Lots of kids make their lunch. Popular choices are peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese. But what about sizzling tofu? Or fish chowder? Or turkey bacon and vegetables wrapped in a tortilla? These lunches were dreamed up by three local kids. Their reward wasn’t just a full stomach but also a trip to the White House.
Ilianna Gonzales-Evans, Sam Hightower and Madeleine Steppel are among 54 kids from across the country who won the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge on Epicurious.com. They will sit down for lunch with first lady Michelle Obama on Monday to celebrate healthful meals created by kids.
Madeleine, who lives in Reston, was at sleep-away camp when her mom called with the news that her Fish Chowder with Fruity Salad had won. It wasn’t long before her cabin mates knew.
“As soon as I came back to my bunk, they all noticed I was really happy,” said Madeleine, who is 9. “I just shouted it out. And you’re not supposed to shout, but it was okay.”
Camp Louise in Thurmont, Maryland, celebrated Madeleine’s accomplishment by having her help make the chowder for 600 fellow campers.
“The recipe is supposed to serve six, so we’re going to have to multiply it by 100,” she said when KidsPost talked to her by phone a few days before the meal.
Fish, which Madeleine said is one of her favorite foods, was a popular ingredient in the 1,200 entries Epicurious received, according to the cooking Web site’s editor in chief, Tanya Steel.
Steel, who had the idea for the contest, was surprised that so many kids knew which foods were healthful.
“The most fascinating thing for me was that quinoa (pronounced kin-wah) was in everything,” Steel said of the edible seed that is high in protein and fiber. “It’s fantastic.”
The contest, which was open to kids ages 8 to 12, required the recipes to include all or most of the major food groups — fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy — or feature them as a side dish. The recipes had to be original (not published before), and kids had to include a photo or drawing and a story of how they came up with it.
The story behind Sam’s Sizzling Tofu With Green Onions and Sugar Snap Peas involves a trip to an Asian grocery store near his house in Columbia.
“They were giving away samples of tofu, and I asked my mom if I could try it,” said Sam, who is 10. “I really liked it.”
Sam, who says he doesn’t like sandwiches partly because “they always get smushed,” and his mom came up with Sizzling Tofu as an option for him to take to lunch at Phelps Luck Elementary School.
Ilianna created Mexican Delight especially for the contest. The dish of turkey bacon and vegetables was inspired by making homemade tortillas when her grandmother would visit Washington.
“I wanted to make a recipe with tortillas, and then I just started adding things,” said Ilianna, who is 11. “We had to use the four categories.” So she added lettuce, tomatoes, green pepper and onion. A smoothie side dish includes fruit and milk.
All three kids’ recipes made impressions on the judges, who included Steel; celebrity chef Jose Andres; White House assistant chef Sam Kass; and Marshall Reid, 12, and his mom, Alex, authors of “Portion Size Me: A Kid-Driven Plan to a Healthier Family.”
The winning recipes had to be healthful but also “original, creative, have an interesting story and have to be tasty, obviously,” Steel said. “Because if it doesn’t taste good, you’re not going to eat it.”
The kids and their moms will get a sampling of several recipes during the White House lunch on Monday, Steel said. They also will get a tour of the White House kitchen garden.
All three kids said they were interested in tasting other kids’ recipes, but the menu wasn’t what got them most excited.
“First of all, I get to meet Mrs. Obama,” Madeleine said. “And second of all, I get to have my picture taken with her.”