Saturday, December 21, 2013

Congratulations to the winner of the first giveaway!

Congratulations to the winner of the set of Anchor steak knives, Marisa P. of Columbus, Ohio!
Lucky Lady!
You can win our next giveaway- an awesome set of appetizer serving tools! All you have to do is like The Impulsive Chef's page on Facebook at by January 31st. I will draw the winner on New Years Day!
Great for cheese, olives, and lots of other noms!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Diane, I'm Going to Make a Soup

It just occurred to me that the great northern bean soup shares it's name with the Great Northern Hotel from the early 90's television show Twin Peaks.
Ben Horne owned the hotel, a central location in the show
So in the spirit of one of the most inventive, captivating, and outright creepy shows of all time, I will be writing this post in the style of FBI Special Agent Dale B. Cooper- lead investigator into the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer.
Diane, I'm planning on attempting to make dinner. Tell Sheriff Truman that I may be late to the station.
Diane, it's 4:45pm on December 13th. The sky is a mix of grey and white, and my light jacket is no match for the brisk wind. Remind me to pick up something heavier- Columbus is a lot colder than Twin Peaks this time of year. My search for the ingredients for a soup I want to make has led me to Aldi, although I'm not entirely sure what kind of soup I want to make. I dreamed about my time at the Great Northern Hotel, room 315 last night, and it has left with me a desire for something hearty, something...I don't know. The Great Northern Hotel....great...northern...beans! Diane, it's settled. I'm going to make a great northern bean soup. I will check back when I acquire the necessary parts.

Diane, it's now 5:30pm and I have secured what I need to make this soup. I will record my expenditures for future reporting:
Two cans of black beans: $0.59 each
Two cans of kidney beans: $0.59 each
Two bags uncooked great northern beans: $1.99 each
One pack value bacon: $2.49
Three white onions: $1
1/2 gallon milk: $1.59
I have the remainder of the food that I need back at the lab. Things like black pepper, onion salt and the like.
One thing that I couldn't pass up on was a slice of cherry pie. You know how much I love a good cherry pie. This was not one of them. I only hope whatever wild animal ends up eating it out of the trash enjoys it more than I did.

In happier days
Diane, it's 6:30pm and I am soaking the great northern beans in a large pot filled with water. I didn't realize that it would require this much time! Beans are fascinating things. Did you know that the plants are heliotropic? This means that the leaves tilt to face the sun, and then at night they fold up when it's dark. Absolutely fascinating.

Diane, it's now 9:45pm and the beans are still as hard as a rock. Further investigation shows that these need about 24 hours to soften them up to be ready to process into soup. I think it's time for me to turn in for the night- hopefully there are no Norwegians in the room next to me, as I have forgotten to pack earplugs. Diane, if you could, please have a pair overnighted to me.

Diane, i'ts 2:17am and I just had the strangest dream. I was on the shore of a lake, and there was something wrapped in clear plastic. I couldn't see what it was, so I began unraveling the figure. When I got all of the plastic off, I was looking at a much older version of myself, only I was covered in smashed up beans. It was the oddest thing.
And my coffee was solid

Diane, it's now 9:14am on Saturday the 14th, and I have had three cups of damn fine hot black coffee. Ah man, that hits the spot. Nothing like a great cup of black coffee. To my surprise, the beans have nearly doubled in size! They're a lot softer too, I would be willing to bet that they're ready to be cooked. To make the base, I need to have them soft so I can put them in the food processor. I will boil them until they're soft- i'd wager about 45 minutes. While those boil, I am going to start getting the onions and bacon ready.

Fire Walk With Me
Diane, remind me to see my doctor when I return. Bacon grease splatters can be incredibly painful. All things considered, getting hit with hot bacon grease is not as bad as I always thought it might be- as long as you can keep the fear from your mind. I guess you could say that about most anything in life. It's not so bad as long as you can keep the fear from your mind.

Diane, it's 10:08am, and I have finished slicing the onions with the food processor and cooking and chopping the bacon. I found some leftover green onions as well, and have diced those up. I've begun to cook the black beans and kidney beans on the stovetop. I think giving them a little more firm of a texture will complement the soup. I will now work on the base, assuming that the great northern beans are soft.

Heliotropic goodness

Success, Diane! The beans are soft and are ready to be processed. I've placed several ladles of beans into the food processor, as well as some milk. The consistency is now that of a very lumpy Cream of Wheat. Perhaps I will add some more milk. **whirring is heard in the background** Ah! Perfect.

Diane, it's now 11am and I have the great northern bean soup base completed. For posterity's sake, I will recount what I added, but forgive the lack of exact measurements.
-Finely ground black pepper
-Onion salt
-Onion powder
-Water (to get the right consistency)
At this point, it's time to add the beans that I have been cooking in a pan. They've got a nice "pop" to them, which I was hoping for. Now i'll mix in the onions and the bacon and about 1/3 cup of bacon grease and let this simmer for a couple of hours. The aroma of the soup is almost indescribable. I wish you could smell it, Diane.

Diane, it's 8:45pm, and I have just finished my second bowl of soup. I'm not entirely sure that I can move from my chair. I would say that my soup was a success. I think that I will continue to work on different kinds of soup. One never knows what wonderful variations they'll end up with. I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange. Until next time, Diane.
Very tasty.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It's Hard to be a Cat at Christmas!

This is a food-related blog post, only this time it's cat food! Friskies is donating one can of cat food to a cat shelter for every view of this music video! It's got Grumpy Cat and a bunch of others. One of the shelters receiving part of their generous donation is Columbus, Ohio's very own Cat Welfare!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


This dinner fits the "impulsive" definition on a couple of levels. About a year or so ago, I was on a big-time Subway kick. I seemed to always have a taste for it, and would get the same thing every time- Cold Cut Combo, wheat bread, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, everything except cucumbers and green peppers.  I've been getting this every time I go to Subway since I worked there when I was 14. Don't get me started on the green peppers- seriously. There's a very good reason i'll never eat green peppers from Subway.

He must have had the green peppers.
So here I am, eating subs once or twice a week, and one day I thought to myself "Hey self, I'll bet that I can do this better. After all, I was one of the original Sandwich Artists!" I mean, Subway is good, but for $5, you're kinda getting what you pay for. I made a stop at Kroger on my way home, and looked around for what I could buy to make my own version. Not exact, mind you, but similar and better. A year of tinkering- adding, removing, and modifying what went into the sub, I finally got it perfected, and Lisa will back me up on this. So sit back and get ready for a journey into the sublime world of The Impulsive Chef's subs....
Just imagine you're going through hyperspace.
So the most important part of the sub is the bread. The bread can seriously make or break your sandwich- if it's too crunchy, it cuts the roof of your mouth and you get all pissed off, and if it's too soft, it doesn't have the structural integrity to hold your sub together. Flavor of the bread is important as well, especially considering the type of sub that you're making. For this sub, I've chosen to go with a whole wheat batard- the kind that you buy near the deli counter, but still have to bake. I flip-flop between wheat and white, usually based on what is available. The meat is second, and being at the deli, I opted for Genoa salami and Heritage Farms baked turkey, both thinly sliced. I put ham on the sub as well, but since I'm not a huge fan of pressed ham, I usually buy a small pack of black forest ham off the rack. Typically, I use cheddar cheese and provolone, but I recently acquired about three metric tons* of shredded mozzarella from my friend Mark, so I'll be using cheddar and mozzarella for this sub. Tomato, onion, salt, pepper, banana peppers, olive oil and vinegar, and we're just about ready to roll.
(*may not actually be three metric tons)
Cornucopia of sub stuffs
Layering is the first step after slicing the bread in half, and can be the difference between an evenly-cooked sub and a subtastrophe. Since you want the cheese to melt, save it for last. On top of the bread, I folded three slices of turkey length-wise and lay them end to end, top that with about eight slices of salami, slightly overlapping, and finish off with three or so slices of black forest ham. Typically i'll press the meat down a little to give myself a flat surface for the cheese and toppings, then I tear the cheddar slices in half and place them along the top of the meat, and then top that with a handful of shredded mozzarella. Now that i've got a good base for toppings, it's time to add the ones that need to cook. I've always had a soft spot for cooked onions on a deli sub, dating way back to when I was a kid and there was a sub shop called Quizno's (and it absolutely was NOT the Quizno's that exists in chain form.)
That was a Quizno's in the early 80's- Godown Road, Columbus, Ohio

An, since this was the early 80's, they had to have an arcade machine in there. In this case, it was Gorf.
Gorfian robots- attack attack!

Anyway, so since i've always liked that, I will cook the onions and banana peppers with the sub. I suppose I should have said that I was preheating the oven to 250 degrees. Right. The sub is now ready to go in the oven, but NOT the top part of the batard. Set that aside for now.
Let's get melty!
I will usually cook the subs for about 20-25 minutes at 250. The reason that I do this is because i don't really want to cook the sub, but rather warm it up, melt the cheese, and soften the onions and peppers. Around the 20 minute mark, I'll put in the remainder of the bread, cut-side up. This is going to prevent the bread from getting crunchy and cutting the roof of your mouth. Seriously, I get so pissed when that happens. Back when there were Denny's here, I would get the Deli-Dinger (which was AWESOME) but it would ALWAYS cut the crap out of the roof of your mouth. 15 years later and I still remember that.

Where was I?

Yes, put the remainder of the bread in and let it get toasted. Have a beer or play some Gorf while it finishes.

When it comes out, I top mine with sliced Roma tomatoes and lettuce, and my wife's with just lettuce. She's not nearly as adventurous as me, but to be fair, when we started dating, she was a vegetarian, so she's come a long, long way. Finish off the sub with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and some mayo (applied to the top piece of bread) and you're ready to eat.
Eat me!
Slice them diagonally...


And serve.

You're not going to find a better tasting sub anywhere. I've eaten a lot of sandwiches, but this is the kind I could have every day.

How do YOU like your sub? Loaded up? Plain? Somewhere in between? Post it in the comments!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Guest Post: Thanksgiving (and Anytime) Potatoes

Hello hello!  I am so pleased to be oh-so-graciously loaned this space by my husband, Brian, for a guest post.  :)

So… I’ll kick off this post with just a little bit about me.  I love to create, and I love working with my hands.  That would mean I’m a natural at cooking, right?  Ehh… not so much.  That is to say, I’m pretty decent at it when I actually do it (which is not often – if you couldn’t tell by now, Brian does the vast majority of the cooking in our house, for which I am eternally grateful), but I can’t say that it comes naturally to me.  It’s a skill that I have improved over time, but I still don’t have the instincts that the best cooks seem to have, and perhaps I never will.  But I do try.

I was raised in a very Italian-food-centric household.  We literally ate some version of pasta nearly every single day.  My mom made big batches of sauce from scratch every week, and everything she cooked seemed to materialize gracefully and effortlessly, without any use of recipes. 

My lovely mom with her newborn grandson
So that has been a huge influence on how I cook – at least, the Italian stuff – I can whip up a delicious pasta sauce from scratch, and I could make meatballs, or a lasagna in my sleep.  My biggest trouble with cooking, though, is that my innate creativity grinds to a screeching halt when I try to think of what to make.  That’s a real weakness of mine – so those rare times that I take an opportunity to cook, I browse various recipes to help cobble together an idea of what I want to make, and I love dishes that aren’t “typical” – my favorites feature some sort of special ingredient or preparation that’s uncommon or unexpected.  So, in general, that’s my approach.

And this certainly doesn't hurt.
So, as Brian mentioned, we just hosted our first-ever Thanksgiving.  I am a HUGE fan of sweet potatoes, and I love that they’re so pivotal to the “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner.  But I wanted to try to give that dish a twist, to make it unique, make it my own.  Beyond that, I wasn’t too sure.

We had visited our local Whole Foods the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, and I gravitated toward their many different potato varieties.  It was quite the selection.  I decided on buying a couple of standard red sweet potatoes, as well as purple sweet potatoes, Japanese sweet potatoes (which I didn’t end up using in this dish) and I couldn’t resist picking up a few Yukon Gold potatoes (I’m a sucker for that beautiful color).

From left to right: Japanese sweet, red sweet, purple sweet
Now, being that I had a combination of savory and sweet potatoes, I wrestled with whether to keep them all in the same dish, or separate out the gold to mash on their own.  The problem with that, as Brian kindly pointed out, is that I only had two, which wouldn’t produce much mashed potato volume for 5 adults and 1 hungry baby.  So, I decided to bite the cooking bullet and keep them all in the same dish. 

How I put together the dish truly fits this blog – impulsive.  I literally decided that morning as I was assembling it, that I would cut all the potatoes into thin (approx. 1/8”) slices, and then layer them by type into a baking dish.  

gorgeous golds

Red sweet potatoes - no, not a yam.
I first coated the bottom with a thin layer of olive oil, then laid down the Yukon Gold slices.  I thinly sliced pats of butter and placed them various spots on top.  Next, I chopped some fresh herbs – sage, rosemary and thyme – and sprinkled them evenly over the surface.

LOVE fresh herbs.

the gold layer
After that, I followed a similar process with the red and purple sweet potatoes, but sprinkles of brown sugar replaced the herbs. 

the red layer
The very top layer I partially covered with mini marshmallows, but I would not repeat that step as they effectively dissolved into nothingness during the baking.  Also, I would have changed not coating the surface of those upper layer slices with some oil & melted butter – they dried out during the baking.   We were able to salvage them by mixing all the layers together after they were cooked – the butter from the other layers moistened them – but yeah, that was a first-time mistake from which I have learned.

the finished product
The result?  The potatoes were delicious!  The herbs on the gold layer tasted wonderful even on the sweet potatoes, and the butter helped sort of unify it all.  I got rave reviews from everyone.  The rich, beautiful colors of the potatoes made for a lovely presentation, and next time the dish will look even better without that post-cooking stir.

Overall, I LOVED the way this dish turned out, and I would definitely make it again (with the aforementioned edits).  Great success!

You call them mistakes - I call them opportunities for improvement.  :)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The First Thanksgiving

For the past 18 years, my mom had cooked Thanksgiving dinner for my sister and I. When she passed away last May, my wife, sister and dad had Thanksgiving dinner at the country club, partly because our child was due any minute and we didn't want to have all of this food and not be able to make it, and partly because they had a really amazing spread there. Fast forward to this year, when I would be cooking my first Thanksgiving dinner- from turkey on down.

I'll start with this- the closest thing i've cooked to a turkey before is a cornish game hen. While it's similar, it's really nothing like a turkey- it's small and (from what I assume) a lot more forgiving when it comes to cooking. But the fact that I had cooked it before...well, it made me confident that i'd be able to tackle the turkey without any real difficulty. Right? It can't be THAT hard...
So a few weeks before Thanksgiving, I started to plan what I wanted to make. Obviously turkey, stuffing, green beans, gravy, rolls, spinach dip, and some kind of potato. My wife wanted to make a sweet/savory potato casserole, so that was hers, but the rest went to me. She will talk about the potatoes in an upcoming guest blog. I ordered a free-range organic turkey from a local farm (13.5 lbs, $42) and purchased organic stuffing, butter, and herbs (rosemary and thyme) from Whole Foods. As a nod to the Thanksgivings with my mom, I got the same gravy that she would use (jar turkey gravy) and Kroger yeast rolls. The spinach dip and green beans were another tradition at our house, and consisted of a hollowed out dark pumpernickel loaf, and filled with Knorr spinach mix, cut spinach, sour cream and mayonnaise. Wheat rolls were cut up to dip. Green beans were purchased fresh from Kroger.
Where's the parsley?
Thanksgiving morning, I brought the turkey in from the garage (it was cold enough outside that the garage was around 40 degrees, and the turkey spent the past two days chillin' on top of my '95 Mustang) Plus, it saved room in the fridge, so win-win. Using the roasting pan that my mom would use for cooking the turkey, I first put in about 1" of concentrated chicken broth and about 1/4 stick of butter (unmelted). Plopping the turkey in next, I finally did a few things that i'd wanted to try for a long, long time.  First, I pulled the skin loose of the breasts and put 1/4 stick of butter, and about a tbsp of minced rosemary, sage and thyme between the skin and the meat.
It puts the butter under the skin, or else it gets dried out again.
The remainder of the butter went inside of the bird. Now that the main prep was done, in my opinion, the most important part was next- preparation of the skin. A lot of people don't like the skin, but I do. There's a fine line between a nice, crispy skin and slimy, chewy skin that makes you feel like this guy...
Two SotL references already?
While I do enjoy a nice Chianti, Thanksgiving isn't the right time for that. Though I did cook the liver and heart from the giblets and add them to the stuffing. It was tough not eating the whole liver. It was delish! To prep the skin, I brushed it lightly with some olive oil, then sprinkled chicken bullion powder on it, rather liberally. Some fresh ground pepper, onion powder and a pinch of garlic salt and it was ready to go in the oven.
Future noms
I had read a few different ways that people prepared their turkeys and decided to combine a few, along with what I thought would work well. I set the oven to 500 degrees and put the turkey in uncovered for 45 minutes. I put it in with the legs toward the back of the oven, as that's typically the hottest part of the oven. I resisted the urge to baste the turkey at all during the first 45 minutes, so when the time was up, I pulled it out and basted it thoroughly. Wow, that sounds incredibly...inappropriate. 
Totally innocent. 
The skin was nice and crispy, and was now ready for the bulk of the cooking. When cooking larger pieces of meat, I prefer the fast start/slow finish method. Having seared it at 500, i turned the oven down to 300, covered the turkey, and put it back in the oven. Other than periodic basting, it was untouched for the remainder of the time. 

While the turkey was cooking, I worked on making the side dishes. Typically, when one thinks of green beans and the holidays, they think of the canned green beans smothered in cream of mushroom sauce and french fried onions on top. This is nothing like that, and something that my mom was an absolute whiz at making. Basically, it's fresh green beans cooked in butter then mixed with breadcrumbs. That's literally it- nothing else.

...and after.
It took just about 3 hours in the oven for the turkey to finish. When it came out, I didn't know what to expect. It looked good, sure. It smelled amazing. When I cut into it, though, was it going to do that "Pssshhhhhhhhhhh" thing that happened in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation? 
Save the neck for me, Clark.
Thankfully, no. Even though Lisa had every expectation that it would, it didn't. I used the knife to cut the breast meat, but that was literally all. The meat fell off the bone on the entire turkey- white meat, dark meat, everywhere. I only used a fork to get every last bit onto the serving tray.
Turkey for me, turkey for you.
The turkey was perfect. The meat was moist, the skin was crispy, the drippings could have been a soup unto itself. One thing that people should do though in order to keep their leftovers tasting like they just came out of the oven on Thanksgiving is to pack them with a lot of the liquid. I pack my leftovers in a plastic container and cover them with the butter/broth mix. When you heat up the turkey later, heat it up with the (now gelatinized) liquid. It'll be as perfect as the day it was made!

So in the end, while I wasn't really intimidated by cooking, I was heading into a bit of uncharted territory. Having confidence in your ability, along with using what you know about cooking other types of food comes in so handy. Everyone loved the food from start to finish, and i'm still eating leftovers. Not that I'm complaining, mind you!
Wonderfully prepared place settings!
This dinner wasn't exactly impulsive. It was pretty much the complete opposite of that, but the method of cooking, the way that I planned...most of it was done the morning of. I look forward to many more Thanksgivings being hosted at our house. It really gives you a perspective on what you're thankful for- and for me, it's family, friends, and a wonderful future with them both.
Safe to say that he was a fan.