Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Impulsive Chef's Sister Presents: Ramen for the Sophisticate

Hi readers, I'm filling in for Brian today with an "Impulsive Single Girl Chef" post. For those of us who are unlucky in love and destined to be spinsters it can be quite a challenge to put time and energy into cooking for one. So many leftovers, no one to share the meal sounds much better. My favorite delivery guy, Hideki, at least asks how my day was...

But, with a New Years resolution to experiment with cooking (gotta get some wifey skills, amirite?) I'm trying my hand at a few dishes here and there. After a recent breakup I've basically been on a diet of wine I figured it was time to head to Trader Joes & Whole Foods and stock up the ol' pantry.

My recent favorite meal in DC is ramen...not Top Ramen or anything, but these really nice/trendy ramen restaurants that are absolutely to die for. I think the broth is laced with crack because it's addictive. Since the weather has been freezing all month and I don't want to leave my apartment, I decided to try and replicate a fancy ramen dish (see photo). Let the impulsiveness begin...

I took one package of beef flavored Top Ramen and cooked it per the directions. While it was cooking, I chopped up some carrots, green onion, and mushroom and also threw in some corn. I also took some frozen wild mushrooms from Whole Foods and added those (single girl tip: these mushrooms literally can go in anything you cook. Stock up!). Next I took one egg and beat it in a cup, then slowly drizzled it into the boiling water a la egg drop soup style. Finally, I added the flavor packet, some soy sauce and sesame oil for flavor and was all done. An easy way to take cheap ramen and make it "fancy" in a pinch. Doesn't exactly beat a $20 bowl of ramen, but it sure comes close when you don't want to leave your house during the polar vortex. Bon apetite!
This just screams amazing!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Terrific Tumeric Soup

On paper, being sick sounds like a lot of fun- you get to stay home, lay in bed, watch TV, sleep...pretty much living the life. In reality, however, it's usually something you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. I just got over a pretty horrendous bout of the norovirus, and it was highlighted by a delirious online conversation with a friend about seafood curry. At least, I think the conversation took place- it could very well have been completely imagined by my sick-addled brain. A quick search of my chat history indeed confirmed the conversation took place, even though I only have fleeting memories of it. Regardless, that conversation planted the seeds for this dish.

How can something so cool looking be so evil?
I had been sick for almost two full days, eating virtually nothing, when all of a sudden, like a bolt from the heavens, I felt 100% better. I had energy, I was hungry, and I wanted to make something for dinner. Thinking that soup would be a great way to kick the rest of the sickness from me, I took those seeds that were planted during the curry conversation and got impulsive. Lisa doesn't like curry at all, but she DOES like tumeric. For those of you that don't know, tumeric, on its own, has a very mild curry flavor. It is used in curry powder, usually with other ingredients.

I <3 you, tumeric!
I called my wife and asked if she would pick up a couple of things that I would need on her way home from work. I already had beef bullion and tumeric, so I asked her to pick up beef smoked sausage, diced tomatoes, brown rice, and an onion. I prepped the broth by making a stronger than usual beef base, and ground the tumeric with my mortar and pestle to a very, very fine dust, and mixed it in. I sliced the onion and rinsed the diced tomatoes, then cut the smoked sausage into bite-sized pieces. After adding all of these to the broth, I brought it to a boil and added the brown rice.
Sausage, tomato, and rice bubbling to the top
I had meant to cook the smoked sausage on the stovetop first to give it a little bit of a "burn" taste, but completely forgot to do that. In hindsight, i'm actually glad that I didn't- boiling the soup and "cooking" the sausage really allowed the flavors to mingle- the soup got some sausage flavor and the sausage soaked up some tumeric flavor! It was a happy accident.

So in the end, the soup really turned out well- bold flavor, great textures, and lots of leftovers!

Total cost:
Beef bullion (with most of it left over and unused): $1.49
Beef smoked sausage: $1.99
Onion (5 onions, only 1 used): $1
Brown rice: $1
Diced tomato: $0.69
Tumeric: $1.29 (1/4 lb, used about 2 tbsp)
Total: $5.47 (11 servings @ $0.68 per serving)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fast Foods- Homemade Pizza

Weekend eating can be one of three things: 1) Leftovers 2) Take-out/Sit-down dining 3) Home cooked. I love Saturdays because I love making something that just doesn't fit into the week. Honestly, it's usually pizza of some sort. Granted, it can be a frozen pizza, delivery pizza, make-your-own with a pre-made crust, or what I did this past Saturday- made from scratch dough pizza. Growing up, making pizza with my parents was always a really special occasion.
I've never made my own dough before, and I thought that it was going to be tricky. Turns out that it's not. At all. 1 and 1/2 cups flour, a packet of yeast, a cup of water, 1/2 tsp of salt and a teaspoon of sugar and I was rollin'. To the crust for my pizza, I added about a tablespoon of garlic powder. I suppose that you can add whatever you'd like- next time i'll be adding Parmesan cheese and minced garlic. That'll be good.
Lisa's turkey and veggies pizza
Lisa wanted a pizza with white sauce, but since "white sauce" can mean anything, I figured that making one of my own would be good. I used a packet of Kroger alfredo sauce powder, milk, and Aldi buttermilk ranch salad dressing. I made it moderately thick, and then brought it to a boil on the stove and then let it cool. It came out with a a perfect consistency, and the taste....oh my. I could have eaten the whole pot by myself. It was cheesy, ranchy goodness. I will be making this again...but I want to use it as a pasta sauce with a rustic-style pasta and some pancetta. But that's for another day!
I love my ergonomic pizza cutter!
For toppings on her pizza, I decided to purchase a Lean Cuisine (i think?) frozen box of salad topper. It was like $2, and came with a bag of roasted turkey chunks, yellow and orange carrot slivers and broccoli. It was the perfect amount for a pizza. I added shredded mozzarella, and baked until the edges were golden brown.
When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie....
My pizza was decidedly more traditional, consisting of my homemade crust, canned pizza sauce, fresh mushrooms, pepperoni and mozzarella. I love the gigantic mushrooms though (from Aldi). They're the best i've had for the price.

So that's my pizza. Nothing groundbreaking, but certainly a lot of fun to make. I look forward to sharing this experience with my son as he grows up, and hope it's as special to him as it was to me.

Like The Impulsive Chef on Facebook!

Click here and "like" The Impulsive Chef on Facebook! There will be another fantastic giveaway coming up very soon! Don't miss out!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The 20% Crunchier Impulsive Chef (aka Quinoa Goes With Everything)

For those of you that don't know what quinoa is, first, it's pronounced KEEN-wah, and second, it's a grain grown for its edible seeds. Think of it like round rice with a little squiggly tail. It's kind of one of foods that people are scared to try, but is actually pretty tame. By itself, there isn't much of a taste to it, very much like rice. It's also been called the superfood of the future.

That's all well and good, but like eating a bowl of rice, it's really not that exciting on its own. That's where my wife comes in. She's completely obsessed with quinoa. Everything she makes usually includes it, and that's not a bad thing. I typically don't incorporate it too often into my dishes though, for one reason or another. Last week, I was kicking around some dinner ideas, and she helpfully chimed in that it should involve quinoa. I told her that I likely wasn't going to do that, and then she said, and I quote: "it should involve quinoa ;-) it's goooood and SO good for you and so versatile"

quinoa quinoa quinoa!
That actually got me thinking- it's so easily substituted for rice, what would it be good with? My initial thought was to do some kind of burrito thing with quinoa instead of rice, but veered off that into a more healthy variation. That brings us to the "20% crunchier" part.

First, a bit of backstory. On Monday of last week, I started a two-week body cleanse. Not for any particular reason other than it sounded interesting. As part of that, I've been trying to eat as little processed foods as possible- cooking at home from organic meats and veggies, very little alcohol, etc. Lisa was saying that she liked this slightly crunchier version of me. Truth be told, I wasn't 100% sure what she meant by "crunchier." I could only assume it's like someone who eats granola or tree bark or something that's crunchy is typically some sort of hippy. I mean, it makes sense, right?
Or plays a guitar with a pot leaf on it.
So I embraced it. Eating well makes you feel well, and I know that some of my readers are very health-conscious and have requested that I feature those. So in the spirit of my cleanse, I ended up deciding on a fresh chicken wrap, kind of in a Mediterranean style. Interestingly, it's actually just as good cold as it is hot.

The picture in my mind was that of a whole wheat tortilla wrapped around chicken and different veggies. As I walked around the grocery store, I picked out a couple of things that would go well with it- diced tomatoes, black beans, cucumbers and broccoli slaw. I wanted to use chicken thigh meat, so I got some of that as well. I was ready to start cooking.

Starting with the chicken, I cut each thigh into a bite-sized piece and boiled it on the stovetop until it was about 50% cooked. I didn't boil it in broth this time, but moderately salted water. Once it was done, I drained the chicken and put the pieces in a pan under medium-high heat. I added about a tablespoon of chipotle chili powder that I sourced from Whole Foods, and cooked the chicken until it was slightly crispy on the outside. The chipotle chili powder packed a bigger kick than I had expected, but it wasn't overpowering- just stronger than your run of the mill chili powder.
Chipotle chili powder. Contents are hotter than they appear!

The quinoa was rinsed and then boiled. it takes a little longer than something like pasta, but you can tell when it's done when the little "sprout" pops out and the hull is soft. Drain and rinse, and it's ready to go. Cooking quinoa isn't really a science!
Red quinoa, pre-boil

I diced the cucumbers, drained and rinsed both the black beans and the tomatoes, and put them each in a bowl. I wanted to serve this sort of a la carte- put what you want on it.
Bowling for....quinoa?

On each plate I put a tortilla. Before serving, I thought that tortilla needed something...something creamy? I didn't know exactly... Like a burrito, it needs sour cream, but that wouldn't taste right. Ranch dressing wouldn't taste right either, so what WOULD? I scoured the refrigerator for ideas, and then it hit me. I took about 1/4 of a container of sour cream and mixed in some Greek vinaigrette. After a little trial and error, the proportions were perfect! This was what needed to be spread on the tortill.
All slathered up
Next was the chicken...
What a great color they turned out to be!
And then the beans, tomato, cucumber and broccoli slaw...
It even LOOKS healthy!
And finally, much to my wife's delight, the quinoa!
So colorful!

A little detail. The "sprouts" are visible on the qunioa.

So that's how the 20% Crunchier Impulsive Chef does things. The meal turned out to be amazing- both fresh off the stove or straight out of the fridge four days later. This is an easy, inexpensive, and most of all healthy way shake things up a little bit. I think it would please even picky eaters!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Fast Foods- Spicy Bean Soup

Part of being impulsive are those last minute, "hey that sounds good" kind of dinners, which is pretty much exactly what I did last night. I didn't really think to photograph anything, so i'll do my best to recreate how it all went down. Originally, dinner was going to be salad and some chicken noodle soup, but literally out of nowhere, the thought of a spicy bean soup popped into my head.

Did someone say Bean soup?
My thought was to use a chicken bullion base, add black beans and chili beans, corn, and onions. I started with some crushed up chicken bullion cubes, then added a can of black and chili beans, a can of diced tomatoes with jalapeno, a can of Mexican style tomatoes, and a can of corn. I let the mixture boil briefly, and then added minced onions and about 1/2 tablespoon of cayenne pepper powder. It made it very sneakily spicy...mild at first, then a bite at the end.

The total cost of this soup was ridiculously low:
Chicken bullion- $2
Black beans- $0.69
Corn- $0.69
Chili beans- $0.69
Minced onions- $1
Diced tomatoes- $1
Mexican style tomatoes- $0.89
Total: $6.96
10 servings @ $0.696 per serving

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Congrats to the our second winner, Darrin!

Congratulations to Darrin on winning the Anchor bamboo appetizer serving set!
Trust me, he's thrilled.
Darrin runs Warp Zone, a absolute Shangri-La for video game fans! You can visit the store's Facebook page here:

Keep your eyes open for more giveaways in the coming weeks! We have some more fantastic cooking items still to come!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Chili Incident

Chili is one of those things that is hard to mess up. If you put some combination of meat and beans in a pot, you’re going to wind up with something approximating chili. The real fun begins when a plain-Jane chili like that no longer cuts it, and you are forced to get creative, or dare I say, impulsive.

Chile is a South American country occupying a long, narrow strip of land between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

I haven’t cooked chili for very long, and I don’t think I've ever made the exact same chili twice. That is to say, before I started working at my current job, I never made it very often. However, once I saw that my company would have a yearly chili cook-off competition, the take-no-prisoners competitive side of me kicked in. Basically, anyone who wanted to participate would bring in chili in a crock pot, and it would be doled out in plastic shot glass-like cups with a number on it corresponding to which chili it was. The point is that you didn't know whose chili you were voting for.

The first year that I participated, my chili was pretty basic- ground turkey, black beans, fire-roasted corn, diced tomato, chili powder, Sam Adams Latitude 48 IPA beer. It was all stuff that I thought sounded good together. As I went through the grocery store picking up this and that, I just tried to visualize how it was all go together. It turned out great and everyone was freaking out about the corn in the chili, like they’d never seen that before. Maybe they hadn't…I wasn't really a chili connoisseur, but I thought corn would be good in it. And it was! And I won.

Marge, have you seen my chili boots?

The next year I knew that if I did the same chili, people would know whose it was and wouldn't vote for it (who wants to see the same person win every time?) Plus, I figured that people would be stepping up their chili game. This time, I decided to take some of the comments I had received about my previous chili to heart- people mentioned that it just wasn't spicy enough. To be fair, I erred on the side of mild instead of hot because I didn't know what people liked. My experience had shown that no one liked food as spicy as I did. And boy, I like it spicy. This time, it was going to be spicy.

Also, New York's hottest club.

I don’t remember the exact specifics of this chili, but what I do recall is that it was turkey, tomatoes, black and chili beans, regular corn (which more people used this time!) and Bhut Jolokia sauce, also known as the ghost chili. The sauce I was using was bought from a hot sauce specialty store in Florida, and clocked in at over 1,000,000 on the Scoville scale. My original plan was to finish cooking the chili and then add maybe a tablespoon or so to the batch to give it a nice kick. Nothing too painful, but enough to make you sweat a little.

Unfortunately, that didn't exactly happen. What is it that they say about the best laid plans? “The best laid schemes of Mice and Men oft go astray, and leave us not but grief and pain, for promised joy!” (As an aside, I actually remember that quote from 8th grade English class. Thanks Ms. Elliott, you awful, awful teacher.) Anyway, pay special attention to the “grief and pain” part. Tablespoon, right? I knew that this sauce, even with a tiny drop the size of a drop of water, was enough to put you on your ass for 30 minutes. A tablespoon should be more than enough. I shook and then opened the bottle and went to pour my tablespoon, expecting it to come out slowly, almost like ketchup. In hindsight, I don’t know why I expected that to happen.

About 1/3 of the bottle unceremoniously dumped directly into the pot of chili.
I didn’t know what to do. Should I try to scoop it out? Should I just leave it? How many people would my chili be responsible for killing? I made the command decision to leave it in there. They wanted hot, right? I don’t know if they wanted something this hot, but I guess we would find out. About the time that I started to mix the sauce into the chili, my wife yelled over from the couch “What is going? My eyes are burning!”

Oh boy.

I integrated the sauce into the chili and then poured it into the crock pot that I was taking to work. The lunch room is where the competition would take place, and all of the crock pots were plugged in and turned on to get the chili hot (temperature-wise, at least). So after a couple of hours warming up on the low setting, I turned mine up to high to get it right where I wanted it. The cook-off organizers then would open the crock pots and serve the chili in the small cups. Only, when they opened my chili, it let off what I can only describe as a slightly weaker blast of pepper spray. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn't like getting doused in the face with pepper spray (because I’ve had that happen before, and it was slightly more powerful than this) but it was…uncomfortable to say the least.

An approximation of what opening my chili was like

Everyone who was in the room began to blink back tears. Some were coughing. I had single-handedly pepper sprayed my coworkers. There’s no way anyone is going to eat this, let alone vote for it. To my absolute shock and amazement though, people were lining up for mine. Seconds, thirds…until the pot was completely empty. People had runny noses, tears streaming down their red faces, and were saying how much it hurt, but how they couldn't get enough. I won the cook-off for a second straight year.

The third year was a lot less eventful- another turkey chili, no hot sauce mishaps, I remember there being more cheese and less heat. Nothing really story-worthy. I won it for the third and final time. My company no longer has chili cook-offs.

Yeah, not no more it ain't.
Somewhere along the way I got sidetracked from what I wanted to write this blog post about- the chili that I made for New Year’s. Being the end of December, it’s cold, dark, and generally gloomy outside, so a hearty chili is just the thing to warm you up (but not make you blind and unable to breathe comfortably). So as I said above, I typically would use turkey for my chili. It’s cheaper and better for you, but this time the Manager Markdown Meat Market (MMMM) there was a really nice, really small roast. It just was calling my name, and I knew it would make for some good chili.

Indeed it did.

Again, walking around both Kroger and Aldi, I picked up an onion, pinto beans, kidney beans, chili beans, black beans, diced tomato with jalapeno, Mexican style sliced tomato, whole-kernel corn and skinless Polska kielbasa. I ground up the meat and cooked it on the stovetop with some chili powder, then drained and combined it with the rest of the ingredients that I had simmering in a large pot. I should mention that with the exception of the chili beans and canned tomatoes, I drained all of the other cans of their liquid.


For those that don't know what an onion looks like
I simmered the chili for about a half hour under medium heat and tasted. It was missing...something. I added a few drops of liquid smoke, and 1/2 can of cheap beer. I also cut the kielbasa into small chunks and added it as well. Since it's cooked already, there's no need to pre-cook it.

Pouring one out for my homies

Now covered, I let the chili simmer for another hour, stirring occasionally. The end product was a smoky, hearty, spicy and filling meal. My wife chose to have hers on top of some pasta, while I opted for just sour cream and cheese. Either way, it makes for a heck of a meal, and tons (I mean TONS) of leftovers.
Detail right out of the pot
On top of spaghetti, all covered in cheese