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.
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!
Fewer meals sound more hearty than a fresh lasagna. Melted cheese and sauce combine with layers of noodles and ricotta, making a meal many of us know and love. However, it’s a meal few of us have time to make from scratch. It’s true that when you’re making dinner, you’re making memories. But in our busy lives, how do we keep making dinner a time to gather with friends and family? Thankfully, it’s not laboring over the meals themselves that matters but the memories surrounding them.
Text by Annika Bastian
A Childhood Favorite
Lasagna holds a special place in both my heart and my appetite. As a child, the meal felt festive. When lasagna was on the menu, I knew it was going to be a good day.
My mother would devote an entire Sunday afternoon to making her lasagna. She’d get home from church a little after noon and have dinner on the table by four. It was a weekend treat we enjoyed with family and friends for as long as I can remember. She often served lasagna when report cards went out, when birthdays came around, or when loved ones visited town. To me, lasagna is the meal that brings together family and food.
Making My Own Lasagna (Sort Of)
Once lasagna’s in the oven, the hard part is over, but assembling that Italian goodness is enough to make most of us choose a different dinner option. I haven’t made a lasagna by hand in years, not when lots of delicious pre-prepared options exist. From fresh to frozen, I’ve tried all kinds of pre-made lasagnas. I find it’s worth the extra penny to get fresh, pre-prepared options. When I’m near Homewood, I make sure to stop at Market Table and pick up their hearty and healthy family-sized veggie lasagna. It’s the perfect meal to share with kids who’ve come home from college, friends on board game night, or with your spouse for candle-lit alone time.
Bringing Friends and Family Back Together
With the main dish taken care of, all you have to do is steam broccoli or whip up a simple salad and some buttery garlic bread for tasty side dishes. They’ll be ready in so little time you can set the table for a hassle-free dinner. Then, you can enjoy being with your friends and family, making memories instead of washing dishes in the kitchen.
In my time at college I’ve gotten comfortable with cooking. But, that’s not the case for everyone — especially my roommates.
Text by Annika Bastian
My first roommate tried to pan fry two frozen chicken breasts. My next roomie set off the fire alarm with a breakfast quesadilla. For those of you who can’t cook, here are some ways to make your roommates think you can. And for those of you who are living with a roommate who can’t cook, here’s some tips to keep you apartment’s safety deposit.
Breakfast For Dinner
I love breakfast for dinner. My roommate can make practice pancakes until she has at least a few light, fluffy beauties. She cooks bacon and sausage in the microwave. And she can even make a mean scrambled egg (on low heat). It’s a comfort food for both of us that’s very beginner-cook friendly. Add a sprig of parsley for garnish and you’ve got a gourmet meal.
Soup and Sandwiches
My roommate gets a text from her mother every time soup goes on sale at Publix. Then she rushes to the store and loads up her cart so we always have a quick dinner option. She heats soup on the stove, but soup can also heat in the microwave. Just make sure it’s in a bowl and not its metal can! We’re also big fans of Market Table soups, made with fresh, local ingredients. Grilled cheese sandwiches are tasty stovetop options, and for fledgling chefs unsure of the stove, ham and cheese sandwiches are equally delicious.
My roommate excels at Crock Pot dinners. One of our favorites is loaded BBQ Baked Potatoes. She combines BBQ sauce and thawed ground turkey in our Crock Pot. Then, she can leave it on low until she needs to bake the potatoes, which she can do in the microwave.
Another go-to recipe for her is meatballs and gravy. She makes an easy base sauce with cream of mushroom soup, milk, and a spoonful of sour cream. After she adds premade frozen meatballs, it can cook until it’s time to serve. Additionally, the possible seasonings on this dish are very forgiving. She gives this dish a shake of garlic, onion, and pepper.
We love using Crock Pot liners to cut down on the mess and make cleaning up easier.
The great Julia Child once said, “The dinner hour is a sacred, happy time when everyone should be together and relaxed.” You might be thinking that it’s easy for a professional chef to find cooking relaxing, especially as you smell something burning and see a pot overflowing. What’s “happy” and “sacred” about that? However, there are ways to avoid dinner disasters to keep the peace between your meal time and your sanity.
Text by Sarah Vice
Serve Simple Dishes
You don’t have to make an extravagant meal to get someone’s attention. Try focusing on a family recipe that you’ve loved since you can remember — or borrow one from this site. If you want to make something simple that looks like it requires more effort, make a pizza from scratch. By “scratch,” I don’t mean you have to let the yeast rise and cure your own mozzarella. Make it from sort-of scratch. Buy a pizza crust, tomato sauce, and your toppings of choice from your local grocer. This helps you avoid frozen pizza, which sometimes contain preservatives. Plus, by not ordering pizza, you save some major pennies. Not a pizza fan? Sounds fake, but okay. Sometimes a simple bowl of spaghetti can go a long way if you’re pairing it with the right garlic bread and salad.
Try taking preemptive measures. Understand how long a meal takes to prepare and cook before you agree on when and what to eat. Uncover your strengths and weaknesses in the kitchen and use them to your advantage. Don’t underestimate your ability to be crafty. Measuring isn’t your natural talent? Send any extra portions home as a parting gift with your guests. You discover you’re exceptional at chopping? Great, you can cook chicken noodle soup with fresh vegetables or make scalloped potatoes. Preparing your meal plan ahead of time is also useful in making sure you have all the ingredients required to cook your dish of choice.
Set the Table
When hosting a party or even having family meals, sitting around a table can help create stronger bonds. Make an effort to set the table before cooking. You can even get your kids — or guests! — to help. It gives you more time to talk about your kids’ days — or to keep cooking if guests arrive early. You also won’t have to stress over not having things in order. Offer to fill their glasses or have a selection of drinks readily available to them.
Practice isn’t honing your chef skills to your liking? There is no shame in ordering take-out, catering, or purchasing a pre-made meal. Take-out can be an option if you’re running late to your own dinner and don’t have time to preheat the oven much less put a meal in. But if you’re looking for a more nutritional option that carries the comfort of a home-cooked meal, check out pre-made dinners. Market Table also offers pre-prepared lunches and catering services to fit all your needs.
Picture it: you’re on your couch, flipping between Cake Boss and Cake Wars. Suddenly, it occurs to you: you can do this. You can make a cake. You’ll be the cake boss, victor of the cake wars. And you’ll win the admiration of your friends at Becky’s next potluck party. After all, it looks so easy: why not try to make a simple layered cake?
If you’re like me, this situation may lead to learning a lesson — or lessons! — the hard way. While reality shows like these make baking look “easy as cake,” in reality, it’s no cake walk. So, in the interest of sparing you from pain and sorrow, here’s what I learned when my attempt to become cake boss became the boss of me.
Size… It Matters
Remember that episode when someone made an Eiffel Tower cake that looked more like the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Well, now I know why. One way that a layered cake can turn into a disaster is the size of each layer. When making a layered cake, you want to measure out each layer evenly to ensure that one won’t be thicker than the others. When a layer is too thick, it adds extra weight to the cake. Then, the cake is more likely to crumble all over your freshly cleaned countertop when you add another layer.
Temperature and Patience
My mother always said that patience is a virtue — and baking has taught me it’s one virtue that I don’t have. Apparently, layered cakes can also fall apart if the layers are not cooled. After removing the layers from the oven, you want to let them cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. After the layers have cooled, carefully flip them onto a cooling rack or a flat pan in the freezer. This allows the layers to continue to cool. If the layers aren’t cooled enough, they’re very tender and likely to fall apart in the process of adding the layers, as I learned from experience.
Level the Playing Field
Once the layers have cooled, you’d think it’d be time to build the cake by putting the layers on top of each other. But this is approximately 100% wrong. Instead, you need to make sure the layers are all level and flat. Using a knife, carefully carve the top of each layer so that it’s as flat as possible. If the layers aren’t flat, the lopsided cake will eventually crumble, falling apart and onto your nice Pier 1 runner rug. And not even icing can save the day for an unleveled cake. While using icing in between each layer may seem to even it out, your cake may still crumble.
Heading to a Pot Luck? DON’T Take the Cake!
Real talk: layer cakes take a lot of time and a lot of patience. I started out expecting a masterpiece but ended up with a candidate for a Cake Fails listicle. After losing my own personal Cake War, I felt the full agony of my flour-covered defeat. I couldn’t even face the thought of facing a freezer full of perfectly layered cakes at my local bakery.
Luckily, Market Table offers a solution to my dessert dilemma: Edolyn’s Homemade Pies. Made with care from a family recipe, these single-serving beauties take the cake when it comes to fast, delicious and, most importantly, no-fail desserts. Pick up some Pecan, Lemon Chess, and Sweet Potato pies to impress your guests at your next gathering. Pro-Tip: you can even say you made them yourself. Market Table won’t tell. So if at cake you don’t succeed, try Market Table for Edolyn’s pies!