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WINNER! -- Tiffany Aaron of Cleburne County, center, holds her check after winning
the 2014 Arkansas Rice Expo Rice Recipe Contest. (U of Arkansas System Division of
Agriculture photo by Fred Miller
August 7, 2014
STUTTGART, Ark. – A love of Mexican food and her family’s habit taking nearly every
meal at home helped fuel a recipe that satisfied both of those needs and a victory
in the 2014 Arkansas Rice Expo recipe contest.
“I was very shocked. Really, really shocked,” said Tiffany Aaron of Cleburne County,
who took first place with her Grilled Rice and Black Bean Burritos with Creamy Cilantro
Aaron’s winning dish earned her a featured spot in the 2015 Arkansas Rice Expo Cookbook,
$200 and a gift basket with rice. The three judges –South on Main restaurant’s Executive
Chef Matt Bell, Food Writer for Sync and Arkansas Life Magazine Emily Van Zandt, and
Little Rock Soiree and Arkansasbusiness.com Writer Lee Hogan – all agreed that Aaron’s
dish deserved to win.
A REAL WINNER -- Tiffany Aaron's Grilled Rice and Black Bean Burritos with Creamy
Cilantro Dipping Sauce was the winner in the 2014 Arkansas Rice Expo Recipe Contest.
(U of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture photo by Mary Hightower)
“On the winner, it seemed like we had the same opinion,” Hogan said.
While this wasn’t her first time competing in a cooking contest, it was her first
time winning first place.
Aaron said she had previously met some of the contestants and knew that they could
cook really well. “They know what the judges were judging,” she said.
Developing a rice burrito dish was a no-brainer.
“We love Mexican food,” she said “I have five kids and we really don’t eat out at
all. I cook every meal everyday.”
As the 2014 winner, she cannot compete in the 2015 contest. However, Aaron said she
encourages her mother and kids to compete next year.
The second place winner for the contest was Susan Bensberg from Ouachita County, who
made Ginger Curry Lime Chicken Salad with Edamame and Rice.
“I never expected to win the top 10 when I submitted my recipe, and I won the second
place,” said Bensberg, who is an adjunct faculty in the music department at Southern
The summer weather and her love for Arkansas inspired her to make a cool salad that
has lime, ginger, water chestnut, as well as Arkansas grown long grain brown rice
“I cook things from scratch,” she said. She discovered the ‘pasta method’ to cook
rice by putting a cup of rice in 12 cups of water that has been brought to boil. Simmer
the rice until tender – about 15 minutes for white rice and 20-25 minutes for brown
rice. She drained it and put the rice back in the pot to let it steam.
The rice won’t stick together and it’ll have a good flavor, she said. Judge and chef
Matt Bell agreed that the ‘pasta method’ with a lot of water and a little rice is
the best way to cook rice.
Bensberg is planning to compete in next year’s Rice Recipe Contest as well as joining
the tabletop centerpiece contest.
Third place went to Alice May Johnson of Arkansas County with her Rice and Broccoli
Salad. Johnson said she wants to compete again next year.
“I’m thrilled to death because I can come back next year,” she said, of her much-complimented
dish. “Every time we have potluck (at work), I always make the broccoli salad,” she
said. For the contest, she added rice to the salad.
Johnson shared her secret for what she called the ‘perfect rice’: boil 14 cups of
water, a table spoon of salt, and four cups of white rice cooked for 15 minutes in
an un-lidded Dutch Oven on the low heat stovetop. After it’s done, remove from heat,
pour into a big pan with holes in it and run hot water over to the rim to rinse the
rice. “What’s unique is it’s with no lid,” she said.
“There are a lot of different ways to cook rice,” said Rosemary Rodibaugh, nutrition
professor in the Family & Consumer Science Department for the University of Arkansas
System Division of Agriculture. “The best way is a matter of personal preference.”
The bottom line is that rice can be an important part of an overall healthy diet.
Rice is in the grains’ group, one of the 5 main food groups on MyPlate, a nutrition
guide by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Rice provides protein and carbohydrates
for energy and a number of vitamins and minerals. rice is a whole grain and has “more
fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than white rice,” she said. She recommends
making half of your grain foods whole grains.
The top 10 finalists of the rice recipe prelims brought their dishes to the 2014 Arkansas
Rice Expo. A variety of rice dishes were showcased. “I thought I’d see all casseroles,”
Bell said. “But there’s a lot of creativity.”
Keith Cleek, Phillips County Area Extension Agent for the University of Arkansas System
Division of Agriculture, who ran the contest, said, “everything went really well,
first time we had live judging, great feedback and good dishes.”
To learn more about rice production, visit www.uaex.uada.edu or contact your county extension office.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons
regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin,
religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any
other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
All meetings and activities announced in this news release are open to all eligible
persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability,
marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status. Persons with disabilities
who require alternative means for communication of program information (large print,
audiotapes, etc.) should notify the county Extension office as soon as possible prior
to the activity.
By Kezia NandaFor the Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) firstname.lastname@example.org