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Image: US-POLITICS-OBAMA-KIDS STATE DINNER
Jim Watson  /  AFP - Getty Images
President Barack Obama, center, shakes hands with mothers and their children during the first ever Kids' "State Dinner" on Aug. 20 at the White House in Washington, D.C.
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NBC News
updated 8/20/2012 2:18:02 PM ET 2012-08-20T18:18:02

Avery McNew, a Michigan 8-year-old, was trying to make a tasty treat for horses when she invented the Apple Oat Balls that won her a trip to the White House and a seat at the Kids State Dinner with First Lady Michelle Obama on Monday. Iliana Gonzales-Evans, 11, of Washington, D.C. adapted her grandmother’s tortilla recipe, while Samuel Wohabe, a New York 9-year-old, found a way to turn a whole head of kale into crunchy chips.

The dinner — actually a lunch – featured some of the 54 winning recipes submitted by families from each of the 50 states, three territories and Washington, D.C. They sat down with the First Lady to munch on a sampling, as prepared by the chefs in the White House kitchen.

And President Barack Obama dropped in, unannounced.

More than 1,200 kids entered recipes for the contest, which was judged by White House chefs, officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a team from recipe website Epicurious.com  . The challenge – to dream up a “healthy, original and affordable lunch that contains the five food groups (fruits, veggies, protein, low-fait dairy and whole grains).”

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The winners range from an egg-white omelet with broccoli to bite-sized falafels.

Michelle Obama hosts kids' lunchtime 'state dinner' at White House

“You came up with dishes…that are good for you but more importantly they taste good too. It can happen – healthy and tasty at the same time,” Mrs. Obama said.

The contest is part of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move" initiative, which she promotes by doing pushups in public with seemingly little embarrassment, jogging through a crowd to introduce the U.S. Olympic team in London last month, and recruiting local Washington elementary school students to help plant, maintain and harvest a vegetable garden at the White House.

“We never want to underestimate the importance of getting up and getting moving,” Obama told the winning children and their parents, packed into the White House East Room for the luncheon banquet.

Michael Prados, 12, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, whose winning entry included fish tacos, sounded like a chef himself as he explained his recipe. “We let the fish marinate in some soy sauce and then we pan-seared it,” Prados told White House assistant chef Sam Kass.

“We had some lime juice, some orange juice, some white wine vinegar, and some cilantro.” Little wonder - Prados has his own blog  where he critiques restaurants and posts recipes.

The technique used by Michigan’s McNew was somewhat simpler. “You need old-fashioned oats and raisins, cranberries and apples,” she says. “You mix it all with your hands and then shape it into a circle. There’s no cooking or anything.” McNew said she first tried out the cooking-free cookies on a horse, but adapted them for the lunchbox by adding peanut butter when her younger sister declared them tasty.

“I came up with my recipe by watching my grandma make tortillas,” Gonzales-Evans says. Her “Mexican Delight” includes whole-wheat tortillas, brown rice, lettuce, turkey bacon and a tomato.

The president showed up to shake hands and make wisecracks. "Usually, I get invited to state dinners," he said. "This time I had to crash."

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