Tess Boghossian will dine with the first lady at an exclusive dinner in the White House.
How the Palatine 12-year-old earned an invite has something to with President Abraham Lincoln, quinoa and a little persistence.
Recipe for Lincoln's Inaugural SoupLincoln's Inaugural Soup
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 small onion, peeled, diced
• 1 small parsnip, peeled, chopped
• ½ cup chopped green beans
• 1 carrot, peeled, chopped
• 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
• ½ cup cooked quinoa
• 1 cup chopped asparagus (tough ends discarded)
• 8 ounces canned white beans, drained, rinsed
• ½ cooked rotisserie chicken, skin removed, chopped or 2 cups skinless boneless cooked chicken, chopped
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon pepper
In a large pot, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion until it is soft -- about 4 minutes. Add parsnips, green beans, and carrots; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add chicken broth, heat to a boil, and then add quinoa. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add asparagus, white beans, and chicken and then season with salt and pepper. Cook until the chicken is heated through -- about 5 minutes more.
"I think I'm just going to be a bundle of pride," says her mom, Debbie, who will join Tess at the "Kids' State Dinner" July 18.
Tess is one of 54 winners in the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, part of Michelle Obama's fight against childhood obesity. It's competitive -- fielding 1,500 entries this year from kids who must whip up their own original, nutritious recipes.
Tess' dish -- Lincoln's Inaugural Soup -- packs quinoa, loads of veggies, white beans and skinless chicken breast.
"It's a real honor because I didn't think I'd win," Tess said. "I just entered it for fun."
The recipe pairs her two passions: American history and cooking. As a sixth-grader at Winston Campus Elementary School, she hit the books before she hit the kitchen. Her research inspired her to prepare a soup modeled on one served during Lincoln's inaugural meal.
"She's just so interested in history," her mom said. "She's the perfect person to be able to have this experience."
Tess admits her first batches tasted a tad bland. But after consulting with her mom, she added some "oomph," with fresh lemon juice and spices.
During her trip, she will tour the White House vegetable garden on the South Lawn.
The state dinner will highlight some of the winning recipes, but organizers have yet to release the menu. Tess will represent Illinois at the fête.
"It's really cool," she said.