My five-year-old first thought these pretty piggy rice balls were cupcakes. I'm glad I was able to break the news early, that his main course is not going to be a dessert! Though slightly disappointed, he was still excited about taking a 3D lunch in to school today.
The rice balls are so fun and easy to make. Most of the prep work can be done the night before. You'll want to cook the rice ahead of time to save time in the morning. The goal was to cook the rice with red cabbage to enhance the color. That didn't work out as planned. I think I needed to add a lot more than just a couple leaves to the rice cooker. I added a drop of red food coloring to the warm rice. I wouldn't usually use food coloring but I didn't have beets or beet juice on hand which I think would have worked well.
Once the rice has cooled completely, wet your fingers, take a scoop, then roll into balls. Wrap the balls in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. When you are ready to assemble, you can poke a finger to make an indentation to hide a savory filling such as mashed black beans or a diced vegetable. I used a plastic straw to cut out round shapes of American cheese for the snout and ears. I used black sesame seeds for the eyes and nostrils.
My enthusiasm for our area Farmers' Markets has rubbed off a bit on my children. They look forward to shopping outside. It's fun for them to try samples and I ask them to help make decisions on how many ears of corn and apples they think we'll need this week. Allowing them to be involved with meal planning can sometimes result in 'cleaner' plates.
I don't have the time or creativity for these entertaining lunches every day, but their reactions sure are priceless and I know I have limited time before I completely embarrass them to death.