SOLANA BEACH — A Skyline Elementary first-grader is trying to win a $30,000 cafeteria makeover for her school and is asking the community to help by casting as many votes as possible by Nov. 13.
Six-year-old Ari Vega was selected as one of 25 finalists in the Ben’s Beginners Cooking Contest, a national challenge sponsored by Uncle Ben’s to promote cooking healthy meals at home.
“My grandmother saw the contest in the newspaper,” Ari said. “I wanted to enter because I like cooking and wanted to win money for my school.”
Parents with children in kindergarten through eighth grade were invited to submit a photo of them preparing a rice-based dish with their child.
Ben’s Beginners created five cooking lessons with recipes to help families get started. They included a chicken, broccoli and rice casserole, open-faced black bean and rice tacos, rice and meatballs, cheesy rainbow rice with ground beef and pork chops stuffed with cranberry rice.
“We prepared cranberry-rice-stuffed pork chops,” Ari said. “The recipe isn’t a family recipe. It was one of Uncle Ben’s Beginners cooking lessons. I did all five of the lessons and Uncle Ben’s selected this one.”
Ari said her favorite part of the project was glazing the pork chops with barbecue sauce.
“It reminded me of painting,” she said.
Five grand-prize winners, partially determined by the number of online votes received through Nov. 13, will each be awarded $15,000 cash, a hometown celebration and a cafeteria makeover.
Anyone can vote once per finalist every day. Winners will be announced Dec. 5.
To vote for Ari’s cranberry-rice-stuffed pork chops — the other white meat, go to beginners.unclebens.com/AVega.