Appleton girl wins recipe contest, heads to White House

Sarah Ganser, 12, prepares a recipe at her Appleton home, July 8, 2014. (WLUK/Kelly Schlicht)

APPLETON - Twelve-year-old Sarah Ganser always has something cooking.

"I like all the sweet potatoes and the peanut butter. The peanut butter really adds some flavor to it," said Ganser.

She and her mom Jennifer found a recipe for African Sweet Potato Stew.

"It’s really healthy, and it's really good for you and it’s good tasting and it's not expensive so anyone can buy it,” she said.

They thought they might have a winner in the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.

"I saw it advertised on the let's move web site and I thought this would be fun because Sarah loves to cook,” said her mother, Jennifer Ganser.

Ganser submitted her recipe. Then she received the big news: She'd been selected to represent Wisconsin in our nation’s capital.

"We get to eat a state dinner with Michelle Obama and the 53 other winners from all the other states (and territories),” said Ganser. “It’s a once in a lifetime deal. You don't get a ticket to the White House, and this is a really awesome experience that I will cherish forever."

Ganser heads to D.C. next Wednesday. The special luncheon takes place on Friday, July 18. She will be promoting healthy eating habits as part of the first lady's "Let's Move! Campaign."

That's something that makes her mom, a health counselor, beam with pride.

"I'm so excited and it doesn't even seem real. But it's next week and we're starting to pack our bags and we're going to head out and just enjoy every second of it,” said her mother.

As Ganser enjoys her sweet potato stew, she says she'll savor every spoonful of her White House luncheon.

One of Ganser's three sisters also applied for the Healthy Lunch Challenge, but wasn't selected this year.

Here is a copy of Ganser’s award-winning recipe:

Sarah Ganser’s Amazing African Sweet Potato Stew
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
½ cup peanut butter
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½” squares
2 15 oz. great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
6 cups vegetable stock

Heat 3 tbsp. water for sautéing onions and garlic. Add onions and garlic, cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add bell peppers, cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
Stir in brown sugar, ginger, cumin, salt, cinnamon and allspice stirring about 30 seconds.
Add peanut butter, stir to coat.
Add sweet potatoes, tomatoes and great northern beans, stir to coat.
Add vegetable broth, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.
If you like it spicy, add cayenne pepper as desired for a little extra kick.