Thursday, April 27, 2006

MomCat Reviews: Supper Swapping

I was recently contacted by author Susan Thacker to review her cookbook, Supper Swapping. I'm currently trying to get this published at a few online parenting sites, but I thought I'd post it here too, for any readers who might be interested. Thacker will be featured in Family Circle magazine in June. Her book is available on her site and at Barnes and Noble. If you purchase, be sure to tell her I referred you!

Meal assembly businesses are popping up around our communities like spring weeds. Classes are being touted to teach you to cook once for the whole week or month. Friends spread the word about supper clubs they've initiated. And, many faithfully tune into to celebrity chefs' words of wisdom on t.v. Let's face it, cooking is all the rage right now. But, more than cooking, the latest trends are changing how we think about dinner, and most importantly how we prepare food for our family. And, in my own quest to enjoy cooking but make dinnertime easier, I have tried all of the above at one time or another.

My meal assembly experiences were interesting. I tried it for quite awhile, but it proved a misfit for my family. My loved ones were a little too picky for the menus offered, and a need for very healthy eating was on the top of my doctor's advice. I never quite found the time in my schedule to cook ahead for the week at all. I did dive into a supper club with some neighbors that was fun for awhile, but after some health problems, I'd pulled out of it. It was too much work cooking for four families at once, especially my own dietary constraints did not mesh with what my other clubbers were cooking each week.

So, Susan Thacker's book, "Supper Swapping: Cook Four Days a Month with Chefs' and Restaurants' Easy Recipes" intrigued me from my first glance. I love to cook and entertain, but I don't get to do the latter very often. So, when I noticed that the recipes in the book were contributed by some of the top chefs around the country, I was eager to try them. Everything looked like something you would eat in a trendy not-so-kid-friendly restaurant, and yet author touts that they are all simple enough to make at home for your own family and/or to swap with a friend.

The message behind Thacker's book is clear--classy food doesn't have to be overwhelming to prepare. In fact, it can be easy enough that you can do double-duty and make some for a friend, easing your cooking load for the month in a handy swap. What I liked about Thacker's book, was that it seemed to cover all the pitfalls that I had already fallen in doing meal assemblies and dinner club swaps in the past.

And, Thacker breaks down the dinner swapping process into easy bits to digest. I read most of the advice portion of the book in one night. And, her recommendations were right on the money, based on my prior experiences.

And, then came the best part--I tried the recipes. Well, actually, I am STILL trying the recipes because I have yet to come across one that wasn't outstanding! The Thai Soong (Lettuce Wraps) and accompanying sauce were as good as our favorite trendy Asian dinner's lettuce wraps. And, surprisingly, they were quite easy to make! These will become a staple in my house, now that we're moving to less processed food and lowering our carbohydrates at meals. Other amazing dishes included the Blueberry Spinach Salad with Toasted Pecans and Goat Cheese, Suzanne's Curry Chicken, and The Amuse Salad (provided by Houston's Renowned Executive Chef Kraig Thome from The University Club).

Another wonderful feature of Thacker's book is the "Kid's Rating" found at the bottom of each kid-tested recipe. You can easily flip through the book and find the dishes that kids' gave the thumbs up and know those might go over well with your own finicky kids' taste buds. Thacker includes a chapter on living a lower carbohydrate lifestyle with advice from experts, as well as a great section on what you need to get started with a dinner club or swap. She details many variations for dinner trades to make a point--finding the right system is crucial before you dive into the supper swapping game.

And, one of Thacker's key points is something I plan to put in action. That is, start with something small when you first try a swap. She recommends finding one friend, setting good ground rules ahead of time (for which she gives some great starting points), and test the waters out before you dive in deep.

With the recipes and advice from the Supper Swapping cookbook by my side, something tells me I'll be dazzling the taste buds of many friends for years to come.


Blogger Barbara said...

What an interesting concept. I'll have to ponder getting that book.

8:21 PM, April 27, 2006  
Anonymous Nicole said...

A nice review. I've never tried the supper swap idea, or the cook-once-a-week idea, though both have fascinated me.

I'm more of a "plan-some-meals and then get take-out" kind of girl.

10:06 PM, April 27, 2006  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

A friend and I have actually done this a few times. She would make 3 different freezable casseroles and I would make three (we actually made 6 though - 2 of each) then swapped three of them. It was fun and nice to know I had all these meals in my freezer. We didn't like some of her things as much and I am sure her family felt the same way. This cookbook would make it a bit more standardized (recipes).

2:37 PM, April 28, 2006  
Blogger Viamarie said...

Looks very exciting. Will have to go through my collection and see who I can swap it with.


3:00 AM, April 29, 2006  

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