Katie Lee won't be spending the holidays with her extended family this year, but there is one special new addition she will get to cozy up to: her daughter Iris!
Like many Americans, the Food Network star, 39, is limiting her Thanksgiving celebration to her household this year in order to minimize the potential spread of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19). That household grew by one on Sept. 2, when she and husband Ryan Biegel welcomed their first child together, daughter Iris Marion.
"We're having a very small holiday, just me and my husband and our new baby, Iris, and our little dog, Gus. We figure even though it's just us, we're still going to try to make it as festive as possible," she tells PEOPLE.
"Usually we have a really big Thanksgiving," she says of how they typically celebrate, adding that they've previously rented a house with Biegel's extended family in Santa Ynez wine valley in California for the occasion.
"We did that for a couple of years and it was really, really nice. It's one of their family traditions," she says of her husband’s family. "So we're going to miss being with everybody, but we all understand that it's better to stay safe and healthy this year. And hopefully next year we can blow it out of the water."
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The Kitchen co-host still plans to whip up a feast at home, she says, just adjusting for a smaller serving size. "We're going to have all of our favorite foods. I'm making my usual maple sage turkey, but we're doing a turkey breast instead. And I'm still going to do my cornbread dressing. I'm going to make my mom's cranberry relish," Lee shares.
For the new mom, recreating those beloved recipes is a way of staying connected. "I think through those recipes — because food is so nostalgic — you can feel like you're together. You can have that sensory memory as well."
While she may be downsizing to a turkey breast, she’s still looking forward to having leftovers.
"I love leftovers. I am so into it," she says when asked if she prefers them to the Thanksgiving Day meal itself. "And not just on Thanksgiving. All the time," she continues, revealing that they even made an appearance in her wedding vows.
"I love leftovers to the point that in my wedding vows, I had to say to my husband that I would never make stuffed peppers again, because there was an episode where I had made a big batch and he had to eat them for leftovers for about five days," she laughs.
One course she hasn't portion-adjusted? Dessert!
"I've got some really fun desserts here that we're planning on making for us, and I'm also making a few extra batches to drop on our friends' doorsteps," she says, before sharing the recipe for two of her favorites: holiday peppermint brownies and chocolate peanut butter popcorn bars.
The recipes, which are available on readyseteat.com, are "so easy," she says. "I've actually been making this recipe since I was in high school," she adds of the brownies, for which she swears by Duncan Hines' brownie mix, noting it's "really thick and fudgy" and holds up against the peppermint patties in the center.
The popcorn bars were inspired by her pregnancy cravings over the summer, she says. "I wanted things salty, sweet, with chocolate and peanut butter. So think crispy rice treats but with popcorn and peanut butter," she explains, adding her go-to is Orville Redenbacher.
Luckily, she's got the perfect sous chef to help her in the kitchen this year — daughter Iris.
"I bring her little chair in and put it on the floor, and she sits there and it's almost like we're having a little cooking show together because I talk to her constantly to try to help her vocabulary eventually," the proud new mom says. "I tell her everything that I'm cooking and how I'm doing it. So it's basically like I'm doing a cooking show every time I'm in the kitchen with her."
Having that time with her daughter amid the stress of the ongoing pandemic has been a blessing, she says. "Having a baby right now, it has been the best time to have a baby because I don't have anything else to do except be with her and make brownies."