How to feed a family (no short order cooks needed!)

Ceri Marsh of the uber popular website Sweet Potato Chronicles dishes about her new book, How to Feed a Family.

Ceri Marsh and Laura Keogh met while working at FASHION magazine, and boast some seriously impressive professional experience in publishing, journalistic, fashion and PR. When they had kids, they were inspired to take their smarts and approachable style to the kitchen, where they co-created the popular family cooking site, Sweet Potato Chronicles. In keeping with the duo's glamour-meets-great-food appeal, Ceri chatted with Better Together while en route to New York City. Below, she takes on our questions about their new book How To Feed A Family, picky eaters, and how to keep cooking fun for everyone. 

Better Together: Congratulations on your new cookbook How To Feed A Family! Your website is such a great source of info for parents looking to get their kids into the kitchen. How does your cookbook complement Sweet Potato Chronicles and what can parents expect from this book?

Ceri Marsh: Thank you! The book is a reflection of our site in that it includes recipes, nutrition information and parenting strategies. We felt strongly that just giving recipes to parents wouldn't cut it. Figuring out what to feed your family is only one half of the equation. We wanted to be sure to cover everything from manners to getting kids involved with cooking—because it all counts! 

BT: Initially you and your co-creator Laura Keogh were both working for a fashion magazine. Why did writing about food become important to you, and why did you decide to name your site "The Sweet Potato Chronicles"?

CM:  Both Laura and I always loved food and cooking but we both experienced a big shift when we had our kids. When you're in that pre-kid stage, particularly when you're a busy professional, you can kind of play fast and loose with nutrition. You go out to eat a lot, you order in a lot and maybe you spend time in the kitchen when you're entertaining. But when you've got kids, not only do you have to feed them over and over and over (and over!) but it feels more important to be sure that the food you're making is healthy. When we were doing our own research on how best to feed our kids we realized that the information was spread really wide. One website would be great for nutrition and another book would be good for recipes and you'd have to go somewhere else for ideas on how to get kids to try things. We thought it would be great if all those things could live in one place. And so we built it! We chose the name because we wanted to include a super food (and sweet potatoes sounds cuter than kale!) and we also wanted a name that underlined the stories that take shape around family food, and that flicked at our journalism backgrounds.

BT: It's true - The Kale Chronicles doesn't have quite the same sweet ring to it. What would you say How To Feed A Family offers busy parents and kids? 

CM: We hope that the book gives families a bit of everything: an idea of what to make for dinner tonight, some inspiration on foods that are worth trying to work into your diet, an approach for getting kids involved with food and mostly some encouragement to keep in the game. There are days when it feels like such a grind to have to make one more dinner and we feel it too! But in the end we think it's such a great investment in your family.

BT: What's the most common complaint you hear from parents when it comes to cooking for their kids—and what do you say to them?

CM: I think a lot of people can imagine nothing worse than getting home after a long day at work and trying to manage the mess and chaos of kids in the kitchen. We get it. If you're new to cooking with your kids we recommend starting on the weekends, or whenever there's less of a rush. Start with baking, as those recipes tend to be simple and the end result is highly motivating! And it will be messy at first but as your kids get more proficient in the kitchen it will get better. Kids love being trusted with important tasks, so keep introducing new skills, such as grating cheese, measuring ingredients, and yes, even using a knife to slice food! But there are lots of ways for kids to be involved. Get everyone in on the meal planning conversation so that they know what's coming to the table this week. So much of pickiness is about control. If kids know what's coming they're less likely to balk. Take them to the grocery store and get them to help you collect things and choose new fruits and vegetables to try. Kids should absolutely have responsibilities for setting and clearing the table. The more the task of family food belongs to the entire family, the less you'll be treated like a short-order cook!

BT: Tell us, what are your own favourite ways to get your kids involved in cooking?

CM: My 4-year old son likes to be with me in the kitchen. He's a pretty good egg cracker. Okay, maybe I have to check the bowl for shells... My daughter is 6 and more independent. She loves to make salads and creates snack platters with real flair. My kids both help with setting and clearing the table even though I have to remind them each time. 

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Thanks Ceri! Now that you're inspired to get your tiny sous-chefs into the kitchen with you, check out Ceri's recipe for Wholewheat Blueberry Muffins. "They're a great weekend project," she told us "And then you've got snacks for the week!" 

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