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Crab Orchard youth's recipe earns White House luncheon

By Staff reports

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Alexis Nelson, 10, of Crab Orchard, was among the 54 winners in the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge & Kids Contest, sponsored by first lady Michelle Obama, Epicurious and the U.S. Departments of Education and Agriculture.

Nelson was selected to represent West Virginia for the recipe she created for Golden Moroccan Butternut Stew. More than 1,200 entries were submitted by youths ages 8-12.

The youthful cooks were challenged to come up with a healthy lunch recipe that included all the food groups and tastes delicious. The winners attended a "State Dinner," actually a luncheon, at the White House, hosted by the first lady on Aug. 20. They dined on a selection of the winning recipes, followed by a tour of the White House kitchen garden.

"One of my favorite vegetables is butternut squash. My mom uses Moroccan spices to add flavor to our meals, and this inspired me to make this stew," Alexis says in an excerpt in the e-cookbook. "This butternut stew has all my favorite vegetables and spices; this stew is pretty much me in a pot."

Alexis serves the stew over couscous.

Find a free downloadable and printable e-cookbook of the winning recipes, including nutritional analyses, at

Alexis Nelson's Golden Moroccan Butternut Stew

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

     3     tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

     1    cup finely chopped shallots

     4     garlic cloves, minced

     1    14-ounce can crushed plum tomatoes

     1     whole cinnamon stick

     1/4     teaspoon ground ginger

     1/4     teaspoon ground cumin

     1/2     teaspoon ground coriander

     1     teaspoon garam masala

     1/4     teaspoon crushed red pepper

     1     medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

     1    16-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

     3 1/2     cups low-sodium vegetable broth

     1/2  cup golden raisins

     3    cups chopped fresh baby spinach

     2    cups cooked couscous

     Juice of 1/2 lime

     1     tablespoon golden honey

     Salt and pepper

     Fresh cilantro, for garnish

     Slivered almonds, for garnish

WARM olive oil in a large saucepan over moderate heat. Add shallots and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, coriander, garam masala and crushed red pepper.

COOK until the cinnamon stick unfurls and tomatoes are cooked down, about 4 minutes. Add butternut squash, chickpeas, vegetable broth and raisins, and bring to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, until the butternut squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.

WARM couscous in the microwave while the stew is simmering.

ADD lime juice and honey to the stew, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

DIVIDE the hot couscous among four bowls, top with the stew, garnish with cilantro and toasted almonds, and serve.


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