Photo Credit: The Supper Club
First as a caterer, then a private chef, Susie Cover has made a career out of keeping families well-fed. She went on to open Manhattan-based Susie's Supper Club, a prepared foods delivery service (that now has its own line of frozen meals), and this summer, she released her first cookbook, The Supper Club. We spoke with Cover about her strategies for making family meals fun, her favorite kid-friendly recipes and how she manages to get dinner on the table even with a busy career and twin daughters.
What inspired you to write The Supper Club?
I was running an online food delivery business in the New York area and I did an appearance on the The View about feeding kids and families. We got a ton of e-mails from all over the country asking if we were expanding to other cities and if not was there a book they could buy?
Many people say that buying fresh ingredients (particularly organic) is just as expensive, if not more, than eating out. How can you keep costs down on homemade meals?
It is expensive! Try getting all-natural [products] if you can't afford the organic – they are just as good. Use your pantry staples and add some good fresh fish or chicken to them. It makes a meal stretch when you have a protein-filled lentil or bean alongside.
In the book, you write that keeping your pantry and freezer well-stocked is essential for making quick weeknight dinners. What are some of your pantry and freezer must-haves?
Freezer must-haves are proteins like chicken, beef and fish. Also, stocks – chicken and vegetable are great to have for making a quick soup with leftover vegetables. The pantry should have San Marzano tomatoes, boxed chicken stock, panko breadcrumbs, pasta, rice, quinoa, lentils, canned chickpeas, olive oil and a good red wine vinegar. Lemons and limes are always in a bowl in our kitchen as well.
Do you have any tips for making the family meal more of a bonding experience?
Make it a ritual. Even if you do it once a week make it special and a requirement for every family member. Sometimes all of our schedules get in the way and with work and after-school activities we can get caught up in it all. It is just as important to sit and eat together and talk about your day or week.
I think it is important to teach our children about family history and where they came from. Choose a family member and teach them something about themselves they did not know.
How do you encourage kids to try new foods?
In the book the recipes are not about hiding the vegetables but about making the food more palatable for kids -- smooth sauces, crunchiness, dipping. All of the recipes are created that way, but there is no loss of flavor or sophistication for adults. If you eat [new foods] and enjoy them they are more liable to give it a try. Also talk about where the food came from and when they are old enough, have them share in the preparation.
Any tips for picky eaters?
There are so many, but mainly do not hover over kids while they eat. Put down what you make and don't make a big deal out of it. Variety helps too.
Do you do dessert after dinner?
Dessert is fine. Keep things homemade if you can and control the portions. We do fruit desserts like summer cobblers or apple pie bars that combine sugar with real fruit. Denying kids never works so make it as healthy as you can and it will curb sugar cravings.
As a busy working mom, I’m sure you have lots of tricks for getting dinner together fast. Can you share a few of your favorite time-saving tips?
Plan ahead. I have 20-month-old twins and I try to make all of their food for the week ahead of time so all I have to do is heat it and serve after a long day at work. Take a few hours out of your Sunday to plan the week and you will thank yourself come Wednesday!
Do you have a favorite 30-minute (or less) dinner?
My chicken Milanese. It is so easy and always a crowd pleaser!
Any tips or advice on packing healthy, kid-friendly school lunches?
I really think that soups are a great lunch for kids - we do great soups in the book: tomato, pea and chicken are the best. Add some homemade hummus and vegetable dippers and a mini banana bread muffin and you are off to the races!
Try these quick and tasty recipes from The Supper Club:
Asian Fish Cakes with Chile Dipping Sauce (pictured above)
Crustless Mini Quiches
Roasted Turkey Wraps with Green Apples and Brie