When we kept running into each other at different events and dinners – I knew I had to know this mama! Bright and sparkling, Daphne exudes warmth, beauty and authenticity. With the recent launch of her latest cookbook The Happy Cook, Daphne’s career is dazzling, both as the co-host of ABC’s “The Chew” (six years running) and as a NY TIMES best selling author. Her origins are steeped in food cultures – half Turkish, half Italian/Irish – both apparent through her cooking style of approachable delicious food. It’s no wonder she’s on a mission to make women feel good both in and out of the kitchen – while encouraging healthy eating she’s mindful that it not become an obsession – here here! Early one morning this fall we headed over to Daphne’s to chat about marriage after kids, being your truest self and of course food – join us! @daphneoz
Photos by: Elizabeth Pettey @elizabethpetteyphoto
A typical day of eating for you: Now herein lies the problem/ joy of being on this show – we have a constant onslaught of delicious food. We do two shows a day and there can be anywhere from two to five recipes on any given show and then during the holidays we double that – it’s just insane how much beautiful and creative food is being produced here on the show. As a result, I developed something in season two which I call the ‘two-bite rule’, because I never wanted to feel deprived of enjoying the food that I love and I’m so grateful for, but I also want to be able to fit into my clothes. By doing this, I find that I’m able to eat everything that I want so long as I portion control. Basically, I have the first bite just to see what’s going on with each dish and then the second bite is to indulge because I actually find that every bite after the first kind of taste the same. Mind you, this applies only if you’re purely having something to savor the experience and try new things, two bites is really all you need in order to enjoy it. Alternatively, if you’re eating to fill yourself up, that’s obviously not the case – in terms of proper meals I generally try to crowd my plate with really healthy items – a big and colorful salad with chopped chickpeas, chicken and lots of different veggies – plus the two bites of whatever dish I decide to have. Plus, I make my own dressing which is a huge calorie saver. For dinner – depending on how much I had on set all day – my husband and I will either sneak out together or if I’m cooking at home I like to make buildable meals like a grain bowl that can really grow for each family member. This will generally include a more plain chicken for the kids and for us, I might add a spicy gremolata or some kind of fun pesto that takes the same bowl to a different place.
For days that I’m not on the show (Mondays and Fridays) I like to start my day with a smoothie and I do this for the kids as well with a huge boost of nutrition supplements, protein powder and all of that jazz. The kids get a green monster smoothie which is avocado, banana, spinach and yogurt – they love it because the banana makes it sweet and the green makes it fun.
On the weekend is when I tend to splurge, we get baguettes and jam – basically I crave anything with bread. Once every couple weeks we’ll order in a pizza and I’ll make a salad – for some reason this is still one of my all time favorite dinners. Heaven.
And dessert! You have to have dessert. For years I have been trying to replicate Duncan Hines fudgy brownies as a home recipe and I finally did it over Thanksgiving. They were delicious. I don’t do dessert every day, if something I have a square of dark chocolate from time to time or Halo Top ice cream – which was a major find. It’s a high protein ice cream that’s only 280 calories for the entire pint – insane! I do have a crazy sweet tooth which I try to curb by cleansing my palette – I find that if I make myself a tea or brush my teeth pretty quickly after eating than I don’t crave the sweets.
Do you believe you can change people’s mood through food? A 1000 percent – you know it’s funny because Carla [Hall] here on the show always says: ’If you’re in a bad mood the only thing you should make is a reservation.’ I agree, although for me I find that cooking is very soothing, so I’d prefer to cook versus make a reservation. But the point is, that food makes people feel good. Other parents often ask me how I find time to cook, make it fun and not feel like a chore. The honest answer is, I don’t do other things that I maybe used to do more often – my inbox is always overflowing and I don’t go to the gym as regularly as I should – but I make cooking a priority because it relaxes me and makes me happy. I know first hand that when people are given wholesome healthy delicious food it puts them in a great mood.
On falling in love with cooking: I absolutely fell in love with food as a kid being with my mom in the kitchen. I grew up in a huge family – my mom is the oldest of 6 and I’m the oldest of 4 – big loud Irish/Italian family and food was front and center for us all the time. We’re ACTUALLY those people that plan lunch at breakfast and breakfast at dinner. We’re constantly in the kitchen – my grandmother’s kitchen island is the congregating point for all of us where we gather with some hodge-podge snack fest on the counter. It just brings everyone together in such an organic way – those food memories never fade. For example, every time I eat my grandpa’s stuff artichokes it brings me back to being 8 years old sitting on the counter and helping him make/eat them – it’s so visceral. It’s like smell, you never lose that association. Plus I grew up having dinner with my family every night – this was such a huge part of growing up for me – I love recreating that now for my own family.
No meal is complete without… Good bread. I know it sounds silly, but I totally judge restaurants based on their bread. It’s the most important! I need amazing bread with some butter and salt and we’re in good shape.
On your latest cookbook The Happy Cook: The Happy Cook is all about giving you confidence in your kitchen so you can have fun there! I assembled the 125 recipes that get me through my week: fast breakfasts, weekday lunches at work, the dinners that come together quickly for the whole family to enjoy and some of the more festive meals for the weekend. I relax and take it easy on myself in the kitchen, and I really want people to share in that joy and find it for themselves.
I often talk about wanting to be a ‘Domestic Goddish’ : the –ISH is there because it isn’t about being perfect. I think of cooking as a safe place for us as adults to explore and try new things and see almost immediate results, which should make you feel great! Being a domestic goddish is as much about putting a simple, amazing meal on the table as it is about owning that serene sense of confidence knowing you made this masterpiece happen, whether you whipped it up in jeans and an old tee…or your favorite silk gown. The recipes I share are guaranteed to work every step of the way, and at the same time they’re flexible enough that if you want to change out an ingredient and make it more suitable for your family, that’s ok too. It’s about making fun and sexy food that makes you feel good, inside and out.
Recent food discoveries currently obsessed with: There’s a place in Chelsea Market called Seed and Mill – it’s the best! My dad is Turkish and my favorite way to cook is middle eastern inspired. I love tahini and halva. At Seed and Mill they do this Halva soft serve which is insane. I haven’t gotten down to Cha Cha Matcha yet, but I’m curious. Halo Top, as mentioned before was an amazing find for me. And I recently found a new turkey jerky, or chicken jerky rather, down in Florida at the farmer’s market – it’s from NOVAE www.novaegourmet.us. They do really cool variations on the classic – like Korean jerky or Thai peanut jerky. Literally they’re like 90 calories for this huge bag – not that I really count calories in general, but it’s nice to have something in your purse that doesn’t have to stand in for a meal – and still super protein filled, with no nitrates or artificial ingredients. Tastes amazing!
Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest and what would you make them? It’s always changing. I watched Julia & Julia on the plane yesterday – sorry correction, I watched whatever I could while juggling two crazy children – and it just made me fall in love with Julia Childs all over again. And you know who else, I’d love to have Nigella Lawson too! I mean, obviously if I had them both over I’d kind of want them to cook for me. Julia Childs and Nigella Lawson both have such joy in their cooking and when listening to them there’s so much sensuality and pure pleasure in what they do. What a beautiful way to go through such a simple but everyday experience. It’s exactly the way that I like to cook – not precious, not putting a lot of pressure on yourself. I talk a lot about this concept of ‘Domestic-Goddish’ because so many of us have this obsession with being perfect and I think being perfect robs you of the fun and whimsy of cooking.You should feel good about getting into the kitchen and making a little mess, trying something new and getting better about being a good cook – you know, there are so few places that we can feel like that as adults, no pressure and the results are almost immediate.
What is Yummy Mummy? A Yummy Mummy is someone who embraces the fun and chaos of motherhood without losing sight of herself in the process. Our experiences of parenting – even while being totally individual and unique – overlap in so many ways, it’s such a universal bond. Anyone with kids who checks me out on social media or hears me on TV has a sense that I’m in some way representing their experiences too, even though I’m just sharing those funny little moments that happen in my life with two beautiful, crazy toddlers. There’s a real sense of community in all the things we’re going through together.
In talking about parenting, I make an effort to be real about the balancing act: that there are hugely stressful and exhausting periods interspersed with all the bliss. I feel like there are a lot of public versions of parenthood that sweep the negatives under the rug so that someone who reads/sees that is like ‘Hang on, that’s not my experience – am I doing something wrong?’. I think it’s important to acknowledge that part exists too, as much as I love to share all the times my kids are being adorable and making every challenging moment worth it 1000 times over.
I’m also honest about the fact that I haven’t gotten back to my pre-baby weight overnight the way it seems like so many people on-screen do. It’s been a long, hard process, and I think that resonates with a lot of moms who have had the same experience. It’s also not priority #1 for me, and I have to come to terms with that as much as it can be a very frustrating experience to get dressed some mornings. Even if I bounced back into my old skin, I don’t think we’re ever our old selves again after having kids. We’re new and upgraded. We’ve birthed a human (or several)! I really encourage moms not to stop living their lives because they have kids. You are still you. You’re allowed to still love and care about some of the things you used to, even if there isn’t as much room for them now that you have much bigger responsibilities. I feel like there are these ’Martyr Moms’ that tell us we get to start living again in 20 years when our kids don’t need us anymore. I’m like, NO, this is still your life, this is still the one moment that you’re guaranteed and you get to enjoy it and live it for you even while you support and nurture others. That’s the beauty of being a mom: you are capable of everything, especially juggling.
Easy family recipes when you’re low on time: There’s a chicken paillard recipe in my new cookbook with melon salsa fresca that I make a lot because the melon salsa can be customized to satisfy a variety of palettes. John likes it spicy and the kids less, so I’ll dial it down or put it on the side for them. This dish also cooks really fast but it’s full of flavor which makes it a perfect weekday meal. Then on the weekends, when I have more time, I tend to prep for the week ahead and make a lot of bulk dishes like quinoa, grains or beans so that I have them on hand to accompany dishes throughout the week. I find that the proteins – unless you’re roasting a chicken which is basically passive cooking, since you throw it in the oven and you don’t have to look at it again for an hour – in general cook super fast and as long as you have the other grains to accompany the meal done in advance, it makes it all doable.
Tips for parents who want to start cooking with their kids: My kids are a little young – 2 and 1 years old so they’re not really all that helpful in the kitchen, if anything they make more of a mess. As they get older it’s a great place to start teaching them math and measuring plus it’s great for hand/eye motor skills when balancing a measuring cup and pouring into a bowl. I think you don’t realize the skill set that you’re actually sharing with them. I’d say, start with something that you can afford to make a new batch of if you need to, like salad dressing, because all they want to do is hold the whisk and mix, pour things in and be around you. When they get a little older, I think it’s important to trust them with tasks, it gives them a sense of responsibility and contribution that I felt a lot as a kid growing up cooking with my mom. What an amazing gift to give your kids, allowing them to be part of the process – they will have that forever.
A woman that you’re most inspired by: I’m really drawn to people that I feel are really brave in their lives and know themselves – that’s the most inspiring and intriguing to me right now. I often feel like Meredith Vieira has had such an incredible career and she’s such a genuine, kind person not to mention very smart. She also took time away from her career when she had to because she felt it was right for her family as well as herself without being afraid of the ramifications or other people’s interpretation of that. She focused on what was right for her and I have a lot of respect for that.
Also Megyn Kelly comes to mind as well because she’s had an interesting year and I think some people would say it’s been a bad year and some would say it’s the best year of her life. I think you can argue that anytime you go through fire, it’s either the fire that melts you or it’s the fire that forges the steel. I think women in particular are so capable of being that steel and pushing so gracefully through hard moments. The fact that you can juggle hard times and still be an incredibly soft nurturing compassionate mother simultaneously is such a skill set that we don’t talk enough about.
On how motherhood changed your perspective on your business: I started on The Chew when I was 24, I was a kid and newly married. It was a beautiful place to operate from at the time because I could offer a semi-newbie experience of being in the kitchen – not entirely new because I grew up cooking but it was more about asking the questions that a more novice audience might ask and in a way being able to be their representative on camera. And since then it’s been wonderful growing up with the show the past six seasons. Over that period I’ve since been to culinary school, plus I received my nutrition degree from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and chef’s degree. I’ve also had two babies and I’m now able to speak authentically to an audience of moms that watches us from home. For example, I’ll mention that breakfast time at my house with my kids is loud, total chaos and but still amazing – from that I’ll get an onslaught of tweets or Instagram messages from women echoing the sentiment that it’s exactly the same in their homes! It resonates. We’re all just looking for someone to represent our experiences and I love that motherhood has been this wonderful way for me to bond with people that I may not have met but we feel that we get to spend a bunch of time together through our shared experiences.
On marriage: Early on we made a pack to each other to invest in our marriage, all the time – this is so important, especially when you have kids. It can be easy to lose site of this when you’re so committed to your kids and have responsibilities to juggle. It’s important to remember that your partner is the foundation of your family along with you and if this is strong, your kids will feel that security. Therefore, don’t feel guilty for taking time to be together.
On meeting your husband and how he proposed: We actually met the first week of college freshman year – there was always something there – but we didn’t actually start dating until Senior year. After college we moved to the city together and he proposed on my birthday two years later. We were engaged for 6 months and then we got married – it was wonderful. Truthfully for me, if you really love who you’re with, being married just upgrades the relationship. I don’t mean to sound traditional and weird, I simply feel like it removes any anxiety or pressure. Once you’re married it’s the two of you, a little unit.
The effect of kids on marriage: I was not anticipating how much having kids changed our marriage for the better. I think I kind of heard how stressful and hard it can be and to your point feeling sexy can be a challenge, but it’s not necessarily your husband that has changed but rather how you feel in your own skin. Frankly, women have to get to know themselves and their bodies again after babies, because let’s face it, you just grew a human and things have changed. And perhaps what you once put more energy into or had more time for pre-kids like self-care, you may just feel too exhausted to even think about and as a result they go out the window. Mainly what I wasn’t anticipating was that vulnerability and trust could actually improve a relationship – I didn’t know that I could love or trust my husband anymore or feel any more connected to him then I already did until we had kids. All pretenses go out the door and you’re your rawest self – especially since he was in the room when I gave birth both times. It’s shared experiences like those when you’re your worst self and your best self that makes the strongest of partnerships much better but can also make a relationship that has riffs widen. I think you need to be aware of how new and challenging it is, especially as first time parents and make a conscious effort to stay connected.
Makes you feel sexy: Working out makes me feel sexy and connected to my body. Look, I don’t think that my body is ever going to feel exactly the same as it did before kids but if Gwyneth is any example, I can certainly do a lot better. Although interestingly enough – I don’t know how this is possible, because I certainly don’t look better naked now – I feel sexier than ever.
Makes you feel energized: In addition to working out – sleep. And I also love adventures. Doesn’t always have to be faraway but even simply discovering around the city will do. I love stumbling upon new places, for example my girlfriends and I recently took a trip out to Queens for a dim sum crawl. We ended up at this place called White Bear and holy shit balls it was the most delicious food!
Recent health discovery: I’ve been super into Moonjuice recently because I do truly believe that beauty starts from the inside out and the foundation of any look is the canvas. Basically, if your canvas or your skin is on point then you immediately have so much confidence because you feel open and your skin is breathing. So much of that has to do with good digestion and how your gut actually processes/absorbs nutrients, after all you could be eating the best food in the world but if your gut is not allowing you to absorb that nutrition, it’s no use. I’m also hugely into probiotics, I eat a ton of yogurt and probiotic supplements which I find really helps my immunity.
And then in terms of actual products that I lean on – Milk Makeup Undereye Coverage Duo. It totally neutralizes any undereye discoloration with the most flawless finish, plus it gives you the 8 hours of sleep you should of had. Also, great mascara is a must – I’ve been a Covergirl Lash Blast fanatic for the last 10 years but recently bought a Kevyn Aucoin formula that is pretty sick and twisted. And truly nothing beats fake lashes, if you have one beauty upkeep you want to invest in, it should be fake lashes all the way. I wear a strip everyday – makes me look like the most awake, alive version of myself.
Morning and night skincare regime: In the morning I’m pretty bad – I don’t really do a lot. I generally will use a Tata Harper Renewing Cleanser or I just splash my face with water and then apply the Tata Harper Concentrated Brightening Serum (which has helped me get rid of pregnancy mask) followed by a facial moisturizer and Dr.Hauschka Daily Hydrating Under Eye Cream – although I did just invest in the La Mer ‘The Eye’ Concentrate, so we’ll see if it actually makes a difference.
At night, I’m religious about taking off my makeup with coconut oil then gently wipe my face with Thayers Alcohol-free Rose Petal Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera just to make sure that there is no makeup or coconut oil residue remaining. I follow that process with whatever face oil I have around like argan or rose – I’m loving a brand called Lilfox that makes great face oils like a Seabuck Thorn oil because I have dry skin.
Fitness routine: Definitely could benefit from a more regimented approach as I currently go in spurts where I work out 5 times a week and then I don’t work out at all for 2 weeks. People always ask me how I find balance and the truth is I’m constantly recalibrating. There are some weeks where I get an A+ for working out and other weeks where I get an F, just like with being a mom, sometimes totally winning and other weeks feels like you’re failing. Bottom line, we have to be gentle with ourselves and recognize that it’s not a race and there’s no perfect solution. When you have time, work out and when you don’t have time, that’s ok too. I do know that when I workout my whole mindset changes and I feel incredible, plus, as a busy mom, just having 45 min to myself is heaven. I also believe that low impact workouts are the way forward for me because at this point it’s more important for me to enjoy what I’m doing so that when I do take the time to workout it’s a little bit of a luxury.
Styling tip or trick that you swear by: I’m super into highwaisted jeans – not crazy highwaisted but nice and fitted, that make your ass look good – I love J Brand. I’ve also been wearing a lot of bodysuits lately and I think these really work for moms as I’m constantly bending over and getting my kids off of the floor – or whatever – and you don’t want to always be pulling your shirt down so bodysuits are great for that to keep it all in tact.
What app most changed your life? I live for podcasts – I love the radio and books on tape and I can listen to them while I’m walking to meetings or running errands. They’ve totally enriched my life.
One tip: Work hard and have fun. That’s always been the advice that my parents gave me and I feel like when you work hard at something and you excel that confidence boost feels wonderful because you earned it for yourself. I also think that having fun is the most important part because you aren’t guaranteed any results but at least if you enjoyed the ride then it will all be worth it.