EXCLUSIVE: Food Network's Marcela Valladolid On Holiday Cooking With Your Family

Whenever the holiday season arrives, questions about food begin to slither their way into our heads. How do you make the sometimes-daunting task of cooking for your family an enjoyable experience? What to do with leftovers?

You get the deal.

We brought our questions recently to Marcela Valladolid, host of Food Network’s Mexican Made Easy. The 33-year-old Mexican American chef, who usually spends her Thanksgiving holidays with her tia in Tijuana, Mexico, had plans to visit Las Vegas with family this year.

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On the heels of the October release of her new book Mexican Made Easy, Valladolid spoke to Latina.com via e-mail about the holiday season. The chef shared everything from receiving help in the kitchen from her son Fausto to her tips on what to do with leftovers. Check out our full interview with Valladolid below:

What suggestions would you have for parents who want to include their kids in the holiday cooking experience?

I always have Fausto help me out with his favorite Thanksgiving dishes. Last year, he helped me with dessert by stuffing empanadas with pineapple and cajeta. Have them help with their favorite dessert, like decorating cupcakes or rolling out dough for a pie. 

What are some of your favorite recipes for left-over food?

Turkey is so versatile and I make so much of it, there is always a week of left overs at home. I sometimes make turkey enchiladas, stuffing the turkey in warmed tortillas and topping with my favorite salsa. Or sometimes I make tostadas, by spreading a tostada with warm refried beans, topping with shredded turkey, and drizzling with my favorite salsa. 

What does a typical holiday meal look like in your house? 

Every year, I try to make the turkey different but this in one of my favorite holiday menus: Crimini mushrooms stuffed with shard, spiced turkey with chocolate pasilla sauce, acorn squash and roasted garlic mash, Yukon Potato, poblano, corn gratin, caramelized yams with marshmallow streusel, and of course Mexican chocolate pecan pie. 

What are you most thankful for this year?

First and foremost, I am thankful for my son Fausto. Being his mom fills my heart with joy every single day. I am also extremely thankful for my loving family; I take enormous leaps with the assurance they are always there to catch me.

What are some tips on how to make an everyday meal festive and special?

It is very important to cook out of your heart. You can invite people over or make your kids their favorite food – that usually inspires me in the kitchen. There is nothing more satisfying to me than seeing people who eat my food have smiles on their faces. It makes the experience special.