Girl’s recipe leads to lunch — and a few surprises — at White House

First lady Michelle Obama sits with Michael Prados, left, from Louisiana, and Ilianna Gonzales-Evans, right, from Washington, and others, during the first Kids’ State

Rori Coyne, left, poses with Logan Henderson, member of Big Time Rush, Monday during the Kids' State Dinner at the White House. Rori's recipe for Yummy Cabbage Sloppy Joes earned her a seat at the lunch, hosted by first lady Michelle Obama.

Rori Coyne of Shawnee generally eats her Yummy Cabbage Sloppy Joes — her favorite food — on a bun, or sometimes cold with a fork.

But recently the Westridge Middle School seventh-grader got to enjoy the recipe she crafted about eight months ago on bread with gold silverware at a formal lunch at the White House.

And one of her lunch companions? First lady Michelle Obama.

Rori was one of 54 kids ages 8 to 12 to win the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge sponsored by in partnership with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign and the U.S. departments of health and agriculture. Parents submitted an original, healthy recipe created by their child, and winners from each state, as well as territories such as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, were chosen. Their reward was inclusion in the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Cookbook and a free trip with one parent to Washington, D.C., to attend a Kids’ State Dinner on Monday at the White House.

Rori Coyne, right, poses with White House assistant chef Sam Kass Monday at the Kids' State Dinner. Rori's recipe for Yummy Cabbage Sloppy Joes earned her a seat at the lunch, hosted by first lady Michelle Obama.

“And then the president walks in and then he did a speech … and it was really cool,” Rori said of the event’s surprise guest, adding she shook President Barack Obama’s hand. “It was my right hand. See?! This one right here.”

As she and her mother, Mary Wolarik, waited to get into the event, held in the East Room of the White House, Rori got another surprise: White House assistant chef Sam Kass told Rori that her recipe was one of six chosen to be served at the lunch. She and her mother also got to meet Michelle Obama and take a photo with her.

“She gave us a hug and then asked what my recipe was,” Rori said. “And then I told her and she said, ‘I can’t wait to try it.'”

Rori Coyne's Yummy Cabbage Sloppy Joes and Baked Zucchini Fries was served at the first-ever Kids’ ‘State Dinner’ luncheon, hosted by first lady Michelle Obama, in the East Room of the White House, Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 in Washington.

Girl’s recipe leads to lunch — and a few surprises — at White HouseRori “was freaking out” later during the lunch when she received another hug from Logan Henderson, member of Big Time Rush. The band, a supporter of Let’s Move! and one of Rori’s favorites, performed during the lunch.

“I almost peed my pants I was so excited,” she said.

With her mother’s help, Rori came up with her recipe one evening when trying to find something to make for dinner. Having a registered dietitian for a mother — Wolarik is president-elect of the Kansas Diatetic Association — Rori said she’s always eaten healthy foods and has loved cooking and baking since she was a toddler.

Her initial inspiration for the recipe was the ample amount of leftover cabbage in the refrigerator, Rori said. But the fact that the end result was sloppy Joes isn’t too far a stretch of the imagination where Rori is concerned, Wolarik said.

“This is a child that adores a sloppy Joe,” she said.

Wolarik initially didn’t tell her daughter she’d submitted the recipe in May. And Rori was on vacation with a friend when Wolarik was notified this summer that Rori’s recipe had been chosen.

“I looked at my phone and there was like 20 calls from my mom and a bunch of texts and it was really annoying because she kept calling me every second,” Rori said.

She thought her mother simply wanted to check up on her.

“I was like freaking out and rolling on the ground and stuff,” Rori said of her reaction after she talked with her mother. “I don’t think I screamed, but I was being really loud.”

Rori’s recipe will be served for lunch next Monday at Westridge, where guests will include district administrators and board members.

Yummy Cabbage Sloppy Joes


1 pound lean ground beef

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium zucchini, shredded or diced

2 ribs celery, diced

1/2 cup chopped red pepper

1 1/2 cups finely shredded cabbage

1 cup tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 sandwich rolls, split (optional)


  1. In a large skillet, cook the beef until cooked through, about five minutes. Drain the fat from the skillet and reserve the meat on a plate.

  2. In the same pan, over moderate heat, cook the onion, zucchini, celery, red pepper and cabbage until all the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Add the cooked beef to the pan and stir to combine.

  3. In a small bowl, combine the tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, brown sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper. Pour the same sauce into the pan with the beef and vegetables and simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 8 minutes.

  4. While the sloppy Joes are simmering, toast the buns in the oven or toaster oven.

  5. Evenly divide the mixture among the toasted bun bottoms, top with the other halves and serve.

Makes 8 servings.