Tia Mowry smiling

Tia Mowry is a woman of many hats. Although you may recognize her from the hit ’90s sitcom, "Sister, Sister," or iconic Halloween Disney movie, "Twitches," the actress has made her way into the food business. Mowry is known to share her best kept family recipes that are practical, delicious, and most importantly, fun. The "Family Reunion" star even took her passion for the kitchen one step further by launching her own cookware and dinnerware line named, "Spice by Tia Mowry." As a mom of two kids with a lactose-free diet, Mowry opened up about her family’s food habits.

In an exclusive interview with Mashed, the home cook disclosed how lactose has affected her and her children’s everyday health and wellness routine. Mowry partnered up with LACTAID (100% real milk, just without the lactose) and Sesame Street to create the Cookie Monster whole wheat pancake recipe that everyone can enjoy — even adults. With holidays rounding the corner, "The Game" actress gave away her best Thanksgiving dinner tips and tricks including her favorite way to make some tasty mashed potatoes (ever heard of a garlic confeit?).

As Mowry revealed her secret to her delicious collard greens, she also addressed that no bake mac and cheese recipe that the internet couldn’t stop talking about.

How Mowry found out about her lactose sensitivity

Tia Mowry using LACTAID

I wanted to start and talk about your journey with lactose. How did you find out that this was a sensitivity for you?

I ended up finding out that I had a sensitivity in my 20s. I remember whenever I would have a glass of milk, I would have some sort of stomach discomfort and I’m like, "What is going on?" I would talk to some of my friends about it and they would be experiencing what I was experiencing.

In college, I remember grocery shopping. I’m on my own and I can have my own responsibilities, but that was when I discovered LACTAID. I was grocery shopping, I saw it on the shelf and I was like, "Wow, what is this?" I love milk. I love the texture, I love the taste. I love cooking with it. One of my favorite dishes is cookies and milk. I’ve been eating it ever since I was a child, even as an adult. It’s one of my favorites. When I saw it, I was like, wow, this is like 100% real milk without the lactose. Let me go ahead and give it a try.

Once I tried it, I fell in love, and I’ve been a fan ever since. I’ve realized that it wasn’t necessarily the milk itself that was causing me stomach discomfort, it was the lactose. I’ve been using it ever since. My kids also have sensitivity. We use it in the house. It’s really been our lifesaver, and I’m sure for many other people too. I love food. I’m a foodie. Now, I can enjoy and partake in some of my favorite recipes and dishes.

What dinner looks like in the Mowry household

Tia with her family
How do you feel this sensitivity has affected your everyday health and wellness routine?

[I am] aware of the ingredients that I use and the recipes and the dishes that I make. Thank God, now that my son actually can — we have this thing, it’s been a tradition ever since even I was a kid, but my son’s an athlete and he’s all about, "Mommy, I have my glass of milk every single time before I go to bed." It’s great now that he can partake in a glass of milk without having any stomach discomfort.

I love the texture and the flavor of milk, but now we use LACTAID in our smoothies. We’re huge smoothie drinkers here. It’s all about incorporating LACTAID in our dishes so that we don’t experience any stomach discomfort, and thank God we have [it].

You mentioned your son, and you have a four year old daughter too … what does dinner normally look like for you guys? What’s a typical dinner?

We love, especially with kids, pasta dishes. We absolutely love creamy pasta dishes. It’s nice to know as a mother that I can create some of these favorite meals for them that the whole entire house enjoys, that’s easier to digest for them because we can use LACTAID. It’s quick, it’s easy. It has ingredients that are staples, which everyone has in their refrigerator or in their pantry. We have LACTAID in our refrigerator, we have pasta in the pantry, so it’s quick and easy and delicious and fun to make.

Mowry’s pancake recipe are fun and delicious

Tia Mowry's pancake recipe on a palte

Say you’re short on time and you have to make dinner for the kids. What would the first three ingredients you would grab be?

Pasta, marinara, and my LACTAID. I would throw some garlic in there with some salt and some pepper, but it’s very quick and easy.

Speaking of kids, you created a Cookie Monster whole wheat pancake recipe with LACTAID and Sesame Street, which is such an awesome collaboration.

I know, right? We are huge fans of Cookie Monster and Sesame Street.

Can you walk me through how to make that? Do you have any special pancake tips?

It’s all about putting your wet ingredients together with your dry ingredients. I’ll use some of the milk and then I’ll put some lemon juice in there to get all of that together. You put your food coloring, mix all of that together with your eggs, with your sugar, and then you have this batter and then you make your pancakes.

What I love about it is it’s very easy — it’s a recognizable character — itt’s very easy to do with the kids and the family. You cut up the pancake, make a Cookie Monster shape out of the pancake, put some apple slices on there as the eyes and some blueberries as the pupils, and then some blueberries as the smile and boom, you have an easy, fun, delicious, recognizable breakfast for the family and the kids.

Towry addresses that no bake mac and cheese recipe

A bowl of mac and cheese

I saw on Instagram that you posted a no bake mac and cheese, and so many of the comments said, "You should bake it." What inspired the recipe? How did you feel about the reaction to it?

I’m all about practicality. I’m a mother with two kids, I wear so many hats, and I’m all about still getting amazing dishes, recognizable dishes on the table for the family. I was like, "How can I make something that’s quick and easy?" When you bake a dish, it takes a while. It takes hours for the cooking and also the prepping, where this is really easy. You do it on the stove. It’s a great way to get your veggies in there for the kids because they see something that’s recognizable that they love. We throw a little broccoli and carrots on the side. They’re like, "Let me try." It’s definitely a winner in house.

People are used to seeing it being baked, but don’t knock it until you try it. It is definitely creamy. I use the LACTAID milk in that recipe as well, because it’s 100% real milk without the lactose, so you’re getting that creamy texture and the flavor of milk. This is creamy and it’s delicious, so don’t knock it until you try it, people.

How Mowry takes mashed potatoes to the next level

A bowl of mashed potatoes

I’m going to switch gears here and talk about the holidays. What is the one Thanksgiving food you are looking forward to the most?

The mac and cheese. That’s something that everybody absolutely loves. I’m going to be honest with you too, the pancake, the Cookie Monster whole wheat pancake, because in the morning we always have this big breakfast, this feast. That’s going to be something that’s fun for the kids.

We love mashed potatoes, and I also use the LACTAID milk in that dish, giving it this nice, creamy texture and flavor. Collard greens — I can go on and on because our family, we absolutely love to cook and throw down during the holidays. It’s all about the food and the meal and the company.

You mentioned the mashed potatoes. What would your number one tip be for those? You put in the lactose-free milk, what else?

Don’t be afraid to do a garlic confit. When you do a garlic confit, it takes your mashed potatoes to the next level. For people that don’t know what a garlic confit is, you’re cooking the garlic in some sort of fat, which is, in my case, olive oil. You’re solely cooking a bulb of garlic in some olive oil, and it takes your mashed potatoes to the next level.Iif you want everybody hovering over the mashed potatoes during the holidays, add your LACTAID for that creamy flavor, and then the garlic.

Mowry’s secret to collard greens and her favorite chef

Giada de Laurentiis

Do you have any special family recipes that you could share? Anything that stands out?

My collard greens are bomb. The reason why I love them is because it’s tradition. It’s something that has been passed down to me from generation to generation, meaning my great-grandmother had her recipe, my grandmother had her recipe, my mother had her recipe, and now I have mine. What I do differently from my grandmother, my mother, and my great-grandmother, they would usually season the greens once the liquid has been in the pot. I season my greens in olive oil so that the flavor is so much more robust.

I’ll put olive oil right on the pot with your bacon, or you don’t have to use olive oil, you can use the oil from the bacon. You add your spices in then, and it opens up the flavor so much more as opposed to adding it to the water that you’ve slowly cooked your greens in. That would be my secret. It takes your greens to the next level.

Some people like to cut the stems out or leave the stems out. I like to leave the stems in because it adds a nice crunch to the greens. Don’t cut them thick, but it adds a nice texture to the greens. Those are my tips in regards to my recipe. If you want to find my recipe, it’s online. You can look at Tia Mowry’s collard greens. I have two different ways: the quick way, and the low and slow way.

Who is the one chef you would want to cook your dinner?

Giada De Laurentiis. She has been my inspiration ever since I started cooking. I’ve got to meet her several times. We follow each other on Instagram. I remember when she first started following me, I started jumping up and down because I’m a huge fan. She [had great things to say about] my cookbook … this woman is so supportive. I’m all about women empowerment and she supported me. I’ve always been supporting her. To be able to have her cook a meal for me and an Italian meal, I would be smiling from ear to ear.

Learn more about LACTAID on its website and keep up with Tia Mowry’s latest projects on her Instagram page.

This interview has been edited for clarity.