• Stir it Up: Make time to cook; your family is worth it
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     | April 13,2012
     
    Steve Legato Photo

    Side dishes of carrots, green beans and sugar snap peas round out quick, simple family meals.

    It’s easy to dislike Kelsey Banfield, aka the Naptime Chef. She is a stay-at-home mom-turned-blogger (www.thenaptimechef.com) who, according to her new cookbook, turned a realization that she could make dinner while her daughter napped into a “fun and satisfying project.”

    Any working parent who reads these words is forgiven for a few nasty thoughts. If your child naps at day care while you are at work, it doesn’t leave you a lot of opportunity to make dinner.

    That was my first reaction to Banfield’s book, “The Naptime Chef” (Running Press, 2012). But then I realized that this book is all about making time to feed your family well. If it happens to be during naptime, so be it. If it’s early morning, before the rascals are awake, that’s good, too. If it’s after their bedtime (and you haven’t crashed yet), fine.

    Talk to working parents who cook and you’ll hear a common refrain: They give up something to make family meals happen. It might be something fun (surfing the Internet, reading for pleasure, sleeping) or something that, before they had children, seemed “essential” (organized drawers, perfectly folded laundry, a weed-free garden).

    “The point is, time is there,” Banfield writes. “Find where it is in your day and fit great food into your family life.”

    Bottom line: It can be done. If you believe, as Banfield does, that it SHOULD be done, you simply have to find the time. Like most things worth doing, it may not be easy.

    “The Naptime Chef” is full of help in the form of recipes for main dishes, soups and stews, breakfast foods, breads and desserts. But the most impressive chapter is on side dishes. Nearly anyone can slap a chicken breast/pork chop/fish fillet/burger into a pan and come up with something reasonably edible without much fuss. But side dishes require effort. You can fool yourself that ketchup counts as a vegetable, but not for long. And a meal with some real vegetables feels like, well, a real meal.

    Below are three side dishes that will complement that chicken/pork/fish/burger. These are so speedy, you may even have time for a quick nap.



    Green beans with toasted almonds, olive oil and sea salt

    Yield: 4 to 6 servings

    Kosher salt

    1 pound green beans (preferably the thin ones called haricots vert), trimmed

    3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

    ½ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

    ½ teaspoon sea salt



    To a large saucepan three-quarters full of water, add a few pinches of kosher salt. Bring water to a boil. In a large bowl, prepare an ice bath of cold water and ice cubes; set aside. Add beans to boiling water and cook until beans are tender enough to be speared with a fork but are still a bit crunchy, about 2 minutes. Drain beans and plunge them into the ice bath, swishing them around for 30 seconds. Drain and pat dry. You can do this part several hours ahead of time. Cover and refrigerate the beans, but bring to room temperature before serving.

    To serve: Toss cooked beans, oil, almonds and sea salt and serve immediately.

    Recipe from “The Naptime Chef” by Kelsey Banfield (Running Press, 2012)



    Sugar snap peas with parmesan and pine nuts

    Yield: 4 servings

    ½ cup pine nuts, toasted

    ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

    1 tablespoon olive oil

    1 pound sugar snap peas, washed and patted dry

    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper



    Using a food processor, pulse pine nuts and Parmesan until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. You can do this hours ahead of time.

    Just before serving, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high until oil is hot but not smoking. Toss peas in the oil until they are cooked through but not limp, about 5 minutes. Keep a constant eye on beans so they don’t overcook.

    Remove skillet from the heat and sprinkle on the pine nut mixture and pepper. Toss lightly and serve.

    Recipe from “The Naptime Chef” by Kelsey Banfield (Running Press, 2012)



    Roasted carrots with thyme

    Yield: 4 servings

    2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

    1 tablespoon olive oil

    2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

    2 teaspoons kosher salt

    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper



    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.

    In a large bowl, toss together carrots, oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Spread carrots evenly on the prepared baking sheet and bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until softened and lightly brown, stirring with a wooden spoon at 15 minutes to ensure even roasting.

    Recipe from “The Naptime Chef” by Kelsey Banfield (Running Press, 2012)



    Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer living in Calais.

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