Recipe earns 6th-grader a trip to White House
Published: August 18, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - With a winning veggie lasagna recipe, Ulla Muller Elementary School student Gabriel Reed Jr. is heading off to Washington D.C., today to have lunch with first lady Michelle Obama.
His mom is really, really excited.
She gets to go with him.
"I love to see the expressions on people's faces when I tell them," Gabriel's mother, Vanessa Wilkinson, said.
The first lady held a healthy lunch recipe contest for students across the country, and a winner was named from each state, Washington D.C., the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The 54 winners, ages 8-12, will attend a "Kids' State Dinner" at the White House on Monday afternoon.
The group will join the first lady for a healthy lunch, featuring a selection of the winning recipes, followed by a tour of the White House kitchen garden.
Gabriel is a shy 11-year-old who loves gardening, cooking and playing with his dog, Jasmine. He entered the contest with help from his school nurse, Kathleen Taylor, who along with co-adviser Jessica John-Baptiste, lead the Ulla Muller Gardening Club.
"Gabriel is our best gardener," Taylor said. "He religiously came to the garden every morning and watered the garden before school. He would even get his mother to drop him early for pan practice on Saturdays so he could water the garden."
When she saw the announcement about the recipe contest in The Daily News, Taylor said, she immediately thought about Gabriel.
The school's gardening club has been active for two years, and Gabriel was a huge part of it from the beginning, Taylor said.
Last year, Taylor got a grant from the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands to bring the food grown in the garden to the students' table. The garden was not big enough to feed the whole school with one meal, so the gardening club helped harvest and cook their vegetables for smaller groups of students throughout the year.
"Every grade got something fresh homemade from the garden to taste throughout the school year," Taylor said.
The club would cook the meals in the school's science lab, which has a stove, sink and refrigerator
When they cooked bok choi for the students, some liked it, some did not, Taylor said.
So, when it came time to harvest the kale - a leafy green vegetable - she wanted to create a recipe that the kids would like better. She brainstormed ideas with the club, and they approved the veggie lasagna idea.
Gabriel said he loves growing fruits and vegetables, and learning how to take care of plants. He helped prepare the kale for the meal at school, washing the leaves for a very long time, and picking little bugs off the stems. The veggie lasagna was served to 84 fourth-graders with a half cup of freshly sliced mango and an 8 oz. glass of 2 percent milk.
"They loved it," Gabriel said.
He said the recipe used kale, basil, and tomatoes from the school garden. To make the recipe more healthy, Taylor and Gabriel chose whole wheat noodles and low fat mozzarella and ricotta cheeses.
Taylor said she chose Gabriel to enter the contest because he was the most dedicated to the garden, the club and the cooking.
"He's very cooperative, he's very caring, he does his schoolwork and he doesn't ever get any big to-do," Taylor said. "He's a really good kid, and he deserves it."
Gabriel, Wilkinson and Taylor will go to Washington together, although only Gabriel and his mom are invited to the White House for lunch.
The trio are staying in Washington for a few extra days to fully enjoy their trip to the nation's capital.
The National Zoo is a top priority for Gabriel, who is an animal lover.
"He's also excited to go to a Petsmart," Wilkinson said.
The recipe contest is part of the first lady's "Let's Move!" initiative to help solve the problem of childhood obesity.
At their doctor's recommendation, Wilkinson said she and Gabriel have been trying to cook and eat healthier foods. They have switched to turkey bacon and are eating more vegetables.
"We're doing it as a family right now," she said.
The full list of contest winners and recipes can be found online at http://recipechallenge.epicurious.com. Additionally, a free downloadable and printable cookbook of the winning recipes, including nutritional analyses, photos and drawings, will be available later this month at http://recipechallenge.epicurious.com; letsmove.gov; USDA.gov; and Ed.gov.
- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email email@example.com.Vegetarian Lasagna
8 oz. whole wheat lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
3 lbs. freshly picked ripe tomatoes, washed and chopped
1 jar low fat marinara sauce
1 cup freshly picked basil, no seeds, washed and chopped
5 oz. part skim ricotta cheese
15 oz. part skim mozzarella cheese, grated
Â¼ cup parmesan cheese
4 bunches freshly picked kale, washed, steamed and chopped
In a pot, mix marinara sauce, basil and tomatoes. Cook and simmer.
In a separate bowl, combine ricotta cheese, Â¾ cup mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese and egg. A dash of freshly ground nutmeg can be added.
In a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, layer 1 cup tomato mixture, â lasagna noodles, â of the kale and â of the cheese mixture. Repeat layers two more times and sprinkle remaining mozzarella on top. Cover tightly and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Makes eight servings.