"Naptime" Cooking (and Preparing)

Kelsey Banfield, author of The Naptime Chef, covers kitchen basics to birthday party prep.

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In the March issue of New Jersey Family, we shared a delicious recipe for Sticky Orange Drumsticks from The Naptime Chef: Fitting Great Food into Family Life by Kelsey Banfield.

Kelsey's cookbook is filled with so many great recipes and tips for busy parents to make the most of their time in the kitchen that we asked Kelsey to share a few more of her great ideas that make it possible for moms and dads to find time to make home cooked family meals.

Kelsey was gracious enough to answer a few questions, here are her inspiring and helpful answers on everything from birthday party prep to getting started in the kitchen when you’re a new mom.

New Jersey Family: Now that I've got my daily cooking under control with The Naptime Chef, I'm looking to kids’ birthday parties, family events and holidays. What are your tips for planning birthday parties, so that during the actual party moms can enjoy themselves instead of last-minute cooking/prepping?

Kelsey: I am a big fan of keeping birthday parties super simple. Kids aren't looking for food to savor, they are looking for their favorites and things they can eat quickly while they chat. One of the keys is to mix homemade with store-bought. For example, bake a beautiful cake from scratch a week before, freeze it, and thaw and frost it the day of the party. A delicious homemade cake is always the best.

For snacks, skip trying to make things from scratch and buy some kid favorites like cheddar goldfish, pretzels, and pigs in blankets. You can even give them your own twist by dipping pretzel rods in chocolate or decorating store bought brownie bites with frosting and sprinkles. Serve drinks in juice boxes (so much cleaner!), and buy pizza from your favorite pizzeria if that is requested.

Then, prep everything in bowls ahead of time so before the party you just have to place them on the table and sit back and deal with the kids. Remember that any party room will get messy so choose your party decorations accordingly!

New Jersey Family:  For a big holiday how do you get ready? Do you have suggestions for applying the "naptime" principles to preparing a big meal?

Kelsey: I like to sit down a week before any big holiday and plan out what to make ahead of time. For example, cookie dough and many casseroles can easily be prepped in advance and refrigerated or frozen. When the actual holiday celebration arrives, bake them fresh so they are moist and delicious when people arrive.

On the day of a holiday dinner I try to make sure the only things left to start from scratch are the simple items like green salads and warming up the dinner rolls. "Naptime" cooking doesn't have to be about prepping a meal entirely in advance, it is about preparing bits and pieces and finishing it off fresh. Make sure you have enough oven space for everything!

Preparing family meals? Follow these tips. —>

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