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.
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.
When everything goes wrong, let Market Table be your BFF.
Today was one of those days that most moms know well… A day where all of your scheduling, planning ahead and organization efforts are rendered futile, your children transform into demons, and the world seems to work against you in every way. And it all happened before 8am.
I’ll spare you most of the gory details and give a quick recap. My morning looked something like this:
Woke up. Immediately sensed something was amiss. Stepped in a pile of poop that the puppy so graciously left at my bedside. How thoughtful. On to get the kids up. My youngest is already awake, and he’s covered himself in diaper cream. Fantastic. We’ll let the husband deal with that one. My oldest is awake, happy, but has some major goop seeping out of a bloodshot eye — pink eye. Wonderful. Looks like she’ll be tagging along to that 10 a.m. meeting. Next up is breakfast, where all hell breaks loose. Both kids are suddenly screaming and utterly heartbroken because they’re being forced to eat blueberry muffins … the same blueberry muffins they refused to leave the grocery store without just one day prior. Curious how things change so fast. Breakfast is followed by tantrums regarding one not wanting to wear rain boots and the other needing a specific pink colored bow that we can’t seem to find (not sure we ever even owned) but MUST wear today or we will die.
Finally, we’re out the door and on our way. And then the car won’t start. Dead battery. Glorious.
At that point, I wanted so badly to throw my hands up, cry “Uncle!” and have someone else take over for the day. But I’m a mom. We don’t have the luxury of giving up on a bad day and hiding in a cave where no one can find us. So, I did my best to muddle through the rest of the day. After a late afternoon doctor’s appointment for eye drops, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to get dinner on the table in time. But then I remembered: there is help out there. At least, help for dinner.
A 3-minute stop into Market Table, and I had chicken fingers and mac & cheese for the kids, a slow-smoked pork belly and cauliflower fried rice for the husband, and a bottle (ok … two bottles) of wine for myself. Done, done and done.
So, as I sit here with that (second) bottle of wine, just know that no matter how badly your day goes, it can always end well with Market Table.
Back to school means back to the craziness of after-school activities, homework and everything else you forgot about (or tried to!) over summer. Let Market Table ease your burden and save your sanity with 5 DAYS OF FREE MEALS!
Follow the instructions below for your chance to win!
Head on over to our Instagram account and find our Sanity Saver Meal Giveaway announcement. Then, you’ll need to:
1.) Follow (or make sure you’re following!) Market Table on Instagram
2.) Like the contest announcement post OR the contest reminder post on Market Table’s Instagram timeline, and
3.) Tag a friend in the comments of the contest announcement post OR the contest reminder post on Market Table’s Instagram timeline. Tag two friends for an extra entry!
We’ll accept entries from 8/10/18 until 12 AM CST on 8/15/18. The winner will be selected at random and notified by direct message on Instagram by 12 PM CST on 8/16/18.
The winner will receive 5 of our local, healthy, hearty prepared dinners or freezer meals that will please your whole family and give you time to settle back in to the school year craziness!
You must be 18 years or older at the time and date of entry and a resident of Alabama to win. This giveaway is in no way associated with Instagram. See the official rules here.