Jordana Lipsitz
November 29, 2016 8:00 pm
Getty Images/Laura Cavanaugh

You know that friend you have who always has the best tips, tricks, and foods and throws the best parties? When meeting Haylie Duff for a fancy dinner as a part of her “Bring Back the Holidays Campaign” in collaboration with T.J.Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods I was immediately reminded of this kind of magical human being. Duff is a super down-to-earth and friendly lady who loves food almost as much as she loves to talk and write about it. When I arrived to dinner, she already had the whole table cracking about something or another. The overall theme of the evening was to focus on the important part of the holiday fun— family and (of course!) sharing food together — not the gift-giving and stress part. Haylie seems to have it on lock.

After the fantastic meal (I had a gorgeous crab gourd soup that I have literally thought about every day since), I got to have a little one-on-one with Duff.  The Los Angeles resident by way of Texas’ “hill country” hit fame with her sister Hilary Duff in the early ’00s and has been steadily acting since then. Now the proud mama of a blog, a book, and a cooking show on the Cooking Channel as well as an actual baby girl, Ryan, Duff has a lot of accomplishments on her plate (ahem!). I talked to the chef a little bit about her blog (and show), The Real Girl’s Kitchen and holidays with her family — and like any gal pal chatting about their life, Duff had a lot to say!

Haylie Duff partners with T.J.Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods to bring back the holidays by sharing her favorite family traditions and recipes.

My first question for Haylie was obviously about the awesome pictures on the blog version of “The Real Girl’s Kitchen,” because I’m always looking for some tips for the Instagram. Turns out, there’s a pretty adorable story behind the beautiful aesthetics which Duff explained, “I was taking all my photos by myself for the longest time. And I did a movie, what was it, 5 months ago or something and one of the PAs [production assistant] on set came up to me and he was like ‘Yo.I googled you and you got this like food blog.’  This enterprising PA had another job as well (as they do in L.A.) a hobby (of photography and he was trying to get some experience shooting food pictures). As Haylie put it, “he’d never shot food in his life. And I was like what am I going to do with this guy who doesn’t know how to shoot any food? So he came over one day and I was like we’ll l just make a couple dishes and just see how we do with each other.” She adds,“Now,  Eddie comes over and he and I grind. We shoot like twenty recipes sometimes in one day. It’s wild.”

But for the Instagram lover who’s just trying to take a pic of the cool food they just made, Duff recommends pictures where “…where you see the whole environment of it. I also like where the food feels like it’s moving. Where he captures my hand moving it or oil moving, kind of in action.” Pro tips for the guy or gal trying to spice up their holiday food pics. 

The fact that Duff was doing all her photos before the addition of Eddie really isn’t much of a surprise — Real Girl’s Kitchen feels very much like it is a project of the heart. And admittedly, Duff just fell into the whole blog thing because she was bored in her down time on set for something and needed a “creative outlet” — of course since then it’s developed into much more with a book (and another on the way) and a series on the Cooking Channel. As Haylie puts it, “I’m holding on to that as long as I possibly can. I think that’s comes across and I think that’s why people like so much about it.  Because people read it and they know it’s not a team of people doing it… I just really want to try to keep that line of direct communication as long as I possibly can until I can’t do it anymore.” 

Even though Real Girl’s Kitchen started as Haylie’s passion project, it seems like the job that she was born to do. Food has been apart of the Duff family since day one. Haylie proudly exclaimed, “We’ve always been a big food family. ” The family-first gal talked about a lot of holiday family recipes including her Nanny’s stuffing (which she claims she can never make quite as good but an attempt is still on her blog), drop biscuits, and a “really great cornbread” with broccoli and “lots of butter.”

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These family recipes are part of all the inspiration Duff has for her work and her work is an unexpected love. She still seemed surprised about her blog’s success when she divulged, “I feel very inspired by what I do. And I never thought in a million years I would be doing this… I just never would have guessed that this blog would turn into anything like this.”

The theme of the evening was family, and that seems to be a big theme of Duff’s life as well, so I had to ask about an old school Duff family tradition. It was tough for her to think of something besides food; the Duffs are a self-proclaimed and proud “food-centric family” but she spoke fondly of her mother’s record collection and its holiday impact, saying, “I think that that was a big influence on my sister both just throughout life in general. You know, with music. I think that’s a really great holiday memory too. Kind of like when everyone was off to bed, my mom sort of teaching us who this band was or that band was. I always remember it being around holiday time. I can remember falling in love with Janis Joplin and the Beatles and the older artists.”

Author/Hello Giggles

And like cooking, this busy mom is continuing the traditions with her family. She shared the recent purchase of a record player for Mattie, her fiancé and “we’ve like slowly been building up his record collection so I think that will be a Christmas tradition that we’ll sort of start to implement in our family.”

Overall, I was reminded of the importance of spending time with family over the holidays, of following one’s dreams and passions, and how wonderful a simple salmon and potatoes dish came be. Be sure to check out Haylie’s show on The Cooking Channel for the same feels!