Interview with Jennie Garth

I, along with a few of my fellow TV journalists, interviewed Jennie Garth (90210) regarding,Garden Party which is an original digital series from NBC Universal Digital Studio and the makers of Hidden Valley Ranch. You can watch this web series here.We were pretty much directed to speak about this series, but there were a few mentions about 90210 and the fact that Jennie Garth is leaving the show. Let’s get started.

We’ll start with the questions I asked her and then go into a few highlight questions from the rest of the conference call.

Megan Ward: Hi, thank you for taking the time today.

Hi there.

Megan Ward: If I’m correct, this month’s vegetable at Garden Party is broccoli. What’s your favorite way to prepare broccoli?

You know, I have recently stopped using my microwave for health purposes. Like I was just realizing oh my gosh I’m microwaving everything. So one day I literally put tape across the microwave saying don’t use me. And so I used to just like nuke it and put some cheese on it.
I haven’t done it yet since then but I think I will just put it in the toaster oven in some water. I just cook it a little bit because the kids like to have that crunch, you know, instead of all soggy and mushy and disgusting. So don’t overcook it.
And then I like to sprinkle or lay some like singles – like cheese slices over it and just put the lid back on it and let the cheese sort of melt onto the broccoli. My kids love it.

Megan Ward:You can hide vegetables really well with cheese or dips.

Yeah, I’ll eat anything with cheese or dip on it.

Megan Ward:You have a very busy life with your career,your husband and your three beautiful daughters so how do you keep it all balanced?

[Note from Me: In case you don’t know Jennie is married to the fabulous Peter Facinelli from The Twilight Saga and Nurse Jackie.]

You know, I am just like any other person out there. I make lists and I try to, you know, accomplish things everyday. I could lay in bed and, you know, take the kids to school and then go back to bed but I don’t, I go and exercise and I jut try to keep, you know, the ball rolling. You’ve got to keep it going and keep accomplishing things with your time.
And I think also just prioritizing, you know, and really sort of planning out work – your work commitments and your, you know, family time, carving out dinner for family every night.
And I do spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to feed them too, you know, as mom I think about that a lot and I prepare their meals everyday. So it’s just, you know, it’s about balance and trying to keep it all together.

[Note from Me: It was a pleasure speaking with her and she was really sweet.]

So it looks like you’re having, you know, just a really good time selling the series and interacting with the kids. How did this project come about? How did you get involved with it?

Well, you know, I did have such a great time doing Garden Party. I didn’t know that I would get to interact so much with the kids but we ended up in the middle of a field in LA and we were totally gardening and eating vegetables all day. We had so much fun.
How I got involved was, you know, a lot of people my age are moms. And so I’m a pretty recognizable face for a certain age woman and people that grew up watching Beverly Hills 90210, the original show. And so now a lot of us women have kids.
And one of the, you know, big issues is how to get – make sure our kids are eating healthy. And I know I struggle with it with my own kids. And I love to talk to other women about, you know, relevant issues and this is definitely a relevant issue so they came to me and asked me to do this Web series and ended up being a really fun time.

Now you seem also very comfortable talking about the foods and talking about different, you know, serving options that exist and making them more appealing to kids and that. Do you consider yourself something of a foodie?Did you have this knowledge ahead of time or did you find that you learned a lot yourself in doing this series?

You know, I thought I knew everything there was to know about a vegetable but after I did this I learned so much everyday just shooting this. I think that anybody that watches it will be kind of surprised too. And I got some really great tips. Everyday I would come home from shooting this Web thing and I would try a new vegetable at home.
And the kids were into and so it did actually end up teaching me about new vegetables, new little tricks I could try to get my kids to eat them. And so it was a learning experience. But I am kind of a foodie, I like food and I love to cook.

What are some of your favorite vegetables?

Oh my gosh I love sugar snap peas and asparagus. I love every vegetable I swear to you. When I was doing this series standing out in these beautiful fields full of fresh vegetables I was going crazy because there were gorgeous vegetables all around me.
And so I introduced – I got introduced to several vegetables that I’d never even heard of. I can’t remember the names of them right now but like Japanese turnips and crazy things. And they were so delicious straight out of the field. And so I love – we cook a lot of carrots and broccoli stuff like that at my house, you know, kid-friendly vegetables.

Why do you think people will want to take their time to watch Garden Party?

Well I think that there are a lot of moms out there that are like me and they’re a little lost when it comes to how do I get my kids to eat vegetables? I know they’re supposed to eat them and I know, you know, it’s our responsibility to give these kids a balanced diet and not only just, you know, feed them but teach them how to incorporate vegetables into their own diets when they get old enough to choose, you know, what they’re eating when they’re away from you.
So I think that that was – is the reason I did it was to help, you know, educate other moms and educate myself about vegetables.

Other than a particular vegetable type that you were introduced to was there something about vegetables in particular you learned from doing this?

Something about vegetables that I learned from doing this? I learned about, you know, going straight to the fields. If you can in your neighborhood going to local farmer’s markets to get fresh produce and try to stay away from – try to buy local which was something that I learned about, you know, that I didn’t really think of before.
But, you know, when you think about all the shipping and how far the vegetables are traveling when they’re coming from Chile and all these places. It’s best to get the freshest, quickest, closest to you grown vegetable you can.
And I also learned that, you know, I always thought maybe putting dressing or dip or whatever was not so good for kids but this is actually a great alternative, a way to get your kids introduced to vegetables and get them to like them.
And I think a great tip is to when they’re hungry and they come home from school they want a snack and just put out, you know, some vegetables that you’ve cut up and a little bit of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing and they dip it in there, they eat it up because they’re hungry and all the sudden they’re craving vegetables and dip.

[Note from Me: There was a lot of talk about Hidden Valley Ranch dressing because it’s the sponsor.]

So you were mentioning, you know, obviously you as a mom have also struggled to get your kids to eat vegetables and stuff. What is the most dreaded veggie in your household? What’s the one that the kids just run for, you know, the halls screaming?

I don’t know. You know, I can’t really get them to eat asparagus. I try. But there’s no like, you know, Brussels sprouts horror stories happening here because I really only cook the things that I know that they’re going to eat; why waste my time cooking things that they’re going to just spit out?

What about for you and your like relationship with vegetables growing up and everything like that? I know you grew up on a ranch. So was that kind of the start of you really liking like fresh foods and things like that?

Yeah we had a big garden since I can remember growing up. We would always – and we lived way out in the country and we didn’t have a lot of money so my mom – we always had our, you know, our vegetables grown in our garden and we would be out there taking care of them and growing them and gardening. So doing this Web series really sort of brought me back to my roots I guess – excuse the pun.
And I really enjoy, you know, I can remember when I was little walking in the corn fields in Illinois and just having fresh corn whenever you wanted it right outside your door. It was quite a luxury. I didn’t know it then but I appreciate it now.

Was there ever a vegetable for you growing up that you really dreaded that you did, you know, the old hide in the napkin trick at dinner or anything like that?

I wasn’t very fond of zucchini when you cook it, it gets a little slimy.

I was wondering if you can talk about the bigger picture of gardening which is a real bonding experience. And if you could just elaborate more on that and what you hope – what values you hope your own children will take as they grow older.

Well, you know, we – I haven’t had a garden for a while. We have a garden at our ranch but we don’t live there. So we live in the city and we didn’t have a garden. My husband’s father came in and helped us plant a garden in our front yard. I said I don’t care, I want a garden. Rip up the grass let’s get it going, you know. And we made it happen. We put in this really great little garden. And it’s just fun and I can be cooking and I say oh girls go get me a cucumber or go get me some tomatoes and they love going out there and picking it and having that connection with what they’re actually eating.
And as far as like what it means to our family I think any tradition you can pass along to your children that you had when you were younger are priceless.

Yeah, so this is Peter’s father correct?

Yeah, he can grow tomatoes like on a gutter vine, I don’t know, this guy is – he can do anything with vegetables – growing things.

I want to know why is it important for children to learn where their food comes from or even how to grow their own?

Well I think it gives them a sense of sort of investment, you know, they care about what, you know, when you teach your kids instead of just sort of preaching to them, when you teach them about why something is good for them they want to do the right thing. Kids have this inherent quality to want boundaries and they want to do the right thing.
So when they know how good for them eating fresh vegetables from the garden is instead of, you know, packaged and processed foods they want to take care of themselves and they want to be healthy and strong and be able to run and play. So this is, you know, it’s vital information to children to parents to teach their kids that what they’re eating and how it’s affecting their body and their performance at school, you know.

Also what have you found is the easiest way to introduce vegetables into your children’s diet and make it fun for them?

Well the, you know, the old go-to for any mom is to dip it in the Hidden Valley Ranch because that stuff like’s magic. It tastes really good and kids think that they’re having a treat but really they’re getting the nutrients from the vegetables and it really makes it a little easier.

Thank you so much for doing this call. Now I checked out the Web series today and I saw there are a lot of (episodes) everything from going to the farm and seeing where vegetables are grown to actually what to do with the vegetables when you get them home. But what was your favorite part of filming the show?

Oh, you know, I wasn’t sure that I was going to have as much as I ended up having. Just being out in the fields, we were out at a local farm here and being out there with the real farmers and with the kid and we got to spray off all the fruits and pick them and, you know, chop them and eat them right out there on the farm; it was a lot of fun.
And just I had a good time – we did like a neighborhood veggie party one episode. And just chatting with like this woman that was – we called her grandma because she was everybody’s grandma.
And just hearing everybody’s stories, you know, and how they like to eat their vegetables and what, you know, what it means to them to feed their kids and their families fresh healthy foods. I’m kind of one of those women that likes to sit and gab with other women, you know, and share stories. So I think that was a lot of fun for me.

You mentioned earlier some of the vegetables that you learned about that you had never heard of while you were doing this show. Have you tried to introduce any of those to your family? And of so what do they think?

You know, I did, I came home – I had bushels of fresh vegetables after we visited that farm. And we tried everything from the eggplant which wasn’t a big hit, I’m not going to lie because it got a little slimy. And I gave them jicama which they dipped in ranch dressing and they loved it which they’d never had.
And sugar snap peas which was something that they didn’t know about and they liked those a lot because they’re kind of sweet and crunchy.

I wanted to know what your thoughts are on doing a Web series versus being involved, you know, in a TV series and kind of what differences there were or if there were any differences involved in this project from other projects you’ve worked on in the past?

. I did one other Web series, it was for entertainment. But this was more of an educational angle. I thought it was a great way to sort of partner NBC up with Hidden Valley Ranch and not only advertise the product but at the some time teach people some valuable information.
So I was excited to jump on board and sort of be the vegetable spokes-lady, you know. And I learned a lot along the way. And it was very easy filming it. It was something that wasn’t a huge time commitment for me. And it was quick and voila, now it’s on the Web and it’s going to be reaching just thousands of people and it’s going to be teaching so many people about vegetables that they – these things that they didn’t know and different ways for moms to get their kids to eat veggies.

So you mentioned all to of times also that, you know, fresh vegetables are really important and everyone knows that, you know, coming out of the ground they’re a lot tastier. Not everyone, can get them right out of the ground. So what’s the next best thing, you know, should people only get fresh vegetables? Is it okay to go with frozen or canned vegetables, you know, where does, you know, all of that stand?

Sure. I think, you know, I would definitely check your community, search for farmer’s markets. So many areas are having these farmer’s market or maybe there’s like a little farm stand in your town – I have that up in a town that I visit – where they just sell vegetables on the roadside, you know, that they’ve picked out of their garden.
That’s something you can do if you live in a really rural area. I would say – and my personal choice if I can’t get fresh I usually go to frozen next and my last resort would be canned. I think that, you know, that – I don’t know – I don’t love canned vegetables. And I don’t feel like I’m eating anything when I’m eating them so that would be my preference.

Does Peter enjoy the vegetables as much as you do? And do you have to do any tricks to get him to eat them?

You know, he is a boy. I do have to – I honestly have to feed him like I would a child because if it were up to him – he’s from New York – he would be eating pizza at every meal and there’s no – there’s not a vegetable in that pizza, you know.
So he thinks that, you know, the tomato sauce is his vegetable. But – so I consider him just like one of the kids when I’m feeding him. I make a balanced meal and they eat it, you know. When I serve a protein and a vegetable and like a carbohydrate they eat it, you know, they eat what I’ve prepared for them because I think that they love sitting down to dinners as a family. So he’s just like another little boy though.

[Note from Me: Peter Facinelli outed by his wife, Peter you gotta eat your veggies 😉 ]

Now that you’re stepping away from your time on 90210 are you going to – my question well you’ve already talked about your garden so you’re going to be able to spend more time out there with the girls right now that you’re taking a little less time on TV?

Yes, we’ll be planting our second garden season here in the city and hopefully have time to get up to our bigger garden out of town which, you know, they really grow everything up there.

I was curious what other projects you have going on right now if you’re not doing as much 90210 or if you have any more educational-type projects or anything else coming up?

I am the spokesperson for the American Heart Association so I’m doing a lot of work with them especially with February coming which is, you know, Heart Awareness Month. And I am working on a children’s book. I love kids and I love to read to my kids so I’m working on a book series for kids.
And I, you know, I have all kinds of irons in the fire. My husband is writing a script that we’re sort of developing for television so we’ll see.

[Note from Me: I would love to see a script from Peter and Jennie on TV wouldn’t you?]

Do you ever miss farm life enough that you would want to move back to your ranch permanently and get out of the city?

You know, that’s something that Peter and I talk about a lot. And it’s actually what – where my interest lies. You know, I just have to get my city boy on board with that.

Do any of the recipes hide the vegetables? Like you – that seems to be the thing nowadays you’re seeing all these cookbook where you’re hiding the vegetables. Are you doing that?

I definitely do that with my girls. I make their favorite is spaghetti and I put – I can’t even tell you how many zucchinis yellow and green, big giant onions, bags full of carrot and fresh garlic that they’re eating and they have no idea.

[Note from Me: This is where Peter came into the room and started bugging Jennie, it was really cute.]

You have to puree it really fine then they don’t know anything. And also you have to think about the color like red – if you can mix a red sauce with it you can totally hide it and they’ll never know.You can also put green – this is crazy – you can put tons of spinach and broccoli – if you steam it and puree it – into meatloaf or turkey meatloaf.
And they don’t – you know, what I mean – they don’t even know it. If you just puree it fine enough – my husband is – sorry. Go away. Okay my husband is attacking me sorry. I’m done now.He’s done. I’ve kicked him out.

Okay so the puree is the trick.

[Note from Me: I totally do that with vegetables, but so does my sister. My niece and my brother-in-law are both very picky about texture and veggies so my older sister purees tons of veggies to put in sauces. It works every time!]

Thank you for your time. I wanted to ask has having children changed the way you look at nutrition or were you always a sensible eater?

Well being pregnant, I mean, I was always – I took the best care of myself when I was pregnant, you know, and when I was thinking about feeding someone else. So now I know it’s my sole responsibility to, you know, feed these kids balanced food because if I just let them eat what they want they would just, they wouldn’t be very healthy let’s put it that way.
And, you know, I take it really seriously because I want them to have the best, you know, performance at school that they can. I want them to be able to run and do whatever they want to do. And I know what a direct impact foods and sugars and all the simple carbs out there and things that are available to them. I know how bad that stuff is for them.So I really – I’m super proactive about, you know, our meals and what I cook and what they eat definitely.

Do you feel that alternative venues like the Internet will help bring this information and Garden Party out to more consumers?

Definitely, I mean I – when I have a problem I search the Internet now, you know. And I can pretty much do anything. I had a girlfriend that – her chicken – she had chickens and she was raising her own fresh eggs at her farm and she was so excited but the chickens were doing something weird so she Googled it and figured out a way to make the chickens lay the eggs the right way.
I mean, you can be a farmer now because of the Internet. You know, so there’s so much available to you on the Internet and it can be such a great educational tool. That was, you know, my sole reason for jumping on board with this and NBC and Hidden Valley Ranch putting this project together that it’s bringing information to people that they wouldn’t know about, you know.

That’s all for the interview and it was a great time, especially for all of us moms. It’s always nice to learn new facts about vegetables. Check out the web series and you might just learn a new fact!

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