If you grew up during the '80s then you probably remember Punky Brewster, that loveable sitcom about a young girl growing up with her foster parent. Punky Brewster’s time with us is over, but Soleil Moon Frye, the actress who played the fictional character, is still in in the limelight, but in a much different way.
Now married with two children, Frye is mostly known as a parent these days, rather than as her character Punky Brewster. After starting blog Moon Frye and writing a cookbook Happy Chaos: From Punky to Parenting and My Perfectly Imperfect Adventures In Between, she’s regarded more for her parenting — and cooking — skills, then she is for her acting (although we don’t doubt she’s still a star in those respects, either). The Daily Meal Cook editors had the chance to speak with Frye about her new cookbook, how to get kids to eat healthy, and well, a little bit of Punky Brewster.
The Daily Meal: These days, we’re hearing more and more about your parenting expertise, and we’re dying to know how you got involved with cooking and baking. Were you always interested in cooking and baking or was it a hobby you picked up after having kids?
Soleil Moon Frye: I’ve always loved to bake and cook. Growing up, my mom was a chef and some of my favorite memories are of being with her in the kitchen, mixing ingredients, and, of course, getting messy. Now that I’m a mom myself, I love to bake with my girls and I’m always looking for easy ways to making baking even more fun.
TDM: Your book discusses how parenting is all about accepting the madness that goes along with it. What are some chaotic stories from the kitchen that you have?
SMF: We love to cook. We spend tons of time baking and just [a few weeks ago] we were in the kitchen making the Fleischmann's Simply Homemade bread to go with our dinner. We put some cinnamon sugar on top and it was delicious. We all indulged in it and as I was putting the girls to sleep, Jagger said she wanted some more bread. At this very moment our family dog came up the stairs with the last of it in her mouth. Somehow she heard Jagger, jumped up on to the table got the rest of the bread, and brought it upstairs. We laughed for the rest of the night. It seems everyone in our family loves it. We are a family that cooks together and tries to eat together as much as possible. We make it a family affair and most times it is messy.
TDM: What do you think are some of the main challenges mothers face when trying to get their kids to eat nutritious meals?
SMF: A big challenge that many moms face is picky eaters. My girls are pretty open to trying new foods, but many kids aren’t so adventurous. In my house, we really do love to eat and we encourage flavor experimentation — Italian, Indian, Greek — you name it!
TDM: How do you overcome those challenges?
SMF: When we’re in the kitchen and cooking, one of our favorite things to do is a "mystery taste test." The girls will close their eyes and try different foods, and then talk about what they ate and how it tasted. We’ve tried pickles, olives, gummy bears, dried fruit — we mix it up to make it fun to try different tastes and textures. My daughters love to eat and try new foods; I think that comes from making it fun.
TDM: Your kids Poet and Jagger sound like they have quite the sophisticated palate; what are you recommendations for mothers who have kids that won’t eat anything else besides foods with very little nutritional value, like chicken fingers?
SMF: I try to make food as fun and exciting as my mom did for me. One of my favorite things to do is let my girls help mix ingredients, and choose flavorful stir-ins when I bake. It lets them know that their ideas and opinions are really important to me. And when they feel the pride of having helped create the meal, I find they’re more likely to enjoy eating it.
TDM: As you discuss in your book, time is of the essence when parenting. What are some time-saving tricks you use with cooking and baking that don’t interfere with your parenting skills?
SMF: For me, it’s about making the most of the time you have available. I love finding little goodies that allow us to really enjoy our time together in the kitchen. One of my secret goodies right now is this [pre-packaged] bread mix, such as Fleischmann’s — it’s great because you just stir the ingredients, let it rise, and bake it. In less than an hour you have fresh, delicious, homemade bread and it’s so easy that it’s something the girls can do! Obviously we all love it.
TDM: We can’t resist wondering, what do you think Punky Brewster would be cooking these days if she weren’t a fictional character?
SMF: I think she would be cooking a rainbow of delicious food as unique and colorful as her!
Anne Dolce is the Cook editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce