By Amanda Hill

What cook doesn’t have a collection of rice dish recipes? Rice is one of those pantry staples that always comes through in a pinch, bringing a few ingredients into a complete, healthy and tasty meal. Lucky for Texans, we have plenty of rice right here in the Lone Star State. Texas rice farmers grow 1.4 billion bushels each year—talk about local food!

A few months ago, I was asked to judge the Colorado County Rice Dish Contest, presented by Colorado County Farm Bureau and the Colorado County Soil and Water Conservation District. So, last Tuesday I traveled to Columbus, Texas, to see what it was all about. The contest is open to all Colorado County residents—many of whom are Texas rice farmers.

I thought my recipe box was stocked with some pretty creative rice dishes, until I saw this:

Rice dishes


The fine people of Colorado County really outdid themselves in coming up with some delicious rice dishes. For you and me, rice is just another side option, but for these people, rice farming is their business, their family legacy and their way of life. 

As an official judge (lucky me!), my job was to taste-test each entry in the five categories: Rice and Meat, Rice and Seafood, Rice Salad or Vegetable, Rice Dessert and Rice Misc.

Rice dish recipes - categories


From rice pudding to jambalaya to rice salad, the recipe must include at least one cup of cooked rice. Entries were judged on: 1) taste and appeal; 2) originality and use of rice; and 3) actual recipe.

Million Dollar Rice Salad 

The results? Wow! The most original recipe, by far, was the “Million Dollar Rice Salad,” which earned the reserve title. But when it came to the tastiest dish, the Rice Meat Patties ran away with the grand prize.

Coincidentally, both the reserve and grand champion rice dishes were submitted by Helen Pavlicek, a Colorado County Farm Bureau member. Helen and her family are Texas rice farmers, which I’m convinced was her competitive edge.

Here’s Helen with her “Million Dollar Rice Salad”:

Rice dish winnerBe sure to come back to Texas Table Top on Friday, when I’ll share my attempt at the winning recipe, Rice Meat Patties. And to the wonderful men and women in Colorado County, thank you for including me in the Rice Dish Contest. I hope to join you again next year!