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Chef Michael Smith's Back to School Food Tips

08/29/2013 05:20 EDT | Updated 10/29/2013 05:12 EDT

No one knows how the back to school juggle like uber busy chef, TV personality, writer, environmentalist and dad Michael Smith. He wraps up his day religiously at 4 p.m. to make dinner for the family. He really does. And he uses this time to prepare other meals in advance, like the "20 item salad" his 11-year-old, Gabe takes to school. He starts with a can of mixed beans and takes them to the fridge in search of 19 more things to make a lunch out of. Gabe then shares at school and makes a game of it with his chums...he gets them to guess what's in his lunch today. Pretty cool way to get kids eating beans.

Michael says "don't confuse unfamiliar with difficult" and has these tips to make weekdays go more smoothly right through the school year.

1. Michaels kids love to cook pancakes on the weekend, they make a whole grain batter, double it and use up the next day for waffles. Seasonal fruits and homemade compote make quick, healthy breakfasts.

2. Just decide that the kitchen is fun, not work. Don't worry about the clean up part, have a system to make quick work of that too.

3. Serve all meals "family style" on platters to please everyone's palate and hunger level and then the leftover components can be transformed into lunches.

4. Cook outside on the grill as long as you can while the weather is good, grill off a bunch of fish fillets, chicken breasts or legs at the same time and toss into salads.

5. Have a fridge shelf designated for fruit and chopped veg ready for the after school rush, kids are hungry at this time and you have more of a chance to "hit the mark."

6. While you are cooking dinner, put an extra pot on the back burner with veggie ends, peels and bones. This makes a very nourishing soup, broth for rice. Reduce it all the way down after straining and it can become a sauce.

7. Make baby food out of whatever you have on the go. Mash and jar, freeze.

8. Cook your basics in advance when you have time: quinoa, wild rice, beef, tomato sauce and the like do very well in the fridge throughout the week.

9. Have a neighbourhood baking rally. Trade off muffins, biscuits, breads and loaves to get everyone in on the process and some great variety.

Having a system to make clean up easier encourages you to get in there more often. Chef Michael shares these clean up tips:

1. Michael is a big fan of a dishwasher that is clean itself and dishes that are spotlessly clean.

2. The discipline of "cleaning as u go" translates into better cooking, he believes that "every craft benefits from discipline."

3. Use a garbage bowl for compost and dishes for everything, it is more efficient and safer to stick dishes in the dishwasher than it is to clean the counter.

4. Wipe baking spills from pans with a moist clean cloth before u bake so sugars don't burn. Small drops burned on make bigger problems.

5. Have a dishwasher system that uses your dishwasher to the maximum, stacking well also makes unloading a snap

All in all, Chef Michael Smith believes to his very core that removing every impediment and fear of cooking is key to getting back to basics (which is the name of his new cookbook, by the way...go figure!).

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