(NAPS)—You could have a secret weapon for keeping your family healthy right in your own home: your kitchen table.
That’s because research shows that children who help cook dinner with their family are more likely to have a healthier diet with more fruits and vegetables. To help families spend more time around the kitchen table and improve their lives, the UNCLE BEN’S® Brand launched the Ben’s Beginners™ Cooking Contest. It strives to inspire healthful lifelong eating habits by getting children interested in cooking at an early age.
Through the contest, the UNCLE BEN’S® Brand has been able to award nine school cafeteria makeovers in just two years. Its two grand-prize winners have been able to impact their schools for years to come with their entries. Check out the updates from their schools and their prize-winning recipes below.

Sydney Fialkow from Atlanta, Ga.
Sydney Fialkow from Atlanta, Ga., won the first Ben’s Beginners™ Cooking Contest Grand Prize in 2012 for Epstein School. She and her mother, Stacy, cooked up her winning rice and chicken recipe and rallied their community to support her entry by voting online. Epstein School was able to use the prize funds as a springboard to launch its capital campaign and update many areas of the school. It began by purchasing new seating for the cafeteria and a yogurt machine. Check out Sydney’s winning recipe:

Sydney’s Rice and Chicken

1 cup chopped onions
4–6 boneless skinless chicken breast fillets (about 11⁄2 lb.)
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1⁄2 tsp. coarse-ground black pepper
1⁄2 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups chicken broth
1⁄2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1⁄2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup frozen green peas
1 tsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. dried oregano
As needed, yellow food coloring (optional)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray glass baking dish evenly with cooking spray.

Place onions in baking dish; top with chicken fillets. Season the chicken evenly with salt, black pepper and garlic powder.
Pour chicken broth into baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove baking dish from oven. Transfer chicken breast fillets to container and reserve.

In baking dish, add rice, bell peppers, peas, cilantro and oregano. If desired, add 2 shakes of yellow food coloring. Stir rice mixture.

Arrange reserved chicken breast fillets over rice.

Cover and bake for 25 minutes.

Remove from oven, gently stir rice mixture, cover with foil and bake an additional 10 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked, rice is tender and all liquid is absorbed.

Claire Noles from Boaz, Ala.

In 2013, the second year of the contest, Claire Noles of Boaz, Ala., won the Grand Prize for her school, Corley Elementary. Since winning, Corley purchased new tables for the cafeteria, a sound system and projection screen with the prize funds. The school is currently still finalizing its new-and-improved cafeteria to unveil later this school year. The updated cafeteria equipment and lunchroom facility will help the school prepare food on-site; lunch was previously prepared at another location and driven in each day.

“All in all, this prize money will greatly impact the students in our community by giving them an opportunity to eat freshly prepared and healthier meals,” said Rachel Noles, Claire’s mother. “This has been the gift that just keeps on giving!”

Check out Claire’s delicious and easy recipe:

Claire’s Crockpot Chicken and Rice Supreme

6–8 chicken breasts
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1⁄2 cup of green chilies
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of pepper
1 tsp of butter
1 tsp of “secret seasoning” (celery salt)
1 bag of Uncle Ben’s Creamy Four Cheese Rice

Mix all the ingredients together in a crockpot and cook on low for 8–10 hours.

You can learn more about the contest and see more terrific recipes at www.unclebens.com.