Haylie Duff is a cookbook author, actress and host of two shows on the Cooking Channel — including her latest series, Haylie’s America, premiering September 8 — but the role she takes most pride in is being mommy to 15-month-old daughter, Ryan Ava, with fiancé, Matthew Rosenberg.
Her little one’s arrival has sparked plenty of household changes and naturally, that includes in the kitchen. To keep mealtime stress-free, Duff sticks to this one cooking method to keep the entire family happy and full.
“Someone gave me the advice a long time ago to not make separate meals,” she tells PEOPLE, “and to just prepare one meal for your family and to have something your baby can eat too. If you start making separate foods from the beginning, you’ll do that forever. I really have tried to have her eat what we eat and so far, so good.”
Duff also makes sure to keep family meals as diverse as possible to ward off picky eater syndrome — and Ryan is digging in with ease. “She’s a chowhound,” says Duff. “She’s a fantastic little eater. I cook for her constantly. Right now, I make lentils with a ton of vegetables in them almost like a stew, and that’s her favorite thing ever. And the girl loves broccoli! She loves veggies and fruit.”
WATCH: Haylie Duff Demonstrates How to Make a Scrumptious Fall Apple Crisp
When the show host is making meals on the set of Haylie’s America, the no-regrets foodie in her takes over again. Each episode of the show — which features guests like Trisha Yearwood, Beverly Mitchell and Alanna Masterson — places Duff in a different state, cooking a different meal, in a different kitchen (if it’s even a kitchen at all). She finds herself in Louisiana deep-frying oysters on the grass shore of Grand Isle and serving up shots with flair bartenders in Las Vegas.
“It was about getting back to feeling like myself again after having Ryan, and realizing that there’s more to myself than just being somebody’s mom,” she says. “The show is just a whole lot of fun. I can’t wait for people to see it.”
Still, the actress admits she’d sometimes rather be home “hunkering down in the kitchen and cooking all day and recipe testing” with her daughter likely sitting in her high chair close by. She even hops on red eye flights between episodes so she’s home in time to sneak cream cheese inside Ryan’s breakfast eggs.
“We try to keep as short of shoots as possible,” she says, “because I really don’t like being away from her.”
Haylie’s America premieres Thursday, September 8th at 10 p.m. ET on the Cooking Channel.