While former O.C. dweller Kristin Cavallari’s first brush with fame came as a teen during her days on MTV’s Laguna Beach, the now 31-year-old mom of three and wife to Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler today is busy building a lifestyle empire—while still putting family first. In the past five years, she’s launched an eponymous shoe line with Chinese Laundry at Nordstrom, penned The New York Times best-selling book Balancing in Heels: My Journey to Health, Happiness and Making It All Work ($25, Rodale Books) and, just last month, added store owner to her resume as the brains behind Uncommon James, a Nashville boutique full of Cavallari’s own jewelry and home designs. Fresh off the April 3 release of her first cookbook—True Roots: A Mindful Kitchen With More Than 100 Recipes Free of Gluten, Dairy, and Refined Sugar ($26, Rodale Books)—Cavallari is detailing the ways in which clean eating and an appreciation for homemade meals have elevated the happiness and health in her life.
This is your first venture into the culinary world. What sparked your desire to write a cookbook?
It’s a passion project of mine. I cook almost every day and can’t wait to share with the world that you can eat healthy and still enjoy food, and eat delicious meals.
How has your approach to cooking changed as you’ve become a mom?
I pay attention only to ingredients and try to eat real food. I never read calories, fat or anything else on an ingredient label. I stay away from GMOs and most cow’s milk, as I’m sensitive to casein. Becoming a mom made it a true lifestyle for me rather than eating that way for [short] phases.
Which recipe is your favorite and why?
I truly make almost all of the recipes on a regular basis, so it’s hard to pick. However, we make butternut squash pancakes at least once a week and the blackberry-glazed duck is probably my favorite meat in the book. I have a healthy spinach artichoke dip that’s in heavy rotation at the moment as well.
If you do have a cheat day when it comes to food, what would we find you splurging on?
I don’t have a cheat day—it’s more of a cheat meal here and there. I look at my ‘diet’ as a bank account: If I go a little overboard for a meal, then maybe I’ll make sure to have a salad at the next. That gives me the freedom to indulge whenever I want without putting restrictions on it. I love sweets—cupcakes, brownies, you name it. Also, gnocchi is my favorite meal of all time. Anything pasta and I’m in.
How have your California roots influenced your cooking?
One of the things I miss about California the most is how health-conscious it is. Every restaurant has fresh, healthy options. Being around that for so many years showed me that eating healthy can be easy and enjoyable.
Did you ever dream that your role on Laguna Beach would lead to these various business ventures?
No! I still have to pinch myself from time to time. I’ve done some really fun, amazing things over the years, but I finally feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be. The best thing I’ve ever done is start my own business, Uncommon James. I love having complete creative freedom and being my own boss. I didn’t know this is where my path would take me, but I couldn’t be happier.
When you think of your O.C. days, what comes to mind?
[It was] an incredibly beautiful place to spend my high school years. I loved the beach lifestyle of always wearing flip-flops and no makeup.