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At the age of 24, actress Haylie Duff realized that she wasn’t sure how to cook anything beyond a salad. This turning point in her life was spurred by her mother discovering her take out menu drawer, despite raising her daughter in a household that was all about taking the time to whip up home cooked meals. From that moment on, Haylie was determined to get cooking – all the while blogging about the “trials and tribulations of being a real girl in the kitchen” on her blog, Real Girl’s Kitchen.

The blog blew up (with some of her recipes landing here on HelloGiggles!) and the kitchen has since undergone expansion, with the Real Girl’s Kitchen cookbook slated to hit bookshelves Oct. 15th and even a TV series in the works. I was very excited to get the chance to interview Haylie on being a Texas girl in an LA world, the best eats for a college student’s buck, and what her sister Hilary really thinks about her cooking. (I mean, how could I not ask?)

Heather Taylor: Where did the inspiration for Real Girl’s Kitchen come from?

Haylie Duff: I started the Real Girl’s Kitchen blog once I discovered that some of my recipes were a big hit amongst my friends and family. A year or two later my dad gave me my great great-grandmother’s recipe book, which served as a big inspiration for The Real Girl’s Kitchen cookbook.

HT: You’re a born Texan living in Los Angeles – how do you make a dish that mixes the best of both of these food worlds into them?

HD: I am a true Texas girl at heart. I love a good southern meal, but living in Los Angeles for so many years has taught me to eat fresh, seasonal, and healthy meals, so many of my recipes really combine inspiration from both. Growing up, my mom always made us pigs in a blanket, which influenced my less naughty recipe of Asparagus and Prosciutto Crescent rolls.

HT: What are some of your go-to autumn recipes?

HD: Autumn is the perfect season for squash, root vegetables and lots of flavor. It’s a great time to get cozy, stay in and cook! I love to make my Sweet and Spicy Butternut Squash, Honey Dijon Brussel Sprouts, and roasted chickens with lots of herbs – all recipes you can find in my book!

HT: You’ve mentioned before how people didn’t always love your cooking… got any rookie kitchen disaster stories to share?

HD: I definitely made a lot of mistakes along the way. One of my famous kitchen disaster stories my family loves to laugh at, is the time I was trying to make Easy Mac (which should be simple). I put the macaroni mix in a bowl in the microwave without adding water… you can imagine how well that worked out for me!

HT: Can you give us a sneak peek behind what’s happening on Real Girl’s Kitchen the series (and what we can expect to find in the book too)?

HD: I’m so excited to be shooting it and will have more information about the show to share very soon! Stay tuned!

The book includes lots of easy, farmer’s market-inspired recipes, along with some personal anecdotes. You will find everything from stories about my family, growing up in Texas, dealing with heartbreak and even some juicy dating escapades!

HT: What does your sister Hilary think of your dishes? Does she get involved in making them with you?

HD: Food is a huge part of our family. Hilary loves my cooking and she is one of my favorite people to try out new recipes on. We love to cook together and my nephew, Luca, is a great little taste tester too!

HT: What are some key utensils that a starter cook in the kitchen needs to have on hand?

HD: A cutting board, a good quality knife, a garlic press, and since it’s the holidays, a good peeler to make prepping those holiday squash and potato dishes a little bit easier.

HT: For college students living the dorm life, what kinds of dishes do you recommend making that won’t break the bank and are filling while staying healthy?

HD: Definitely quinoa and vegetables as an easy, go-to you can make in the microwave, and of course anything that doesn’t require cooking or a lot of cleanup. I have a great recipe for a healthy, yet hearty veggie and yogurt sandwich, which is pretty killer and super easy to make.

HT: Is there anything you have difficulty cooking?

HD: I always say, I am an awful baker. I’m really bad at following directions and like to improvise when I cook, so cakes and pastries are just not my specialties.

HT: What’s your number one comfort food?

HD: A great homemade mac and cheese or Crescent Roll Apple Pies (also in my book!).

HT: Do you have any favorite food bloggers that you follow? Are you big on marathoning Top Chef or Chopped – or would you ever want to be a contestant on these shows?

HD: Currently I have bookmarked, Pictures and Pancakes, Manger, and Localist Lovely, but Smitten Kitchen is always a classic fave. I die for Chopped and I would love, love, love to be a guest judge! Yum!

HT: Fill in the blank: if I’m potluck party bound, the best crowdpleaser to bring along is?

HD: My buffalo chicken dip!

HT: Actress, blogger, Broadway star, cook, and now author with your own upcoming TV series – you’re definitely the wearer of many hats, or more aptly, many oven mitts! Is there any job you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try on for size?

HD: If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now, I’d still want to be creative and I think renovating houses would be right up my alley!

Find out more about Real Girl’s Kitchen on Twitter @RealGrlsKitchen and on Haylie’s Twitter @HaylieDuff and get the book on Amazon starting October 15th!

Image credit: Yoni Goldberg.