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!
Just as soon as Halloween’s over, Thanksgiving rushes toward us and suddenly it’s Christmas. The holidays can be a little hectic, especially if you’re hosting friends and family in your home. Here are five holiday hosting tips to make your seasonal gatherings warm, merry and bright.
Whether you’re preparing the Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, chances are you’re going to have a lot of mouths to feed. Try making a list of everything that needs to be accomplished before the big dates, including food, entertainment, etc. Stock up on items you might need — and buy a few extra so you won’t be short. As for the meals, it might be wise to begin preparing them the day before they’re served. It’ll take more pressure off you and give you time to focus on other preparations.
Don’t be proud. Preparing holidays meals by yourself is hard, if not impossible. If the kids or other family members want to help, it’ll make your work much easier. You’ll have free hands to tend to other matters, a true culinary form of multitasking!
Prepare Non-Food Items Early
Plates and silverware are just as important as the food you’ll be preparing, so make sure to stock up. Try and take inventory of them the day before the holiday. You might also want to set the table the day before as well, freeing yourself of the task later.
Don’t Forget Beverages
There’s so much going on while preparing holiday meals that it’s easy to forget the all-important drink. Ideal compliments for a Thanksgiving dinner could be apple cider or white wine, while hot buttered rum or eggnog would make a perfect Christmas quencher.
Once the meal is prepared, it’s time to kick back, have a few plates, catch up with the family and relax. Now that the work has been done, your holiday is finally beginning.
As a holiday, Thanksgiving deserves more respect. It’s a day where it’s socially acceptable — and expected of you — to eat as much as you possibly can (and be thankful for your loved ones, of course). Since this is a holiday that revolves around food, you’re going to want the best recipes you can get your hands on. Here are five Thanksgiving essentials no gathering should go without.
No great Thanksgiving meal is complete without turkey. It’s synonymous with the holiday. So why fight tradition? You’ll want the best offering possible to satisfy your holiday guests. This recipe makes delicious turkey and gravy, giving you the perfect centerpiece for your holiday meal.
Another Thanksgiving staple? Potatoes, of course! Whether they’re mashed, boiled, baked, etc… they’re a must. This simple and traditional recipe for mashed potatoes will leave even your pickiest guests satisfied. It’s a classic recipe without any of the frills, perfect for anyone who wants to stay in their comfort zone.
Green Bean Casserole
Some kind of green vegetable is an essential for every meal, not just Thanksgiving! That being said, green beans are always an ideal side. But if you want to shake things up this holiday, why not try this tasty casserole? It’s a “no cans” take on the classic dish, offering a fresher take on a Southern staple.
Classic Cranberry Sauce
Here’s another holiday favorite that deserves a place at your family’s dinner table. There are several fancy ways of fixing cranberry sauce up, but why not go the traditional route? It’s a classic for a reason.
Thanksgiving desserts are a must and one that is truly essential is pumpkin pie. This recipe gives you a classic offering, sure to satisfy every sweet tooth. The recipe leaves off whipped cream, so guests can add their preferred amount.
With these essential Thanksgiving recipes, no mouth will go unfed and no appetite will go unsatisfied at your dinner table. Of course, cooking a full Thanksgiving meal can be intimidating to even the most experienced chef. Plus, the holiday season’s always rushed and hectic. Why not give yourself a break and let Market Table do the work? Our Thanksgiving catering options include everything from a Smoked Turkey Breast to Rosemary and Garlic Green Beans to Pumpkin Pie — you can even get the entire meal catered! Place your orders online or in-store by Friday, November 16th then sit back and relax until Turkey Day comes!
Fall is the traditional time to harvest fruits and vegetables. If you have your own vegetable garden, you may already know this. However, if you’re new to the in-season-produce game,trying to figure out the ins and outs of eating seasonally may be a little intimidating. Fear not! Here’s a step-by-step guide to seasonal produce.
What Does “In Season” Mean?
Simply put, “in season” refers to food that’s harvested at a particular time of year. This ensures that you’re getting produce when it’s at its very best. This produce will have all the nutrients needed for a healthy diet. Also, your produce won’t be treated with harmful chemicals, so it’s even more healthy for your family.
What’s “Peak Season”?
“Peak season” is the time of the season when buying a particular fruit or veggie is most beneficial. First off, it’s when the produce is most available. Next, since it’s in abundance during peak season, the produce is far cheaper than any other time of year. Another benefit is that the produce has the most flavor during this time because it’s been allowed to fully ripen. However, perhaps the most important reason to buy produce in peak season is that it also has the maximum amount of nutrients.
Why Buy Local?
Buying locally grown produce ensures that there are little to no chemicals used as preservatives. If you were to buy seasonal produce from a farm out West and you live in the South, it’s highly probable that the farm will treat the produce with preservatives. Also, local produce doesn’t have to be shipped from another location, cutting down on pollutants like carbon dioxide gas. You can either purchase produce directly from the farmer at a farmer’s market or from a nearby farm.As an added bonus, buying locally stimulates the economy in your area, which is good for everyone in the long run.
Not in the mood to shop and cook for produce? Here at Market Table, we partner with local farms and food distributors to make sure we use locally grown and responsibly farmed produce whenever possible.