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Cooking, for Parents: 5 Ways to Be a School Day Chef

School Day ChefI cook a lot during my daughter’s naptime or after she is asleep for the night. But this fall she starts preschool and our schedule is going to shift. I will still cook while she naps (I’ve been blessed with a great napper) but I will also be able to cook when she is at school. In addition to being The Naptime Chef, I’ll be a School Day Chef. There are a lot of parents out there who have a little free time when the kids are at school. Of course, a lot of this time is taken up with chores and errands, but there still is a little time at home. Using this free time to cook is a great way to spare yourself stressful situations come evening. Even if it means simply prepping a few ingredients during the day, it can make dinner hour much easier and more approachable. Here are 5 tips for helping parents become School Day Chefs:

1. Prep Those Veggies!: Prep your vegetables. No vegetable will go bad when it is cut up and placed in bowls in the fridge for the afternoon. Slicing and dicing just about anything will save loads of time in the evening. It is also safer to be handling sharp knives when there are no kids in the kitchen to distract you. One of my favorite things to prep-ahead are carrots, celery and onions for mirepoix. Chopping all of those vegetables can save an amazing amount of time come dinner hour.

2. Marinate: Meat and Poultry will be safe when stored in the fridge all afternoon. When you have time in the morning rinse your meat and pat it dry, set it in a pan to marinade and leave it, covered with plastic wrap, in the fridge until evening. By dinner time your meat will be perfectly seasoned and ready to be cooked.

3. Bake: Making dough usually takes less than 10 minutes and cookie dough or brownie batter will last in the fridge for up to a day before you want to bake it. If you have time, daytime is a great time to get baking projects completed, too. This way you’ll have dessert all ready to go, or cupcakes made for school the next day.

4. Stock up: Daytime is a great time to stock your pantry. While you’re making pesto, make a double batch and freeze half. Make large batches of tomato sauce and freeze half of that, too. Whenever you have the chance to double a recipe do so and save half for later. This will save you on the days you have no free time and need a fast meal out of the freezer. Daytime is also the perfect time to make jams, you don’t have to worry about kids interrupting you while you work over a hot stove.

5. Final Assembly: Casseroles like Lasagna or Enchiladas can easily be assembled in full during the day if you have time. A dinner time the only thing left is to bake them. However, even if you don’t complete the final assembly of a meal early in the day it is a not a problem. By taking the time to prep, marinate, bake, or anything of that nature, you’ll save yourself time, and stress, in the evening.

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