aren’t too big a fan of eating raw fish, but you have it all wrong! Sushi does not mean raw fish on rice, its actually just talking about vinegar rice. Although sushi is served as just rice at times, it very commonly includes many toppings. Sashimi, raw fish, is one that is common but that does not mean its the only topping you can put with sushi!

So today I present you with a Valentine Love Roll with cooked chicken and veggies in the center. Another meal that would work great for a romantic dinner 🙂

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What you need:
Short grain rice
Nori (seaweed sheets)
Food coloring- optional
Rice Vinegar
Sugar
Salt
Mirin
Soy Sauce
Soy Chicken
Basic Vegetable Stir Fry
Apples
Lemon Juice
Carrots
Leafy greens
Bamboo rolling mat
Saran wrap
Sharp knife
Chopstick (or something similar shaped)

Sushi is one of my favorite things to make, but it’s not one of the quickest meals. Well, that isn’t completely true. If you have everything already cooked, or having everything raw, then it’s done in pretty much a snap of your fingers. If cooking stuff up specifically for sushi tho it can take some time. One of the first things that you need to do is get your insides prepared. What I am using is Soy Chicken, but instead of being cut into bite sized pieces I try and cut the chicken more into long strips. Raw vegetables go really nice in sushi, but to be honest I love my Basic Vegetable Stir Fry, and use it every chance I get. When making Sushi with it I do everything the same as I have in the recipe, only I leave out the zucchini. This is just what I am putting in mine, please try experimenting with different fillings to see what your favorite is!

Making sushi rice-If you already know how to make sushi rice you can skip this section.

First thing You need to do is prepare your rice. Just like when making rice balls you’ll need to wash the rice for a few minutes until the water runs clear. I know that this seems weird, but don’t worry, it’s not rinsing off anything gross just removing starch. After your rice is starch free place it gently into a small pot and add your water. When making a cup of rice you will use a cup of water, plus about a tablespoon. Pretty much no matter the amount of rice you are using it’s the same amount of water, plus an extra splash. I am making two separate pots of rice, one white and the other pink. If you want to add any color to your rice this is the time to do it. Just add a couple drops of food coloring to the rice and stir it in until you get your desired color. You will want to bring your water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it begins to boil turn your temperature down to the lowest heat and cover your pot. Now you can ignore it for about 6-8 minutes. Check to see if all the water is gone, if it’s not check back every minute. Careful not to burn the rice on the bottom.

Now that the rice is fully cooked you can gently pour it into a bowl. When handling the rice you should only work with a wooden spoon now. I am not joking. Metal can damage the rice as well as react with the seasonings you’re about to add. Also don’t scrape any rice that is sticking to the bottom of the pot, if it’s sticking there it means it was overcooked and will not taste as good so just leave that behind. Next you can prepare the seasonings. What you want to do now is to mix rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small sauce pan over medium heat until fully mixed.  Everyone has their own preference with how to season sushi rice. I know that I do not make it the typical way, but after playing around with it I have found that for one cup of sushi rice I like 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1/2 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 tablespoon salt. Very common I see equal parts rice vinegar and sugar, then half that for the salt. Don’t be afraid to play with it to see what you like.  Once your seasonings are all mixed together pour over your rice and mix in. When you mix sushi rice do not stir, do more of a cutting motion with your wooden spoon. When you stir you damage the rice. Your sushi rice is now ready to roll.. lol

Unagi Sauce

When you find a moment, either while your rice is cooking or while your waiting for your rice to cool, mix together some unagi sauce. Unagi sauce is a sweet and salty sauce that goes great with both chicken and fish, but I primarily use it on my sushi rolls. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever made sushi without it, I love this sauce that much. All you have to do to make it is mix 1/2 cup Soy sauce, 1/2 cup mirin, and 1/2 cup sugar in a small sauce pan and heat on medium for about 10 minutes. Stir often so that it doesn’t burn. The sauce will thicken and reduce to about a 1/3 cup. Note if you are using Gluten free ingredients that it gets really thick really fast so watch it more closely.

Rolling Your Sushi

Finally on to the fun part… actually rolling the sushi! Make sure your workspace is clean before you collect all your tools. You will want a small bowl of water near by to wet your hands, trust me you will be doing this often so you will want it close. Also a wet towel (paper towel, hand towel… you get the picture), saran wrap, and sharp knife also needs to be within reach. Of course a bamboo rolling mat is also a really nice tool to have in order to make your life easier. Don’t have one? Don’t give up! You can still roll your own sushi rolls without a mat. Will do all the steps the same, just requires a little more skill and patience when you don’t have a rolling mat to lean on for help.

When you pull out a sheet of nori you will notice that one of the sides is smooth, while the other is a little rougher. We are going to start by working with the smooth side down.
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Wet your hands so that the rice doesn’t stick to you and lay an even layer of rice across the rough side of the nori. Push it to the edges, but do not smash the rice. Normally I do not do such a thick layer of rice, but for making the heart shapes I want to make sure I have enough to work with.
2
When it comes to forming the sushi everyone has their own preference between nori and rice for what should be on the outside of a sushi roll. For this specific roll tho I recommend putting the rice on the outside. I say this strictly for presentation purposes, even tho I tend to like the rice on the outside more anyways. I feel that the heart would not pop as much if it was reversed. If you give it a try tho, let me see how it goes. To make it so the rice is on the outside you will have to flip the nori over. First lay saran wrap down over your bamboo rolling mat (or work counter) and then carefully flip the nori so the smooth side is now facing up.
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Next you just need to arrange your fillings on the edge of the nori. I like to make sure there is some pepper, onion, and chicken in every bite. I also like to drizzle a little unagi sauce on the inside.
4
Carefully start to roll the nori in on itself, making sure to keep your fillings in place. The first couple times you do this can seem tricky but it does get easier with practice. You want to roll your sushi firm, but as always don’t mush it.
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Once you have it rolled it will look like a tube. If you just want normal shaped sushi, then your done right now. If you want heart shapes you have a little more work to do.
6
Find where the seem is on your sushi, I like to make that be the bottom of my heart. Gently push your roll into a tear drop shape, with the seem being near the point. Once you have that then actually pick up your sushi along with the bamboo mat.
7
Use the bamboo rolling mat to help keep the tear drop shape as you use a chop stick to push in the center of your heart. This part I will admit I kind of smash the rice under my chopstick… even if its not the proper way of doing it. Makes it worth it when you see the cute heart shapes. Once you’re done you will have a nice defined crease in the center of your roll.
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Now you can remove the rolling mat and get ready to cut your sushi. To help keep the shape I leave the saran wrap in place and just cut threw it. When you cut sushi you want to wipe your knife off with a wet towel after every cut, this way it will continue to cut smoothly. Start by cutting in the center of the roll. Now cut the two pieces you have in half. Finally cut your new pieces in half.
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Carefully remove the saran wrap and look at your beauties.
99Packing You Lunch
As I said these make a wonderful dinner, and I will admit I couldn’t stop myself from snacking on a couple, but there is still more to do to pack our last Valentine’s day lunch of the year. Lay your lettuce across your lunch box if you’re planning on using it. Now position your sushi to fill the box. For this lunch I decided to keep it simple with the decorating. Let the beauty of the sushi rolls shine on their own. So all I did was cut out some carrot hearts to fill two of the spaces. Then for the other two I decided to add a fruit. Using an apple I cut one piece into a heart that fits perfectly into the space. On another piece I carved “I ♥ U” on it and carefully removed the skin on where I carved. Before placing apples in your lunch make sure that you shake them in a bag with some lemon juice so they look nice and appetizing throughout the rest of the day. Take special care to make sure you get some lemon juice inside any carved out words since they are an important part of the lunch. If you, or whoever you are making this for is touchy about food touching I would leave out the apples.
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All week I have been saying that you don’t need punches to decorate your lunch, and yet I have been cheating and doing very little cutting on my own. Today however I didn’t use a single punch just to show it can be done, and it looks just as cute. Make sure to pack along a little bowl of the unagi sauce, the sushi is delicious with a little more sauce drizzled on top. Oh yea, these two were definitely all mine. Yum.

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Now you have an adorable lunch that will surely wow the one you love.

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If you make your own roll would love to hear what you put in it, and definitely would love to see how it turns out!

♥♥♥Bonus♥♥♥
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While I was out shopping I found these cute little Valentine’s day takeout containers.I just couldn’t help myself, I had to use them. So I put together little treats for everyone Brent works with.

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Lay a little lettuce in the bottom and put one of each color sushi roll in it. Perfect little afternoon snack. Add a cute valentine saying such as “Hey Valentine, I like the way you roll!” and your all set 🙂

 

 

 

♥♥Bonus♥♥♥ Bonus♥♥rrrr

So because I just don’t know when to stop I also made a Valentine’s desert for Brent to bring in. To see how to make your own sweet treat check out Valentine Trifle.