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. —>


New Jersey Family: For new moms, what's the number one tip you would give them for cooking and adjusting to their new cooking parameters?

Kelsey: Think simple. When there is a new baby in the house I don't encourage reading gourmet food magazines for recipes. Instead, think about what you want that evening/week/month and keep it straightforward. If you are craving soup, then look at a recipe for tomato or chicken noodle. Now is not the time to experiment with exotic ingredients and ten step recipes for something you've never cooked. Simple means manageable and, usually, fresh and satisfying for everyone. (I am being reminded of keeping it simple right now – my son is 6 weeks old so I am back in the newborn "naptime cooking" phase!)

New Jersey Family: And last, do you have any one piece of advice for a new mom or dad who is also new to the kitchen and doesn't even know how to start to prepare family meals?

Kelsey: Start with the basics. Think about something you like that is fairly common (baked chicken, mac and cheese, beef stew, guacamole) and pick ONE thing to tackle at a time. If you make a simple baked chicken one night, then buy a salad to go with it. Trying to coordinate three courses while learning how to cook can be way too much. Learn each basic recipe one at a time before attempting to make them all the same night. I also say common basic recipes are the best to start with since you can find them nearly anywhere. When you use a trusted source for any of these basic-style dishes they should come out well.

Remember, don't give up cooking and eating great food just because you have kids. There is a way to fit it in! Enjoy!

Thank you Kelsey for these great ideas! Now who’s inspired to cook something great? What’s your family’s favorite recipe? Comment Below!


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