Sometimes, the only thing standing between us and a home-cooked meal is the thought of entering our kitchen. It can be messy, dirty, dark, and an uninviting area of the house. But you don’t need a $10,000 renovation to turn your kitchen from drab to fab – you just need a little elbow grease. These tips can help you make your kitchen an inviting space to cook and, more importantly, share meals and conversation with your loved ones.
Text by Annika Bastian
Clear Off Your Counters
If your kitchen makes you feel overwhelmed as you enter it, of course you eon’t want to spend time there. It might be time to clean off your countertops Marie Kondo-style. Free up room in cabinets and pantries so that when you enter your cooking space it feels ready for you to use it. Try using organizers for lids, cutting boards, and pots and pans. You can also keep soda cans neatly organized and out of the way. And as an added bonus, organization can help you save money, too! When you can clearly see what you have before you head to the store, you’re less likely to buy products you don’t need.
Houseplants Make It Homey
With your counters empty of intimidating clutter, reclaim the space with things that make you happy. Snake plants are hardy house plants that will uplift the room with their long leaves. Plus, they provide a splash of life and color to any muted space.
Warm Up Your Color Palette, Warm Up Your Palete
Kitchens come in neutral colors ranging from white to grey to beige. While we love the variety, sometimes you need a little color in your life. Try brightly colored sheer curtains over any windows, and coordinate them with bright dish towels and placemats. As an added bonus, bright colors can stimulate your appetite as well as your eyes. Red and yellow, for example, both activate your appetite.
If your kitchen is cursed with bad lighting, it can feel more like a cave than a workspace. Consider upgrading your light bulbs. If you have warm lighting, switch to cool lighting, and vice versa. Floor lamps in corners can help brighten spaces, as will these LED undercabinet lights. They’re battery powered, remote controlled, and your new best friend.
My Mema was a hard-working grandmother with very little time on her hands. But that didn’t stop her from teaching me important life skills. From Mema, I learned how to bargain shop. I learned which fruits were ripe for picking and how to part my hair. Most importantly, I learned how to cook eggs — and, along with that, I learned the importance of patience and persistence.
Text by Sarah Vice
A Mess of Eggs
I was six years old the first time I attempted to make eggs. Mema set out two bowls and a carton of eggs on the kitchen counter. Then, she handed me an egg and let me watch her crack one on the edge of her bowl. I tried to mimic her movements, but ended up with half the egg on my shoes and the other half in the bowl — shell included.
I impatiently pulled her bowl down to see what her eggs looked like on the inside, and ended up spilling more egg on my shoes. She just laughed. She had the most memorable wheezing laugh I had ever heard. Later, I realized with delight that she and I shared the same laugh.
Don’t Give Up
Mema helped me clean up my mess and took the remaining eggs over to a skillet on the stove. Glass top ovens weren’t common yet, so the skillet sat on a black cage with a blue flame underneath. The flame hissed and clicked, reminding me not to get too close without permission.
Mema whisked the eggs together in one bowl before pouring them into the heavily buttered skillet. Her hands moved so quickly that I was convinced I’d never be as good as her. She said someday, with practice, I would be just as fast. It reminded me of my lack of patience, a trait she assured me came from my grandad. But really it came from her.
Cooking and Life Require Patience
She pulled up a chair near the stove for me to reach the skillet. I watched her move a spatula back and forth through the eggs. This broke them up and scrambled them. She handed the spatula to me, then added more butter and some salt. A few times, the yokes spilled over onto the eye, but Mema never took the spatula away from me.
I ended up making half-burnt (but still somehow delicious) eggs that we shared. After that, she let me help her make eggs very morning that I stayed with her. She never got upset with me, no matter how many messes I made or how long it took to finish cooking. Memories of making eggs with her remind me that sometimes love is shown through expressions of kindness and patience. And I also can cook a mean scrambled egg to this day, thanks to Mema.
Every year for Mother’s Day, my dad brought home yellow roses and cooked dinner while my siblings and I cleaned house. At least, that’s how things were until I decided to try to cook — emphasis on try. I wanted to do something more than just folding laundry. The meal I made may have been a disaster, but the memories — and laughter — we shared will last a lifetime.
Text by Sarah Vice
Making the Menu
I had no clue what I wanted to make. Pasta would be simple, but didn’t my hard-working mom deserve a little more effort? Tacos sounded good, but I didn’t feel like my cooking could rival my mom’s tacos. In fact, anything I tried to cook would have been sad in comparison to my mom’s home-cooked meals.
Finding Family Recipes
I shuffled through a tin box of family recipe cards until I found two that looked good. One was old and written entirely in cursive. It was a recipe for “French Potatoes,” which are very similar to scalloped potatoes. The other recipe card was newer and had my mom’s handwriting all over. It was a recipe for “Italian Chicken” — and it seemed fairly simple.
Time to Spare
I wanted everything to be perfect. I followed the instructions closely. And I only cut my hand once while slicing the potatoes into thin pieces. I considered that a good sign. Finally, I put the food in the oven and set the timer for thirty minutes. Then I decided to take advantage of the break by laying on the living room couch. It was right next to the kitchen and, I told myself, I wasn’t tired enough to fall completely asleep. And so I took the risk.
That was the wrong move. I awoke to the fire alarm and the smell of burnt chicken. My mom had apparently been in the shower. She rushed into the kitchen, wearing a towel. Smoke filled the kitchen, but thankfully, there was no fire. With my mom’s help, I salvaged what little of the charred chicken I could.
She laughed once the smoke cleared and the oven was empty. I watched her take a bite of the blackened meat and then she swallowed. She actually ingested that poison. Then she thanked me and told me how grateful she was that I even tried. And so, I thanked her for being the best mom.
Thankfully, now I know where to turn if I want to make a delicious meal for Mother’s Day: Market Table. Check out our catering options, or swing by to see our fresh, delicious, and, most importantly, fully prepared take-home meals.
I’m grateful to my mother for so many things. She taught me how to do laundry and showed me how to coupon. Most importantly, she let me experiment in the kitchen. My mother regularly cooked for our family while I was growing up. She was a master of quick dinners and improvised casseroles. Her uncanny ability to combine raw ingredients to create a flavorful meal is one I’m glad I’ve inherited. When I think about what I learned in my mother’s kitchen, I realize she taught me more than how to follow a recipe. She taught me how to find joy.
Text by Annika Bastian
Learning Means Making Mistakes
During summer breaks in high school, I developed a love for food-themed television. Soon, I couldn’t stop flipping through food magazines and fancy cookbooks. I started cooking with several disastrous attempts at desserts. Early adventures included cookies that were hard little rocks, pecan pie with salt instead of sugar, and pudding congealed so thickly it was nearly inedible.
Practice Makes (Almost) Perfect
Thankfully, even after these less-than-successful attempts, my mother still let me back in the kitchen. She gave me pointers on where I went wrong and tips on how to improve. After mastering the art of boiling pasta and making béchamel sauce, I felt invincible. Thanks to her guiding hand, I now feel comfortable handling fresh vegetables and raw meat. And I even know how to make cookies that actually look like cookies, not rocks.
How to Help Newcomers Learn and Love to Cook
If you’re an experienced home cook, I hope you’ll pass on your love of cooking. I encourage you to give new cooks the same freedom my mother gave me. Let newcomers experience the basic cooking techniques offered in many simple dishes. You can even buy a pre-prepared main dish and teach them how to make simple sides. New cooks can sharpen their skills by making roasted broccoli, glazed carrots, or mashed potatoes. If they manage nothing but making a mess of the kitchen, offer up encouragement and a dish rag. They’ll figure it out soon, and, with your help, they’ll learn that cooking really can be a joy.
When it comes to cooking, everyone starts out not knowing what they’re doing, but somehow we figure it out along the way. With lots of tasty ups and bitter downs, every dish shows a beginner how to better their techniques.
Spring has sprung and we’re enjoying warm weather and vibrant greenery all over Birmingham. Why not celebrate with a picnic? Kids and pets alike will love the freedom to run and play, while adults can catch up on sunshine and their friends’ lives. In honor of National Picnic Day, here are Market Table‘s picks for what every picnic basket needs.
Text By Annika Bastian
The kind of food you pack in your basket depends upon the time of your picnic outing. Is it a brunch picnic? (Yes, those exist, and they are just as awesome as they sound.) Is it a lunch picnic? An afternoon snack picnic? Picnics early in the day can feature inventive brunch options, like our scrumptious Spinach, Artichoke and Goat Cheese Frittata or an eggs-cellent sandwich tray.
And if you’re picnicking between meals, go for fun snack options — both sweet and savory. For larger picnics, invite everyone to bring one of their favorite snacks to make a potluck fun-in-the-sun picnic at the park.
There are a few things every picnic basket needs, but they may not be the first things on your mind. First, don’t forget to bring trash bags. You’ll want the leave the beautiful outdoor space that hosts your picnic as pristine as you found it. Next, make sure to include insulated water bottles among your drink selections. When it comes to hydration, there’s nothing like a cool bottle of water. Lastly, paper towels will come in handy to both hold food and to clean sticky fingers.
The perfect way to end your sweet day? With something sweet, of course! Dessert is a delicious must at any spring picnic. Often, you’ll find Farmer’s Markets with fresh food and tasty treats to bring a picnic from good to great. So make sure to pick up easy-to-eat desserts for a sweet finish to your fabulous outing. Market Table‘s Cookie and Marble Brownie Trays are picnic-basket-ready perfection!
I eat a lot of deviled eggs during the spring — especially around Easter. This all started with a few cracked eggs that just didn’t look right after I dyed them. The colors missed the thin white lines, and my eggs looked like they had stretch marks. Don’t get me wrong: stretch marks are a beautiful part of the human body. But on an Easter egg? It’s just wrong. Thankfully, it’s easy to turn Easter eggs to deviled eggs, which are delicious!
Text by Sarah Vice
Once my friends and I have divvied up the eggs to dye, we set up the dipping cups. We buy generic egg-dying kits with those little tablets that dissolve in vinegar. Sometimes, the water’s a different color than the tablet, once they dissolve.
The most challenging part of making deviled eggs? Removing the shell. Learning how to use cracked Easter eggs is a life-saving lifehack. Their shells are already broken. If I’m honest, when I’m getting the dye ready, sometimes I hope that more eggs will be broken than not. I wouldn’t admit this to my friends, but when we dye eggs together, I’m not super careful when removing them from the pot. Yes, that’s partly because I’m impatient. But it’s also partly because I want some to be cracked.
I don’t even attempt to put the yolk mix back into the boiled whites when I’m done. I never liked that part to begin with, so when I make my own, it’s just the yoke. By Easter Sunday, I’ve usually consumed more eggs than I’ve dyed. It’s all worth it, though. Besides, plastic eggs are better for decoration anyways. They don’t spoil when left out. Real eggs are meant to be cherished and eaten.