Giada De Laurentiis whips up crowd-pleasing dishes such as chicken cacciatore and espresso brownies on her hit Food Network shows Giada at Home
and Everyday Italian
. But like many moms, she often finds it impossible to please her 4-year-old daughter, Jade. "My daughter gets bored easily," admits the 41-year-old Italian chef. "My go-to dishes don't work. I can't cook the same thing every day."
So at the L.A. home she shares with her fashion designer husband, Todd Thompson, 48, De Laurentiis has been trying "fun and fresh" gimmicks such as breakfast for dinner. "Jade loves a frittata with bacon and spinach, and Todd makes fabulous scrambled eggs," says De Laurentiis, whose new cookbook Weeknights with Giada
hit shelves this month. But even a Cordon Bleu-trained chef needs to learn when to just give in to a kid's whims. "She will not touch potatoes of any kind, except for french fries," she laments. "She will not eat mashed, smashed, boiled or roasted potatoes. We keep trying." In fact, says De Laurentiis, "we started a rule about six months ago: 'You must try it. If you don't like it, you don't have to finish it.'"
She's also teaching Jade eating etiquette. "I say, 'If you want to eat with Mommy and Daddy, you're going to have to use a fork,' " she says. "My family took manners very seriously. We had to be able to hold a conversation and eat with our mouths closed. Sometimes we had books underneath our armpits to learn how to cut with a fork and a knife. I want to instill in Jade the family values that I had growing up." Another lesson she's passing on to her daughter? "I have candy in the house because she needs to learn moderation. I don't want to ban anything, because then she'll see Twinkies at somebody else's house and not control herself!"
But in the end, despite what or how Jade eats at the family's daily 7 p.m. dinner, "I just want Jade to appreciate eating together at home," she says. "That's truly the definition of family."