I am absolutely loving the new Disney Eats Cookbook by Disney Publishing, authored by Joy Howard. As a Dietitian and mom, I know the importance of getting kids involved with food preparation. We know that having hands on involvement with food and mealtime encourages acceptance of new and different foods. Throw in the added plus of Disney theming and you have a recipe for success! What I love about the cookbook is that while there are certainly some treats to be enjoyed, most of the book focuses on all different types of dishes for every meal and snack opportunity utilizing whole foods with a strong lean on fruits and vegetables. The Alien Toast for Two is mashed avocado on whole grain bread with spinach leaf ears and antenna and olive eyes. Looking for lunchbox ideas? This book has a large selection of fun Bento characters like Lightning McQueen made from a red bell pepper and an Olaf Sandwich using wraps and veggie face features! Some of the most surprising recipes to have been a hit with my kids so far include the Mike Wazowski Bowl-o-Broc, Belle’s Enchanted Quinoa Porridge and Dumbo’s Peanut Zoodles. I love making healthy food fun with my kids and this book surely makes magic out of mealtimes!
I was lucky enough to get a TKI exclusive interview with Disney Eats Cookbook author, Joy Howard! Her job sounds like an absolute dream to me and I know many of you Insiders would agree. Check out the inside details I got on her new cookbook and hear all about her love of Disney, plus her sources of inspiration for these magical eats!
As a mom, Disney-lover, and Dietitian, I have REALLY been looking forward to this new cookbook! What led you down this magical path of creativity with food in the kitchen?
I was a food editor at a parenting magazine for several years and I frequently had to come up with ideas for fun-shaped treats similar to the ones in the book. It’s something I really enjoy and have spent a lot of time doing. When this opportunity came along, I couldn’t pass it up!
From Alien Avocado Toast to Pinocchio Veggie Bagel Bites, these recipes really pay homage to more characters than just Mickey Mouse himself. Which recipes were inspired by your own favorite Disney characters?
I really love the Eeyore pancake stack, not just because of the character, but also because of how cute and simple the idea is. The Mulan Stir Fry is another favorite.
Many fans will be new to cooking and interested in this cookbook simply because of the focus on Disney. Which recipe would be best to try as a beginner in the kitchen?
For a savory meal I’d suggest the Royal Roast Chicken. It’s great because the recipe is more or less foolproof, mostly hands-off, and alongside a simple salad it makes a whole dinner that can feed a crowd. The book also has a whole chapter on easy treats that requires little or no cooking.
For those of us more adventurous (self-proclaimed) chefs, which recipes can we look forward to as more of a challenge?
The Sleeping Beauty cake is easy in terms of skill level, but it definitely requires a little more time and patience. The end result is a huge payoff though—a really fun showstopper. The Ratatouille casserole is another recipe that’s simple in terms of technique, but a little more demanding in terms of effort. It’s also a really beautiful savory dish, and you end up with some extra sauce that can be used in another recipe or over pasta which is a nice bonus.
I already know my kids are going to love putting together the easy assembly items, like the Olaf Bento and the King of all veggie platters. Were you able to test-run these on littles one before they made the final cut? How did your recipe selection process go in development?
I have two school-age daughters and they love to help me in the kitchen. They don’t always get to test ideas with me, but I always have them in mind when I’m working on treats and snacks like the ones you mentioned. My previous experience as an editor at a parenting magazine also really informs the work that I do. No matter the intended audience—kids or adults—I always want my recipes to be accessible to cooks at all or most levels of experience, and to be practical for the average home cook in terms of time and cost. During the development process I always ask myself questions like, “Are the ingredients for this recipe easy to find and affordable,” “Is the recipe too time consuming or fussy,” and if I can’t meet all the criteria, I try to make sure that the end result has a big enough wow factor to make the extra effort worthwhile.
What kind of influence did Disney have on you as a kid, and how does that play into your adult life as a chef and cookbook author?
Some of my most vivid childhood memories involve going to Disney for the first time. I appreciate so many of the imaginative stories and characters that are a part of the Disney universe, and I hope that I can apply the same level of creativity and ingenuity to the work that I do.
This is really a timely release of the Disney Eats Cookbook while many of us are spending more time in our kitchens preparing and eating more meals at home. We’re also looking for ways to keep that magic alive! Which recipe has been a crowd pleaser in your own home? Which recipe is your family’s favorite?
The Bayou Andouille and Collards are probably the recipe from the book that we make the most often. The Lady and the Tramp Sheet Pan Meatballs and Gravy is another that we’ve returned to again and again. My girls really love making sweets and the Under the Sea Lollipops—or a similar variation—is a recipe they’ve asked to make many times. It’s really easy and doesn’t require much in the way of time or ingredients, so I often oblige!
I’ve been busy trying out all these recipes, and believe me when I tell you, they’re just as fun to eat as they are to look at! Click here to get your copy of the new Disney Eats: More Than 150 Recipes for Everyday Cooking and Inspired Fun Book and get started with Disney magic in your kitchen!