Madeleine Steppel has a special lunch date this week - at the White House with First Lady Michelle Obama.
Madeleine, 9, of Reston, is the Virginia winner in Epicurious.com's Healthy Lunchtime Challenge recipe contest. The contest challenged children ages 8 to 12 to send in recipes based on ChoosemyPlate.gov's guidelines for healthy eating. Fifty-four winners (from U.S. States and Territories) win a trip to D.C. this weekend, the highlight of which is a Kids' State Dinner (lunch, really) at the White House on Monday.
Madeleine, a rising fourth grader at Great Falls Elementary School, says she loves to cook. In the Steppel home, the kids (brother Avi is 6) team up with a parent to cook for Mother's Day, Father's Day and birthdays.
Madeleine and her mother, Debra, were looking for a gazpacho recipe for Father's Day a few months ago when they saw information for the contest.
"They wanted kids recipes the way they made them," she said.
So Madeleine did a little research and came up with a recipe inspired by Sen. Mark Warner's recipe for Creamless Asparagus Chowder in the Celebrate Virginia cookbook. She also learned that Virginia's state beverage is milk and the state fish is brook trout.
From there, Madeleine's take on fish chowder (using basa, a whitefish, instead of brook trout) was born. She paired it with fruity salad and whole grain bread to make it a complete healthy meal with all the food groups.
More than 1,200 recipes were submitted to the contest. A judging panel tasted 100 dishes that were prepared from the recipes at DC Central Kitchen on June 20. Among the judges were White House Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass, DC chef José Andrés, and representatives from US Department of Agriculture and Epicurious.com.
Madeleine found out she was one of three Virginia semifinalists just before she left for sleepaway camp in late July. She found out the good news that she won when she was away at camp. The staff at Camp Louise in Maryland helped celebrate by letting Madeleine and the camp chefs cook up the chowder - for 600 campers and staffers.
Debra and Madeleine are looking forward to their adventure in D.C., which will feature a look at Julia Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and a tour of the White House vegetable garden, which Michelle Obama installed and is one of the focuses of her effort to get kids to eat healthier.
"I like okra, peppers, olives and Brussels sprouts," says Madeleine. "But sometimes I eat stuff that is not healthy. It's OK if I have had a good dinner."
Madeleine Steppel's Fish Chowder
3 Tbs. butter
4 Tbs. flour
4 cups lowfat milk (separated into one cup plus three cups)
1 lb. frozen peas and carrots
3 white potatoes (diced into half-inch cubes)
1 Tbs. onion powder
1 Tbs. garlic powder
1.5-2 lbs. white boneless fish (basa, tilapia or similar)
Salt and white pepper to taste
Fruity salad ingredients
About 1/4-lb. assorted salad greens (washed and spun)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (halved)
4-6 strawberries (halved)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
Citrus Vinaigrette Dressing ingredients
1/3 cup orange juice
1 Tbs. white vinegar
1 Tbs. olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste
Fish chowder: Peel and dice potatoes. Place potatoes in a large glass bowl. Add water to just cover potatoes. Microwave four minutes on High. Add peas and carrots. Add more water to cover all vegetables. Microwave on high for three minutes more. Drain and set vegetables aside.
Wash fish. Cut fish into two-inch chunks. Set aside.
Melt butter in large pot on stove (do not scorch). Add flour; whisk flour into butter, blending to make a smooth roux. Reduce heat to med/low. Add one cup milk. Stir until smooth and creamy, removing all lumps. Add remaining milk, vegetables and fish chunks.
Add garlic powder, onion powder, salt and white pepper. Heat on medium until fish turns white (about 10-15 minutes), stirring every so often to heat everything through. Serve immediately.
Salad: Place greens on plate. Arrange fruit on greens. Sprinkle with cranberries. Add dressing just before serving.
Dressing: Mix all ingredients in a small container with lid. Cover tightly and shake.