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Cooking together brings benefits—possibly $10K

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● Published by Jet Burnham

If the public votes for this picture as its favorite, the Lemmon family could win $10,000. (Sterling Lemmon)

Gallery: Uncle Ben's Rice contest [2 Images] Click any image to expand.

The Lemmon family, which lives in Taylorsville, likes to cook together and does so a few times a week. Amy, age 11, and Brooklyn, age 6, help their dad, Sterling, cook dinner on the nights their mom works late. Other nights, they are in the kitchen with their mom, Carmen. When Carmen heard about the Uncle Ben’s Beginners Cooking Contest, she thought it would be fun to enter.

“We already cook dinner together anyway, so why don’t we just take a picture?” said Carmen. For the contest, families were asked to submit a photo showing them cooking a recipe that included rice. The contest allowed one entry per day, so Carmen posted as often as she could, submitting six total entries by posting one picture each day for each of her daughters. 

Out of entries from all over the country, the picture of Carmen and Brooklyn making their stuffed acorn squash recipe was chosen as one of 25 finalists. Voting was opened to the public on the Uncle Ben’s website where people could vote for their favorite picture until the beginning of November. Winners will be chosen by the end of the year with Uncle Ben judges making the final decision, based partly on popular vote. 

The night they snapped the winning photo was the first time the Lemmon family had made the dish that caught the attention of contest judges. Using vegetables from their garden, they stuffed an acorn squash with venison, rice and vegetables and baked it until it was soft. Brooklyn, not a fan of squash, said she only liked the rice part. 

The purpose of the Uncle Ben’s Beginners Cooking Contest is to encourage families to cook together and to help kids learn the essential life skill of cooking, Uncle Ben’s announced in a press release.

The Lemmons see many benefits to the time they spend in the kitchen together. Carmen said they have fun just being with each other.

“It gets them away from the tablet and the phones,” she said.

Sterling said it’s a good opportunity to catch up with each other. 

“We can find out what’s going on in each other’s lives; I think that’s the best part,” he said. 

Brooklyn said she likes cooking with her family because it goes faster when more people are helping. Her sister Amy does a lot of the measuring and cooking. Brooklyn especially likes to help with cutting and peeling vegetables. 

 “She likes to peel vegetables, but she’s a perfectionist about it,” said Carmen. “So she’ll peel until there’s hardly any vegetable left. You’ve already lost half of it by the time she’s done.” Carmen keeps extra vegetables available for this reason. She admits having the kids help in the kitchen takes more time.

“You just have to start making dinner a little bit earlier because it’s going to take a little bit longer,” said Carmen. For example, when Brooklyn helps prepare vegetables for salad, she is careful, and it takes longer than if Carmen did it herself. But Carmen and Sterling believe their girls are learning life skills in the kitchen.

“They can learn things from us that they wouldn’t be learning otherwise,” said Sterling. Carmen hopes her daughters are learning that even if it might not be the quickest option, cooking from scratch is going to be healthier and taste better than fast food.

“I think if they start cooking at a young age and like to help out, then like anything else, they’re going to get in the habit of doing that and hopefully make it a lifelong habit,” said Carmen.

Carmen said she learned to cook with her mom when she was a child, and now her girls often cook with her mom when she watches them after school. 

The Lemmons hope they are chosen as one of the five winners of the contest. Winners will receive $15,000 and a hometown celebration. The winners’ schools will also be rewarded. If the Lemmons win, Uncle Ben’s will award $30,000 for a cafeteria makeover for their school, Vista Elementary.  

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