Chef Marcela Valladolid recipes
HOLA! USA Interview

Celebrity Chef Marcela Valladolid shares superfood salad recipe and more essential health tips

Plus, the former Food Network star’s life-changing partnership with Verizon

Celebrity Chef Marcela Valladolid is on a mission to create a healthier (and more delicious) world. As the reopening phase begins, the former Food Network star serves up tips for everyone to stay as healthy and happy as possible. For one thing, the California native has teamed up with Verizon to celebrate their incredible new bilingual digital health platform Hoy Health, which aims to bring exclusive discounts to qualified customers. “To now be able to provide something super nice and easy to the people I love the most in my life... is exciting and rewarding,” she tells us.

The mom-of-three thrives at the crossroads of health and culture, striving to bring traditional and nutritious Mexican recipes into mainstream America. Above all, she believes cooking from the heart can produce peace. “When we connect to food that brings us comfort, there’s something that happens emotionally, mentally, and brings joy,” she says.

Read our full chat with Chef Valladolid and then try out her new recipe below:

Chef Marcela Valladolid©@ChefMarcela
Chef Marcela Valladolid is looking toward a brighter future with Verizon’s Hoy Health

HOLA! USA: I’m guessing you’ve been cooking a lot while staying safe at home. What’s been your favorite recipe to come out of quarantine?

Chef Marcela Valladolid: Any recipe that has taken me back to my traditional Mexican recipes that I grew up with. I have a cactus paddle salad that I love and what excites me about revisiting an ingredient like cactus paddle now is that it’s just packed with superfood benefits like antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and is great for digestion. While a lot of people in the U.S. aren’t as familiar with it, it’s readily available and can really amp up flavor. I developed this salad recipe filled with creamy avocado dressing, roasted pepitas, radish and tomato - oh yes, that’s been my favorite one so far.

Sounds delicious. Congratulations on your incredible new partnership with Verizon’s Hoy Health by the way!

I’m super excited about it. Honestly, when I was approached by Verizon and Hoy Health I was so excited by what it means and what it provides for their customers, and how easy it makes the whole process. To be able to provide this service to my friends and family in Latin America, and make sure they get what they need is just great. I don’t know about your dad, but whenever I ask if he should see a doctor mine is always like “Nope nothing’s wrong!” But now I can just set this up for him, with a Spanish speaking doctor, and sit him in front of the computer and he’s taken care of. Especially with Covid, when many are nervous to go to a doctor’s office or clinic, this is such a great solution for him and my other friends and family and why I’m so excited to partner with them.

How did you decide to get involved?

I was approached by the brand, but the important thing to mention is I will never ever enter a partnership that doesn’t resonate with me and my life. After a zillion questions, I really love this program, and what it means for not just my health but the health of my friends, family and my community.

How does it feel for you knowing that this will benefit so many families?

It feels amazing! Through the course of the pandemic I’ve been involved in fundraisers to help my community with all the ways they’ve been impacted, and of course my friends and family don’t really get to join me in that work right now. But to now be able to provide something super nice and easy to the people I love the most in my life, and that Verizon customers can give this to their friends and family as well, is exciting and rewarding.

Speaking of family, as the weather and the world gets better lots of family and friends will gather outdoors. What are your best tips for hosting an outdoor meal in these times?

Oh I’m so happy about this by the way! That’s my jam! Before Covid I was always finding an excuse to have a gathering or have people over and I’m excited we can do that again.If you’re hosting, before we get into the food, always know that as the host you set the mood for your gathering. If you are stressed or freaking out about the filet mignon - your guests will feel it. Hosting a party is not the time to experiment with a new recipe. Don’t do it! Pick things that work at room temperature. I always say, especially if entertaining outdoors, pick dishes that work at room temperature for a few hours (and that will be safe doing that) and dishes that won’t stress you out so you can relax with your guests. Create a chill atmosphere. Your guests will remember how they felt more than what they ate. Choose dishes that you‘re comfortable with so you and your guests can relax and enjoy themselves. Ultimately, it’s about what you bring to the table with not just your food but your energy as well.

What do you see as the food of summer 2021?

I wanna see the return of everything traditional Mexican. I’ve had so many interactions with my fans during Covid, more than ever before, and there is such a longing to go back to basics. So my hope for this summer is to go back to the basics, to classic Mexican dishes - the chile rellenos, mole, tacos, carnitas. As chefs we feel like we need to recreate these dishes to show off our experience and skills. But the people I’m chatting with want to go back to the original classics and back to tradition. The past year has really forced us to refocus on what’s going on at home, and that includes embracing our traditions. So summer 2021, to me, will be the return of traditional Mexican food.

We love that! Cooking certainly brings a lot of comfort in these times, but it can also add to people’s stress as you mentioned. Do you have any tips for making time in the kitchen extra fun and stress free?

Yes! Cooking for me is my joy, my stress relief, my escape from reality. But for my sister, cooking is stressful. Even making a sandwich stresses her. So I’ve really thought a lot about how to make cooking fun for her and those like her. I’ve found if you are insecure in the kitchen and don’t know where to start, just go back to basics and things you love or grew up with. When we connect to food that brings us comfort, there’s something that happens emotionally, mentally, and brings joy. Go back to solutions and dishes that bring you comfort. The French concept of mise en place is all about preparation and preparation takes away the anxiety. Read the recipe a few times before you get started. Prep all the ingredients. Turn on the oven. Get out the dishes. You will feel much less stressed and have more fun in the kitchen.

Try out Chef Marcela Valladolid’s wonderful advice below with her new recipe:

cactus paddle salad recipe©Chef Marcela Valladolid
Chef Marcela Valladolid’s Cactus Paddle Salad

Cactus Paddle Salad  (4 servings)

Cactus paddles are PACKED with fiber and nutrients and are now very easy to find at the supermarket! If you don’t have access to them, you can simply substitute with ¾ of a head of shredded cabbage for an equally delicious and healthy slaw.

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ pounds cactus paddles with spikes removed (they can be purchased this way), thinly sliced into ¼-inch thick strips
  • ½ white onion
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Pinch of Mexican Oregano
  • 2 roma tomatoes, seeded, chopped
  • ½ cauliflower, thinly sliced into large, paper thin slices
  • ½ white onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup toasted, salted pepitas
  • 4 radishes, quartered
  • Everything bagel seasoning with chipotle flakes (optional)
  • Avocado dressing (recipe follows)

Avocado Dressing Ingredients:

  • Makes 1 ¼ cups dressing
  • ½ cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded (use half if you don’t want any heat!)
  • ½ avocado
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of water

Recipe Directions:

  1. Place sliced cactus paddles in large pot along with halved onion, bay leaves, pinch of oregano and large pinch of salt. Turn heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until cactus turns olive-green color and liquid has evaporated.
  2. Strain cactus and rinse with cold water. Discard onion and bay leaf. Pat dry cactus very well and transfer to bowl.
  3. Mix in thinly sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced onion and cauliflower, being careful not to break the cauliflower pieces too much.
  4. Carefully fold in avocado dressing (make sure it’s not too stiff) and pepitas.
  5. Transfer to platter. Top with quartered radishes and bagel seasoning, if desired. Serve.

If you try out the recipe, be sure to share with us @holausa!