At 10 years old, Josslyn Michael is already a whiz in the kitchen, cooking up creative dishes.
But the Houston Elementary School fifth-grader was still in awe when she nabbed the grand prize in Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Walk On! Kids Cooking Challenge.
“Yeah, I was really shocked,” the Gilbert girl said. “I didn’t know what to say.”
Josslyn beat out four other finalists with her veggie burrito, chock full of her favorite veggies like purple cabbage, bell peppers and carrots.
In the 15th annual contest, children, 9 to 12, came up with an original recipe for a hot or cold side dish that was healthy. The dish had to include at least one fruit and or vegetable and could be cooked within 20 minutes.
Each aspiring kid chef’s entry was judged on nutrition, taste and originality with five finalists chosen and invited to present their recipes at a Phoenix Suns game in February. The public also got to vote online for their favorite dish.
A spokeswoman for the health insurance company did not respond to questions asking how many contestants entered this year and how many votes each finalist received.
Coming up with the recipe for her winning dish wasn’t hard at all, Josslyn said.
“I just added all my favorite vegetables into a tortilla,” she said, adding her mom did suggest adding the chives and onion cream cheese.
Josslyn said she first tested the dish on her family and got the thumbs up.
“I like to cook it five times a week,” she said. “I always make them for my aunt and uncle.
“I think it’s important to eat healthy, it affects how you grow.”
Today, about 1 in 3 Americans, adults and children, have obesity, which is over 100 million people, according to the Trust for America’s Health.
The incidence of obesity in the country has increased by 70 percent over the last three decades for adults and by 85 percent over the same time period for children, the nonprofit reported.
And, if the trend continues by 2030 nearly 1 in 2 adults will be obese and nearly 1 in 4 adults are projected to have severe obesity, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Eating and cooking healthy foods comes naturally for Josslyn whose mom is her role model.
“I’ve made vegetables for the kids since they were little so they eat it now and like it,” said mom of three Jenna Michael. “With the right seasoning they would like any of the vegetables.”
Michael said Josslyn took to cooking at a young age.
“She has been doing it quite a while,” she recalled. “When she was 5 or 6 she was interested in it and was helping me cook.
“Now that she is big she can read a recipe on her own and does the whole thing.”
Michael said she didn’t know about the cooking challenge until Josslyn brought home a flier from school and wanted to enter. Josslyn likes to watching TV cooking shows like Kids Baking Challenge.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona teams up with elementary schools throughout the state for the annual contest in an effort to motivate kids to incorporate healthy habits into their daily routines
Michael gave high marks for Josslyn’s veggie burrito.
“I love it,” she said. “When we made it the first time, it was ‘oh my gosh, I could eat it every day.’ It’s so good.”
Michael said most people don’t incorporate enough vegetables into their diet and what makes Josslyn’s recipe so good is they can change out the vegetables to ones they like.
Jossyln’s prize is a bicycle. Although she has not picked one out yet, she knows she is gifting it to her 13-year-old sister.
That was one of her original intentions for entering the contest. The other reason for entering was she wanted to share her creation with everyone, she said.
Josslyn said she hasn’t created any new recipes in the kitchen yet.
“I’m thinking about it,” she said, “something healthy.”