CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) --Mena Choi is 10 years old, an upcoming 6th grader at Immaculata Catholic School, and she's getting ready to go Washington D.C. with her mom. She is the winner for the state of North Carolina in the 2016 White House Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.
The contest challenges kids ages 8-12 throughout the United States, and its foreign territories, to come up with a lunchtime recipe with their parents that's healthy, affordable and delicious, and asks them to follow the My Plate nutritional guidelines set by the USDA.
Mena's winning dish is Korean lentil patties served with a dill and Greek yogurt sauce. She said she wanted to create a vegetarian dish to keep it healthy and add a little Korean flair as a nod to her background.
"Well it's a dish that kind of represents my heritage and like my Korean side of the family," Mena explained. "And I think it represents cooking on your own, and helps kids maybe cook and learn what goes in their dish."
Mena's mom, Tracy DeLozier said 1,200 children entered this year and 58 winners were chosen. She said she is so proud Mena was one of the winners.
"We found out she was a finalist a few months ago, so that was actually pretty exciting. And the wait time until hearing whether or not she won, it seemed quite long," Tracy said. "But we were so excited when we found out she won. It's just overwhelming."
Tracy said she's been teaching her daughter to cook for some time and that it's an important family activity.
"I grew up with my mom always cooking," Tracy said. "So it's something that I've kind of taken on myself, and Mena always helps me out, and we just have a lot of fun together. Hopefully she'll be able to take this skill with her and take care of me when I'm older!"
Tracy and Mena will be headed to Washington D.C., along with all the other Healthy Lunchtime Challenge winners, to meet First Lady Michelle Obama and attend the "Kids' State Dinner," where a couple of the winning recipes will be featured.
Mena's recipe, along will all the other winning recipes will be added to a cook that will be featured on the website for the First Lady's "Let's Move" campaign.
Check out all the recipes for the 2015 winners here, and you can try out Mena's winning recipe below.
Korean Lentil Patties
By Mena Choi
3/4 cup of brown lentils
2 cups of low-salt vegetable broth
1 large yellow onion--chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons Korean hot pepper paste (Gochujang); can also use red chilli paste
Cup dried cranberries (can substitute raisins)
Cup chopped walnuts
Juice from of a lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup panko
2 tablespoons olive oil
Place the lentils in a bowl of cold water. Remove any particles that might be mixed in with the lentils. Pour out the water and rinse the lentils with additional cold water. Place the rinsed lentils in a pan with the vegetable broth. Bring it to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. Once tender, drain the cooked lentils to remove any extra liquid and let cool for about 10 or 15 minutes.
Place the cooled lentils in a mixing bowl. Add in the chopped onion, garlic, Korean pepper paste, cranberries, walnuts and lemon juice. Add in the salt, pepper, oats, panko and egg. The mixture will be thick. Form into balls with your hands, place on a plate and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or can be refrigerated overnight. This recipe will yield 6-10 balls of Korean inspired lentils, depending on the size of patty that is desired.
Frying instructions: Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Form the balls into patties and coat the patties with panko and fry the patties until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side.
Baking instructions: Coat the patties with panko, similar to the frying instructions. Place the patties on a baking sheet and drizzle olive oil over the top of the patties. Bake the patties at 400F for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
Serve Korean Lentil Patties with Greek Dill Yogurt.
Greek Dill Yogurt
1 cup low fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh dill
Mix yogurt and dill together and use with the Korean Lentil patties.
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