By Cindy Pearlman | For the Sun-Times
She blew up a microwave.
Haylie Duff isn’t proud of it. “I learned that you never put mac and cheese in a bowl without any water. Bad move.
“My mom likes to say, ‘The girl who blew up the microwave has her own cooking show,’ ” says the actress, author and singer.
To which Duff replies, “As long as the house doesn’t catch on fire, it’s fine.”
The older sister to Hilary Duff has come a long way in the kitchen. At noon Saturday, Duff returns to the Cooking Channel for 13 more episodes of her lifestyle docu-series following her in and out of the kitchen.
Based on her blog and cookbook, “The Real Girl’s Kitchen” is an invite into Duff’s kitchen where she serves up recipes and stories. The Texas native focuses on her Southern roots while navigating her life in Hollywood. Duff expands beyond food to talk about family, travel, work and R&R in Los Angeles and New York.
“The truth is I love cooking,” she says. “And I used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen with my mom and my grandmother when I was a little girl.”
Then she moved west.
“In L.A., you spend so much time as a teen focusing on what you shouldn’t eat. When I turned 23, I thought, ‘I kind of don’t know or remember how to cook.’ That’s when I started experimenting in my kitchen.”
Her first try wasn’t so successful. “I made a mustard whitefish on Christmas Eve,” she says. “Everyone was like, ‘Okkkkkaaay.’ I made the most horrific fish on the planet.”
Now, her goal is to make dishes that are delicious and nutritious. “I like to call my style of cooking ‘healthy decadence,’ ” she says. “I really believe in balance when it comes to eating. I do love healthy food. I’ll make a kale salad with steamed broccoli for lunch. But on the same day for dinner, I’ll have some mac and cheese with grilled chicken in it.
“We do easy, simple things on the show with a ton of flavor. They are mostly good for you,” she says. “I’m very much a veggie lover, but every once in awhile you gotta have a pizza.”
Her favorite healthy knock-their-socks-off meal for company is birds. “I did this the first time I cooked for my future in-laws,” she says. “I bought little Cornish hens, emptied them out and stuffed them with sausage, fennel, onion and garlic. Put each bird on its own thick slice of sourdough bread. Put a few pats of butter on each bird. Roast the birds while all the juice goes into the bread.
“Sourdough is thick enough to stay sturdy,” she says. “What you get are hens that are so tasty with great flavor. They look fancy, and the bread is absolutely delicious.
“It will look like you spent forever in the kitchen when really this was the easiest thing in the world to make. This is one of my A-game meals.”
As far as her own palate, Duff says, “I’m pretty chill. I just enjoy good food. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I can easily get down with a great sub.”
She says her husband, Matt Rosenberg, isn’t picky. “He’s the easiest guy in the world,” she says. “He likes very simple food and loves when I make Southern food for him.
“Early on, I made him a casserole and he was like, ‘Babe, what is this? It’s so good?’ I have to confess that it was chicken, broccoli and cream of mushroom soup.”
“I said, ‘Babe, you’re eating a casserole,’ ” she says.
Of course, he asked about her fancy topping.
“You call those potato chips,” she says with a laugh.
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