Marcela Valladolid is a chef and author known for hosting Food Network’s “Mexican Made Easy” and “The Kitchen.” She’s also a mom, and had success in getting her kids excited to eat healthy food from their garden by involving them in the process from start to finish.

“The more kids are involved, the more likely they are to eat the food,” she says. “Getting them involved gets them excited, and kids are much more likely to try something that they were involved in the process of creating because it gives them a sense of accomplishment — kids always love approval.”

Sprouting investment

Valladolid relates a time when her son Fausto grew a pinto bean sprout as a science experiment for school; the bean sprouted and he took it home in its jar. Once it started to get too big for the jar, he went on his own and planted it in their garden. Shortly thereafter, when he had a friend over, Valladolid asked the boys to help her pick beans but received little interest from them until she revealed a surprise.

FAMILY FARM: With a single bean pod, Valladolid has turned her garden into something working to foster a healthier lifestyle for herself and her family.

“I grabbed one of the pods and opened it, and said, ‘This is the sprout that you planted in the yard, and now it’s a plant.’ When I opened the pod to show them the pinto beans, they both went nuts. They couldn’t believe that bean had grown into this plant, and it would become the beans that we regularly have for dinner.”

Kitchen aid

Valladolid says that the key for her has been to let her kids experiment and learn their own rhythm for food preparation.

“I have to remind myself that it is okay if things get ruined or broken or dirty,” she says. “Just let them do their thing so they’re not intimidated and afraid. And if you let them go, eventually they’ll love it and come back for more.”

A Jalapeño Roast Chicken Recipe That’s Fit for Your Family

Chef Marcela Valladolid, of The Food Network, shares a healthy dish to spice up your culinary routine.


  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and sliced into one-inch pieces

  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil, divided

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh jalapeños

  • 1 5-pound whole chicken, giblets removed

  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled

  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano

  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley

  • 1 lime, sliced into rounds

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 475°F.

  2. Arrange squash in a heavy cast iron skillet just large enough to fit them all in a single crowded layer and dot two tablespoons coconut oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and toss to coat. Set aside.

  3. Carefully place jalapeños under skin of chicken. Stuff chicken cavity with garlic, oregano, parsley, lime and remaining coconut oil. Season heavily with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place stuffed chicken breast-side up, directly on top of squash.

  4. Roast chicken and squash, rotating pan halfway through cooking process, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of chicken thigh registers 165°F, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

  5. Let rest 10 minutes before carving or shredding.