A young chef's Middle Eastern-inspired, healthy lunch recipe wins him an invitation to the White House

The World

It's not everyday you get an invitation to a state dinner at the White House. And 12-year-old Kinnan Dowie earned his. The homeschooled sixth-grader from Rhode Island submitted a winning recipe for the 2014 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.

The Challenge is a nationwide recipe contest designed to promote healthy eating among America's youth. And the 54 winners from around the country end up at a Kids' State Dinner at the White House, hosted by Michelle Obama.

Dowie and his family traveled to DC for this year's dinner, being held tomorrow, where some of the winning dishes will be served. Dowie says he always loved cooking with his mom and grandmother, so he was excited to when he heard about the healthy recipe contest for kids ages 8 to 12.

He put on his apron and got to work in the kitchen. He took out pots and pans, all kinds of traditional spices, and experimented for hours. He came up with something he calls "Mediterranean kebab wraps with cilantro tabbouleh."

"I enjoy cooking with my grandmother, who is of Middle Eastern heritage,” says Dowie. “I like to experiment with our family recipes and try to make them healthier and still delicious. I decided to make the kebabs out of ground turkey rather than the traditional lamb. Since ground turkey can sometimes be bland, I tried adding some healthy herbs to boost the flavor. I serve this meal with a refreshing cucumber salad. Yummy!" 

And now you can serve it, too, if you want. Here's Kinnan Dowie's recipe.

Mediterranean Kebab Wraps with cilantro tabbouleh

Makes 6 servings


For the Kebabs:

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • ½ bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons allspice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • Olive oil
  • Garnish: whole-wheat pita, lettuce, tomato, hummus

For the Cilantro Tabbouleh:

  • ½ cup coarse bulgur
  • 2 bunches cilantro
  • 5 medium scallions, sliced
  • 4 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • Juice of 4 fresh lemons
  • ¼ cup and 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

For the Refreshing Cucumber Salad:

  • 16 ounces low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • Juice of 3 fresh lemons
  • Salt to taste


Mediterranean kebab wraps with cilantro trabbouleh.
Mediterranean kebab wraps with cilantro trabbouleh.

Sharon Hammond-Dowie

To make the Mediterranean Kebab Wraps: In a large bowl, mix ground turkey, parsley, cilantro, and onion. In separate bowl, mix the spices and garlic. Add to the turkey and mix well.

Form the kebabs by hand. Each should be about 4 inches long and about 1½ to 2 inches wide. Place on lightly greased tray. Lightly brush the kebabs with olive oil. Place in preheated broiler on low (or grill) and cook for 15 minutes, flip them over, and cook an additional 15 minutes. Place in pita-wrap with lettuce, tomatoes, and hummus.

To make the Cilantro Tabbouleh: In a large pot, bring 1½ cups water and pinch of salt to boil over moderate heat. Add the bulgur, stir, remove from heat, and let cool. Add cilantro, scallions, tomatoes, lemon juice, ¼ cup olive oil, and mint to bulgur and stir.

In a small sauté pan over moderate heat, warm the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the pine nuts and toast until lightly brown, about 2 minutes. Let cool, then toss into salad. Season with salt and pepper.

To make Refreshing Cucumber Salad: In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Chill before serving.

318 calories; 20g fat; 21g carbohydrates; 19g protein

Here's a video of the judging of the 2014 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge:

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