Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wok Crazy

Wok Like Crazy

or San Choy Bau with Noodles

It’s been a whirlwind week!  Wok Crazy Class at Spartan Stores, a private dinner/iron chef competition, and I’m working on my new business cards!  Oh, and my full time Sous Chef job at Creative Dining Services!

I’m going to focus on my Wok Class, I had a varied group of culinarians in the classroom at Spartan Stores this week, from first timers to veterans, some who had a wee bit of cooking chops, and some that had none.  My friend here had lots of experience!


It’s always fun when you try and herd 20 potential chef’s and home cooks in a small environment, but we have learned how to do it well over the last 5 or so years.  Everything from  “well it says simmer on the  button, doesn’t that mean it’s simmering?” to how many rice papers can I soak at one time, and what are prawns?  (shrimp).”


We get all kinds of questions, and answer all kinds, and offer advice, shortcuts and suggestions. 

My mantra in this class like setting: “there are no mistakes, only opportunities to create new recipes!” This usually settles the group down, and they begin to smile. We had so much fun food, but I think my favorite was the San Choy Bau with noodles. The noodles made it fun! We didn’t have the lettuce to make “lettuce cups” that sometimes happens, produce can be tricky and we only want to use the best, so we made it platter style. The fried vermicelli noodles made the dish festive. I hope you like the recipe.

 San Choy Bau with Noodles

1lb raw prawns

vegetable oil for deep frying

3 ½ oz dried rice vermicelli *

¼ cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons rice Wine

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown bean sauce

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

½ teaspoon sugar

peanut oil as needed

1 garlic clove crushed

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

3 scallions, thinly sliced and green ends reserved to garnish

6 ounces minced pork**

12 iceberg lettuce leaves, trimmed into neat cups


Serves 6


Peel the prawns and gently pull out the dark vein from each prawn back and roughly chop


Fill a deep heavy based saucepan  or deep fryer one third full of peanut oil and heat to 325 degrees or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 20 seconds.  Add the dried rice vermicelli to the oil in batches and deep fry until puffed up but not browned.  This will take only a few seconds, so watch closely.  Remove using a slotted spoon and drain well on paper towels.


Stir Fry sauce:  Combine chicken stock, rice wine, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, brown bean sauce, sugar and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl and combine.


Heat the peanut oil in a wok over high heat and swirl to coat.  Add the garlic, ginger, and spring onion and stir fry for 1 minute, being very careful not to burn the garlic.


Add the pork to the wok, breaking up the lumps with the back of a wooden spoon and cook for about 4 minutes, then add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp turn lightly pink, about 2 minutes.


Add the stir fry sauce and stir until combined, cook over high heat for 2 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly.


Divide the noodles among the lettuce cups, spoon the pork and prawn mixture over the noodles and garnish with the reserved spring onion.  Service at once


·          make sure the pork mince is not to lean or the mixture will be dry, you need some fat to make this dish work well.

When deep frying the vermicelli, take care not to allow the oil to become to hot as the vermicelli will burn.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Blueberry Muffins

The importance of Weighing Ingredients in Baking


Muffins.  A simple baked treasure where you mix all of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, scoop it into muffin tins and bake.  Easy, right?

I was at Rylees Ace Hardware in Grand Rapids, MI on March 16, 2013 with a group of my favorite customers, and I was showing them how to make muffins.  I may have driven a few of them crazy, because the recipe had no “normal” measurements to work from.  No cups, no teaspoons, no tablespoons, only weights.  And it is hard to take pictures while you work,  but I got the beginning and the finished product.  I hope you like!


I started out by asking two of favorites to measure out 1 cup of all porpoise flour.  The old saying “a pint a pound the world around “came to mind because a cup of flour should be about 8 ounces, right?  Well I got several different answers when I weighed them using the nifty digital scale that Rylees had.  an ounce difference between the two who scooped, sifted, spooned, etc.  See how little the digital scale is?  It's that white triangle shaped contraption.  I love it, and I gotta get one of those little ones!


So we weighed out the following ingredients:


1 lb 4 ounces all purpose flour

10 ounces sugar

1.25 ounces baking powder

Pinch of salt


Then we stirred it up really well.  If anything had been extremely lumpy I would have sifted the ingredients, but all purpose flour is pre-sifted, and the sugar wasn’t lumpy, then we set it aside and:


Measured out:


6 oz eggs, beaten

14 ounces milk (whole milk – unless otherwise suggested)

½ ounces vanilla extract

8 ounces butter – melted and slightly cooled:


Of course it was more than two 4 ounce sticks of butter.  The day before I was short ½ an ounce, so I melted 3 sticks, and we actually weighed it out.



We had a discussion on eggs – what kind of eggs?  If a recipe calls for 3 eggs, in the home cooking world, it usually doesn’t say medium, or large, or extra large.  I beat the eggs, and weighed it out!


Then someone asked me if we could use skim milk, and I said yes, but it would affect the muffin, and you wouldn’t have the same muffin.  It’s the fat content that we have in the milk that’s important.  Substituting ingredients will work, but the product will be slightly different.


We then mixed in


10 ounces of blueberries


And by hand with a wooden spoon, I mixed them together until it was slightly lumpy!



Then we placed the papers in the muffin tins and sprayed tem to get the muffins out easily.  You could just spray the muffin tins, but I wanted to make clean up easy.  I used a number 20 scoop. 


That led to the discussion on what was the yield?  And I said it depends.  Of course that got me some looks.  I explained how scoop numbers (there is a number on the inside half ring, or on the outside somewhere) that determines the number of scoops in a quart.  Depending on how big you want your muffins, would determine the yield.  With a number 20 scoop we got 36 muffins.  I could have taken them through the entire yield process, but they were looking hungry, and I needed to bake my muffins!


16 minutes later in a convection oven at 400 we got muffins!  And I did some mini muffins and left them at the paint counter!  It was free paint day, it was busy over there, and I thought the customers just might like it.


My friends learned a few tricks, like “tare”, what, when and why.  We discussed converting recipes (that’s a blog for another time, it involves math!) and why it’s important when you bake.


All In All we got some nice blueberry muffins (and a few chocolate chip ones to!)



Here’s the recipe.  Let me know if you like it.  Not to sweet, and they are not huge muffins.  Just good old fashioned blueberry muffins!

Chef Terri Rees

Here are the general rules for The Muffin Method:  It works for all muffins.  You can add blue berries, cherries, apples, etc. to the finished basic batter.


1.  Sift together the dry ingredients

2 combine all liquid ingredients, including melted fat in this case butter

Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and mix just until all of the flour is moistened.  The batter will look lumpy.  Do not over mix.


Pan and bake immediately!


1 lb 4 ounces all purpose flour

10 ounces sugar

1.25 ounces baking powder

Pinch of salt


6 oz eggs, beaten

14 ounces milk (whole milk – unless otherwise suggested)

½ ounces vanilla extract

8 ounces butter

10 ounces blueberries



Grease and flour muffin tins ( or use papers) fill tins one half to two thirds full.  Bake at 400 for about 20 – 30 minutes.



Sunday, March 10, 2013

Buttermilk Ice Cream

Buttermilk Ice Cream and the New Ice Cream Machine

(or and the new camera!)


I love Ice Cream!  I know this sounds crazy, it’s the beginning of March and I see snow outside, and I’m making ice cream, getting ready for spring and summer.

Last year, I wore out my old machine!  I was making semi freddo, ice cream, sorbets, experimenting, using up leftover cream, milk, and having a blast!  My husband, he’s a purist and working on getting in shape for the Riverbank run (25K) so buttermilk ice cream wouldn’t be a favorite! ( See Jeffery, I’m thinking of you.)

I had a very small dilemma – go big, or replace the freezer bowl, and go small.  I went big (I still might replace the freezer bowl on my old machine so I can take it directly to clients!)


And I have a new Camera.  It’s a Nikon 3000, last year’s model to save some money – and my new adventure in picture taking.  I can accomplish a few items.

Turn it on

Turn it off


No Flash

and something called Macro.


It came with two videos, a huge book, and the promise of classes!  Yes, I’ll take on the classes!

The Buttermilk Ice Cream came directly from the Cuisinart recipe booklet.  It’s a custard-style ice cream and follows the straight forward custard method. 


Warm the cream, sugar, salt and vanilla.  Whisk egg yolks and sugar to a light pale yellow mixture.  Temper the eggs into the cream, strain to get out the “cooked egg” and whisk in the remaining cold ingredients.  Cool for at least two hours, and then turn on the machine and go!


The Ingredients

2 cups Heavy cream

1 cup granulated sugar, divided

1/8 (pinch) salt

1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

6 large egg yolks

2 cups buttermilk


put the cream, ½ sugar, salt and vanilla in a medium sauce pan and heat on medium low, bring just to a boil


While cream mixture is heating combine the yolks and remaining sugar and whisk until it is pale and thick


Once cream has started to simmer, temper the mixture (this means put a little hot into the yolks and whisk) and then slowly combine. Stirring constantly until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, this should take a few moments.


Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.  Whisk in the buttermilk and chill for two hours or overnight. 


Pour it into the machine, and set the timer for 40 minutes and you have ice cream!




Sunday, March 3, 2013

Smoothies at Rylee's Ace Hardware

On March 2, 2013 I got to spend some time at my favorite hardware store, Rylees Ace Hardware on Michigan Ave, in Grand Rapids, MI.  A hardware store, well, if you follow me around, I do a few demonstrations there.  A hardware store? 

Yes a hardware store!  Owner Lori has the best kept secret in town, a house wares department that is unbelievable!


I was filling in for Chef Kathleen – she was in Florida for a trip, and ironically my daughter Jenn was here for my spring break! 


I was working with Chef Kathleen’s Vitamix making smoothies and discussing ingredients!  Some of my participants are watching their health, and diets, and we had a great time reading the labels.  I made all of my smoothies allergy friendly (well for most) – they were gluten free, soy free and dairy free – using coconut milk and water, and pomegranate juice!


Here are some of my fans Bob and his wife Ann (on the left!)  Of course we really didn’t follow a “recipe”, we decided to play around with the ingredients as I brought spinach, kale, fruit, avocado, honey, agave, and ginger!


We started with the “greens” as I call them.  Incorporating those dark rich leafy green vegetables, and then some banana and pomegranate juice.  It wasn’t very friendly looking, in fact Ann had to close her eyes to taste, but all agreed that it was pretty darn good!


We then went to avocado, mango, banana and peach, my favorite.  We added lite coconut milk, and I’m thinking that I might try this mixture in my new ice cream machine; it was really tasty, and thick.  Of course you could thin it out if you like.


With the Vitamix, it has loads of power, and mixing everything up, easy as eating a piece of cake!

I don’t know, all in all it was a fun hour of creating new and healthy smoothies!  What’s your favorite smoothie?


We have raspberry, mango, banana &in  the back  kale, banana & pomegranate and way in the front avocado, peach, and mango!  Yum.

Hope to see some of you at one of my next demo’s at Rylee’s!  Check out my facebook page for more information on Events!

Chef Terri Rees


Saturday, March 2, 2013

5 Easy tips


I plan parties and execute them for a living.  I’m passionate about food, plates, silverware, the setting – all of it.  It’s a good thing I do this for other people, because my husband couldn’t care less most of the time!  He doesn’t understand why I like the plates all in the same spot on the table setting, or the glasses in the correct corner.  What does that say?!  Every day meals at the Rees Residence are probably just like the ones at your house.


When I plan “big” parties for my clients I take the stress of this planning away from them.  Usually not all of it, my domain is the kitchen, the dining room, where ever there is food.  It’s usually at least 50% of the stress that they have.  Everyone loves the adrenaline rush that you get while preparing for a party, even my husband – he won’t admit to it, but I know that it’s true! They worry if the house is clean enough, do I have enough ice, what’s the weather going to be like, and everything in-between! 

I’ve seen long complicated check list.  I have a few that I make up for my events, and I wouldn’t even begin to suggest that you do this!  You know how much silverware you have, and where your glasses are! 

There are some things that you can do, and here are some easy tips to keep in mind.


5 Easy Tips

1.  I always try out the recipe before I actually try it on my guests! Why?  I need to know how it will taste – and so should you! I need to know how it will cook, and so should you!  And most important, I need to know how much time it will take me to get it done!

2.  Don’t go too complicated.  Not all of us are master chefs and sometimes simple with a few little tweaks are  great.

3.  Shop, Shop, Shop – make sure you have all of the recipe’s ingredients on hand – we call this mise en place. 

4. Taste your ingredients (or smell them) for freshness, and taste your meal as you go!  That’s the only way you’ll know how the finished product will turn out!

5.  Finish with a great (and easy) dessert!  It’s the last bite of the day, and that’s the one that they will all remember.