The actress and mother-of-three exclusively tells PEOPLE that she hopes other moms take a page out of her first book and "create their own memories and traditions with their family"

By Topher Gauk-Roger
July 14, 2021 11:00 AM
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vanessa lachey - Life From Scratch
Credit: vanessa lachey

On top of being an actress, TV host, wife and mother, Vanessa Lachey is now adding a new title to her resume: author.

Lachey, 40, announced the upcoming release of her first book, Life From Scratch, on Wednesday and exclusively tells PEOPLE that the yearlong guide "has been a concept I've had for over 10 years" and celebrates families that color outside the lines.

"The concept originally was just about how I've kind of stumbled along in life, making mistakes and learning the hard way about everything from cooking and dating to what not to wear to a wedding," she says, describing an incident where she once donned white to her friend's nuptials because she didn't know any better.

vanessa lachey - Life From Scratch
Credit: HarperOne.

"Instead of constantly saying, 'I don't have a mom to show me how to do my makeup, what not to wear, how to be a good wife or a good mom,' I said, 'You know what? I can start that for my daughter and be that positive influence," she added, explaining that her mom leaving her at the age of nine forced her to make her own familial traditions and memories.

"I think a mom-daughter relationship is one that guides you through life," she says. "There's a different relationship with your father, which I do have, but he was in the military and he was gone a lot. At that point, my stepmom said she didn't want children, so it was a very rocky, tumultuous childhood."

Now Lachey is married to singer Nick Lachey, and the pair are raising their children Camden, 8, Brooklyn, 6 and Phoenix, 4. She says it wasn't until she created a family of her own that she reconciled with her stepmother, who apologized for not being a dedicated parental figure when she was young.

"She has come around and she's read so many books. She's the best stepmom that I could ever ask for," she says. "She taught the kids to tie their shoe laces, she reads to them, she plays with them. I'm like, 'Who are you?'"

"For me, the beauty in that is it's never too late to start with whatever destiny you want to create," which Lachey says is also a running theme in her collection of seasonal recipes, holiday hacks, parenting ideas and party planning tips.

"The book is broken up into the seasons, and in every season there's moments that you can create and make your own," she describes. "It's what we've done in the Lachey household, but I just hope it inspires people to create their own memories and traditions with their family or chosen family."

Vanessa has been hard at work on the book for the last two years and is now in Hawaii filming NCIS: Hawaii. She has "cherished" having work to focus on amid the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"At the end of the day, I found the silver lining that I got to spend that much more time with my kids and get to know them even more," she gushes. "It really tested Nick and I's relationship, and I think we're better than ever. It was probably the hardest time for us because it forced us to really communicate more, and you literally couldn't run away from anything. Now this book is my fourth baby."

Fans who pick it up can expect Vanessa's beloved Chicken Adobo recipe, her family's "day after Thanksgiving" go-to's and even the ingredients for a stir fry that is "Nick's favorite meal." While she handles the cooking in the family, with Nick taking care of the cleaning and eating, Vanessa says her husband of 10 years was an instrumental part of her writing process.

"It's our life and I started really getting into cooking because I wanted to cook for him," she recalls, pointing out that her most sentimental family heirloom is a bracelet Nick gave her when Brooklyn was born that she plans on eventually passing down. "We've been together 15 years, which is crazy, and everything started with him. I dedicate the book to him and my children because that is my family—that is my life from scratch."

When it came to choosing a cover image, she fittingly decided on a shot that wasn't planned: "I was sitting on the swing in the backyard — my favorite spot in our home — and watching Nick and the kids swimming and playing with the dogs running around, and it was like, 'This is the shot!'"

vanessa lachey - Life From Scratch
Credit: HarperOne.

"A posed photo of the family didn't embody what I wanted the reader to feel when they got the book," she adds. "My point of view is life unfolding and happening as I take a minute to soak it all in. That's what life is: creating it, and then sitting back and enjoying it."

While Vanessa doesn't consider herself an expert ("These recipes are not James Beard Award-winning," she quips), the star wants to share the life she has "lovingly created" with her family and help other moms feel like they can do it too.

RELATED VIDEO: Vanessa Lachey Opens Up About How Quarantine Changed Her Life and Marriage to Nick Lachey

"The thing that I would say to moms is instead of looking back at the things that we don't have, look at how exciting it can be to give your children something that they can latch onto," she says. "You can break that cycle and be the one that starts it all. It'll be your name that they talk about when they eat that recipe or when they do that fun dance night ... there's something really exciting and beautiful that you can create for generations to come."

"I get excited about having this for my family, and then when they come over when they're older, having it for their babies, and so on."

Life From Scratch officially debuts November 16 and is available to pre-order now.