Does organic food taste better? This Food Network star says yes

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Photo: Marcela Valladolid/Art by Jenna Cantagallo for Well+Good
Food Network star and chef Marcela Valladolid has hosted her fair share of cooking shows, from her own Mexican Made Easy to her current gig as a co-host of The KitchenAnd when it comes to what goes on at home, things really are As Seen On TV.

In her off hours, Valladolid is all about making delicious, healthy meals for her family (she’s got two boys and has another baby on the way), paying particular attention to the ingredients she uses to feed her brood. “I make a really hard effort to try and stock my refrigerator with organic, seasonal produce either from my garden or from the farmers’ market,” she explains.

But just because the produce is taking over the refrigerator doesn’t mean that Valladolid is incredibly strict about the way her crew eats. “With Fau [her 12-year-old], I generally follow an 80/20 way of eating. 80 percent of meals are eaten at home, so I like to make sure those are as clean as possible,” Valladolid says, acknowledging her son’s love of fresh fruit. “The other 20 percent of the time, he’s eating cupcakes, drinking Gatorade, going to McDonald’s—I don’t care, because he eats healthy at home,” she adds. 

The same goes for the chef. “I tend to be very healthy and clean at home—I put spirulina in my smoothies, and mostly eat organic, non-processed ingredients—but I love In ‘N Out,” she admits.

Curious to see what goes into those clean—but delicious—at-home meals? Valladolid gives us a look inside.

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Marcela Valladolid Fridge
Photo: Marcela Valladolid/Art by Jenna Cantagallo for Well+Good

You first made a name for yourself with Mexican cooking. Is that part of your day-to-day cuisine?

It’s the stuff that I grew up having. Instead of putting bread on the table, we put tortillas. The ingredients are so readily available on this side of the border that I don’t even think about it. But I also cook a lot of Mediterranean cuisine, we definitely do a lot of Italian. Felipé, my fiancé, makes the best pasta sauce. 

You have a lot of produce in your fridge! Where does it all come from?

I have access to a 1400-square-foot organic garden, so a lot of the produce comes from there. I know many people don’t have access to something like that, but everybody should be able to have organic and fresh-grown ingredients, either from a home garden or from a farmers’ market. The flavor is just so different. I absolutely shop at the supermarket—I go every single Monday and I’ll buy some things that are conventionally grown and not organic, but the flavor of freshly grown ingredients is just so superior.

 Are those herbs from your garden too? You store them so beautifully!

That’s some basil and rosemary from the garden. I use herbs a lot in my cooking and they’re stored like that to keep them fresh. The rosemary doesn’t really need it, but leafy herbs tend to do a lot better if you treat them like a small bouquet of flowers.

And I can’t help but notice that huge bottle of sauce in the door… what can you tell me about that?

Oh! That’s the hot sauce. It’s Valentina Hot Sauce—a Mexican brand. That’s how much hot sauce we consume. It probably lasts us about two or three weeks.

Marcela Valladolid fridge drawer
Photo: Marcela Valladolid/Art by Jenna Cantagallo for Well+Good

There are some other things I don’t recognize… are those aloe vera leaves in the drawer?

Oh, no! Those are cactus paddles. They’re incredibly popular in Mexico. The health benefits are huge—they’re full of soluble fiber and antioxidants. I grew up with them as salads almost daily. They’re super slimy and the only way to get rid of that is to cook them—you can boil them. People don’t really roast them in Mexico, but I roast them and they’re really good. I like to chop them up into pieces and toss them with a vinaigrette, cheese, onions, and tomato. You can also just put them on the table with lime juice and olive oil. My son loves them!

What’s your plan for that big bowl of coconuts?

I am really into the coconut water now that I’m pregnant, because they’re so clean and healthy. I really need that extra hydration, electrolytes, and energy. I use the water for a smoothie in the morning, and I love eating the flesh, too. I scoop it out and mix it with a bit of hot sauce and lime.

How is pregnancy affecting your diet?

It’s very different [because my] energy suffers horrendously. I mostly eat Paleo—fruits, vegetables, and a lot of foods that are really protein rich. For breakfast, I’ll have a piece of salmon, sautéed spinach, and grapes. I also have daily a giant pitcher of really, really cold water with cucumber, lemon, and mint. That’s my thing. I think it’s just to cool my body down, because your body temperature literally goes up when you’re pregnant. But in general, I’m craving lots of ripe, fresh foods right now.

Want to take a look at what’s in some other fridges? (Hey, it’s not being nosy, it’s healthy eating research!) Check out what fellow chef Richard Blais stocks up on, or peek inside the refrigerator of fashion maven Cynthia Rowley.

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