Quinoa and kale crustless quiche. Not exactly a recipe that elementary school children would typically want to try.

"I was very surprised," said chef Linda Soper-Kolton when students at Holland Hill School voted overwhelmingly to make that culinary choice their entry into a nationwide contest designed to develop healthy and tasty new school lunches. Her son is a fourth grader at the school, where Soper-Kolton and the cafeteria staff put the recipe to the test the Wednesday before Christmas break. "He thinks it's because of the name; everyone liked to say `quinoa.' "

Quinoa -- pronounced keen-wa -- is a grain rich in amino acids native to the Andes Mountains of South America, which is a relative of leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and Swiss chard. It has a slightly crunchy texture and a somewhat nutty flavor when cooked.

Soper-Kolton said the quiche was made of the quinoa, finely minced kale, some egg and onion.

"I think it's okay," said fifth-grader Anna Paglialunga, 10, after she took a tentative bite of the little square of quiche. "It's a little spicy for me."

It looked "weird," according to classmate Olivia Accomandia. But, the 10-year-old said, she thought it was good.

Dakota Reck, 10, struggled to find words to describe what she thought of the new dish. "I didn't like it," she said. "It was just too ... like it was just too ... It's the way that it tastes to me. I don't think a lot of people liked it."

The reaction to the quiche was, indeed, mixed. Some suggested it might be better if it had a crust, while others said they didn't like it because it was cold.

"I thought it was different," said 10-year-old Dominique Walter. "I didn't really like it." It was OK, according to Jasmine Hamel, 10, "It didn't taste like it looked," she said, "it actually tasted kind of good."

Soper-Kolton, owner of Bridgeport's GreenGourmentToGo, an organic, vegetarian take-out restaurant, teamed with nutrition consultant Marilyn Ricci, Joann Fitzpatrick, the district's food services director; Debbie Steele, the cafeteria head at the school, and the fourth and fifth graders to devise the recipe.

For the "Let's Move Campaign" contest, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and First Lady Michelle Obama, the students needed to create a healthy recipe in two of three categories -- wholes grains, dark green and orange vegetables or dry beans and peas.

Their other recipe was for a butternut squash and three-bean chili.

Fitzpatrick agreed that the name of the quiche tilted the vote in its favor. "I think that the name of the recipe flowed with them," she said. But she thinks this generation of schoolchildren is willing to try new things. "I think a lot of them are experienced at this from going out to restaurants, and a lot of parents are eating healthier foods."

After each lunch wave was done, Holland Hill Principal Frank Arnone took time to find out what the students like and didn't like about the quiche, and their suggestions for making a healthier hot lunch.

Fifteen semi-finalists will have their recipe evaluated by a team of judges at the winning schools, and the top three will compete in a national cook-off to determine the grand prize winner.

Prizes range from $1,000 for a second-place finish to $3,000 for the grand prize.