For Vanessa Lachey, cooking is her family’s “love language.” Here, the mom of three shares their adventures in the kitchen and how she plans to make the holidays special this year.

By Anna Halkidis
November 23, 2020
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Credit: Illustration by Francesca Spatola; Getty Images (1)

Vanessa Lachey knows bringing her kids into the kitchen will undoubtably lead to a mess. But the mom of three’s advice for other parents? “Let them sit on the counter and make a mess,” she says. “You can always clean the mess up.”

Referring to herself as type A (aka being very organized), Lachey had to learn to let go and welcome the cleanup, but the result has been worth it. The kitchen has become a place where she and husband Nick Lachey can bond with their kids—Camden John, 8, Brooklyn Elisabeth, 5, and Phoenix Robert, 3—and have fun as they see what goes into preparing a meal.

“It’s really great to get them involved,” says Lachey, who stars in Lifetime's Once Upon a Main Street, premiering on November 29. “And it’s really fun to spark conversation with them that I never normally would’ve had the opportunity to do and also see how their little minds work.”

And don’t let her children's ages fool you. When Lachey hosted Top Chef Junior, she learned from co-star and chef Curtis Stone that he started cooking at age 4. It inspired Lachey to start them young, but of course, parents have to keep an extra eye out. “Don’t let them use the knives or touch the fire,” she points out.

Cooking together, which she calls her family's "love language," has been helping them get through the pandemic. “It’s one of the biggest things we do—we put music on, and we make meals," says Lachey. "We sit around and eat and on weekends we are in our jimmy jams all day long.” 

The Lacheys will take it up a notch during the holidays with a little help from Libby’s Vegetables. For the second year in a row, the actress teamed up with the canned food company to honor the season and cook two fun recipes—corn and cheese mini tarts and garlicky green bean casserole with bason and toasted cheese.

This year, the partnership is even more special because Libby’s Vegetables is making a donation to Feeding America as more than 50 million people in America are expected to experience food insecurity in 2020 due to the pandemic, including 17 million kids. “[Helping struggling families in need] is something that’s really near and dear to my family,” says Lachey. “Nick and I have been supporting this organization for a while now.”

The family of five is also doing their part by sticking to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and celebrating the holidays together at home. While smaller and different celebrations can be a bummer for kids, Lachey says there are ways to still keep them festive and fun. “What I’m trying to do for my children is keep it as normal as possible,” says Lachey, who is currently filming Fox’s Call Me Kat. “We do have some traditions that we’ve always had and we’re going to continue those.”   

Those traditions include decorating the table, making Christmas ornaments, watching football, and a table with craft paper where the children can draw.

“Anything you can do that you’ve done in the past that triggers a happy memory for them and happy thoughts I think is a positive way to kind of help guide them through this hard time,” says Lachey. “They might not be with family and friends, but they are still with you guys and they can still do things that they’ve always remembered and loved."

Anna Halkidis is the features editor at Parents.com. Keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram.

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