Haylie Duff Talks Summertime Snacks, Grilling Tips, And More - Exclusive Interview

When Haylie Duff isn't in front of the camera — or behind it, these days — she can often be found in the kitchen. Whether it's making meals to feed her husband and two daughters (and perhaps her sister, Hilary Duff?), or working on something new for her Real Girl's Kitchen brand, Duff is a working mom and foodie influencer who is doing it all. Recently, we got the chance to catch up with Duff once again to find out what's on her plate, both inside and outside of the kitchen.

In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Duff talked all about how her summer is going and the meals she and her family are whipping up both to keep cool indoors and embrace the season out on the grill. The busy actress and advocate also revealed what fuels her on filming days and shared an important cause she's partnering with this summer.

For Haylie Duff, summertime means lots of kids meals and easy snacks

How's your summer going?

My summer has been awesome. It's one of those things where, when you have kids, you never want the summer to end. Then all of a sudden, you're like, "Let's get back to school." All of a sudden, I was craving routine and all the things.

How does your life in the kitchen change during this season?

The one thing that really changes is I pack a zillion lunch boxes every day. I go from the summertime, where we're [eating] popsicles and snack trays and grilling and all the fun stuff, and then it goes into lunchbox mode, which is not as fun. I try to get creative with the lunchboxes, but they're not quite as fun, in my opinion.

Between kids running around the house, all that hot Texas weather, and busy days, what are some of your go-to recipes or quick-fix meals to keep cool in the summertime?

My kids love what they call "snack trays." We do a lot of tortilla roll-ups that have salami and turkey and cream cheese in them, or fruit kabobs, or bowls of trail mix, or popsicles, or whatever they can scrounge up out of the pantry — a mish-mosh of all the fun snacky stuff, the summery, by-the-pool snacks, chips and salsa. They love all that kind of food. That's the kind of stuff that's fun to snack on all summer long.

What about you and your husband? Does your diet change, or do you pretty much eat what the kids eat?

We tend to like to cook outside because the grill is so easy to clean up, [so] we do a lot of chicken drumsticks or steaks or kabobs. I love tzatziki, so we do a lot of grilling with a sauce, something like that. It certainly makes my life easy, because I'm not cleaning a million pots and pans in the kitchen. Nothing is better than shutting the lid of the grill and being like, "We're done."

Haylie Duff says don't be afraid of the grill

The last time you spoke to Mashed, you mentioned that your family's really into grilling. It's prime grilling season, but a lot of people get intimidated by the grill. As a Texan, what are your top tips for making it approachable?

It's so funny because people say that to me all the time, and I'm like, "There's nothing easier than the grill." I always find it funny that when people start cooking, they start with chicken, because chicken is, to me, the hardest of it all. It's easiest to get sick from chicken. You can undercook chicken, but you can't really undercook steak. You can't really under-cook pork. I guess you can, but the temperatures for those meats are much more lenient than chicken. But everybody seems to start with chicken when they first start learning to cook.

I grew up in a family where my dad loved to cook on a pit, and he is a very open-fire cooker. His evening ritual was to go outside and start his fire. It was not every night — I'm not trying to make it sound like my dad had a scotch every night, but he loved the ritual of a scotch and starting his fire and making his great steak on a Saturday. That was his thing.

I have these great memories of my family doing these things together. Those traditions have carried on into my own family, because that's what we do now, too. But there's nothing better than meat or chicken or whatever cooked that way. It definitely tastes different cooked over open fire than it does on a grill pan in your kitchen.

Do you have any tips for home cooks grilling a steak to keep in mind?

The thing to know is that you just have to do it a few times. You've got to play with it and experiment with it. Knowing your temperatures is everything, and knowing how you like your steak is important. You only learn that by doing it.

I like a medium rare steak. I know that I take my steak off at 125 F, and then I let it rest. Then I normally have the steak that I like. That only comes from getting out there and doing it a few times. Other than that, [it's] also buying a good piece of meat. That's also a great way to ensure that you're going to get a good steak at the end of the day, picking out a good piece of meat to start with — and not being scared of salt. Salt is your friend on a good steak.

Do you salt ahead of time or right before you put it on the grill?

I tend to do it right before I put it on the grill.

Making summer snacking even more fun with Jarcuterie

Real Girl's Kitchen is sharing a creative recipe this summer — Jarcuterie.

Yes. The Jarcuterie is something I started with my kids quite a while ago and has become a popular thing through my Instagram and things like that. People are always asking me, what do I put in it?

What is Jarcuterie? How can we do this at home?

Jarcuterie is whatever it is that you make it. It's a hodgepodge of what you've got in your pantry. My kids tend to love salami, cheese, mini pickles, little breadsticks or crackers, or grapes. Anything that you can stuff into that little jar, that is your Jarcuterie.

How long do you spend putting these together?

If I'm making them for girlfriends for a wine night, I'll spend a little bit longer. But if I'm making them for my kids for an on-the-go play date, I tend to jam it in there and roll out.

I was just thinking of kid snacks and salami roll-ups. And then you mentioned Jarcuterie for wine night, and now I'm like, "Oh!"

Oh, yeah. If I make them for my girlfriends, I'll put things like truffle honey in the bottom of them or a big spoonful of fig jam. You can dress them up and take them out, or you can keep them down and dirty.

Do you have any other upcoming plans for Real Girl's Kitchen that you can share with us?

I just directed my first movie, and my whole life has been wrapped up in that recently. But I feel like I need to throw myself back into my kitchen self a little bit. Hopefully, [there's] some stuff to come for Real Girl's Kitchen, but my first movie's been my life as of right now.

Healthy, high-protein snacks help fuel Haylie Duff on set

You're directing your first film, and you've also got another movie that's coming out this year — lots going on in your acting world. When you have got these busy set days going on, what are the meals and the snacks that you turn to the most to help you get through the day?

I'm a big food packer, and that has happened especially since having kids. I'm always bringing food along with me. I tend to bring snacks with me to work. I'll bring high protein things — turkey roll-ups or little beef jerky sticks or cheese sticks or things like that to sustain me through these longer days — or I try to make healthier meals when I get home. I'll try to do roasted chickens or salmon or things like that.

You're a big meal prepper?

Big meal prepper, yes. I'm that person that goes grocery shopping, and then I come home and chop everything and put it in containers.

That, and it sounds like your family are big-time snackers.

We are big-time snackers, yes, especially my little one. She's my kid that's always like, "Can I get a snack from the pantry?" "Yes, you can."

Who has the biggest sweet tooth in your house?

My husband — definitely my husband.

Off the set and outside the kitchen, Haylie Duff advocates for myopia awareness

This summer, you're working with the Global Myopia Awareness Coalition, participating in their 24-hour Screen Staycation. What can you tell us about this and why it's so important?

I was so excited that they asked me to participate in this campaign because I have myopia. I try to limit my kids' screen time in general. But then, upon learning more about this, I had no idea. This is one of those things that we know [about] more and more with every generation. When I learned more about this, I had no idea that this was something that you could do something about — you could be proactive in implementing changes in how drastic the progression of this disease actually gets.

We accepted this Screen Staycation challenge this summer, and my kids actually love this. This is something that's really positive to do with your kids — take this challenge [and] go 24 hours without screens. We spent time together as a family, which is amazing. That's what your kids want to do anyway, to be honest. They want your time, your attention.

It made me, as a parent also, think I need to schedule their eye exams. Those are those things that we put off sometimes, because they're not always fun to go do. But it was a great 24 hours for us. It made us think we're going to keep doing this throughout the year and make this a little more of a normal tradition, to not make it just a thing that we did as a challenge, but a throughout-the-year thing.

You're thinking so much about, "Oh, my kid's screen time," and how much they're spending on their phones. I'm sure this causes you to become aware of how much you're on the phone too and how much you're looking at screens.

Oh, my gosh — which is all the time. They see us, and they think it's normal because we are on our phones all the time, even for little things like putting a map in your phone when you're in the car to go somewhere. We're constantly on our devices. It certainly made me think about it, too. We definitely are putting our phones and our iPads down a lot more, and it gives you a different perspective on each other and life in general.

Check out the latest from Haylie Duff on her Instagram.

This interview was edited for clarity.