On a recent show, chef Helen Cavallo presented three ways to use a small pumpkin. First, she roasted and blended it into fresh pumpkin soup, then she showed viewers how to make a pumpkin into a flowerpot, and finally, she used a hollowed-out pumpkin as a bowl for the soup, garnished with Greek yogurt and freshly zested nutmeg.
Does this sound like an episode of Martha Stewart or Barefoot Contessa? Absolutely, but the audience is actually much younger. It’s on the Disney Junior channel right in between shows featuring finger puppets acting out Rumpelstiltskin and artists creating Etch A Sketch pictures of Phineas and Ferb.
The series is called That’s Fresh. It airs during Disney Junior’s Night Light block of programming, a segment from 9 pm to 4 am targeting parents who may be watching with their child when they’re up past bedtime.
Each episode, about two minutes long, features a recipe made from simple ingredients, usually vegetables, geared toward busy families who need quick and nutritious meals. Cavallo explained in an interview with the Staten Island Advance that she was taught how to cook using local, sustainable, and organic ingredients long before those words were trendy. The Staten Island native remembers growing up in a simpler time when every house on her block had a vegetable garden and there was never a conversation about it, that’s just the way it was.
“It’s all healthy and it’s organic, but I never say those words, because I kind of feel like mommies are doing the best that they can and I don’t want people to feel bad about their choices, so I always throw out things like: ‘I’m gonna use arugula, but if you don’t have that, then use iceberg, use romaine, use whatever you have.’ I always throw out a kind of alternative so that not having an ingredient stops everyone from doing it. Whatever you have, let’s just try it,” Cavallo said.
The chef peppers in anecdotes about her family and upbringing as she explains how to cook a delicious dish, often giving tips on how to take one food item and cook it two ways simultaneously, one way for kids, and another for adults. She makes meat tenderizing a fun way to release your frustrations, cauliflower steak appetizing, and brining turkey a breeze. The show’s subtitle says it all, “Recipes so easy, you’re laughing.”
Margie Gilmore, with Disney Interactive Media Group, explained in a presentation about the new programming, “There’s not a lot of pixie dust in the world of parenting. We have to strike a balance between being Disney and being relevant and real.”
That’s Fresh appears to be doing just that. Said Cavallo, “It’s good for your kids to learn where their food comes from. It doesn’t come from the microwave, it comes from the ground.”