If Kristen Bell was really living in The Good Place, she would be swimming in soup. The actress is obsessed with all variations of it, and if she had it her way, there’d be blended vegetable soups on the menu every day. Unfortunately, her young daughters detest the stuff, making cooking for her and husband Dax Shepard’s family dinner time routine “an absolute mess” every night. They all want different things: He eats meat, she’s vegetarian, and the little ones just want to “find their way back to pizza and mac and cheese.” (She agrees on that one, though, as a kid at heart.)
The time that all the stars align and everyone agrees on food is during one of the Bell family’s adult sleepovers. Kristen’s Veronica Mars co-star Ryan Hansen and his family, and some of their other friends and their kids, get together over a big pot of chili or a plate of nachos before they bust out the sleeping bags. The kids watch cartoons while the adults stream Game of Thrones—or, well, did, before it ended, R.I.P.—at night, then pow wow for pancakes in the morning.
When we caught up with Kristen over the phone, she shared insider details on their monthly slumber parties’ menus, the genius sneaky secret to getting her daughters to eat more broccoli, and what other foods she’d want in her ideal Good Place-style afterlife.
Rachael Ray Every Day: Veronica Mars started in 2004, and now it’s coming back to Hulu. What was an ideal relax-at-home night like in 2004 versus 2019?
Kristen Bell: The hours were so long on Veronica Mars that if I had a night in, I was usually sleeping! I didn't have much of a life back then, to be honest. Now, I have a very full life with two daughters and a husband, and we’re all just homebodies. We subscribe to every streaming platform, and one of my love languages is cooking. That’s why I wanted to be part of this partnership to relaunch the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card—that’s what I spend the most amount of my money on, and getting 6 percent back on streaming and groceries was huge for me.
The best way to combine food and TV for me is a slumber party. If you could design a dream slumber party lineup—watching, eating, and who you’re doing it with—what would that trifecta be?
The answer is we do have adult slumber parties once a month! We have four families who are all best friends. Well…the parents are all best friends, and we think the kids like each other. We really just force them to hang out, because it's not an option not to be together. We sleep at one person's house once a month, and then wake up and make pancakes together. It’s my Veronica Mars co-star Ryan Hansen and his wife, Amy; our friends Charlie and Erika Curtis, who are CrossFit teachers in downtown LA; and Ben and Courtney Hart—she’s a makeup artist and Ben works in marketing and on Hello Bello with us. Getting together, staying inside the house, splitting the chores with the kids, and all sleeping in sleeping bags in rooms is so fun. I love slumber parties.
What’s on the menu? A full dinner or more snacky junk foods?
Amy is an incredible cook, so she'll usually do some sort of chili, soup, big nacho dish, or roast a ton of in-season vegetables like cauliflower, butternut squash, and shallots with salt and pepper. It's usually a mishmash of whoever feels like putting in effort that night, and the people that don't can sit out. There's not really a well thought out menu, but everyone's bellies are full, and the adults usually play cards or Settlers of Catan while the kids run around like a little Peter Pan tribe.
What do you like to cook for your daughters? Are they picky eaters, or are they adventurous?
They’re always trying to find their way back to pizza and mac and cheese. Always. But I feel like so am I, and I'm not a child. One of them is an adventurous eater and will eat anything, and the other one is fairly picky. But the good thing is from day one, I had a no negotiating on vegetables policy and because I never ever gave any slack, it is not an option for you not to eat your vegetables. You do not get up from the dinner table until you've had your vegetables. Preschool gave us a great foundation, because they tell the kids from a very young age, “You have to eat your growing food before you eat the crunchies in your lunches.” So they know broccoli is a growing food, and you've got to eat broccoli before you eat your pretzels.
Any tricks to sneaking more vegetables in?
There’s an Instagram account called the Natural Nurturer, who does vegetable-loading lessons with her kids. She’ll make what she calls Grinch Muffins, and it's basically a muffin but with a bunch of spinach in it that colors the muffin green. The kids still love it because it's flour and sugar, but you're also loading them with vegetables.
How do you balance what you like to cook and eat with what will please your kids' palates? Do you streamline into one meal that suits everyone?
No, it's a mess. There are always three different menus. It's what I want, what Dax wants, and what the kids want. It's an absolute mess. [Laughs] But we make it work. I usually try to overlap a couple of things, like we’ll all eat broccoli with garlic sea salt and branch out from there.
Is there anything that you’re super psyched to cook that they also request?
I love making hearty soups, especially blended ones. My body feels better when I'm eating them. The kids don't love eating them yet, but they do love making them. Adding things to the soup pot and having minimal ways to mess it up—meaning all you really have to do is stir and check on it—they love that. Or adding pinches of salt. When I cook with them my trick is that, even though it makes more dishes, I put things in a little bowl or cup for them. If I need to add cumin to something, I'll section off that amount of cumin give them that to dump in rather than handing them the whole spice bottle, because that's going to be an epic fail.
On The Good Place, your character loves shrimp. Let’s put other people’s preferences aside—what’s the food you would want an unlimited supply of in the afterlife?
Other than soup? My number one is mulberry. I love mulberries more than I could ever explain to you. They're so hard to come by, because they absolutely explode when you take them off the tree and so they're just like bright red, colored, staining mess. Sometimes in California, you can find them at farmers' markets and such. Mulberries and then I think I have to go old standby, like pizza. You can't go wrong with pizza. If this is the Good Place and calories and sluggishness aren't involved, then I'm going to go with mulberries and pizza.