Children are notorious for being picky eaters.
But on Friday, First Lady Michelle Obama will host an Epicurus-minded group of 54 kid chefs for the White House's "Kids State Dinner" who not only debunk the stereotype but are taking the latest in kid-friendly cuisine to the next level.
The invitees, who represent all 50 states and four territories, gained their ticket to the "state dinner" luncheon as a winners of this year's Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. And a select few of those winning recipes will be featured on the menu at Friday's White House lunch. Many of the winning dishes' names are as unique as their ingredients, with names such as “Deliciousness Over Rice” and “Vegan Superhero Soup.” Here are details about eight of the the winning creations:
1. Deliciousness Over Rice
Submitted by 10-year-old Sable Scotton of Alaska, the recipe serves up a heaping-helping of cruciferous vegetables that creative parents might be inclined to otherwise sell to their kids as miniature trees on their plates. But there's no disguising the broccoli and cauliflower that play a prominent role in Sable's recipe. Sable is a self-declared lover of veggies.
“I really like vegetables. In the summer, I wander through the garden eating peas, carrots, broccoli, and even flowers like nasturtiums,” Sable says. “I also love to fish for wild salmon and other types of whitefish with my family, so this recipe brings together my two favorite worlds. This recipe is for one of my favorite foods because it is so delicious and healthy. It uses wild salmon that we harvest from the Yukon River and then jar ourselves. However, any species of canned salmon can be used.”
2. Oodles of Zoodles with Avocado Pistachio Pesto
Arizona's Nia Thomas, age 10, came up with her creative take on pesto pasta, which uses zucchini for the noodles and incorporates avocado and pistachios in the basil sauce, through experimentation.
“I am not a big fan of cooked zucchini, but when my sister made zucchini noodles one day with a tomato sauce, I loved it,” Nia says. “So, I started experimenting and came up with a very delicious pesto sauce by using lots of flavors that I love, like avocado, spinach, and pistachios. It turned out so delicious and when I made it for dinner for my family, they loved it. It is crunchy fresh, and the sauce is just awesome.”
3. Vegan Superhero Soup
This veggie-heavy soup developed by Maine's Leo Koch, age 8, packs in extra nutrients that Leo says are particularly helpful on nights before he participates in 5K races.
“My name is Leo and I am a Superhero! Well, at least that is what my mama and papa tell me. I have Type 1 Diabetes and Hydrocephalus,” Leo says. “So eating healthy foods helps me to stay as strong as I possibly can. I like to eat this soup the night before one of my 5K races. Beans are already a super food, but we packed a few more secret ingredients into our soup!"
4. Quinoa Crusted Spinach Tofu Pie
8-year-old Braxton Young, of Maryland, says he created his quinoa-crusted tofu treat to help other kids, like him, who are allergic to dairy, nuts, and gluten.
“I used to have seizures and bad asthma, but now that I’m not eating gluten, my seizures and asthma are gone," says Braxton. "Now I love to cook and eat healthy food. A lot of other kids don’t eat very healthy lunches in my school and unless I have smelly eggs in my lunchbox, they want my healthy food.”
5. Farro with a Tennessee Twist
Tennessee 9-year-old Evie Braude couldn't get enough of a favorite soup that her mom makes, so she found a way to turn it into a salad that she can take with her to school for lunch.
“I decided to make a version of the soup as a salad that would be easier to take to school in a lunchbox," Evie says. "I was also inspired by the local farmer's market here in Knoxville, TN. The farmer's market has food trucks, pastries, vegetables, meat, and more! I love the salad by itself, but it would also be tasty with my dad's grilled salmon.”
6. Hurricane Salmon and Lentil Patties
“Living on an island can be a task at times, especially during hurricane season. Power is knocked out, grocery stores closed or damaged, and fresh food items are often limited,” says Jalani. “My recipe can be prepared under these circumstances. The salmon doesn't have to be refrigerated, nor are many supplies needed. If the power is out, I can prepare my meal using our gas stove with mom’s help.”
7. S.S. Asparagus Pie
Sydney Mazik, a 12-year-old from Ohio, developed this "pie" recipe alongside her mom. The quiche-like casserole dish combines spaghetti squash, asparagus, and eggs. They came up with the recipe while living in Florida, where Sydney had undergone surgery. Sydney explains that the S.S. in the title stands for spaghetti squash.
“We were always trying new recipes and cooking a lot because I was in a wheelchair then," Sydney says. "We have always eaten spaghetti squash in our house and I had asked my doctors, nurses, and therapists if they had ever tried it, but most of them had not even heard of it. We decided to come up with a dish for them to try and they loved it! It was so popular that I made it at least once a week as well as every surgery since. My nickname is now S.S. Sydney.”
8. Honey Baked Salmon with Spinach Quinoa, Pineapple Salsa, and Cucumber-Dill Dipping Sauce
10-year-old Reagan Blasher of West Virginia is involved in her local Dairy Council and wanted to find a way to incorporate dairy into her food creation to make the council proud. Her baked salmon is topped off by a pineapple salsa and completed with a zesty Greek yogurt sauce.
“I made a list of all of my favorite foods to see what kind of recipe I could come up with," Reagan said. "I talked with a local chef at the university in my town and he explained what the new “super foods” were and how important they are to our health. I then created a recipe that I thought would be great. I worked through trial and error until I finalized my recipe that is now delicious and includes my favorite and super foods.”