Valerie Bertinelli has worked in TV most of her life -- with two Golden Globe awards to show for it -- but in recent years she's been more known for Jenny Craig diet commercials and tabloid headlines blaring about any pounds she's gained back.
For those interested in what foods she's passionate about, tune in to "Valerie's Home Cooking," which debuts on the Food Network Saturday, Aug. 8. Bertinelli, who loves to cook -- hey, she's Italian -- offers up uncomplicated, real-world recipes, and on the premiere episode (which will be repeated Sunday, Aug. 16), she's joined by her "Hot in Cleveland" co-stars Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick and Betty White for lunch and some dish about their sitcom, which recently wrapped after six seasons.
Bertinelli, 55, also co-hosts Food Network's "Kids Baking Championship." She leaped from unknown to America's sweetheart at 15 when she began her nine-season run as Barbara Cooper on CBS' "One Day at a Time." She has one grown son with her former husband, rocker Eddie Van Halen, and is now remarried.
The meals you make on your cooking show sound tasty, like barbecue chicken kebabs with tequila lime cilantro. But . . . grilled romaine?
Yeah, take a head of romaine, slice it in half, dust it with olive oil and put it right on the grill. You know, romaine is kind of . . . eh. But it's really good for you and the grill brings out an intense flavor.
Your "Caesar-ish" dressing" amuses me. Not Caesar, but Caesar-ish.
That's a bit of a misnomer -- it has balsamic vinegar and Roquefort in it, so it tastes "Caesary" but there's nothing "Caesar" about it. Actually, it's a dressing Jane [Leeves] helped me come up with. She's a great cook, and we were talking about dressings we love -- this one's from a restaurant and we were trying to figure out what's in it. She really nailed it . . . [she] keeps teasing me that I stole her dressing recipe.
It's a term I can use for my own cooking. It's not necessarily "good," it's "goodish."
I probably have a tendency to use the word "ish" more than I should. [She laughs.] It's my way of saying, "Don't expect too much."
So your mom and grandmother taught you to cook?
Right. Then I had the great experience of doing "Who Do You Think You Are?"
The TV show where they look into your family ancestry?
Yeah. Turns out my great-grandmother was a cook in a sorta "Downton Abbey"-type place in Italy. So it goes through my bloodline. I'm Italian, so, you know, my family hangs out in the basement kitchen -- and a holiday dinner can last four or five hours. We'd go to my Aunt Adeline's and my nonnie would be making her gnocchi or cappelletti, and it smelled so good.
On Christmas Eve, my whole family gathers at my Aunt Terri's house and she's always laughing, "Everyone's in the kitchen!" Granted, lots of people say it, but it's true for Italian families especially, the kitchen's a magnet.
That's just the heart of the home.
What's something in your kitchen you love?
My current favorite is the ceramic pig I took off the set of "Hot in Cleveland." It's on top of the refrigerator.
Did you have to wrestle Betty White for it?
I had to wrestle everyone -- they all wanted it.
Is your TV kitchen similar to your real kitchen?
Absolutely. We had a lovely set designer. They took a lot of care to make it feel like my own kitchen, and I started to get as comfortable there as I am in the real thing.
Will you discuss weight loss on the show?
Not a lot. Some of my recipes are on the healthy side, but that's really all about portion control.
I gotta say, last year when you were run through the mill a bit -- all that craziness about gaining back some weight -- I thought you were eloquent about the unfairness of putting everybody's ups and downs under a microscope.
Thank you. You know what? I do it enough to myself -- I don't need the paparazzi doing it for me. I'll get on the scale in the morning, and I'm like, "Oh, damn." But I really want to get to a point in my life . . . where . . . I don't let my weight run how I'm gonna feel the rest of the day. That's still a challenge, even at my age, and given everything I've been through going up and down. It's something I'm just gonna have to try to figure out, and just be joyful in the day because I have this day ahead of me.