We’ve all experienced times where a meal has taken longer than anticipated to prepare. In fact, many consider time management to be the most stressful part of cooking. Some may even admit to being too tired to enjoy the meal after putting all that effort into it. Finding efficient ways to prepare meals cuts down on stress and makes cooking — not to mention eating! — more enjoyable. Here are a few tricks of the trade to make meal preparation go as smoothly as possible.
Tools of the trade
Your cooking utensils are an important part of your process. Make sure all of your utensils and cookware are ready to use. Dull knives, for example, can seriously slow down prep time. Also, you don’t want to prep an entire meal for your slow cooker only to discover that it’s shorted out. Pull out your cast iron cookware and check its condition. If it needs to be seasoned, take time to do so before you cook. Also, make sure that you have all of the utensils and cookware necessary for your recipe. This all goes a long way towards making meal prep go faster.
Make a list, check it twice
Another important part of the process is to check your recipe. Then, make a list of ingredients. Even if you’ve used the same recipe countless times, there’s always a chance that you could forget something. Running back and forth to the grocery store definitely makes the cooking process long and frustrating. You can even use your smartphone to make food shopping easier. For example, the ListEase app makes easy lists that can be accessed through your Apple Watch, too. The Grocery Pal app goes a step further, helping you compare prices and find those all-important sales at local supermarkets.
Pre-cut veggies are your friend
You may not have the time (or patience!) to chop up your veggies. Don’t be afraid to try pre-chopped veggies. They may be slightly more expensive, but it’s worth the time you’ll save. Plus, pre-cut onions save on time and tears.
Cook like a TV star
If you’re a fan of television cooking competitions, you’ve probably noticed that no matter the show, the contestants share one trick: making one trip to the refrigerator or pantry. When you pull out those pots and pans, grab a baking sheet or tray. Then, load it up with all of the ingredients you need. That way, you won’t have to keep rushing to the refrigerator and back while trying to keep your pasta pot from boiling over.
Cooking without all the hassle
Sometimes you want a nice, hot, healthy meal, but just don’t have time to prep and cook. Meal kits solve this problem. Because the daunting prep work is done for you, meal kits are fast, easy and tasty. Market Table offers a variety of healthy, delicious and unique meal kits. Plus, they can even help you pair your meal kit with the proper wine. Boost your efficiency level to a thousand and try a meal kit today!
Text by Amber Pope
“Cheese,” wrote Clifton Fadiman, “is milk’s leap toward immortality.” A cheese board celebrates this wondrous transformation — and is always the center of any celebration. Here’s how to make a cheese board that will make your guests cheer.
Be sure to include a variety of tastes, textures, and aromas. Martha Stewart’s excellent advice for choosing cheeses: Just eyeball it. If cheeses look different, they taste different. At Market Table, we pair rich Irish Tipperary Cheddar, creamy Stone Hollow Goat Cheese and sharp, crumbly Blue Cheese. Also, let the cheese sit a bit before serving. It’s best at room temperature.
A cheese plate is made great by a variety of tastes. Give your guests something salty to play off sweeter cheeses. At Market Table, we use cornichons. These pickles are made from gherkin cucumbers picked before they’re ripe, creating their very tart taste. Their crunch contrasts beautifully with soft cheeses. You can also pair cheese with salty counterpoints from the same region. Chef Michael Chiarello recommends matching Serrano Ham with mild-to-sharp Spanish Manchego.
What’s any meal without something a little sweet? We love the subtle addition of dried fruit and delicate Marcona almonds. Ina Garten suggests pairing green grapes, dried figs and apricots with strong cheeses like Roquefort and Sharp Cheddar. Seasonal fresh fruits offer an endless variety of pairings. For instance, stone fruits and apples make the perfect accompaniment to Brie. Mozzarella finds its match in peaches and nectarines. Ricotta and mango get along beautifully, especially with a pinch of salt and chili powder. If you’re feeling adventurous, try grilled pineapple and Blue Cheese.
Crackers and bread slices not only serve as the perfect vehicle for soft and spreadable cheeses. They’ll also provide the perfect compliment to their texture. Plus, different kinds of crackers create different taste combinations. For example, the sweetness of oat crackers pairs beautifully with creamy Goat Cheese. With crispy, thin water crackers, all attention goes to the cheese. Rachael Ray prefers crusty baguette slices and crunchy smoked almonds. Our personal favorite? Crostini, toasted or even grilled.
For Ree Drummond, TV’s Pioneer Woman, honey makes the perfect pairing for tart, acidic cheeses. If you’re lucky enough to know a beekeeper or live by a farmers market, try using a honeycomb. The honey has a bright, pure floral flavor. And, as a bonus, the comb creates an intriguing texture (we promise, it doesn’t taste like wax). If honey isn’t your thing, try chutney, equal parts sweet, tart, and savory. We’re especially fond of Alecia’s Peach Chutney, perfect for Pecorino Romano, and Tomato Chutney, especially flavorful with Fontina and Stilton. For a spicy twist, try sweet pepper jelly over Brie and Camembert.
Of course, in the stress of event-planning, you might not have time to put together the perfect cheese board. Market Table is here for you. Our catering menu features large and small cheese plates, heaped high with fine cheeses and sweet and salty accompaniments sure to please even the pickiest party guest.
An age-old staple, grits aren’t just simple food stuffs. They’ve become a symbol of the Southern United State’s history, traditions and hospitality. But if you are from anywhere else in the world, being served this strange entrée can cause confusion. Knowing how grits are made — and which dishes seem made for grits — will help you enjoy this down-home delight!
The History of Grits
Many think that grits come from the Southern gentry. Actually, grits are a Native American creation. Native Americans ground corn kernels using millstones. Then, they’d sift the finer parts. Any cornmeal too coarse to pass through the screen would be called grits.
How To Make Grits
Basically, grits come from the part inside of corn kernels called hominy. This hominy is then ground down and left to dry until it is a cornmeal-like consistency. Then, add six parts water and one part salt. Next, boil for twenty to forty-five minutes. And voila! You have grits. Salt, pepper and cheese are popular additions to this simple recipe. These days, you can also buy grits in instant packs. Or, you can even buy cans of quick-cook grits. For the best tasting grits, though, it’s best to stick with the traditional approach.
What To Serve With Grits
Grits are a Southern breakfast staple. Often, they’re served with sausages, eggs and country ham. Grits have also been used as a side dish during dinner. For example, shrimp and grits, a very popular South Carolina Lowcountry dish, creates a delicious combination of creamy and chewy.
Why Do Southerners Love Grits?
It’s true: grits, by themselves, are bland. But grits offer endless possibilities that rely on how far a cook wants to take them. Through creative use of spice and choice of entrée, grits’ taste and texture can serve to supplement a delicious dish morning, noon, or night. Market Table’s Pimento Cheese Grits make a scrumptious dinner side and a hearty breakfast dish. You can also use our pre-made grits to save some serious time when making Lowcountry classics like shrimp and grits — or, for the vegetarians, Grits with Seasonal Roasted Mushrooms.
Text by Jonathon Page
Text by Jennie Tippett
I come from a family with deep Southern roots. In fact, we’ve traced our lines back at least 300 years. All of my ancestors on my mom’s side had between six and sixteen children. My mom herself is one of thirteen, no multiples. I have 22 blood-related first cousins.
Every year on July Fourth, we gather at Liberty Hill Baptist Church in their hometown, Clanton, Alabama. The fellowship hall at the church is the only place big enough to hold us. My Uncle Ricky brings over his enormous grill, the biggest I’ve ever seen that wasn’t in a barbecue joint. Believe me, the size is needed. Forty to fifty of us will show up this day. We all have hearty, Southern appetites.
We are a meat-eating bunch. Vegetarians need not apply. Piled onto this grill are slabs of ribs, Boston butt pork roasts from local school fundraisers, hot dogs, sausage, cheese-stuffed burger patties, chicken, and any other animal that has been caught on a deep-sea fishing trip or hunted and killed that year. All thirteen of the siblings grew up on a dairy farm so no part of any animal ever goes to waste. So along with the usual, there are pig ears, cheeks, and tails; beef tongue and liver; chicken feet and gizzards and other things I cannot identify but don’t want to ask.
While the men are grilling, the women ready the side dishes in the kitchen. There are at least three kinds of potato salad, three kinds of deviled eggs, macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, turnip and/or collard greens, okra, corn on the cob, and some things we don’t have a name for but just threw together. The women here are also preparing meat for the grill and the soon-to-be buffet. Any meat that needs to be marinated swims in delicious sauces as it waits its turn. For some reason, there is an unspoken rule that no one can eat until it’s all done. Still, there are those of us who sneak a taste, proclaiming, “I’m just testing it for poison!”
The food is spread out along the two twenty-foot parallel islands in the kitchen. Everyone gathers in the dining room for announcements and blessings. Finally, we line up and start self-serving. There are so many of us that the first few through the line are usually finished with their meals by the time the last people can get in.
When people have gone in for seconds (and sometimes thirds or fourths), the dessert table becomes free game. Oh yes, we have dessert, too. That’s the whole point of the meal. While it’s not as varied as the entrée food, it’s still impressive: made-from-scratch chocolate cake, pecan and lemon pies, homemade cookies and peach or blueberry cobbler. We pile up our plates with a sampling of each.
Throughout the day, we gather around to tell stories, reminiscing on the ones who have passed on. It’s a great way to get to know the family, to grieve and cope with shared pain through laughter.
I cherish these reunions. For me, they are not only a feast for the stomach—they’re a feast for the soul.
Despite its fictional origin, Thanksgiving remains an iconic American holiday. It brings families and friends across the country together for a shared meal. For cooks, the holiday also brings worry. What if the stuffing tastes too salty? Or what if the pumpkin pie ends up burnt (again)? And, of course, there are the leftovers: how many ways can you use turkey, anyway?
However, Thanksgiving is about far more than food. Yes, the holiday revolves around a meal. But what’s on the table isn’t as important as who’s siting around it. The Thanksgiving meal makes a sacred space for families and friends to reunite and break bread together. And in that communal space, traditions remind people of the real meaning behind the meal. Here are a few of our favorite Turkey Day traditions to try around your own table this Thanksgiving holiday:
· Playing a family flag football game. Divide everyone up into teams, perhaps by family so no one is left out. Then, use the backyard or public space to play your own flag football game. This will be a nice break between watching the Macy’s Day parade and all the Thanksgiving football games on T.V.
· Give back to the community on Thanksgiving morning. Before you serve your family, why not serve your community? You could volunteer to serve breakfast at a local homeless shelter. Or, you could deliver meals to the elderly. This allows you and your family to start off the day serving others. It is also a great lesson in gratitude.
· Encourage everyone to take a post-meal walk together. That way, family time can continue beyond dinner time. Plus, you can burn off a handful of the calories from those three delicious pieces of pie.
· Video call family members who cannot make the meal. That way, they will feel included despite the distance. Also, you’ll be able to remind them why you are thankful for them.
· Replace your best tablecloths with butcher paper. Then, encourage everyone to write down some things they are thankful for. You can include younger family members as well by encouraging them to draw what they’re thankful for. After the meal, have everyone share a few of theirs.
· Write everyone’s name down on a Popsicle stick or piece of paper and shuffle them in a bag. Don’t forget yourself! Then pass the bag around and have everyone pick out someone. Give them some time to think. Then have them say why they are thankful for the person whose name they drew. Everyone will feel grateful for those around the table and affirmed of their place in the family.
· Do Thanksgiving potluck style. Ask different family members bring different dishes. Then create a “cookbook” of everyone’s recipes. This a fun way to recognize the hard work that goes into a Thanksgiving meal. It’s also a great way to record and pass on favorite recipes to kids.
Gather everyone together and celebrate everything you all have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season. These are valuable memories for all involved. Remembering all there is to be thankful for will lead to contentment in the rest of your year. And don’t forget the leftovers!
Text by Amy Haupt
Our Market Table Unicorn stayed close to home, as she’s a big fan of Homewood and all the “city” has to offer.
Find a unicorn she left behind, and you’ll get a free $20 gift card to Market Table.*
*Limit one per customer.
The Market Table Sloth has a great view of the city from some of Vestavia’s infamous Classical architecture.
Redeem one of the sloths she left behind for a free smoked chicken and two sides.*
Our tiny T-Rex wanted to take a stroll, so she headed towards Birmingham’s loveliest gardens.
Find one of the dinosaur pops she left behind, and you can redeem it for a free prepared meal at Market Table.*
*Limit one per customer.
Our Market Table Panda Bear loves children and the outdoors, so she went to pass part of the morning in one of Homewood’s most well-known spots. See if you can find her climbing the caterpillar.
She left behind some tiny cubs. Find one, and you can bring it in for a free meal kit.
*Limit one per customer.
Our Market Table Shark went looking for water, but it’s hard in this urban landscape. He did the best he could at one of Birmingham’s newest and most-visited parks.
He left behind some little sharks. Find one, and you can bring it in for a free lunch item.
*Limit one per customer.