Big life-changing announcements!

Bugaboo, here I am. Full of Christmas cheer and apologies for being a bad blogger. Over a month has passed since my last post about broccoli soup. And it will be quite a bit more time before I post any more food-related bits. Alas! However, I have a good reason for both of those things.

Why haven’t I posted in over a month? Well, because the thought of food, much less the smell of anything cooking, made me very sick. I couldn’t even look at my RSS feed without feeling a little green. I finally went to the doctor at the beginning of November and – surprise! I am happy to announce that we are expecting our first child in mid-June 2012! I am now to the point where I can at least stand to smell a working kitchen again, and carefully eat small meals – both of which meant Thanksgiving wasn’t a bust, a major concern – but I won’t be doing much cooking for a while. And that is because…

After living in Kentucky for a little over a year, we have had issues finding full-time employment and benefits. The economy here just isn’t what we expected when we moved up, and it’s not improving. No benefits = no insurance, and that isn’t something we can accept now that we have a baby on the way. So on the 15th of December, we will be putting all our kept belongings into a Uhaul trailer and various vehicles for the not-so-terribly-long drive back to Athens, Georgia. We can get the husband back behind the wheel of a police cruiser, where he belongs, and… well, we’ll figure something out to do with me.

In any case, the next two weeks will be full to the brim with obstetrics appointments, packing what we want and tossing or donating what we don’t, cleaning house, split shifts at work and preparing the dogs for a long-haul trip, I won’t have much time to myself before the move. After the fact, I don’t expect to be able to do much until after the holidays, what with settling in and the general holiday madness. So, barring the odd picture or comment, don’t expect to see much of me until after the first of the year. Have a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, until we meet again!

Menu Plan Monday – May 9

Contrary to what you may believe, I actually do like Menu Plan Mondays – I like the organization, the search for a recipe, the knowing of future meals (and therefore, the absence of just-in-time stress when dinnertime rolls around and there isn’t anything on the table). I like the game of cutting coupons and searching the sales for the chance to really win at the grocery store. My goal is to one day be like a couple of my friends and get paid to take my groceries home. The problem is, I’m not terribly good at following through with the ideal in my head – it looks good, and I like it, but it is a bit time-consuming and I’m not exactly a master at the couponing or the menu planning. But then again, no one starts out an expert. Even if I don’t stick to the plan to a tee, at least the plan’s there if I need it.

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A revival, with a promise. (Recipe – Torta Española.)

Yes, my dears, I know it’s been a while. Almost three months, in fact. And I have no excuse for my absence – a lack of Internet (old news), but more relevant, a lack of motivation and inspiration. Even beyond that, a feeling of not quite right – maybe I shouldn’t blog, I don’t belong, my blog is useless and the name is all wrong and it doesn’t even match my URL. (that really does bother me more often than not, but it’s my fault.) so I’ve been thinking this thing over in my absence: to be or not to be? Despite the trials of keeping up, I didn’t take long to decide to be. Especially given that my last post was the 100th post on boonie foodie (huzzah!).

Being, of course, requires more organization and discipline and I have considered that as well. And I want to address other areas of my life besides just food, too – other areas that are related to food – or rather, food is related to those areas, like the garden I hope to grow in the backyard, the farmer’s market in town and the eggs I buy from a county local; or the quiet decision to live more sustainably and what that really means for me and mine. The real meaning of words and using them to their best. And of course, bettering my photography skills to something besides “i takez pix.” (Maybe I’ll even build that DIY lightbox that’s floated through almost all blogs, one day.) The point of this creation is not only to share myself with the rest of the world, but to better myself in the process – as it was, I was just writing and posting to post, following an arbitrary internal desire to follow a schedule that never really manifested.

My first desire is to set up a more dependable schedule – one day, food; one day, gardening and green, maybe two; and hopefully Menu Plan Monday. It depends on how much I can find to say. Hopefully my schedule is finally nailed down enough that I can schedule posts on Saturday for the following week. I’ll be working on a buffer in the next two weeks so I can actually get this in effect. In the meantime, I intend to clean up the blog overall: visual design, tags, language – all but the content and the photos. (The really poor posts I can use later for slow-thought days – remake and retry.)

In honor of this revival, here is the first recipe I’ve been inspired to put up in quite some time. It’s not new to many, and it’s not fancy; what it “is,” is filling, cheap and lovely in its own homely way. Many people have made it and loved it; I am now one of those fortunate folks. Torta Española or torta de patatas (or tortilla de papas, or a combination of these as your preference or region dictates) is nothing more than a layer of oh-so-thin potato and onion slices lightly browned, then covered with egg and cooked as an omelet. Simple to make and as versatile as you like it, my only recommendation is that you make it in batches that are manageable enough to flip, or beware that yours may end up as ugly as mine.

Oh, and add cheese.

Torta Española

serves 2-4

ingredients:
1 medium waxy potato, thinly sliced
1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp unsalted butter
salt and pepper
5 eggs
2 tbsp water
2-3 oz cheese

directions:
Slice the potatoes and onions as thin as possible, using a mandoline if available. Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; when the foam subsides, add the potatoes and onions and season generously with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Stir to coat, then let brown as a single layer for 2-4 minutes on each “side.”

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the water and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper. Shake the skillet to settle the potatoe-onion mixture into an even, flat layer. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and turn the pan to distribute the egg evenly. With one hand, stir the eggs in one direction while shaking the pan in the other. Do this until the eggs thicken a little, add cheese, then let cook until the eggs are browned on the bottom. Flip the omelet and let cook until the center is just set. Serve warm with ketchup.

A Georgia tradition–chicken mull.

While it is not unusual for me to proudly proclaim my Kentucky heritage, there are a few things that, like Kentucky’s hot browns and Ale-8, Georgia has all to its own. I’m going to address one of them today, and that is chicken mull.

Yes, indeedy, you read that right: mull. Not unlike “church fluff” and “funeral potatoes” in its own right, chicken mull is something you’ll often see at a church potluck or family gathering, usually in the colder months (when they make an appearance). It is also one of those foods that just doesn’t venture too far from its origins – chicken mull, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t exist far out of North Georgia, quite possibly not even out of the general Athens area. I know it definitely didn’t exist in my houses when I was growing up. Chicken and dumplings, chicken and stars, chicken noodle – chicken mull was nowhere to be found. Don’t confuse it with chicken stew, which is a different animal altogether. Stew involves vegetables, is mostly broth and leaves out the cream.

Though the origins of chicken mull elude me, I can be fairly sure that it was created in a time of a short-listed pantry. It’s pretty simple to make – shredded chicken, stock or broth, milk, crackers and salt and pepper. If you buy a whole chicken, as seen here, instead of chicken in a can and stock in a box (or can), you add cooking time but save money – poaching the chicken gives you plenty of stock and more than enough meat, but requires shredding by hand and straining the stock (my preference) before adding the meat and remaining ingredients into your liquid. You also have the option in such case to control what goes into your mull – always a plus in my book. The frugality appeal is what has made it so popular as a church potluck – cheap and easy, in monstrously gigundous rather large quantities if needed.

(Behold, my ugly CrockPot. Ahem.)

Mull is comfort food at the top of the list – creamy, thick and velvety on the tongue. Easy to make, and enough for leftovers to eat the next day or freeze for another time.  Fix it with a salad and have a full meal. The best way to eat it is hot out of the pot, with a generous helping of Texas Pete (no Tabasco, please), and maybe some extra crackers.

Chicken Mull
A Family Recipe

ingredients:
One whole roasting chicken (4-5 lbs)
2-3 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cans of evaporated milk or 3 1/2 cups milk or cream
2-3 sleeves of Ritz (or crackers of choice)
Salt and pepper to taste

directions:
Boil chicken in deep stockpot or crockpot, with enough water to cover, until meat is done and tender. Remove chicken from stock, let cool enough to handle, and shred meat from the bone. Strain stock back into cooking pot, add shredded meat, milk and additional broth. Let cook to a simmer, add crushed crackers and salt and pepper, and cook to desired thickness. Add more crackers if needed. Serve with hot sauce and extra crackers if desired.

It really is as simple as that. More crackers means a thicker mull; using milk or cream means a richer mull than using evaporated milk. It’s extremely forgiving, and very tasty. I promise you won’t regret making it the next cold night that comes around!

On returning to the world, and getting up on time.

You’ve probably noticed – or maybe you haven’t, I don’t know – that I haven’t been around lately. That’s because Cullen and I have moved, yet again. Now I’m realizing a dream because we’re finally at home, my hometown, and I couldn’t be happier. We both have jobs, paid-for vehicles and a house that’s comfortable for us, three dogs and anyone else who may show up. I’ve been working on this for years, literally, and it’s gratifying and humbling to see it realized. At this point, we don’t have Internet at the house or satellite, but that’s to come soon. In the meantime, I’m trying to make up some buffer posts (including white chocolate chip pancake cookies, jam pie, back posts about Louisville and a neat little place in PKY called The Rock), but I haven’t gotten much done on a computer since I’m still working on getting all our boxes unpacked and put away. We’ve got time, though – I don’t plan on moving away from this house for a long, long time.

The purpose of this post, on the other hand, has not very much to do with food and everything to do with 1) saying hello; 2) giving a short shout-out to a friend of mine in Lexington who just started her own food blog, Dancing in the Kitchen; and 3) giving another, longer shout-out to the October Maximize Your Mornings group at Inspired to Action (ItA). ItA is a Christian, mom-centric website run by Kat dedicated to giving moms tips and advice on raising children, keeping house, staying sane and giving back to Him (in addition to other things, of course). Maximize Your Mornings started out as Kat’s free ebook, which focuses on using the quiet early morning as “you-time” – time for coffee, exercise, Bible study and whatever you want to use it for. She has partnered up with Michelle at So I Married a Mennonite to do another MYM challenge for October – if you’re interested in joining up with the rest of us, check out the Week 1 start-up post linked above; #hellomornings, @inspiredtoaction and @michellebygrace on Twitter; and the ItA BlogFrog forum.

See you soon!