Arkansas PBS > Engage > Blog > Aspen Smith wins Arkansas 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge

Aspen Smith wins Arkansas 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge

  • Posted by
  • AETN
  • on

Eleven-year-old Aspen Smith, who attends Episcopal Collegiate School in Little Rock, showcased her culinary skills in the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. Aspen was chosen as Arkansas’s winner for her inspired recipe for Arkansas Baked Almond Catfish, a healthier take on one of her family’s favorite meals. 

As Arkansas’s 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge winner, Aspen will represent The Natural State at this year’s Kids’ State Dinner at the White House hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama on July 10. Along with 54 other young chefs representing all U.S. States, four territories and the District of Columbia, Aspen will join the First Lady for a healthy lunch followed by a visit to the White House Kitchen Garden.

When asked what inspired her winning dish, Arkansas Baked Almond Catfish, Aspen said, “My family loves catfish, especially fried, but my dad and other family members have heart problems. I wanted something that was healthier for all of us to enjoy.”

Her recipe certainly has our mouths watering, and — although, as a Pulaski Tech Youth Chef, Aspen certainly has the skills to whip up some complex dishes — Arkansas Baked Almond Catfish is fun and simple to make.

“I love to cook and bake, and this is really healthy, good and easy to prepare. I watch cooking shows all the time and put a few ideas together in this recipe. I love it and hope you do, too!,” said Aspen.

We did, and we think when you give this smart, seasonal dish a try, you will, as well! Congratulations, Aspen, on this outstanding accomplishment, and thank you for sharing your talents with us.


Arkansas Baked Almond Catfish

  • 2 lbs. catfish fillets
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs or panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 onion, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted


  1. Preheat the oven to 500˚F. Cut the catfish fillets roughly in half, so you have enough to feed six people evenly. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, almonds and onion.
  3. Dip the fish pieces in the milk and egg mixture, then dredge them in the breadcrumb mixture, making sure that they are evenly coated on both sides. Place the fish pieces on the baking sheet, drizzle with the melted butter and bake for 15 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
Makes six servings.
273 calories, 11g fat, 16g carbohydrates, 28g protein 

A free, downloadable and printable e-cookbook of Aspen’s and all of the nation’s winning recipes will be available on July 10 at, and Be sure to check it out for many more healthy, delicious and affordable recipes and to get inspiration for next year’s contest! 

The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge is a nationwide recipe challenges for kids ages 8-12 that promotes cooking and healthy eating. Coordinated by First Lady Michelle Obama, PBS flagship station WGBH Boston, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the contest invites America’s kids to create a lunchtime recipe that’s healthy, affordable and delicious. Healthy Lunchtime Challenge entries had to represent each of the food groups — including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy — either in one dish or as parts of a lunch meal. In support of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” initiative, young chefs are encouraged to reference information at to ensure recipes meet the USDA’s recommended nutrition guidance.  


Find further information about the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge at