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Cooks We Love: Kelsey Banfield, The Naptime Chef

Kelsey Banfield is the force behind the brilliant blog, The Naptime Chef, and the cookbook "The Naptime Chef: Fitting Great Food Into Family Life." Her site reinforces the fact that loving good food and cooking at home can coincide just fine with raising a family — even little ones. Early on, Kelsey realized that the chunk of time each day when her child was napping was the calmest time to work in the kitchen, so she began planning for these hours in the day, whipping up recipes to feed her family. These days on Kelsey’s blog, you can find everything from family-friendly recipes and food travel articles to mom-friendly lifestyle tips.

Website or blog: The Naptime Chef

Blogging since: 2009

Where you call home: Southern Connecticut

What’s your earliest cooking memory? We were very close with my grandparents and my grandmother used to put me in charge of frosting the lamb cake every Easter. The joke was that my mouth would be filled with frosting and only a little would end up on the cake!

How would you characterize or describe your cooking style today? Easygoing and fun. I really like to have fun in the kitchen. It is my respite and my playground. I am constantly trying new recipes and I like to keep it simple. I subscribe to the idea that a good recipe only news a few ingredients. Anything more complicated and I am not interested.

What’s your favorite thing to cook at home? Why? I like big family dishes that make the whole house smell good. Those are the kind you can’t really find at restaurants. Those are usually things like big vats of soups in the winter and super fresh pasta with lots of vegetables in the summer. I also like making things my kids can help with; the more hands in the kitchen the better!

What are three things you have in the pantry at all times? Dried pasta, kosher salt and canned tomatoes. I mean, that is practically a meal right there!

What’s your “There’s Nothing in the Fridge Dinner”? The one thing you often whip up with very few ingredients or, perhaps, very little inspiration? Sometimes I do big scrambled egg mashes. I scramble them up with salsa, or vegetables, or crushed potato chips and cheese. It is breakfast for dinner! The other route is tacos. Anything can be warmed up and wrapped in a tortilla with cheese and called a taco.

What are some of your kitchen goals — skills you want to improve on or recipes you want to try or master? I didn’t go to culinary school so I am constantly working on my knife skills. I really want to take a knife skills class. I also want to work on some richer French classic like cassoulet and coq au vin. They taste amazing when done correctly. I study the recipes but still have yet to do them perfectly.

How has becoming a mother changed your experience as a home cook? There is no doubt that efficiency is the key to kitchen sanity once you have kids. I plan ahead and now focus on getting things made more quickly. That is OK though, because I don’t compromise the quality of the food I make, I just focus on what I can honestly make in the time frame I have.

What are some of your favorite cookbooks and/or food blogs? There are SO many out there that are amazing. Here are my most favorite books these days:

"Mad Hungry" – An honest look at feeding a family. The recipes are all accessible and delicious!

"Apples for Jam" – A wistful yet practical cookbook with loads of family recipes.

"Baking from My Home to Yours" – Dorie is a cookbook goddess and it is really the only baking book you’ll ever need. Birthday cakes, cookies, celebration pastries — they are all here!

"Food in Jars" – I am an avid preserver in the summer!

And the blogs I read regularly:

Weelicious – Catherine really gets it when it comes to feeding a family!

Simple Bites – I aspire to have a garden like Aimee's. Her family is brimming with happiness and her food and writing reflects that.

Feed Me Phoebe – This is my way to live the life of a twentysomething New Yorker again. Ahh, those were the days.

Food52 – There is always a genius recipe that catches my eye! Plus, that Provisions shop is super dangerous for my checkbook.

Besides other cookbooks or food blogs, where do you draw inspiration for your cooking?

In the summer, I am all about the ingredients. That is the most important thing for me. In the winter, I love rereading all my favorite cookbooks, browsing my favorite blogs and challenging myself with new dishes here or there.

Where else can we find you?

I'm on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook. And at my local farmer’s market!

UP NEXT IN THE SERIES: Denise Browning, From Brazil to You

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