When she was pregnant with her first child, Luna, Chrissy Teigen’s friends and family all told her, “Enjoy cooking now, because when the baby is born, you’ll never want to cook again.”
Now that Luna Simone Stephens is just about a month old, the model and cookbook author (Cravings: Recipes for All the Foods You Want to Eat) finds that cooking is the best way to unwind with her husband, musician John Legend. The Daily Meal spoke with Teigen — who was in New York recently to promote her cookbook and Lawry's Seasoned Salt (which she uses in some of her recipes) — about her tips for new moms who want to cook healthy, and got the scoop on her secret to the creamiest mac and cheese, as well as some insider info on the snazzy soirées the Legend family throws for A-list celebrities.
The Daily Meal: Do you have any advice for brand-new moms who want to stay healthy and still continue cooking?
Chrissy Teigen: It’s so hard! When I opened my book after having Luna, I didn’t think I’d want to cook again, but I was happy to get up and get back in the kitchen. It’s nice to have the energy to walk around and stand. Learn to cut corners. In the book you take the time to chop vegetables and fry your own tortilla strips, but now I’m like, “why don’t I crumble up tortilla chips instead?” Do everything you can to keep your sanity, but if you can find the way to have the time to cook, you should.
Do you guys make sure to have dinner and date nights together?
We’re a firm believer that mommies and daddies need to be happy to have a happy baby. We go out and have 90 minute dinners, and we’re back in time for the entire night. We have my mom living with us, so that helps.
Now that summer is approaching, do you have any favorite summer grilling recipes?
We are big fans of entertaining. We have some of the best parties in L.A., people come from award shows straight to our house, because they know we don’t do fancy catered parties. We cook ourselves. John loves frying his chicken. It’s one of the first recipes he ever made me. I love grilling sausage and peppers, and we always have this mac and cheese. Basically we serve anything that sits out well. We’re not going to cook seared scallops; we put things out that the masses — even late masses — will enjoy.
You seem to really like comfort food.
I’m totally a comfort food person. I like things really hearty and satisfying even when I diet. I tend to have lower carb when I’m dieting. For instance, I’ll do a zucchini lasagna: It’s vegetables, yes, but also cheese and meat and sauce… it doesn’t even cross your mind that it’s diet food!
Is there anything John makes or you make either one of you don’t like?
We differ in our mac and cheese. I think mac and cheese should be creamy and should be scooped. He thinks it should be sliced. His is thick, dense, and heavy. Mine is creamy and cheesy. I like the ooey-gooey! Our recipes actually use the same ingredients, weirdly enough, but I think mine is personally better. My recipe personally is so much better. He loves mine for sure, but his family and our friends love his recipe so much. I think they’re like “Oh my gosh, John Legend is making mac and cheese. He can’t do anything wrong!” But trust me, mine is the best.
How do you hope Luna will approach food as she gets older?
I hope she isn’t a picky eater. I ate weird foods when I was pregnant, so hopefully that works. My mom is Thai, and when I was little I used to make faces at my mom’s fish sauce, but I wish now growing up I had taken more time to appreciate my mom’s flavors.
Do you enjoy cooking Thai food now?
My mom is so good with Thai food, but I love slow hearty recipes. With Thai food, chopping to finish is less than a half hour, and I’m not very good with that. It’s too chaotic for me. My mom like spiral cuts, pineapples, and carves fruit. I am very slow when I cook and I make sure everything is perfect.
What is the most challenging dish you’ve ever made?
I always wanted to make my own pasta. To have someone make fresh pasta is so much love. I have never been able to make it on my own. I can make gnocchi but that’s it and that almost feels like cheating. Pretty much any homemade dough is tough for me. You know when you tell yourself you’re bad at something and don’t take the time to get better? I’m like that with homemade pasta, and I should fix that.