Kids Take Over the Kitchen for Whole Kids Foundation Cooking Challenge

By Leah Fisher Nyfeler – December 1, 2014

How can you not win when you combine great kids with wholesome, fun to prepare recipes? The Whole Kids Cooking Challenge—this year, with five winners, thanks to the addition of the new Whole Foods Market location in the Domain—was a joy to judge. 

The way the challenge works: Kids ages 14 and younger submit recipes to their neighborhood Whole Foods Market, and a winner is selected for each store. All five winners come together for a final cook-off at the downtown location’s cooking school. They, a chef partner from their Whole Foods Market store, and one adult family member have 45 minutes to prepare and plate samples of their dish for the judges to taste. 

What they win: Whole Kids Foundation provides a rain water collection barrel for the winning chef’s school, a $100 gift card to Whole Foods Market, the Whole Kids Foundation Cooking Challenge trophy, and assorted kid-friendly cookbooks. 

The Whole Kids Foundation is a nonprofit that is funded by Whole Foods Market; its goal is to support schools and inspire families to improve children’s nutrition and wellness. Their programs include providing grants for school gardens, encouraging teachers to model healthier eating, and getting salad bars placed in school cafeterias. These kids are great spokespeople for this mission; their enthusiasm was contagious, and the dishes yummy. Here are their recipes to inspire the small chefs at your home.

Hard to tell who was more excited about celebrity judge Chef Brandon Scawthorn (center)—the contestants or the adult judges. Chef Scawthorn, who is from Kyle, Texas, is the host of a web series called Cooking in the Fast Lane on In addition, he was the winner of the first season of Rachel vs Guy Kids Cook-Off. His winning recipes from the final challenge included Macho Tacos, Fried Rice with Simple Baked Salmon, and French Dip Steak Sandwiches with Horseradish Sauce.

Winning Recipe

Thai Lime Coconut Chicken and Rice

By Sarah Sowell, 7th grade 

What You Need

1–2 boneless chicken breasts

½ cup jasmine rice

2 tablespoon sweetened 


½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup salted peanuts

½ cup frozen peas

½ cup carrot, peeled and sliced

Coconut oil, as needed

Whole cilantro leaves

How to Make It

Peel and cut veggies. 

Start the rice as directed on the package; add carrots, lime juice, and salt. When the rice has 5 minutes left to cook, add the remaining veggies.

While the rice is cooking, cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. 

Toast the coconut over medium-low heat in a pan big enough to cook chicken. 

When the rice is finished, top with chicken, coconut, and peanuts. 

Chef Sowell’s best friend in Dallas is allergic to gluten, and she thought of her while creating this dish—along with memories of her family’s favorite Asian food restaurant in Dallas. 

Kid's Pick

Pikachu Pizza Balls and Sandshrew Sauce

By Bowman Wargo, 3rd grade

What You Need 

(Sandshrew Sauce)

1 can tomatoes

½ cup basil

2 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups kale

½ teaspoon sugar

4 cloves garlic

(Pikachu Pizza Balls)

1 container fresh Whole Foods Market pizza dough

Fresh mozzarella, cubed

12 ounces ricotta cheese

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

4 sprigs oregano

½ cup basil

How to Make It

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

Prepare a foil-lined cookie sheet, slightly greased. 

Place dough on a floured cutting board and gently pat into a rectangle about the size of a mini iPad. Using a sharp knife, cut into 12 even squares (approximately 2 inches each).

Combine ricotta, Parmesan, oregano, and basil for pizza ball filling. 

Pick up a pizza dough square and tug edges until it’s about ¼ inch thick. Spoon quarter-size amount of cheese mixture into center of dough and top with mozzarella cube. 

Fold dough around cheese like a little package and pinch edges to seal; then, roll between hands until a smooth ball. 

Place each pizza ball on prepared cookie sheets, and brush each with a little melted butter and sprinkle with salt. 

Warm in the oven for 10–12 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add kale, and sauté until wilted. Add garlic; cook for 2 minutes, and then add basil and tomatoes. Season with sugar and salt to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes. 

Carefully spoon sauce into blender (Vitamix works best). Blend until smooth. Stir in left over cheese mixture. Pour into individual serving bowls for dipping. Enjoy!

The judges realized that this dish would be a certain kid pleaser. “When I saw the contest,” said Chef Wargo, “I knew I had to enter for my school.” He was inspired after playing with dough at Home Slice; the dish is named for Pokémon characters.

Formosa-style Cold Noodle

By Kelly Matthews, 5th grade 

What You Need

1 box whole grain spaghetti

1 chicken breast, shredded

1 cucumber, shredded

1 carrot, shredded

1 egg

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 tablespoon sesame oil


1/5 tablespoon almond butter

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon sugar

Fresh lemon juice (optional)

How to Make It

Rinse boiled pasta with ice water and chill. Drain, and add sesame oil. 

Scramble an egg. Spread on non-stick pan to cool off, and cut into thin slices. 

Prepare sauce by mixing sauce ingredients together in a bowl. 

Place cold pasta and the rest of the ingredients on a serving plate.

“My dad is a true Texan, and my mom is from Taiwan. Every other summer, my mom takes me to Taiwan…this is a dish that is very common during the hot summer in Taiwan. When we came back, we tried to make our own healthy version.” –Chef Matthews

Carne Asada with Tortillas and Sautéed Spinach

By Elli Grace, kindergarten 

What You Need

1 pound grass-fed sirloin steak

Margarita’s Raw Tortillas

Whole Foods Market pico de gallo

Kylito’s “Gentle” Salsa

Frontera’s Carne Asada Marinade

Whole Foods Market Chophouse seasoning

Olive oil

Chopped garlic

Whole Foods Market shredded mild cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese

Organic cilantro

Fresh organic spinach

Organic Emperor’s kitchen garlic

Aceto Balsalmico Di Modena balsamic vinegar


Fresh tomatoes

How to Make It

Spread Frontera’s marinade over sirloin at room temperature. Add dash of chophouse seasoning. Grill for 5 minutes on each side.

Prep spinach. Add olive oil and garlic in a hot sauté pan. Sizzle for 7 minutes while adding a crank of Alessi sea salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. 

Chop up a little tomato and fresh cilantro. 

Grill tortillas.

Remove steak from grill, add cheese on top, and broil for 3 minutes. Remove and cool.

Slice steak horizontally and begin adding all the other items as toppings. Enjoy with warm tortillas.

Chef Grace was the youngest of the contestants. She enjoys helping her family with meal preparation, and they like to make it fun by incorporating themes (and even some dress up) into their kitchen time together.

Poached Shrimp Avocado Salad

By Isabelle Cano, 6th grade 

 What You Need

(poached shrimp)

1 cup small cooked shrimp

1 whole lemon

3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon peppercorn

Sea salt to taste

(yogurt dressing)

¼ cup yogurt

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon cardamom

½ lime

Sea salt to taste

(avocado filling)

1 ripe mango, diced

¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

2 avocados

Fresh baby herb salad greens, to serve

How to Make It

Fill a large pot with about ½ gallon of water. Add salt and squeeze in the lemon juice; toss the halves in for extra flavor. Add bay leaves, peppercorn, and salt. 

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and simmer for 5 minutes to infuse the water with aromatics. 

Reduce heat to medium-low and add shrimp. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until the shrimp are bright pink and the tails curl. 

Using a slatted spoon, remove the shrimp from the poaching liquid and chill thoroughly before peeling.

Mix all dressing ingredients in a bowl. Place in refrigerator for a few minutes. 

Peel mango, and dice into small pieces. 

Halve the avocados. Carefully remove the pit and peel away the skin. Rub the avocado halves with ½ teaspoon of lime juice (this will keep the avocado from oxidizing). 

Mix poached shrimp, diced mango, cilantro, and yogurt dressing together. Place greens on a plate, top with an avocado half, fill with the shrimp mixture, and serve.

It was impressive to see Chef Cano lead the preparation of her meal; the adults had little to do. Chef Cano, who started cooking with her grandmother, loves to watch food shows and noted that she particularly likes the juxtaposition of flavors—the mango against the shrimp—in her recipe.

Special thanks go to the Whole Foods Market chefs who worked with the students

Mari Soto, prepared foods team leader (Hill Country Galleria, Bee Cave)

Fany Robles, prepared foods team member (Domain)

Andi Jo Ebel, healthy eating specialist
(Arbor Trails, south Austin)

Andy Moya, prepared foods sous chef
(6th and Lamar, downtown)

Jennifer Vitera, healthy eating specialist (Gateway,
north Austin)



Leah Fisher Nyfeler, editor in chief (Austin Fit Magazine) 

Jess Mitchell, morning news reporter (Time Warner Cable News)

Tracy Diggs Lunoff, assistant director of health (AISD)

Chef Brandon Scawthorn, celebrity chef  (FoodNetwork)

Dan Marek, school program educator (Whole Kids Foundation)

Kim Herrington, programs and financial director (Whole Kids Foundation)


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