Some of America’s most creative junior chefs, ages 8–12, and their parents, were flown to Washington, D.C., on July 18, to attend the third annual Kids’ State Dinner at the White House.
Hosted by first lady Michelle Obama in partnership with the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture, the young guests were the winners of the Epicurious Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a nationwide recipe challenge to encourage and implement healthy eating habits among the country’s youth.
In support of Let’s Move!, which was launched by the first lady to help address the problem of childhood obesity, each recipe adhered to the guidance that supports USDA’s criteria for a healthy meal.
“This event gives us the opportunity to showcase healthy creations from talented kid chefs from across our country,” said Michelle Obama in a press release. “We know so much more now about how nutrition and exercise impact our children’s ability to focus and succeed.”
More than 1,500 delicious lunchtime recipes were submitted this year featuring wholesome ingredients, including salmon, black beans, unusual vegetarian selections, fresh fruits, and ground turkey.
The competition was tough and grueling, but the panel of distinguished judges selected one winning recipe from each U.S. state, three U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia, 54 young culinary ambassadors in total.
Each winner joined the first lady for the tour of the White House Kitchen Garden with the festive dinner to follow, and walked down the red carpet surrounded by giant balloon flowers into the State Dining Room.
And if this wasn’t fun enough, President Barack Obama joined the first lady on stage for a surprise visit during dinner.
Prepared to perfection by the White House culinary team, the wining recipes were served to the awe and enjoyment of the visiting families and the honorary guests.
All of the 54 winning recipes are available in a free downloadable and printable e-cookbook at LetsMove.gov.
Lina Broydo writes about the arts, style, and travel. She currently lives in Los Altos Hills, Calif., and can be reached at [email protected]
The winner from New York was 11-year-old Michael Lombardi, for his chicken and vegetables dumplings cups recipe.
He said, “My grandparents take me out for Chinese dumplings for a good reports card. We wanted to make a healthy version at home. Kids like finger foods, so I decided to make this fun. My aunt must eat gluten-free, so we used tamari instead of regular soy-sauce. To complete my meal, I would serve this with steamed broccoli and a glass of low-fat milk.”
Michael Lombardi, the young winning chef from New York state. (White House)
Mike’s Chicken and Vegetable Dumpling Cups
Makes 6 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or tamari)
Juice from 1 fresh tangerine
2 cups skinless, boneless chicken breasts, diced
1/4 cup diced cilantro
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
2 scallions, diced
2 minced garlic cloves
24 rice wrappers
In a large bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the soy sauce, and the tangerine juice. Add the chicken, cilantro, carrot, cabbage, scallions, and garlic to this bowl. Set aside for 15 minutes to marinate.
In a large sauté pan over moderate heat, warm the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chicken and vegetable mixture to the pan and stir occasionally, cooking until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Lower the heat to very low to keep warm.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a cupcake pan or muffin tin with olive oil or cooking spay. Dip rice paper wrapper in warm water. Place 2 of these wet wrappers in each cupcake cup and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Let cool, remove the tin, then scoop chicken and vegetable mixture into the rice paper cup and serve.
501 calories; 13g fat; 40g carbohydrates; 29g protein