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Marcela Valladolid: Surviving and Entertaining on Passover and Easter

Earlier this week, I raced off to a women's book club meeting and left my husband the nightly duties of picking up kids from various fields and religious school. As I stood, cocktail in hand, nibbling on my appetizers and chatting with other working women, I realized how lucky I am to have a husband who can chip in with family responsibilities and cook dinner.

That is why I have such great respect for single mothers. With Passover and Easter upon us, I thought it would be helpful to have a single mom/professional chef weigh in with tips on how to make entertaining less stressful when we're already struggling with work life balance.

MarcelaMy guest blogger today is a single mother, chef, author and TV host of Food Network’s Mexican Made Easy, Marcela Valladolid. Marcela has learned how to juggle her ever-blossoming career as a celebrity chef while  making time for the most important person in her life; her seven-year-old son, Fausto. Here's how she does it.

As a single mom with demands on my time, I'm  selective in choosing projects to get involved with – from food festivals to appearances to sponsorships – only choosing endeavors that somehow have a special connection to me personally. Doing that, helps ensure I have ample time to spend with my son – be it cheering him on as he plays soccer, experimenting with him in the kitchen or chaperoning school field trips. 

I work like crazy and I’m not going to spend 3 hours cooking. Yet I feel this longing to eat the way I used to as a child; tostadas mollets, mole, such flavors give me pleasure and take me back and I had to find a way to blend them into my busy lifestyle. That's the premise behind my show and book Mexican Made Easy.

Some think that entertaining can add more stress than fun. I recommend entertaining potluck-style, the perfect way to spend less time stressing in the kitchen and more time enjoying the company of friends and loved ones.  

One of my favorite times to entertain is at brunch; it’s just the perfect occasion to unwind and reconnect with those you love in your life over delicious conversation all afternoon.  I find that creating simple and easy dishes with friends and family is the best way to maximize time reconnecting without spending too much time in the kitchen.  Here are my tips for hosting a fun, at-home stress-free gathering:

1. Instead of having a sit-down brunch, serve everything buffet style. A brunch buffet is a relaxed affair, so feel free to use any available surface as a serving table.

2. When determining what you’ll contribute, remember that your guests will most likely be balancing plates on their laps. Dishes like my Pineapple-Cajeta Empanadas (from Mexican Made Easy, Clarkson Potter/Publishers) don’t require serving utensils, so they’re perfect for a potluck brunch and easy to transport if needed!

3. Have guests bring their favorite dishes along with a story about why it’s in regular rotation in their recipe book for conversation fodder.

4. When putting together a brunch it’s always great to have some freshly-made dishes such as salsas on hand that are quick and easy to make; but no need to spend all of your time in the kitchen the day of your brunch!  Make dishes that can be made a day or two ahead of time like my Corn Tamales, which are a favorite in my brunch circuit.

5. Kahlúa has a special place in my heart when it comes to cocktails as part of my Mexican heritage.  Whether you’re fixing your brunch at home or bringing the bar to your host, whip up a simple two-ingredient cocktail such as Kahlúa and Club Soda. It’s simple to create at home and I love the sultry coffee notes you get from the Kahlúa in the drink that pair so perfectly with brunch. (see recipe below)

For more recipes and tips you can check out my brunch experiences and tips for the Delicioso Brunch Club at Facebook.com/Kahlua.