Montgomery County third grader gets top honors for Ben's Beginners cooking contest recipe

- There's a new award-winning dish in the DC area, and you won't find it at an exclusive restaurant in Dupont Circle or Penn Quarter.

“Pumpkin Patch Stuffed Peppers,” from Montgomery County 7-year-old Savannah Markwood and her family was named winning dish of this year's Ben’s Beginners cooking contest.

The Stonegate Elementary third-grader beat out 24 other finalists and thousands of other competitors with her stuffed peppers recipe. The contest asked young chefs and their families to prepare a rice-based dish together.

Savannah and her family were presented with their prize winnings and then did a cooking demonstration of her recipe for her classmates at her school in Silver Spring.

"It's great to spend a few minutes after the chaos of the day and relax and hang out in the kitchen," says Savannah's father, James Markwood.

The Markwood family even picked peppers from their garden for the recipe.

"There's sweet Italian sausage, ground beef," says her dad. "Tomato sauce and really good seasonings, it's delicious," says Savannah's mom, Colleen Markwood.

The nationwide cooking contest from the people at Uncle Ben's Rice is geared to promote family mealtime and healthy eating.

"It's really about getting kids in there, in the kitchen at an early age because the benefits of learning to cook when you're young are so many.  So not the least of which is developing those healthier habits as an adult, but also higher academic achievement and really just building meaningful memories together as a family in the kitchen," says Sara Schulte with Uncle Ben's.

As the winner of Ben’s Beginners, Savannah and her family got a check for $15,000, as well as check for $30,000 for a makeover for her school’s cafeteria and a celebration in her honor.

Savanna's mother Colleen says even if you have a busy life, with jobs and kids' activities you can work together as a family preparing meals.

"Even this recipe is a great one to freeze.  So you can take the weekends and you know, cook with your kids on the weekends do big batches and freeze it.  Then you have stuff all week," she says.  

Uncle Ben's presented Stonegate Elementary with a $30,000 check.  Principal Linda Jones says that money will go toward modernizing the school's cafeteria.

"Oh my gosh, $30 thousand dollars -- it's unbelievable," says Jones.

"I don't know if you've had an opportunity to see our cafeteria but we could certainly use a makeover."

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