MSU Extension Service cooks with rice

Natalie Ray, Mississippi State University Extension Service agent for Clay County, has a free cooking demonstration once a month for those interested in learning more about healthy food preparation.
Staff Writer

Natalie Ray, Clay County Agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, offers a free healthy cooking and baking class once a month for those interested in learning more about food preparation.

"Rice is so versatile, I thought it would be a good presentation," Ray said. "With white and brown rice, long grain, medium and short grain, parboiled, specialty and aromatics, rice can be used in many different dishes."

Ray said rice wasn't grown in Mississippi until 1948. Rice fields have sprung up in the Delta due to the richness of the soil and the proper amount of rainfall. Mississippi is now the fourth largest producer of rice in the nation.

"Brown rice is less processed than white rice and has a nutty taste," Ray said. "Brown rice is high in dietary fiber and folic acid, that is essential to unborn babies for development of brain function. I had never heard of folic acid until I was pregnant and took a supplement to assure I had plenty for the growth of neurotransmitters in the baby's brain."

She said rice provides folate, fiber, magnesium and iron to the consumer, all things that the human body needs.

Rice is gluten free, sodium free and cholesterol free, Ray said. But often salt, butter or oil is used to prepare rice so these things are added during the cooking process. She said one-half cup of rice is equal to a whole serving of grain.

"There are a lot of studies that link rice consumption to weight loss," Ray said. "Even though rice is high in carbohydrates, eating it as a side dish to a meal creates a feeling of fullness and satisfaction. Not all carbs are alike. Rice is a good part of a healthy diet."

Ray said when using rice as part of an Asian dish, such as fried rice, cold rice works very well.

"Rice can be frozen," Ray said. "If you make more rice than your family can eat, freeze the leftover cooked rice. When you want to make fried rice at home, take the leftover rice out of the freezer and thaw it. But keep it cold. The rice will stand up well to being stir fried."

During the demonstration Ray prepared two rice recipes, one for a basil tomato salad, made with brown rice, and Ray's own take on a light lemon and tomato side salad, also with brown rice. Both were taste tested by those participating and were judged to be very flavorful.

"We offer this class once a month at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning," Ray said. "It's not the same Tuesday because I never know what my schedule will look like a month in advance. But I try to pick something that is easy to make, tastes good and is healthy and good for you."

For more information visit the MSUES website at or to reserve a spot for the Cooking and Baking Class, call 494-5371.