Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Traditions

Valentine's morning was always special growing up in the Reems household. We've blogged before about the Reems love of tradition - on February 14th this meant candy and chocolate at the breakfast table, an assortment of homemade cards from each sibling and parents at our place settings. Joan (Mom) always did the grunt work in the festivity set-up but it was Guy's (Dad's) job to write the personalized Valentine poems. These weren't epic odes that were lovingly pondered over, no these were hasty limric scrawls with a few puns thrown in for good measure. I found a sample in my crawlspace (I often accuse Mike of being a horder but I have several shoe boxes full of cards that I've amassed from about age 6 onwards). I'm guessing this is circa about 1995: 
I came across sibling cards as well;  for me this card-exchanging tradition continued right until I left home at age 22 - I will need confirmation from the younger siblings  but I'm sure that the homemade card swap went strong until it was just Rachel and the parents sitting over their Valentine pancakes. Again, the level of artistic investment varied from year to year, but not breaking with tradition was paramount. Here is a sampling:

Now on Valentine's Eve I am 40 weeks pregnant and counting, wondering if tomorrow will be the day I might be popping out little Romeo or Valentino - I've thought like this for the last 10 days or so, but now that my due date has come and gone the impending arrival is never far from my mind. I wonder how a February 14th birthday will fit into the Campbell Valentine's tradition?

Oh right, this is a food blog - 

The kiddies and I have been busy with Valentine day preparations - today we made Chocolate Heart Sugar Cookies today from Baking A Moment. They were a big hit- though if I could of cut the 2-year-old with a fondness for chocolate dough and icing sugar frosting out of the process it might have felt a little more relaxing.

I'm off to lay out the construction hearts and requisite candy offerings. Go squeeze your honey.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

My sister Haley and I began writing Reems Eats in 2008 in an effort to share recipes with one another. We've always loved to talk about food. I still remember teasing a teenage Haley when she returned from a holiday with a friend's family. When we asked her to fill us in on the trip, she promptly listed all the delicious items she'd eaten over the weekend. Friends, activities, sites and the other usual weekend-out humdrum faded into the background as meals scooted onto center stage. While I laughed at Haley's menu touting, I inevitably plied her for details and listened with the jealous rapture of a younger sister.

In 2007 I was newly married. While I'd like to think that I bucked the gender roles (he did and does the laundry), the more realistic version is that I was excited to tie an apron around my waist and play the little wifey. While I was enthusiastic about preparing meals I wasn't overly experienced. I could follow simple instructions for baking, and I'd eaten enough of Mom's healthy stir fries to have a general gist of the rules of concoction, but I really knew very little about the basic elements of cooking.  I wanted to learn. I started taking cookbooks out of the library and scrolling through the many foodie websites available online. Every time I tried a new recipe, I was awed when I met with success (bread will rise!) and  crushed when by knocked down by defeat (I dropped my first pie face down and hot on the kitchen linoleum). I was generally very 'into' it all.

My husband continually told our friends, often the eager recipients of my new hobby, that he never expected I'd be such a cook. I think he meant to say that he didn't demand this sort of culinary attention, and that the whole rigmarole was my own doing. Because I'd say that the warning signs of a food love affair where all there: the obsessing over a menu at a new or regularly-visited eatery; the focus on meal times--never skipped, always loved; and the willingness to try new things and follow directions. These were all central to my pre-home-cook self. I suppose the biggest tell was my relationship with my family. Our clan has always been very 'clanish,' as L.M. would say. And, as L.M. would also say, we've always had 'a liking for a tasty bite.'

Like many families, feasts have always been central to our gatherings, from stacks of Dutch pancakes with Grandma to strawberry picking in the farmer's field (one for the bucket, two for the mouth, as our littlest but tallest sister liked to say) to deluxe BBQ spreads with home-made EVERYTHING for birthdays and congratulation days. Blessed with fast metabolisms, we've always been ready for the next nibble. Actually, this Reems metabolism has been both our greatest blessing and fiercest curse, allowing us to sample the riches of the world's table but leaving us to melt into puddles of pure emotion if left to go too hungry for too long. Many of our spouses can attribute to the threat of marital discourse that lurks when a Reems is left unfed.

All this to say, that I wanted to share my cooking adventures with my family, who now seemed rather distant as the sphere of my life moved to a ramshackle apartment in an old house on Blackwood Street. A family blog seemed the perfect way to share ideas and creative inspiration. When I set up the blog, I assumed that all six of us would contribute. I figured all my siblings, and my parents, would be eager to take photos of their meals, write accompanying anecdotes, and post the lot online.

As it turns out, my family members lead busy lives. They have children and careers and dogs and Bible studies, and sports teams, and friends and hobbies. Plus they have to get dinner on the table.

Happily, Haley was on a mat leave in 2008 and as the oldest and confirmed kindest child in the family, has never been able to say no to any of us. And so Haley and  I began to exchange posts on ReemsEats.

We wrote about our small kitchens (me) our kids (her) and the random fun things we like to do with our food.

We've never had very many followers.

We've never had very good pictures.

We've never even been all that great at getting down the recipes.

But what we've always loved is the spirit of the thing.

And while we've both had busy years... Haley's due to give birth in one week and is just launching into a mat leave... when I asked Haley if she'd be willing to start blogging again (it's been quite some time since this blog saw any activity), she being a lover of all that is tasty and pretty much the best older sister any girl could have, she said yes, and sat back and waited for me to get the first post rolling as promised.

It took a few weeks.

But here I am to celebrate to a new year, a new look for the blog, and a new baby! (Coming soon...)

Check out my first post on ReemsEats in 2008.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Whole Wheat Hamburglar

I lost the last of my wisdom this past week. It didn't stand a chance against a pair of pliers and Dr. Theissen's vise gripe. I bore witness to the whole ugly scene as my dentist elected to freeze my gums as opposed to knocking me out. I don't remember much. I saw him pick up the pliers...

At some point his assistant in green scrubs said, "Oh, you bent them...your favourite tool." It was then that Dr. Theissen complimented me on my wardrobe choice--he loved my blazer. With my head back stuffed full of metal and gauze, I emitted the obligatory dentist-chair-chat moan.

Finally, he really reefed on that bottom tooth. He withdraw and I somehow gasped, "You get it?" And he somehow understood the questions. I suppose his is the trained ear.

Nope. He was just loosening the tooth up. Back in. Reef, reef, reef...Done.

The hygienist pushed a wad of gauze into the hole in the back of my mouth and said, "You don't look so good."

The cool part is, she let me look at my once-wise teeth. The roots were startlingly long. The insides were black with cavity. Yikes. Forget wisdom.

I now embrace frivolity. And what's more frivolous then sliders? Okay, lots of things, probably. But I'm still Joan's daughter and I know the value of an awesome whole wheat bun. We made these mini burgers on Saturday night and they really were delicious. The whole wheat bun is soft and light. The whole grains also give the buns a more robust flavour. If you happen to live somewhere with a whole grains mill handy (like Chilliwack with Anita's Flour or Victoria with True Grains in Cowichan), try purchasing a bag of whole wheat flour and you'll be impressed at the unique flavour of the small-batch grains. Just a little frivolous tip!

Spring is certianly upon us and we're all ready for BBQs and hibachi's on the beach. Of course, most of us have our own awesome burger recipe but in my world, what pulls the burger from mediocrity and into the the spotlight with gold dust, is an incredible bun. Some of you might have access to a bakery with the perfect burger buns, but I have yet to obtain easy access to a fabulous bun source. Happily, buns are pretty easy to make. I like to make a big batch and freeze a bunch for future burger nights. Thawed and toasted, they'll be far more delicious then anything you pick up at the grocery store.

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

1 plus 1/2 Tbsp yeast
2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp melted butter
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
pumpkin seeds

Dissolve the yeast in the water. in a large bowl Let proof for 5 to 10 minutes. Add 2 cups of the whole wheat flour, the salt, and the butter. Stir to combine. Add the remaining flour cup by cup, stirring after each addition.

You will know have a shaggy mound of dough. Turn it onto a lightly floured counter and knead for about five minutes. Add a little flour as needed to prevent sticking. You will have a smooth dough. Don't add too much flour as you don't want a tough lump. The dough should not be sticky. If it is quite sticky, add flour by the tablespoon as you knead.

Let the dough rise in a covered bowl for 24 to 90 minuted -- until doubled.

Punch the dough down and divide it into 18 pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Let the balls rest, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Now use your palm to flatten each ball into a disk that is 1 inch thick. Move the disks onto a cookie tray covered in parchment paper or lightly greased.

Preheat your oven to 400.

Cover the buns and let them rise for 30-45 minutes. They will be soft and puffy when risen.

Brush the buns with milk and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds. Use your hands to gently push in the seeds.

Bake the buns for 20-25 minutes. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

I'm solo parenting for a week. Mike's in Belize; I suspect he was a touch guilty about leaving me and our little brood - he was protesting a bit too loudly that he wasn't going on a holiday: that leading a group of more than 40, mostly hormone fueled teenagers, on a service learning expedition wasn't going to leave a lot of time for relaxing on the beach. As I hopped the puddle from my broken washing machine en route to stopping my toddler from having a bath in the toilet bowl (AGAIN), I had my doubts. I'd just checked the Belizian weather report: 26 degrees. Chilliwack: 9 degrees with a steady drizzle.

But that was Thursday, and it's Monday and we're all still happily standing. And eating. Mike's away so BRING ON THE MEAT!

We were too busy inhaling to stop and take a photo, so you'll have to imagine the sauce dripping buns of meaty goodness. I know that pulled pork has been around for a long time, but it's only been recently that it's entered my life. I couldn't fight destiny. There were greater foodie elements at work: cookbooks mysteriously falling open to pulled pork recipes. My beloved Vancouver Sun Wednesday Food section: Pulled Pork. Even Joan (our mom) was asking me for pulled pork recipes over the phone. Which I couldn't supply, I'D NEVER MADE IT. I felt sheepish. To top it off last month we went to Gary and Louise 's place for lunch, and what was on the menu? Pulled pork. Of course it was delicious, Gary is Mike's old roommate and a gourmet chef on the side. My picky husband didn't even look at the shredded meat  and was busy constructing a sweet potato fry sandwich, crazy.

It didn't even cross my mind to make this on the barbecue. I pulled out my trusty Mr. Crock to help me out. And he really did most of the work. You could follow my recipe (which was really easy) or you could get even easier and just chuck a seasoned pork roast in the slow cooker with a cup of water on low for the day, then shred it, dump the water and mix the pork with a cup of barbecue sauce. I'm sure it would taste fabulous. I'm almost positive that pulled pork in a slow cooker is impossible to screw up. The worst thing you could do is use a dry bun. The best thing you could do would be to make my go-to hamburger buns courtesy of Canadian Living. And maybe some coleslaw.

Slow Cooker Pulled-Pork
(This is a from few recipes combined, some had a dry rub or a marinade but I skipped this and still had a delicious final product) 

Combine the following in the slow cooker:

1 shoulder roast (my local grocery store had: Great for Pulled Pork on the label, I'm not sure how big it was)
Small can crushed tomatoes (could use tomato sauce too)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves minced garlic (1 tsp powdered garlic would be fine)
Optional: Something spicy - dash of smoked chipolte, shot of hot sauce, or chili powder
salt and pepper
1/2 cup water

Cook on low for the day - I left for 8 hours. Take the pork out of the slow cooker and let sit while you make your sauce:

Drain the fat off the liquid and then simmer for 10 - 15 minutes until reduced (if you're in a pinch just skim the fat off the liquid and add enough to the shredded to moisten the pork along with a shot of bottled barbecue sauce).

While your sauce reduces shred your pork with two forks.Put your shredded pork and sauce back into your pot or serving bowl (I put mine into the slow cooker on low while I did last minute diaper changing dinner pep.

Pile meat on buns - watch in amazement as your children, even the girl-who-protests-dinner-Every.Single.Night., happily devours.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Hunting and Gatherering

As a food blogger, I keep one finger pressed to the pulse. What's new, what's in, what's hot, what's not? These are absorbing questions.

For example, coloured pants -- in.

Such observations require careful attention, not to mention foresight. You will note as you observe the Reems Eats blog that Haley and I are attune to these nuances. We maintain a cutting edge profile. For example, we considered embedding video, only to realize that was on the cusp of old, so we didn't. We thought about Twitter but then realized the conceptualization of Twitter was really a lot hipper than Twitter itself in its digital form, so we left it at that. Online is still in, so we've stayed onboard. We also figured we'd keep the blog format for now but we have noticed that older, back-to-the-orgin type trends are making a comeback, such as canning or growing potatoes or using a typewrite; so heck we might just jump that trend and swap the blog for a log and do the whole thing in calligraphy. We're not sure. We're just going to see where the whole thing goes.

In the meantime, another notable flashback trend is that of the hunter gatherer. Once a figure relegated to the Socials Studies textbook, the hunter gatherer has re-emerged as a present-day lifestyle option. Consider the word, 'forage.' It appears on menus: “wild foraged mushrooms.” Or is referred to as a past time, “foraging.”

But the hunter was never one to be outdone by the gatherer. Note who's name comes first (gather always follows hunter). Hunter has also returned to a place of prominence. Think bow and arrows. Think Hunger Games. Or tall green boots sold with accessorized socks. Friends tell me they'd like to hunt—fell a deer or two and stock their freezers. These are urban people, shades away from hipster. Maybe the hipsters aren't too far off. They're already in camo—dark muted tones. They blend into buildings or slouch against the rain-gray West-Coast sky. They tread with the practiced obscurity of the hunter.

Even he-who-shall-not-be-named-on-the-blog (my hubbie) is doing it. Bow, check. Arrows, check. Deer, check. He's kicking off slippers, dashing out the door, sprinting across the property in hot pursuit. Fear not, his arrows are capped.

In fact, I'm considering joining him and he's encouraging this line of thinking. He said I'd be useful in flushing out the prey. I imagine I could go springer spaniel style and dash into the under brush, yapping at deer hooves to angle the herd into the clearing. It's likely a good workout. If you've followed Reems Eats for any length of time, you've concluded that I'm always up for a good workout. Anyways, I think hunting could be a perfect opportunity. Although trapping—also a form of hunting—appears less cardiovascular. Perhaps if the trapline stretched over a number of miles I might receive something of a physical benefit. But perhaps I'll leave that for people in the Ozarks or those with snow and dogsleds. I read a pretty excellent Janet Oke novel in which the main character runs the trapline. She also always wears a braid in her hair. This is before she meets HIM and lets that braid loose and gives up the trapeline for more womanly pursuits. If you've read this novel and can recall the title, feel free to comment as I'd love to get my hands on it again.

On a what's-hot-what's-not note, Haley tells me that braids are in. She says a good place to stay abreast of hairstyles is Pintrest.

In the meantime, I've been gathering. To be honest, I prefer the status of the hunter position, as well as the thrill of the chase and the triumph of the kill but more and more in life I have come to realize that we don't choose our callings as much as we are chosen by them. It has fallen to me to gather. I gather for a few reasons. One is that once I've arrived home, I don't like to leave. This often puts me in the unfortunate position of having to scrape a meal from what's left in the fridge and the pantry. Also, I've recently learned I'm an under-buyer (read the Happiness Project to find out where you lie in the under-buyer over-buyer spectrum). As an under-buyer, I refuse to stock up. I refuse to buy all the essentials. I make do. I scrape, I salvage, I improvise. Which is exactly what I was preparing to do the other day when my eyes chanced across Julia Child's quiche formula in Food and Wine (thanks again, Haley, for the birthday subscription). Julia's great for supplying the bones of a recipe. She instructs you as to the technique and the essentials and allows you to fill in the gaps. I followed Julia to a bacon quiche. You might choose squash. Or better yet, bacon squash. Whatever. See what's in the fridge. Or if you have a herb pot, poke in there.

This quiche is part of the weeknight dinner series. Haley and I are sharing stuff we make in the week that's easy and tasty and fun. The quiche is easy if you keep pie dough in the freezer. You can make your own pastry or buy it from the grocery store. Either will be delicious. I always forget how good quiche is and whenever I've made it I think I should do it more often. It also makes for excellent lunch leftovers.

Julia's Quiche

Adapted from the March Edition of Food and Wine

For the pastry:
Roll out a 1 layer pie dough. Once you've settled it into a pie pan, cover it with a piece of buttered foil or a piece of parchment paper. Fill the pie with dried beans. Yes, beans. You're not going to eat them; they are simply to weigh down the pastry and make sure it doesn't puff up with baking. Bake at 450 for ten minutes. Remove the foil and the weights and bake for another 7 to 8 minutes until it is very lightly browned.

For the custard:
Crack 3 large eggs into a large glass measuring cup. Add enough milk to reach the 1 and ½ cup mark. Add some salt and pepper and whisk.

Place half a cup cheese and your filling (in my case two strips fried and then chopped bacon. Chard is also nice or squash. Whatever you chose be sure to cook it first) in the bottom of the cooked pie pastry. Pour the custard in. The custard should reach ¼ inch below the top of the pie shell. If it doesn't crack another egg into the measuring cup and add enough milk as to equal ½ a cup. Beat that together and add it to the quiche. Top with quiche with a little more cheese if you'd like (I don't usually but I'm trying to make your quiche extra good).

Bake the quiche at 375 for about 30 minutes or until set and browned.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mac 'n' Cheese

I live with a little escape artist. He spends his mornings trying on shoes, no matter the size or the style (Sister's boots, Daddy's Size 13 loafers), he knows that footwear is needed to meet his objective: To get outside. He gazes longingly at the front door, and woe be the evil parent that needs to go to work without Asher. But it's February, and this Mommy isn't spending all day outs in the elemnts. Oh eventually- after the coffee's been drunk, the paper perused, a half hearted stab at the laundry mountain has been made, and after the little outdoorsman butters up Mommy with some snuggles- we get on our rain gear and go out to play. But no matter how much rain, or how many jaunts around our park, our usually placid Asher always protests the return indoors with angry rants - "Ball! Ball!" (Ours is a ball-strewn cauldesac, and Asher knows the location and coordinates of every stray tennis and nerf ball)

We're a family ready for spring. Summer quick meals are easy, chicken or salmon on the barbie, corn on the cob and a salad. Done. But February it is, and February demands comfort food. Soup and casseroles. Mashed potatoes and spaghetti.

The ultimate speedy comfort food is Mac 'n' Cheese. To be honest, it's not my first choice. I find the cheesey pasta on the bland side and I always itch to doctor it up with some smoked chipolte or maybe a head of roasted garlic. But my husband is a m and c purist, and mac 'n' cheese demands respect. And my children have been converted.The speed at which those bowls are thrust back at me for second helpings brings warmth to my heart.

And there is a silver lining, this is an easy prep meal. While you could just make the sauce and toss it with the noodles and still have a delicious final product, my mother-in-law Donna always bakes it in the oven with a good layer of shredded cheese. And since this is Mike's meal, I make it how his Mamma does.The end result is a delicious custardy interior with a crusty cheese topping. If you're a true Campbell (I'm not) you would eat this fried up for breakfast the next morning.

Mac 'n' Cheese

3 cups or so dried macaroni cooked el dente as per package directions.
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
3 1/2 cups cheese, divided (can use more or less cheese depending on taste).

Sauce (these directions sound more time and labor intensive than this actually is. This is a white sauce with cheese.):

Over medium heat melt 1/4 cup butter.

Whisk in 1/4 cup flour to make a roux. Stir for a few seconds until the roux starts turning brown.

Slowly add 3 cups milk. Keep stirring until mixture thickens. Don't leave that milk unattended, if you stop stirring for a second something will stick. That's your kid dunking things into the toilet? Has to wait. Your occasionaly angelic 3-year-old daughter is trying to pull her brother's hair out? Block that out. They'll thank you in half an hour (or just add it to the therapist rant in 30 years).

Add 1 1/2 cup shredded or cubed cheese . Keep stirring. Stir until cheese is melted and mixture thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste. And maybe a dash of dijon if no one is looking.

Mix the sauce with cooked noodles in a large casserole dish (I use a 9 by 13 pyrex).

Sprinkle 2 cups of shredded cheese over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or so.

Serve with a side of ketchup.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

For Lovers Only (That Means You, Yes, You!)

1cup peanut butter
1 cup icing sugar
a titch vanilla
-- beat!
350 grams chocolate, melted

A little chocolate in a paper wrapper, a dollop of peanut butter icing, more chocolate.

Let it set.

Ta da!


See, it is easy.