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Passing Down the Love of Cooking

“Can I help you, Poppa?” asks my three-year-old son, Zephyr. Looking down, I see him staring up at me, a hopeful look on his cherubic face.

Like I could turn down such enthusiastic assistance from someone I consider to be the cutest kid in the world. A moment later, he’s standing on his little yellow plastic chair alongside me. Whether we’re making dinner, baking cookies or trying a new recipe for spice infused simple syrup to sweeten my morning coffees (and nighttime cocktails), I’m happy to have him be a part of the process.

“Does this taste delicious?” I’ll ask, because I want to give him a sense of ownership in what we’re making. He definitely lets me know when something isn’t up to his pint-sized standards. The critiques sting sometimes, but I get over it. I’m a big boy.

If I’m frying some Hormel® Black Label® pecanwood bacon or have the KitchenAid mixer going full bore, it’s my job to make sure learns about the inherent dangers of cooking. But that doesn’t mean he can’t get his little hands dirty. I put him to work whisking together ingredients or chopping up others using a disposable plastic knife.

No matter what I’m doing, I don’t stop talking. It’s as much about the ‘howto’ as it is about the ‘why.’ “We’re going to sauté these onions over a low heat so they caramelize,” I’ll explain. “That brings out their sweetness, which will be a really nice flavor in the grilled cheese sandwiches.”

My aim is to give him a foundation of understanding and a set of basic skills, so he can cook for himself and those he loves in the years to come. I’m already looking forward to the day when I walk into the kitchen and say, “Can I help you, Zephyr?”

We asked employees what their favorite ways are to cook with their kids in the kitchen too.

The Donichts

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With a family of two working parents, weekends are our time to get the most out of family time. Our five year old, Claire, loves to help out in the kitchen as much as possible – we just hope that continues when she gets older! We have a step stool for her so she can help us out, whether it be by pouring in already-measured-out ingredients, mixing or assembling a sandwich or lasagna.

Her absolute favorite thing is to bake cookies! Her two grandmas got her started pretty young by reserving time during visits to their houses for cookie baking. Claire learned at age two how to roll out cookie dough, cut out shapes and most importantly – decorating with frosting and sprinkles! Even peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies taste better with frosting and sprinkles to her. We also have a one-year-old who has increasingly become curious when we are in the kitchen and wants to see what is going on. We will pull up her high chair and give her some measuring spoons and cups to play with as she watches.

Ashley is a senior cost analyst for Hormel Foods and Chad is a senior packaging scientist  at Hormel Foods

The Mohrs

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Having two children under five (Charlie, five years old, and Ingrid, three years old), my wife Sarah and I often find ourselves leveraging the kids’ high energy around dinner time for some simple food prep. Charlie is our meticulous engineer who always delivers upon great instructions, while Ingrid is much more of a free spirit and definitely puts her own twist on the recipe. One of Charlie and Ingrid’s favorites is homemade pizza rolls (of course made with Hormel® pepperoni!). The recipe is simple, just place one slice of mozzarella cheese on a rolled out croissant with one slice of pepperoni and roll. Place in the oven for 8-12 minutes and enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce.

Josh is the vice president for consumer marketing at CytoSport

The Kirchhoffs

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Our kitchen is where we spend most of our family time. As parents, we love having the kids’ company while we make meals. The kids will often color at the table while we talk and get ready to eat. Kinley and Gemma really love being part of food preparation. Like a lot of other kids, pizza is one of their favorite foods. The girls take their time perfecting their own creations, and they get so excited to see – and eat – the finished product. Even though it creates more messes, the memories made are well worth the extra cleanup! Not pictured is little brother Oliver, who would probably eat pizza for every meal if he had the chance.

Adam is an applications team leader in IT at Hormel Foods

The Aslesons

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Week nights can be hectic for families with small children, and our family is no exception. Keeping our two-year-old Maverik entertained while preparing dinner was challenging at times, so we decided to get him involved. He loves to help around the house and getting him involved with cooking dinner has been a fun process. He likes to help wash vegetables and mix ingredients, and he loves to season the food as it cooks. These small steps give him a sense of ownership in the whole process. When dinner is ready, he gets excited because he feels like he made it, and he is much more willing to try new foods when he has a hand in cooking them! Cooking dinner at home with him has become fun for all of us and something we look forward to at the end of the day!

Brett is a national sales manager for healthcare in Hormel Foods foodservice and Jessica is a marketing project coordinator for Hormel Foods International  Corporation

The Zielkes

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All through the house
Sounds of laughter filled the air
Giggles and excitement
For the experience we were about to share

You see when our bananas get ripe
Too ripe to eat
The boys know that they’re in
For a special treat

They pull up their chairs
And get ready to bake
Banana bread is
One of our favorites to make

They measure, mix and pour
Making quite a mess
All while making memories
It’s quite the process

When the bread is in the oven
We head straight to the tub
Cleaning up is half the fun
Rub a dub dub!

Dan is a human resources coordinator at Osceola Food

The Pollocks

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I love to cook and my kids love to cook too. It’s messy and tasty, but my kids love to be involved and connected. Cracking eggs is always fun for kids, and a SPAM® omelet is a favorite breakfast item on weekends. Our favorite dessert dish to make together is a pavlova, which is a base of cooked meringue loaded with whipped cream, fruit and pieces of milk chocolate and white chocolate.

My daughter Samantha really stopped me in my tracks one Saturday whilst we were cooking, at four years old she grabbed an egg out of my hand and said, “I can do this mom!” She proceeded to crack and separate the yolks from each egg white into the two separate bowls, egg after egg with professional precision. I guess she had been watching her big brother Rory and me very intently in previous pavlova cooking occasions. For my birthday, both children together made a pavlova by themselves, only needing help with the oven – not bad for a four-year-old and nine-year-old. I made my first pavlova when I was 13 years old, so it is fun to pass on these traditional recipes to my kids.

I hope that in this world of technology, my kids can still feel connections and build confidence through cooking. We love to create good food, eat and share with friends and family, either in person or with those in the UK 4,000 miles away on social media.

Marianne is a marketing director for Hormel Foods International Corporation