Here are some winning recipes from the NC 2016 Rice Festival held in Belville. The dishes are easy to make and are quite tasty. The Rice and Zucchini Dish, which is mine, won First Place, then won “Best in Show,” so this is definitely a dish to try. The last recipe is a Mexican favorite of mine.



Rice and Zucchini Casserole

First Place winner and “Best in Show” – Hope Cusick

1 cup uncooked rice

2 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon butter

3 large eggs

1/3 cup olive oil

1 ¼ cups ricotta cheese or cottage cheese

8 ounces Monterey Jack and Colby cheese mix, shredded

1 pound zucchini, cubed

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

4 slices smoked bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled

Cook rice according to package directions in chicken broth instead of water plus 1-tablespoon butter.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2 ½ quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl lightly beat the eggs with olive oil. Stir in ricotta cheese and Monterey Jack cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Add cubed zucchini, rice, and garlic. Stir until just combined.

Spoon the mixture into prepared casserole dish.

At this point the dish may be covered and refrigerated until diner time then baked or bake immediately.

Place the casserole in a 350 degree oven and bake uncovered for 50-55 minutes or until casserole is puffed and the top is a golden brown.

Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle crumbled bacon on top before serving.


Creamy Rice and Shrimp

First Place Winner

Serves 4.

1 cup long grain uncooked rice

½ cup sour cream

3 tablespoons lime juice

2 scallions, thinly sliced

¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium poblano pepper, quartered lengthwise, then sliced crosswise

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1 pound peeled and deveined fresh shrimp

2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 cup frozen or canned yellow corn, thawed

Cook the rice according to package directions. In a cup combine sour cream and 2-tablespoons lime juice, then fold into rice along with scallions and cilantro.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add poblanos, season with salt and pepper, to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5-6 minutes.

Season shrimp with some salt and pepper, add to the skillet along with garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the corn and cook, tossing twice, until the shrimp are opaque throughout, about 2 minutes more; toss with 1-tablespoon lime juice. Serve over rice.


Rice and Peaches Dessert

First Place Winner

1 cup uncooked rice

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups milk

¼ cup granulated sugar

Pinch of salt

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 15-ounce can peach slices, drained

¼ cup Peach Schnapps

¼ cup brown sugar

1/3 to 1/2 cup apricot jam

In a saucepan, combine rice, milk, vanilla, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil. Lower heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a bowl stir a small amount of rice mixture into eggs; return all to the saucepan. Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in Peach Schnapps. Pour into a greased 1-quart baking dish. Top with peaches, lining slices in rows. Sprinkle peaches with brown sugar. Place apricot jam in microwaveable cup and microwave for 15-20 seconds until syrupy. Drizzle hot jam over peach slices.


Easy Mexican Cheesy- Rice and Beef Casserole

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound ground chuck

1 large sweet onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced then smashed

1 1.25-ounce package taco seasoning

1 cup uncooked rice

1 cup chicken or beef broth

1 15- ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 small poblano pepper, diced

1 cup yellow corn kernels, frozen or canned

1 teaspoon chili powder

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Juice of one lime

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped

1 ½ cups cheddar cheese, shredded

½ cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1 small tomato, seeded and sliced (optional)

In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add ground chuck, onion, and garlic. Cook until meat has browned, about 4-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the beef as it cooks; stir in taco seasoning. Drain excess fat.

Stir in rice, broth, black beans, canned tomatoes, poblano pepper, corn, and chili powder; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil; cover, lower heat and simmer until rice is cooked through, about 15-18 minutes. Stir in lime juice and cilantro.

Remove from heat and top with cheeses. Cover until cheese has melted, about 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately, garnished with tomato, if desired.


Shrimp with Pineapple Fried Rice

1 cup uncooked rice

1 20-ounce can pineapple tidbits, drained

3 scallions, chopped

½ red bell pepper, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

½ pound fresh shrimp cleaned and deveined

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish, if desired

Cook rice according to package directions. Set aside.

In a bowl toss together pineapple, scallions, red pepper, and cilantro; toss and set aside.

In a skillet heat 1-tablespoon oil and sauté shrimp until pink. Remove shrimp from skillet. In same skillet, over medium heat, add remaining oil. Saute garlic for 2 minutes. Add cooked rice and stir. Add soy sauce and sugar. Stir and heat thoroughly; fold in pineapple mixture and shrimp. Heat through. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and serve.


Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival — winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012; placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing and winning second place for her Sweet Blueberry Pepper Jelly in 2015; and winning first in 2016 for her spoon blueberry muffins with apricot sauce and second for her blueberry crisp squares — and has won various other contest awards for her blueberry cheesecake, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.