Supper Swapping

As many of you know, I am part of a dinner co-op. I love cooking…once a week… and I love free stuff. So when Susan Thacker asked to send me a copy of her cookbook Supper Swapping so that I could review it on my blog, I was excited and a little nervous. I knew it was my bloggeristic duty to give it an honest review, whether I liked the book or not.

The book gives tips and instructions for trading dinners with friends and neighbors, something I could give a testimonial about any day of the week. I’ve been trading dinners for over a year and if I had to go back to cooking every single day, I think I’d have some sort of breakdown. Besides saving us time and money, sharing meals gives our families a real sense of community.

In Supper Swapping, Susan lays out the basics for trading dinners and also includes fun little suggestions to make cooking more enjoyable, like choosing theme music to go with the style of food you’re preparing. She also gives tips on how to save money on your shopping and stock your pantry.

Most of this information was not revolutionary to me at this point in my “supper swapping” career, although I think it would have been helpful back when I was just getting started. I also have to admit that I’m really excited to play music from “La Traviata” next time I make spaghetti and meatballs.

What I love about Supper Swapping is that it’s a little book packed with amazing recipes. Thacker contacted dozens of top-notch chefs and sorted through their best recipes, choosing those that would be easy enough to be reproduced by the masses (read this: daring-young-wanna-be-master-chefs) but still restaurant quality, delicio-so and nutritionally dense. I have made seven of the 100+ recipes from the book, all either for company or for my dinner co-op, and each one was met with overwhelming approval by everyone. This is definitely a book I would choose for my collection.

If you’d like to learn more about her book, you can check it out on the Supper Swapping website. Recipes we loved and will make again include:

-Creole Sauce served over rice (from Charleston Restaurant, named by Zagat as 2003’s most popular Baltimore restaurant)
-California Spinach Salad with homemade Vinaigrette Dressing
-Corn and Black Bean Salsa (delicious and healthful, more like a salad than a salsa)
-Chicken Enchiladas (the best recipe for these I’ve found)
-Chicken or Salmon with Buttery Cilantro Ginger Sauce (We’ve tried both and people have begged for the recipe.)
-Amazing Chocolate Pudding (heaven in a glass cup)

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Now a few notes on how my dinner co-op works:

-Four families are members of the group, each with 1 or 2 children.
-We consider 3 adult-sized servings of a main course to be a complete dinner.
-Each family makes their own vegetables, desserts, and sides (unless the sides are semi-mandatory. Ex. We would never just bring over 3 pieces of meat or fish. A side dish is required for things like pot roast, BBQ chicken or grilled salmon.)
-Each family has 4 square pyrex pans with rubber lids and 4 large disposable tupperwares. This way, we never worry about who has which dishes. They just rotate through the group.
-Mondays through Thursdays are our cooking days. Since our children are small, we often have leftovers for lunch the next day and often for Friday night dinner as well.
-We each have a set dinner night so I can plan to always have Wednesday as my cooking day.
-Everyone sends 6 meal choices at the beginning of a cycle and I work them into a 6-week calendar so we all know what meal is coming each day and can plan vegetables to go along with it.
-On my day to cook, I have to have the food ready and delivered with re-heating instructions by 5:00pm. On my nights off, the food magically appears on my doorstep.
-You are not required to be home for the drop-off but can leave a milk-box or cooler out for the food to be kept in until you get home.
-This is one of the best time and money saving decisions I’ve ever made for my family.
-We eat better every night because the person cooking has to do it so rarely that they make something really special when it’s their night to cook.

Well, good luck and happy Supper Swapping. I hope you’ll join us.

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