Marina developed her love for cooking at a young age. Growing up, she was surrounded by home cooks with various cultural backgrounds who nurtured her skills and taught her traditional recipes. She now puts that classic spin on recipes she shares with Taste of Home. We just know you’re going to love her dishes as much as we do!
Taste of Home: Tell us a little about you!
Marina Castle Kelley: I moved to the Santa Clarita Valley, California, in 2012. I love the desert. I married my wonderful husband, Joe, on June 17, 2016. When I’m not in the kitchen, I love spending time with my grandchildren (I have 15!). Right now, I live with my husband and my elderly mother, Nena. I feel blessed to be able to give my mom the best quality of life and cook meals she loves every day.
TOH: How did your love of cooking get started? Was there someone in your life who taught you?
MCK: I attribute my love of cooking and baking to several people. Of course, my mom, who is a Spaniard, but was born in Cuba. She taught me how to make perfect rice, picadillo and papas rellenas. (Find more of Mom’s best recipes.)
I also learned Italian cooking from my Sicilian stepdad, Fred. He taught me to make the best meatballs and gravy (aka Italian red sauce).
We had a wonderful neighbor who taught me about the fine and colorful world of authentic Mexican cuisine, including homemade salsas, spicy egg dishes and, of course, burritos.
TOH: What inspires you to cook?
MCK: I find that cooking and baking are great stress relievers. My life was turned upside down, when both my 43-year-old daughter and my husband were diagnosed with cancer. I use cooking and baking to stay sane and then share what I make to bring happiness to other people.
(Marina, we understand how therapeutic cooking can be. We’ve pulled together 100 recipes that we hope will ease some stress for folks just like you.)
TOH: What recipe do you get asked to make the most?
MCK: Hands down my beefy potato burritos. I’ll make them anytime, because they’re just delicious. These burritos are a meal by themselves.
(We love that you won a blue ribbon with this recipe! Here are a few more blue-ribbon recipes to try.)
TOH: Who do you love to cook for most?
MCK: Mostly my husband. I swear, he would eat a rock if I covered it with my almond cream cheese frosting. He brags to his work family about what a great baker and cook I am. I get embarrassed, but I also get emotional because he shows how much he loves me.
(That frosting sounds amazing! Hope you’ll share it with us.)
TOH: What’s your favorite recipe?
MCK: My carrot cake cookies. Carrot cake is one of my absolute favorites, so I created a recipe to make those flavors easier to transport (and to eat while I’m driving).
TOH: Do you have any cooks or chefs whom you admire, and why?
MCK: I love, love, love Bobby Flay. He just seems like a really great guy. I also love Ina Garten—her recipes are always easy to follow and I can count on them to be delicious.
(We love Ina, too! We tried her chocolate cake recipe, and here’s what we thought.)
TOH: Do you have any family heirloom recipes?
MCK: My mom’s arroz con pollo (Cuban chicken and rice) belonged to my great-grandmother. The only thing I updated was to remove the sentence “go outside and find a plump chicken.” I find it much easier to just go to the grocery store for my chicken now.
(We love your arroz con leche recipe too. So sweet and creamy!)
TOH: What kitchen appliance is indispensable for you and why?
MCK: I’d be lost without my KitchenAid mixers—I actually own three of them. I love them so much I named them! Betty is my hand mixer. She’s perfect for quick and easy jobs, like whipping cream, meringue or a small batch of cookies. Bobby is my medium blender for everyday mixing, cookies, cakes and frosting. When I’m really baking up a storm, I bring out Martha, my big stand mixer. I use her for large heavy mixing. She makes easy work of kneading bread dough or whipping up large cakes and big-batch cookies.
(Psst, Marina: Do you have all of these KitchenAid attachments?)
TOH: What’s your desert-island meal—the one you could eat over and over again and never get tired of?
MCK: Lasagna, garlic bread and chocolate cake. Ooh, and some crusty French bread with an icy Dr. Pepper to wash it all down! Pure comfort food for this gal.
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