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New book reveals how Mrs. O's garden grows

Charles Dharapak / AFP - Getty Images file

Michelle Obama had the idea for a White House vegetable garden when she was standing in her kitchen in Chicago early in the 2008 race. She had been thinking about how the food her family ate affected their health, and maybe that idea could have something to do with her platform as first lady.

In her new book, "American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America," she wrote, “I thought to myself if something amazing happened, if my husband then very much the underdog in the race actually won, then as first lady I might want to focus on this issue more broadly.”

Focus she did. The garden became part of for her Let’s Move! initiative, which advocates for better eating and more exercise for kids across America. When the White House garden broke ground, part of the crew there to help were 23 fifth-graders from a Washington D.C. school, included as part of the plan for the garden to become a “learning garden” where both adults and kids could learn about not only where food comes from, but also get kids excited about vegetables. 

That's a tall order itself, and Mrs. Obama had some challenges in the first year. She worried nothing would grow. Her plants grew, but there were setbacks. Her cantaloupes had absolutely no taste and she battled with cutworms and cucumber beetles for ownership of the garden.  

Throughout the book are photos of the garden, the people behind it, and plenty of first dog Bo

The book is packed with recipes from the White House chefs who have taken ingredients and inspiration fresh from the backyard. Among recipes for spring pea salad and buttermilk blueberry bundt cake is a recipe for rhubarb strawberry crumble pie. According to Chef Bill, “It is a well-known fact that President Obama loves pie, and in the pastry kitchen we rack our brains trying to create new combinations.” Chef Bill suggests replacing the fruit with whatever is fresh and on hand, like blackberries, apples or peaches.

The White House’s recipes for pies, cakes and farm-fresh salads fit nicely alongside the other recipes out of the 2012 elections. 

Pinterest.com

Ann Romney's "Recipes" board on Pinterest.

In March, Ann Romney released her meatloaf recipe, a favorite of the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Fondly called “Mittloaf” by supporters, Ann Romney includes that dish on her Pinterest board along with other family favorites, like her daughter-in-law’s butternut squash soup. 

Romney’s Pinterest page isn’t just a place for her to pin what she loves, but its also a forum to discuss what works with certain recipes and what doesn’t. She includes hints and tricks to go alongside recipes, like using honey and applesauce instead of sugar and oil for a healthier version of banana bread. One of her supporters, Caroline Caraccoilo, suggests using yogurt instead of oil to make it even healthier. 

Fans of Ann Romney’s recipes hope that the spotlight doesn’t take her too far from the baking aisle. Supporter and fellow Pinterest user Lynette Hardy commented on Ann Romney’s pinned image of a homemade Reese’s peanut butter cup, saying she’d prefer dark chocolate. She also added, “Ann, promise us that you’ll maintain your Pinterest site even after you become first lady.”

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