Cook of the Week: Terri Baker
This week’s Cook of the Week is Terri Baker. Baker is a selftaught cook. At an early age she loved to be in the kitchen thinking up her own recipes. Among her first efforts were cinnamon-peanut butter toast and jellycheese melts. Around age 10, she attempted to make bread from scratch on her own, and even though the attempt fell flat and became a family joke, she never gave up. Today, she grinds her own flour from multiple grains to make amazing bread. She believes that people should follow their passions and gifts, and never give up trying until they accomplish what they have set out to do.
In her early twenties, Baker was a flight attendant and traveled the world. This experience introduced her to delicious new foods from different regions and cultures. Most often, her meals reflect a preference for Asian and Mexican dishes. She favors stir-fry and sauté cooking using olive oil, onions and garlic as a base for many recipes. Baker also makes her own salad dressing, marinades and sauces using a variety of vinegars and herbs. Plain yogurt is also one of her ‘secret’ ingredients. Her advice to inexperienced cooks is to not be afraid to try new fresh foods and spice combinations; you just might discover a new family favorite.
Terri lives with Rex, her husband of 30 years, their daughter Mikaila and their rescue cat, Leo. Rex was born in Calhoun, while Terri was born in Alabama and Mikaila in Tennessee. They moved to Calhoun 10 years ago when Rex became the director of maintenance for the Gordon County School Board. Rex enjoys being around anything mechanical from airplanes and vintage cars to farm tractors and earth moving equipment. Mikaila enjoys writing, cosplay and video editing. Terri enjoys cooking, reading and trying new crafts. Terri and Mikaila both spend a lot of hours volunteering at the Calhoun – Gordon County Library. They are very creative and teach a lot of both Teen and Adult classes. The Bakers are devout Christians and try to always live their lives according to the Bible’s teachings.
Terri is what her husband calls a “creative” cook. Translated, it means that her philosophy of cooking, with the exception of a few things such as the process of baking cakes or the cooking time for meats, is more of a formula approach versus using a recipe. She likes to use fresh foods and does her best to avoid waste. This motivates her creative mind to always be searching for ways to use whatever foods and ingredients she has on hand.
For example, each week she shops what’s fresh and affordable… poultry, ground or whole meats, fish; fresh vegetables and salad greens; whole grains in their simplest forms such as brown rice, freshly rolled oats, or something lesser known such as quinoa or millet; plus a choice of beans, pintos are a family favorite, but white northern, black, red kidney, chickpeas and others are rotated around along with homemade breads, tortillas, muffins, biscuits and cornbread.
Then it’s just a matter of combining them with a selection of spices, condiments and fruits to prepare meals with Southern, Louisiana- Cajun, TexMex, Italian, Asian, Greek, Indian and other ethnic favorites according to plan or spontaneity.
Below are some of Baker’s favorite recipes.
General Tso’s Chicken
Ingredients: Sauce – 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp granulated sugar 1 tsp tomato paste 1 tsp potato starch 1-1/2 tbsp rice vinegar 1 tbsp soy sauce 1- 1/ 2 tsp sesame oil 1/4 cup water For the sauce, combine the sugar, tomato paste, potato starch, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and water in a small bowl. Stir until the potato starch has dissolved and no more lumps are visible. Set aside. Marinade – 1 tbsp soy sauce 1 tbsp orange juice 1 egg white, beaten 2 tbsp potato flour For the marinade, combine the soy sauce, orange juice, egg white, and potato starch in a large bowl. Add the chicken and mix well to coat. Other Ingredients – 1 pound ( 4 to 5) skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch chunks Vegetable oil for frying
8 dried red chilies, shoulders snipped and seeds removed
2 tsp finely chopped ginger (1×1-inch piece)
2 tsp minced garlic (2 large cloves)
Chopped green onions for garnish Directions: Pour about 1- 1/ 2 inches oil into a 14” wok or Dutch oven and set over high heat until the oil reaches about 350 degrees F. Carefully lower the chicken into the oil ( preferably piece by piece so they don’t stick) and fry in batches for 3 to 4 minutes or until crisp and golden. Using a metal spider or slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat until all the chicken is cooked, usually 3 or more batches. Let the oil cool down a little and pour into a heatproof container such as a glass jar. Wipe the cooker clean.
Set the cooker back on the stove over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil. When hot, toss in the chilies and stir for a few seconds, until they just start to darken in color, careful not to let them turn burn. Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the ginger and garlic; cook for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the sauce, stirring as it thickens. Return the chicken to the wok and stir continuously to coat. Remove to a serving dish and scatter with green onions. Serve with rice, a vegetable side dish and fresh oranges over salad greens with sliced almonds and rice wine vinaigrette. Egg rolls and fortune cookies optional.
Traditional Fried Rice
Ingredients: 5 cups cooked rice ( better if cooked the day before and refrigerated) 2 large eggs ¼ teaspoon paprika ¼ teaspoon turmeric 2 tablespoons oil 1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ red bell pepper, finely chopped 1 1/2 teaspoons salt ¼ teaspoon sugar ¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 scallions (or green onions), chopped Directions: Use your hands to break up the cold rice clumps into individual grains.
Beat the 2 eggs in a bowl, along with 2 tablespoons water, the paprika, and the turmeric. Set aside.
Heat wok or deep skillet over high heat, and add the 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the diced onion and bell pepper. Stir- fry for 12 minutes..
Add the rice and stirfry for 2 minutes, using a scooping motion to heat the rice uniformly. Use your cooking spatula to flatten out and break up any rice clumps.
Pour the uncooked egg and spice mixture over the rice, and stirfry for about 1 minute, until all of the rice grains are coated in egg.
Next spread the salt, sugar, and black pepper over the rice and mix. You should now see some steam coming off the rice, which means it is heated through.
If the rice looks a little dry, feel free to sprinkle in some water or chicken stock. Adding some liquid directly to any remaining clumps of rice will also help to break them up. Mix in the scallions and serve with Tso’s Chicken and steamed broccoli or green beans.
Cook of the Week Terri Baker is, what her husband, Rex, calls a “creative” cook.