White House Assistant Chef Sam Kass chats with 8-year-old Avery McNew from Michigan just before the first-ever …While parents are looking for lunch box inspiration this back-to-school season, some kids are coming up with creative, inspiring recipes that even adults would be happy to eat.
Eight- to 12-year-olds from all over the country submitted recipes for The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a collaboration between the White House and Epicurious.com, and the winners were in Washington, D.C., on Monday to celebrate with First Lady Michelle Obama. The first-ever Kids State Dinner (which was actually a luncheon) featured some of the winning recipes, which ranged from pasta dishes and healthier hamburgers to salmon wraps and quinoa salads.
"10-year-olds can come up with this stuff," said Marshall Reed, 12, co-author with his mom of "Portion Size Me" and one of the contest's judges. "I didn't even know what quinoa was until I started doing this."
"We asked them to design a dish that was healthy, affordable, and tasty -- and which met the nutritional guidelines set up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture," First Lady Michelle Obama said Sunday in a statement.
The Menu for the first Kids' State Dinner at the White House. (Photo: Pinterest/Epicurious.com)"Their entires were really sophisticated and creative and original," said Tanya Steel, the editor in chief of Epicurious.com. "It was so hard to narrow down the winners."
The 54 winners -- one from each state and U.S. territory -- were picked from about 1,200 entries, which were evaluated by a group of chefs, authors, editors from Epicurious, and representatives from the USDA and the Department of Education. Recipes were judged on their nutritional value, taste, creativity, originality, affordability, and the story behind the dish.
As the guests walked into the East Room of the White House on Monday they posed for photographers, chatted with reporters, and looked around in awe when their names and winning recipes were announced. White House Assistant Chef Sam Kass greeted them by the dining tables, which were set with the official Reagan china.
"We are so excited to have kids from all over the country," Kass said as the children and their parents walked into the East Room at the White House, an announcer introducing each one and naming their wininng recipe. "I'm so excited. I cannot wait to taste all of this food!"
It's easy to assume that the parents came up with the recipes, but as reporters listened to kids reel off ingredient lists and describe their cooking techniques it quickly became clear that the kids were the real cooks. (The winning recipes have been turned into the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Cookbook, which you can download for free at Letsmove.gov.)
"I couldn't get her out of my kitchen once she turned 3," joked Sydney Brown's mom. The 12-year-old North Carolina native's baked, breaded zucchini fries were being prepared in the White House kitchen as the kids walked in, Kass told her.
Quinoa, Black Bean, and Corn Salad (served on china designed by Nancy Reagan) at the first Kids' State Dinner at …Haile Thomas, 11, from Tuscon, Arizona, who hosts her own online cooking show, "Kids Can Cook," submitted the quinoa, black bean, and corn salad that was served as the first course. She's also the founder of the Healthy Girls Adventure Club and is the new spokesperson for the Hyatt Hotels "By Kids, for Kids" menu.
"I love getting out into the community and showing kids how to be healthier," she told Kass as the luncheon started.
Thomas's Quinoa, Black Bean, and Corn Salad was on the menu at the White House luncheon, followed by Cabbage Sloppy Joes from 12-year-old Rori Coyne of Kansas, which were served with baked zucchini fries and homemade ketchup. For dessert: fruit smoothies and a special performance by Nickelodeon's boy band Big Time Rush.
Haile Thomas's Quinoa, Black Bean, and Corn Salad
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups fresh corn
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
2 avocados, pitted, peeled and cut into cubes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, halved
In a large bowl, combine black beans, corn, tomatoes, quinoa, onion, cilantro, and avocado. Add olive oil, squeeze lemon halves and pour juice over all. Toss to combine, then season to taste with salt. The salad can also be served warm: Heat on stovetop or in a microwave, and add avocado and cilantro just before serving.
Rori Coyne's Cabbage Sloppy Jones
1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, shredded or diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 1/2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 cup tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 sandwich rolls, split and toasted (optional)
In a large skillet, cook the beef until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain the fat from the skillet, and set the meat aside.
In the same pan over moderate heat, cook the onion, zucchini, celery, red pepper, and cabbage until all of the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Add the cooked beef to the pan and stir to combine.
In a small bowl, combine the tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, brown sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and pepper. Pour the sauce into the pan with the beef and vegetables and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 8 minutes.
Divide the sloppy joe mixture among the toasted buns and serve.
Sydney Brown's Baked Zucchini Fries
1 large egg white
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
2 large green or yellow zucchini, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 2-inch-long, 1/4-inch-thick strips
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Combine the egg white and milk in a small bowl.
Combine the Parmesan, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper in another small bowl.
Dip the zucchini strips first in the milk mixture, and then in the cheese mixture. Shake off any excess, then place strips on baking sheet.
Bake in oven until lightly toasted.
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