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.
When you’re in need of comfort, there’s nothing better than delicious Southern soul food. And sometimes we need comfort from life-altering events like natural disasters. For my town, April 27, 2011 was one of those times.
Text by Sarah Vice
Most Alabamians know by now what happened on that date. A large EF4 tornado ripped through half of Alabama. But what you may not know is how the communities pulled together directly after the storm. A neighborhood beside my high school was flattened, but thankfully no lives were lost there. In the days after the tragedy, I witnessed how people show love through food, and how a meal can heal in the most necessary of ways.
The National Guard had brought in aluminum bags of prepared foods. Residents also donated all the canned goods they could offer. These weren’t exactly the kinds of comfort foods that we look forward to, but no one was complaining.
Volunteer Servers and Chefs
Within a few days, however, the local restaurants that remained unaffected were able to pull together enough volunteer employees to reopen. But they weren’t just reopening for business. They were reopening to provide meals to those who needed them the most.
These restaurant owners were members of this town. They lived with the people affected by the tornado and were set on doing as much as they could to help. The employees and owners worked hard making hamburgers, biscuits, BBQ sandwiches, key lime pies, tacos, and so much more. They piled the food into trucks to drive to a community center. There, they welcomed all to a warm, free meal.
People were visibly in tears. They ate hungrily. For many, it was the first full, hot meal they’d had in almost a week. But the restaurants didn’t stop at serving these delicious dishes. They also opened up fundraisers in unaffected nearby towns in hopes of bringing more supplies to the victims.
Neighbors who still had a home joined in. They baked several meals a day and brought the food to the community center. For weeks to come, their food, kindness, and generosity nourished my small town. It’s in these moments that we grow to appreciate the little things like comfort foods and the bigger things, like our communities, that become our support systems.
Founded in 1995, Creekstone Farms has produced high-quality USDA certified beef and pork for nearly twenty five years. Located in Arkansas City, Kansas, Creekstone Farms is one of America’s most committed providers of high quality meat. Market Table proudly sources our premium steaks from Creekstone Farms and their grain-fed cattle.
Text by Annika Bastian
What Makes Creekstone Farms Different?
Creekstone Farms is one of only a few USDA certified programs. They source their meat from single family farms. Then, they undergo rigorous USDA inspections to ensure both cattle and consumer are safe, sound and satisfied.
In addition to the USDA’s safety policies, Creekstone Farms looks to specialized independent programs to test the feed they give their cattle. This allows their cows to live antibiotic-free and hormone-free. These extra steps are part of their commitment to excellence.
Creekstone Farms Owns Their Entire Operation
Creekstone Farms manages the cattle they procure. They also process their cattle at their own plant, designed by animal science expert Temple Grandin. By owning their own facilities, Creekstone Farms manages every aspect of their operation. From start to finish, their beef is just the way they like it: perfect.
This freedom allowed Creekstone Farms to become Certified Humane® in 2016.Humane Farm Animal Care certified Creekstone Farms because of the great care they give their animals. They provide their cattle with plenty of room to express natural behaviors and graze green pastures.
They Care About Their Cattle and Their Customer
Creekstone Farms’ non-GMO beef provides an ethical animal protein option for our kitchen and your table. We are proud to partner with Creekstone Farms, who source their non-GMO beef from a single-family farm. They raise their cattle on grains and foraging, free of all genetic modifications.
The cows’ grass-fed and grain-finished diet results in healthier cows and leaner meat. Also, Creekstone Farms works hard to lower their carbon footprint and maintain more sustainable farming practices. Creekstone Farms’ approach to grain-fed, non-GMO beef betters the industry, and we’re proud to provide their better beef to our customers.
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.
There’s no such thing as being too careful when it comes to choosing what goes on your plate and into your mouth. Market Table picks the best local Alabama produce and foods so that you don’t have to second guess your food choices. We’re proud to have Marble Creek Farmstead on our distributors’ list. Get to know them here.
Text by Sarah Vice
Who Is Marble Creek Farmstead?
Named for its location, Marble Creek Farmstead is an all-natural farm located in the Marble City (Sylacauga, Alabama). It began as a a large patch of land, an old farmhouse, and a determined newlywed couple. After successfully raising broiler chickens for a year, that newlywed couple, Jesie and Matthew Lawrence, began investing time in growing crops and raising other farm animals. Marble Creek quickly became something much larger. They now employ a few extra hands and spend time regularly tending to vegetation and to hundreds of animals on the property. They’re careful to follow scientific strategies to maintain the health of their land, livestock, and well-being.
What Does It Mean to Be All-Natural?
The Lawrences believe that “eating truly healthy food benefits us all.” That’s why they refrain from using harsh chemicals and pesticides on their property. To remove the GMO obstacles, they regularly change the routine of their farms. The chickens are moved from location to location, fertilizing the pastures naturally. They also rotate other animals to prevent them from eating too much of the grass in one location. This benefits the soil’s productivity by allowing time for it to recover.
What Do They Farm?
Currently, Marble Creek hosts broiler chickens, hogs, roosters, duck, geese, goats, (occasionally) cows, and a series of fruits and vegetables. Their most popular items are their chicken and duck eggs, which have a fridge life of up to 45 days. In fact, Marble Creek supplies Market Table’s eggs, and we can attest that they’re absolutely delicious. Also, they now have a facility where they can butcher meat and preserve it to sell.
What Is Marble Creek Farmstead’s Mission?
The Lawrence family hopes to continue farming for their table’s needs and to share their produce with the neighboring communities. Farm tours are available so that people can enjoy the beautiful scenery and see how they maintain the farm. This allows customers an up-close look at how their food comes to be. It also invites a healthier community atmosphere and provides natural food alternatives to store-bought preservatives.