Cake boss! It’s certainly not the title Sarah Michelle Gellar imagined for herself while growing up in New York City, but it’s one she’s embraced wholeheartedly as the cofounder of Foodstirs, a collection of organic baking products. “I made reservations,” the actress, 39, jokes to Us Weekly. “I knew how to order Chinese takeout right before the lunch menu ends. You get it for dinner, but it’s cheaper!” That was admittedly where her culinary savvy ended — until she had children.
After welcoming Charlotte, 7, and Rocky, 4, with husband Freddie Prinze Jr., Gellar began to think she’d miss out on important family bonding time if her kitchen skills were limited to dialing local eateries. “We live in such a technological society,” she observes. “I’m not going to take my kids away from digital devices entirely — they need to learn how to use them to exist in this world — but the moments you unplug in the kitchen are when you really connect.”
Baking quickly became Gellar’s forte and a new way to challenge herself. “I’m not going to come up with these detailed, crazy recipes,” the Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum tells Us, “but I can bring my love of crafting to food.” Still, as a busy mom, Gellar found complicated recipes were pretty much a nonstarter. When she and her best friend, Galit Laibow, combed websites and grocery aisles looking for quick, simple mixes that they could turn into kid-friendly projects, they were appalled by the boxed options. “I didn’t recognize any of the words in the ingredients,” the entrepreneur recalled during a book launch event at the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen on April 3. “Or the number two ingredient was salt or dyes and all this stuff I knew in my head we’re not supposed to eat anymore.”
The pair decided to develop their own “clean baking” line built on ethically and sustainably sourced ingredients, such as Equal Exchange and Fair Trade chocolate and cocoa, Biodynamic® sugar, and a multigenerational heirloom wheat flour. Now, about a year and a half after launching as an e-commerce business, the line of three signature mixes — chocolate brownies, vanilla cupcakes, and sugar cookies — has expanded to include 10 kits and five mixes, plus a host of kitchen tools and other merchandise. (COO and fellow cofounder Greg Fleishman has also helped bring Foodstirs to brick-and-mortar retail outlets like Whole Foods.) “We call it quick-scratch baking,” explains Gellar. “We asked ourselves how we could take away the intimidation factor … so all of our mixes require less than six steps.”
Between launching the company and experimenting with her family at home, Gellar has become quite the self-taught pro, although she still defers to Prinze, 41, for the “really complicated” stuff. (“He’s a trained chef and went to culinary school!” she enthuses while telling Us about his “big, fancy dinners.”)
But despite the differing skill levels, the couple relishes cooking in the L.A. home they bought three years ago, in part because of its abundant natural light. “It makes your food look better, and it always makes you feel better,” Gellar explains. While their daughter and son will eat anything from “mussels to Brussels sprouts,” the actors often turn to pizza because it’s relatively easy and allows everyone to customize meals. “It’s one of the best things to get them using the hands and really getting in there,” she says, adding that the activity also works well with big groups of kids since you can prep individual mini pizzas and set up a toppings station.
As Gellar grew more comfortable in the kitchen, she started brainstorming other ways to help people ease into cooking. Her solution? A cookbook. The writing itself came fairly easily. (“It’s the same voice I speak with. I take that very seriously.”) But the organizing and editing were tougher. “I had so many ideas,” she says of Stirring Up Fun With Food, which she worked on with Gia Russo, another Foodstirs cofounder. Eventually, Gellar whittled her list down to 115 playful seasonal takes on classic dishes, including waffle fondue, s’mores parfaits and spaghetti squash cupcakes.
“For the mind and soul, it’s so important to use that creativity in the kitchen — whatever skill level you’re at,” she says, noting that it helps to get kids into the kitchen while they’re young. Not only does it foster their sense of adventure and curiosity, she explains, but they develop an understanding of where their food comes from, which in turn builds healthier habits in the long run. (Tending to plants or a garden also works wonders, she says.) “The more you involve them in the process and the more visually appealing you make the food, the more likely it is that they’re going to eat it.”
One simple way to start: her colorful sugar-cookie dessert pizza. Find the recipe below.
Sweet Pizza With Fruit Toppings
(Makes 1 12-inch pizza)
1 1/2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
2 tbsp heavy cream
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp orange zest
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 kiwi, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup blackberries
1/2 cup kumquats, thinly sliced
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Roll out the dough to about 1/2-inch thick. Place a 12-inch pizza pan over the dough and, using a paring knife, cut around the edges to make a 12-inch circle. Remove the pan and spray it with cooking spray, then place the dough in the pan. Bake until the edges are golden, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. (Tip: If preferred, brownie mix can be used in place of sugar-cookie dough.)
3. Combine the cream cheese and heavy cream in a small bowl and, using an electric mixer, mix until creamy and smooth. Add the honey, orange zest and vanilla; mix until combined. Spread the cream-cheese mixture over the cooled cookie, leaving a small border uncovered for the “crust.” Arrange the fruit in a design on top of the pizza. Using a very sharp knife, cut the pizza into 12 slices. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.
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