Emma Scielzo, a fifth-grader from Maryland, was inspired by her grandparents’ Indian cooking when she created her Chicken Masala Wraps. (Family photo)

What did you do on your summer vacation? It’s a question you’ll hear a lot in a couple of months. Fifty-four kids ages 8 to 12 from around the United States, including three from the Washington area, will be able to say that they had lunch at the White House with first lady Michelle Obama.

“I’m really excited,” said Ingrid Gruber, 9, who will be a fourth-grader at Capitol Hill Day School in Washington this fall and will be among the kids dining at the White House on Tuesday.

Ingrid was one of the winners of a recipe contest called the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge that was sponsored in part for a second year by the food Web site Epicurious. More than 1,300 kids from across the country entered by submitting the best original, healthful and tasty recipes. One winner was chosen from each state, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories.

I nspired by heritage

Ingrid, who has been cooking since she was 4 years old, made a recipe for a salmon salad called Inga Binga’s Salmon Salad, which was inspired by her grandfather’s salmon recipe.

“Salmon is the only fish I actually like,” she said. “It has a lot of flavor, and the way my grandfather made it, it was with a lot of spices, and the best part is if you add melted butter and lemon juice, it tastes pink, too.”

Ingrid has celiac disease, which means she can’t eat gluten or things containing wheat. That’s why her recipe includes quinoa (sounds like keen-wah), which is similar to rice but doesn’t contain gluten. She used arugula, too, because it’s one of her family’s favorite vegetables.

Ingrid wasn’t the only winner building on her family’s traditions. Emma Scielzo, 10, who will be a fifth-grader at Norwood School in Bethesda this fall, was inspired by her Indian heritage.

“At my grandparents’ house, they do a lot of healthy Indian cooking,” she said. So she decided to come up with Chicken Masala Wraps.

“We sliced the peppers and grilled the peppers and onions and then the chicken and put it all together with spices,” she said. “It took about a half-hour, and we ate it for dinner.”

Food and film

Campbell Kielb, 8, who just finished second grade at Frederick Douglass Elementary in Leesburg but soon will be moving to Florida, says his favorite foods are bananas and cantaloupe. (He can eat half a cantaloupe in one sitting.) But he decided to make Orange-Chicken Lettuce Wraps for his entry.

He likes ginger, so he and his mom made sure that the recipe contained fresh ginger. Although Campbell likes to work in the kitchen, he says he wants to be a film director when he grows up.

At the kids’ “state dinner” today, Campbell is hoping President Obama stops by to say hi, like he did last year.

Wouldn’t that make for an even more exciting answer to “What did you do on your summer vacation”?

Start cooking!

Find details on how to make the winning recipes from Ingrid, Emma and Campbell at washingtonpost.com/recipes. If you search for “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge,” you will find recipes from this year’s and last year’s winners.

Also, find advice from local chef Jeremy Cooke of Argonaut on how kids can create healthful meals at wapo.st/1831YAK.

Chicken Masala Wraps , by Emma Scielzo.

Orange-Chicken Lettuce Wraps , by Campbell Kielb.

Inga Binga’s Salmon Salad by Ingrid Gruber

Moira E. McLaughlin