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My Favorite Room: Natalie Morales welcomes you into her kitchen — and doesn't fret about the mess

My Favorite Room: Natalie Morales welcomes you into her kitchen — and doesn't fret about the mess
"I'm not one of those people where everything has to be perfect and in its place. I think that's when you really feel like it's a comfortable house," Morales says. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Faced with a cross-country move to Los Angeles two years ago, news anchor Natalie Morales immediately fell in love with her Brentwood home, just from looking at the online photos.

"When I saw this kitchen, the tiles and the giant island, I was sold right away on this house," Morales, 45, said.

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Since moving into the 6,500-square-foot home, the spacious, sky-toned kitchen has become the stage for her culinary self-discovery.

Morales, best known as the West Coast anchor of NBC's "Today" show and host of entertainment show "Access," has turned to her new California-inspired kitchen as a place to relax, polish her favorite recipes and write.

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"I love to cook. I'm one of those people who loves to let everything go, let my cares fall away and work on perfecting cooking," she said. "It's my place to find myself."

Her love of cooking inspired her first cookbook, "At Home With Natalie," which will be released April 17.

What are some of your favorite design elements in your new kitchen?

The fact that it's very open and blends into the great room — that's something I've always dreamed of. I love the double stove-top, and the double refrigerator is pretty incredible. I never thought I was going to fill them up, but inevitably they're both overflowing with leftovers.

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How would you describe your aesthetic style?

California, very comforting and welcoming. My kitchen is a kitchen I use. It's always dirty at the end of the day; there are always plates everywhere, and I'm not one of those people where everything has to be perfect and in its place. I think that's when you really feel like it's a comfortable house. Nothing is too precious; everything is replaceable.

Did you decorate yourself?

I had help from Tim Clarke, an interior designer from Santa Monica. He's really great with the California design aesthetic and worked within our budget.

You've moved quite a bit in your life. What are some of your favorite kitchen items that have followed you from house to house?

My pots and pans and knives — every cook's staples. The cookbooks that I've collected over the years, some of which I've found on my travels. I have some from Spain and some by friends, like Giada [De Laurentiis]. In some ways I feel like I have my friends in my kitchen with me.

How have your family heritage and traditions influenced you and your kitchen?

I'm Puerto Rican and Brazilian, so there is a lot of Latin influence coming from a big family where gatherings always involve food as the centerpiece. Overall, I grew up learning to cook through osmosis, watching my mother in the kitchen and always being by her side helping her.

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What are some of your favorite meals or dishes to prepare in here?

Slow-cooker ropa vieja (which literally means "old clothes"), Moroccan turkey chili, tortilla española, empanadas and flan straight from my mom. What I love about cooking Latin food is it has a lot of really flavorful spices and ingredients that are really fresh. The only thing is sometimes it can be very heavy or fattening, so I try to find ways to make it a little bit leaner and lighter.

What is one of your fondest memories in here so far?

Hosting a Christmas party recently with some of my colleagues from the "Today" show. We had a blast. Everything was open, music was playing, lots of wine flowing, and the food was great. It was nice to share the house with other people after being welcomed by everyone when we moved here.

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