By Laura McAlister
When school starts Aug. 20 at Brookwood Forest Elementary, 9-year-old Falcon Wiles won’t be there.
Instead, the incoming fourth grader will be dining with First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House.
Falcon is Alabama’s winner of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge recipe contest. As part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative, children ages 8-12 were challenged to create a healthy lunchtime recipe.
There were more than 1,200 participants nationwide, and a winner was selected from each state and territory. Contest judges included White House chefs, the authors of “Portion Size Me,” the Epicurious editor in chief and representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Education.
“My daddy was the most excited,” Falcon said of her father, Ford, when they learned she’d won. “Mommy always tells me I’m the healthiest.”
In addition to being invited to a state dinner with the First Lady, Falcon and other winners will have their recipes published in a free downloadable ecookbook.
Falcon’s winning recipe was Alabama’s Yummy Summer Soup, a dish she created by adapting one of her mom’s.
“I called it that because it’s made in Alabama, and it’s a very yummy soup,” said Falcon, who lives in Mountain Brook. “It’s kind of sweet, but it’s spicy at the same time. I put peppers in it, roasted sweet peppers.”
The secret to this tomato-based soup, according to Falcon, is to mix all the ingredients together in what brother, Truth calls the “Ninja” blender.
Truth, 5, is proud of his sister. “If you go to Goggle and type in ‘healthy eating’ her name comes up,” he’s quick to share. He may be a bit envious, too. “I want to get to meet Barack Obama,” he said after learning his sister would be meeting the First Lady.
While they might not get to meet the president, Falcon and her mom, Karla, said they are excited to meet Michelle Obama.
Karla said Falcon has been helping in the kitchen since she was a toddler, so when a friend told her about the First Lady’s Lunchtime Challenge, she knew it would be a good fit for Falcon.
Among Falcon’s favorite recipes is Karla’s poppy seed chicken, but for the cooking challenge, they wanted to make sure the recipe was concocted by Falcon.
“We talked about what she wanted to make,” Karla said. “I told her to think of something I make that she likes, and then go from there.”
Since tomatoes were in season, Falcon chose her mom’s tomato soup and began the process of making it her own.
The contest guidelines called for the recipes to be economical and easy to make as well as healthy. Falcon said her Alabama’s Yummy Summer Soup takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.
Karla said making the recipe healthy was the easy part for Falcon, who tends to like fresh vegetables and fruit more than cakes and candies.
“She’s kind of the one who keeps us on track,” Karla said. “She turns down desserts for fruit.”
Falcon does have a weakness, though. Butter is a favorite ingredient; if she had to pick her all-time favorite food, it would be her grandmother’s buttery mashed potatoes.
Falcon also likes fresh ingredients, much like the ones used in Alabama’s Yummy Summer Soup.
She hopes her soup will be one of the dishes served at the state dinner Aug. 20. A sampling of some of the winning dishes will be served at the White House dinner.
In addition to dining with the First Lady, winners also will get a tour of Washington, D.C., and Michelle Obama’s garden.
Though she’ll have to miss her first day of fourth grade, Falcon said it would be worth it. Administrators at Brookwood Forest agreed, Karla said.
“We already checked with them,” she said. “We let Mr. Pitner (Brookwood Forest principal) know. He said it was OK.”
To test Falcon’s Alabama’s Yummy Summer Soup and other winning recipes, visit www.recipechallenge.epicurious.com.