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September 06, 2007   Email to Friend 

Darryal Ray
(334) 613-4187
September 06, 2007

Winners in the Alabama Farmers Federation's 2007 Heritage Cooking Contest show off their tasty creations. From left are, Dora Rider of Monroe County, first place; Rhonda Hughes of Jefferson County, second place; and Mary Tucker of Fayette County, third place.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Dora Rider's third trip to the Alabama Farmers Federation's Heritage Cooking Contest was a charm - and a tasty one - as the Monroe County mother captured first place in the statewide contest on Sept. 6 with her Chili Cornbread Salad.

"It was really a recipe for Cornbread Salad that I just changed around a bit," said Rider, who took home the blue ribbon and $150 prize in the competition which featured winning entries from 28 other Alabama counties. "One of the changes I did was I used Mexican cornmeal mix, and then I added chili peppers to spice it up."

The second-place, $100 prize went to Rhonda Hughes of Jefferson County for her Fruit Salad with Blackberry Vinaigrette. Mary Tucker of Fayette County took third place and $50 for her Grape Salad.

The Heritage Cooking Contest is sponsored by the Federation's Women's Division as a way to showcase the flavor, versatility and nutritional value of Alabama agricultural products. Dishes were judged on taste, appearance and ease of preparation.

Contestants in the Heritage Cooking Contest qualified to compete in the statewide event by winning their county Farmers Federation cooking contests earlier this year.

"With salads being this year's category, almost all of the commodity divisions were represented, which was an excellent way to promote Alabama agriculture," said Kim Earwood, director of the Federation's Women's Division, adding that the salad theme was recommended by past participants.

While the entries were being judged, contestants and guests were entertained by Bobbie Lane, a longtime Tupperware consultant from Spanish Fort who brought an array of ideas for the upcoming holidays as well as quick and easy meals.

While Rider "spiced up" her salad's taste, she also added some pizzazz to the looks of her dish, which was topped with a "flower" of cherry tomatoes. "Usually we have a placemat and flowers or something to help 'dress up' the dish, but this year, there was none of that. The dish had to stand out on its own. That's why I put the little flower thing on top, to do something just a little bit different, and I thought that was pretty."

Rider, who learned to cook from her grandmother and today works at the Alabama Farmers Co-Op in Frisco City, said that while the presentation helped catch the judges' eyes, that obviously wasn't the deciding factor. "Oh, it was the taste," she said. "It's really good. I thought the presentation was good - it just sort of popped out at it you. But overall, it's the taste that wins it. When you're talking food, that's what counts."

First Place
Chili Cornbread Salad
Dora Rider, Monroe County

1 (8.5-ounce) package Mexican cornbread/muffin mix
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies, undrained
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (8-ounce) carton sour cream
1 envelope ranch dressing mix
2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 (15.25-ounce) cans whole kernel corn, drained
3 medium tomatoes, chopped, or cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped green onions
10 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

Prepare cornbread mix according to package directions. Stir in green chilies. Spread in a greased 8-inch square baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool bread. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream and dressing mix; set aside. Crumble half of the cornbread mixture into a 13- x 9- x 2-inch dish, or tall glass bowl. Layer with half each of the beans, mayonnaise mixture, corn, tomatoes, bell pepper, onions, bacon and cheese. Repeat layers (dish will be very full). Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Serves 12.

Second Place
Fruit Salad with Blackberry Vinaigrette
Rhonda Hughes, Jefferson County

8 cups mixed salad greens
1 1/2 cups sliced mango
1 1/2 cups pink grapefruit segments
1 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 avocado, sliced
Dressing, recipe follows

Place all ingredients in large bowl and gently toss. Serve immediately with blackberry vinaigrette dressing.

1/2 (10-ounce) jar seedless blackberry preserves
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
6 fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned pepper
3/4 cup vegetable oil

In a blender, pulse blackberry preserves, red wine vinegar and next four ingredients two or three times. With blender running, pour vegetable oil through food chute in a slow steady stream. Process until smooth.

Third Place
Grape Salad
Mary Tucker, Fayette County

4 pounds red seedless grapes
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) carton sour cream
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup white sugar or Splenda
1 cup (less if desired) brown sugar

Wash and dry grapes; set aside. Mix cream cheese, sour cream, half the nuts and white sugar. Fold in grapes. Smooth into a 9- x13-inch dish. Mix remaining nuts and brown sugar. Sprinkle over the top of grape mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least 2 hours before serving. Recipe may be easily halved. Serves 16-18.

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