I’m not going to lie. The fourteen year old girl within me is freaking out a little right now. To have the chance to sit down and not only chat with Haylie Duff, but to dish on food of all things (one of my life’s greatest passions) is kind of a dream come true. Having just launched her new cookbook, The Real Girl’s Kitchen, I couldn’t wait to dig deep and pick this talented woman’s brain. Read on for all the juice!

SMP: Congratulations on your new cookbook! What inspired you to go down this path?
HD: Well, I had been writing The Real Girl’s Kitchen blog for about a year and a half when my dad gave me my great-grandmothers cookbook. It’s filled with lots of great recipes and has a unique feeling of adventure and warmth not often found these days. It served as a big inspiration for The Real Girl’s Kitchen cookbook!

SMP: Do you have a food philosophy?
HD: I talk about my outlook on food a bit in the beginning of the book! My relationship with food changed once I realized I should focus on eating things that made me feel good and were healthy, things I should eat vs things I shouldn’t eat. It’s definitely all about balance!

SMP: We’re dying to know, what’s the key to throwing an epic dinner party?
HD: Of course, an epic dinner party has to do with great friends but also planning ahead! Picking simple recipes that you are used to making (then theres no room for error!), setting a beautiful table, great music and a signature cocktail are the ingredients for a memorable night.

SMP: When you’re entertaining friends, what’s your go-to dish?
HD: Something I can pop in the oven and not have to babysit, like roasted or baked chicken… That way I have time to mingle with friends while dinner cooks!

SMP: Great idea! What about a signature cocktail? Do you have a tried, tested and true version?
HD: Yes! I like to keep my cocktails easy: classic margaritas, muddled mint mojitos, and I love champagne with a splash of chambord!

SMP: Who would your dream dinner date be?
HD: My sweet boyfriend, Matt. He’s my favorite person to sit across from over a nice meal.

SMP: What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
HD: I have been very fortunate to have had some pretty fantastic meals in my life but, my friend Chef Ludo’s pop up restaurant, Trois Mec, is pretty epic.

SMP: Quick! Your house is on fire and you can only grab ONE kitchen gadget. What would it be?
HD: Without any hesitation… my vitamix!!!

SMP: The biggest mistake people make in the kitchen?
HD: I like to think that most mistakes can be corrected in some way or another but, one mistake I see often, is putting olive oil in a cold pan and then heating it. The pan should heat first THEN add the olive oil. If it heats with the pan, the oil burns.

SMP: I’m definitely guilty of that on occasion. Thanks for the tip! Okay and I have to ask, when Hilary comes over, what do you typically whip up for her?
HD: Lucky for me, she is very adventurous and loves to try anything I make! Recently, she came over for a mock Thanksgiving the day I was recipe testing for The Real Girl’s Kitchen Thanksgiving ideas! She loved the turkey pies and the apricot & gorgonzola puff pastry (all on realgirlskitchen.com).

As an added bonus, one lucky reader will win a signed copy of Haylie’s cookbook, The Real Girl’s Kitchen. To Enter:

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Interview: Haylie Duff | Photogaphy: Yoni Goldberg