Monday, February 29, 2016


As I discussed in my last 'Rebuilding' post, most people get very easily discouraged when starting a new healthy lifestyle journey.  They go into that first workout with guns blazing, believing in their heads that they are physically stronger than they really are.  They spend only a fraction of the time working out on day one that they had intended to because their body was not prepared, they start feeling that burn right away and wake up the next morning feeling in more pain than they were in when they went to bed the previous night.  And that is just half of the lifestyle.  There is also the part about eating healthier.  And with being in that much pain, the last thing we want to do is scarf down a bowl of salad and some fruit.  Junk food, afterall, is called 'comfort food' for a reason.  because it knocks you out.

Physical pain after a workout can have the same effects as emotional pain.  A lot of us will just want to eat it away with junk.  We do that and then for most of us, there is no day two of working out.  No day three, four and so on.

It was taking shape rather nicely!

So how do we stay motivated to continue?

I was in crazy pain when I woke up on day two.  The ten minutes of extremely basic yoga the day before took its toll.  I didn't feel like doing it again, but I did.  This time, I lasted a little less than ten minutes, but I told myself that less than ten minutes is better than no minutes at all.  Within a week of doing ten minutes of yoga a day, I was quickly feeling less and less pain as my body was waking up.  The first stage of rebuilding is basically a lengthy warm up.  Much like we do before a workout, if your body had been inactive for so many years, as mine was, I needed to spend a few weeks warming up and getting my body prepared for what was to come down the line.

The early stages are when the weight comes off at a quick pace, I found.  I had a lot of fat to lose and it was coming off rapidly.  My clothes were getting looser to the point where I had to manually put new holes in my belt.  The new holes were a confidence booster as they were proof that what I was doing was working.  And it was just over one month into my rebuilding process when I started doing the inevitable.  I started taking selfies and posting them online.

Day 100 of rebuilding.  They poked fun at my selfie lifestyle but now I have archival content.  Bwahahah!

Shedding pounds meant buying new clothes.  New clothes meant more selfies.  I posted a new selfie three or four times a week to not only show people my progress, but to get that positive feedback that would encourage me to keep going, and honestly, to boost my ego!

The more selfies I posted, the more positive feedback I got, the harder I worked and the more inflated my ego became.  When I would go on "Beastwalks" to my local mall and wander around for an hour or so like retired people do, I kept my head up and didn't quickly look away when my eyes caught somebody else’s.  I started a new little game against people on the street where the first one to break eye contact loses, and I won every time.  I was the MAN!

Day 188

After 100 days of sticking to the new lifestyle, I started taking post-workout selfies and posting them online.  Wearing a sweaty t-shirt, looking in my bathroom mirror, and posted them online with whatever day it was of my rebuilding phase and an inspirational or motivational quote I found or came up with.  And I did this pretty much every day!

It didn't matter to me that there really was no noticeable difference in the pictures from one day to the next, I just did it anyway.  I felt that I had every right to.  There is nothing wrong with showing off your accomplishments, especially when it comes to getting in shape.  You not only prove your doubters wrong, but you show others that it is possible and in my case, simple.

You can’t be worried about what strangers might think if you check yourself out in every reflection you come across.  Who cares if it comes off as arrogant and egotistical?  It is also motivation and a reminder of how far you have come and how much further you can go.  So don’t be afraid to not only check yourself out as often as you can or want, but throw yourself a little wink and maybe even a thumbs up!

When I do my UFC cardio, I do five minute rounds with a one minute rest period in between each round.  During the rest periods, I take a drink of water, walk over to my full length mirror and admire the awesomeness!  Flex a little.  Sometimes give myself a thumbs up and a, “yeah, baby!”  I’ve earned it.  I have not only proven doubters wrong but myself as well.

When I do my weights workouts, I take a one minutes rest in between sets, walk over to that full length mirror and pose a little.  Maybe a bicep flex and some pectoral flexes, too!  I have every right to.  There is nothing wrong with it.  You hear people say all the time, “you should be proud!”  I am.  Don’t tell me that I should be proud of myself and then cop an attitude when I get a little full of myself.  I have every right to be and so do you.

January 18, 2016.  Day 747!

Don’t tell ME that YOU can’t do it!

Chef Nairby

Friday, February 26, 2016


A lot of us avoid cooking certain cuisines because a lot of them have many excellent classic dishes that require a rather large number of ingredients.  As a result of this reluctancy, many go with the option of buying premade sauces to add to a protein or vegetables.

One cuisine that seems to strike fear in a lot of hearts, as it did with me for many years, is Indian cuisine.  I LOVE Indian food!  I have been around it for just over 20 years.  When I was a kid, I would not go anywhere near even tasting it.

Every now and then when I was a little Nairby, my mom would order Chinese takeout, and one of the things she would order for herself was a chicken curry.  My brother and I would want nothing to to with it.  We were fine with the typical fried rice, chicken balls and egg rolls, thank you very much.  It wasn't until I was 16 years old when I finally gave curry a shot as my mother insisted it tasted great.  And it did.  And it was simply a premade frozen chicken curry but I loved it and wanted it more and more.

Gift arrived in the mail for Chef Nairby!

Fast forward many moons and I started working for a South Asian television company.  The sight and smells of Indian food was everywhere, and I loved it!  The co-owner of the company would always bring me Indian food that she made at home.  I thought the premade frozen stuff was great, but Indian food cooked the proper way?  No comparison!

But as much as I loved and still love Indian food, I was always hesitant to make it outside of maybe buying a jar or premade Butter Chicken sauce and dumping it on top of some cooked chicken breasts.  I was content, but nowhere near satisfied after experiencing the real thing.  But I knew enough to know that the world of REAL Indian cuisine was not for anyone who liked cooking simply as a hobby.  The amount of spices alone that go into a classic Indian dish like Butter Chicken is enough to make most anyone settle for what they can buy in a jar at their local grocery store.

Ingredients for Chef Monir's Butter Chicken

After I had finally spent a good amount of time improving my culinary skills, I decided it was time to upgrade and enter the danger zone.  My mother works for a well known Indian Chef in Glasgow, Scotland.  Chef Monir Mohammed.

Chef Monir had released his own cookbook filled with life stories and recipes.  "Mother India At Home".  My mother talked to Chef Monir and he was kind enough to send me a copy of his book last year.  There was no turning back now.  A free copy of his life story and amazing dishes, and signed to boot.  The first thing I looked for was Butter Chicken.  I saw the list of ingredients that went into Chef Monir's dish and I was not deterred.  It was time to step my game up!

The journey is worth the destination!

I followed the instructions word for word.  I quickly got into a groove as I measured out the proper amount of each spice I needed and put them into their own separate little muffin cups.  When all spices were measured, all veggies were chopped and all pots and pans were ready to go, it began.

Slowly, my house started smelling freaking amazing!  Once again, it became just as much about the journey as it was about the destination.  I waited with excitement as 5 minutes passed and it was time to add the next spice!  I stirred as required and waited.  Ten minutes later and it was time to add the tomatoes!  The aroma in my house was intoxicating!  Everything was coming along beautifully.  It was like watching the birth of something amazing from beginning to end.

Premade has nothing on the real thing!

Chef Monir's Butter Chicken did not turn me off of exploring Indian cuisine, it turned me on!  As a wannabe Chef, there is nothing like creating a dish the way it was meant to be made.  Sure it is more time consuming than going with the premade stuff in a jar, but if you just give it a chance, you may realize that you have more time to create than you thought you did.

I have since used Chef Monir's "Mother India At Home" cookbook so much that it is not as pretty looking as it once was, but I was fortunate enough to have him send me a second copy!

Creating great food trumps missing out on the next episode of your favorite TV show any day.  Don't be afraid to try new things because you are intimidated by the amount of work involved or because you think you don't have time.  Time is best used being productive.  Being productive with your time creates memories.  More than spending hours watching television or playing video games will ever create.  Use your time to invest in the unknown.  There is nothing to fear.

You can't get this from a jar!

Happy cooking, and have no fear!

Chef Nairby

Monday, February 22, 2016


A common mistake that people make when starting a workout routine is that they go in unprepared.  Most of us want to believe that we are physically stronger than we really are.

I have always been tall, big boned and looked like someone with brute strength.  And I believed it despite getting constant back and leg pain from just walking.  Walking up two flights of stairs would leave me heavily winded, but I still believed I had super human strength because I looked like I did.  I fit the big & tall label perfectly.

June, 2010.  Flirting with that 300 pound mark.

I was physically strong, but only in short bursts, and despite that, I was still convinced that after years of inactivity, I could walk into any gym tomorrow and go hardcore for at least an hour.

This is just the mindset that I as a physically strong looking person had, and it is the same with a lot of people of all body types.  One of the most common New Years resolutions people make is that on January 1st or 2nd, they are going to go to their local gym or health club, get a membership and make new health changes for their life.  That, "New year, new me" meme that millions of people post on their Facebook and Twitter timelines on December 31st.

For a lot of people, the "New year, new me" deal ends up being nothing more than a spur of the moment thing.  They see others talking about it, it gives them a sudden burst of inspiration and they hop on the bandwagon.  And that's where it ends.  A post or a Tweet, followed by a few 'like' clicks and comments of encouragement from friends of family.  The end.

Screencap from a 2011 Facebook video.  Size 3XL shirt.  Close to being at my physical worst.

For those who actually stick to their word and do go seeking out a gym membership, they go in ready to go, all guns blazing.  Ready to tear it up.  They do some pre-workout stretches as their favorite pulse-pounding songs play on their iPods.  They grab a 30 pound dumb bell and do 10 reps.


"Let me sit here for an extended rest period, and when it looks like nobody is looking, I'll just casually walk over to that rowing machine over there."

Position yourself on the rowing machine.  Set a moderate difficulty level and a time of 30 minutes.  Countdown.....3-2-1, GO!

What the f***?!

"Let me rest for a second, and when it looks like nobody is looking, I'll just casually walk over to one of the available treadmills over there."

Get on the treadmill.  Set a moderate difficulty level and a time of 30 minutes.  Countdown......3-2-1, GO!  Your arms are still a bit sore from 10 reps on 30 pound dumb bells.  Your back feels a little stiff from the rowing machine.  And now your legs are starting to feel sore.  You look at your watch.  You are barely 15 minutes into your workout!

You lower the difficulty level on the treadmill.  Go for another 5 minutes.  Step off the treadmill.  Walk back the the change room in pain.  Too sore to shower, so you change back into your regular clothes, go home and collapse on the couch.  Then what happens?  The next morning, you wake up in more pain than you went to bed with.  As a result, you don't go back to the gym again.  Luckily it was just a 30-day free trial membership with no commitment.

Congratulations!  You've been brought back down to Earth!

February 20, 2014.  Day 50 of rebuilding.

You went in completely full of yourself and you gave up.  You went in trying to run when you didn't even know how to walk.

NEWSFLASH!  Michael Jordan did not come out of the womb with the ability to dunk a basketball.  Wayne Gretzky did not come out of the womb already knowing how to skate.  They became great by starting with nothing but a will to succeed.  And they started with the very basics.  They had to learn to crawl before they walked.  And it is the same with starting a new workout and diet plan.

If you want to be successful at making positive healthy changes in your life but have no prior experience, odds are you will NOT be able to go an hour at the gym, and you will NOT stick to a strict diet by practically starving yourself on day one.  Your head might be ready, but your body isn't.

You need to start from scratch.  And that means doing what you thought would be too easy and beneath you.  It means not seeing quick results.  The beginning stages of a new workout and diet routine is a lengthy warm up process, much like how we stretch before starting a workout.

October 7, 2014.  Day 279 of rebuilding.

The beginning stage is not about SEEING results quick, it's about FEELING them.  I started my rebuilding process with nothing more than 10 minutes of very basic yoga poses a day and eating more fruits and vegetables and less junk.  I still ate some junk in the beginning but less of it.  After day one, I was in pain.  The next day, I woke up in more pain.  My body had been inactive for so long that it was in a state of shock.  But as time went on, my body quickly got used to the activity.  My 10 minutes of basic yoga a day turned into 20.  My intake of junk became less and less.  As I felt my body waking up, my energy started going up.  I traded sitting on my couch watching movies and playing video games for going out and walking.

After three months, my basic yoga had gone from 10 minutes a day to 30 as I was able to hold poses longer and would add new ones.  I was feeling and seeing results and working out was quickly becoming something I felt like I HAD to do, to something I WANTED to do.  Eventually, I went out and bought two 25 pound dumbbells and started a weight training routine.  Shortly after that, I added a cardio routine by doing Tae-Bo style punch and kick workouts while I put a UFC DVD on.

I now alternate cardio and weights.  Cardio one day, weights the next.  And while I do have a gym membership, I do most of my "beasting" in my living room.  My gym equipment consists simply of a yoga mat, two 25 pound dumb bells and a pair of MMA gloves.  Everything else comes from inside which was locked away for many years and had to be woken up and charged.

Home "home gym".  Simple as this.  Yoga mat, two 25lb dumbbells and MMA gloves.
(The gloves are for when I get energized and bang my fists together.  It happens.)

You need to crawl before you walk.  Walk before you run, and run before you sprint.  You don't start hardcore, you BECOME hardcore.  You ARE as strong as you think you are, but you need to give your body a chance to catch up with your thoughts.  And every minute counts.  If you are only able to go a few minutes during the beginning stages, a few minutes is better than no minutes as you are at least keeping your body active.  BECOME HARDCORE!

December 18, 2015.  Day 716 of rebuilding and still going strong.

Don't tell ME that YOU can't do it!

Chef Nairby

Friday, February 19, 2016


Quick!  You are going to make a basic pasta dish for dinner tonight.  What do you need?

Think about it for a second....

Did the term, "jar or can of pasta sauce" squeeze its way into your list of ingredients?  Why?  Convenience?  Do you know how easy it is to make your own sauce?  It is as simple as tomatoes, tomato paste and your imagination.  And this is not coming from a professional Chef.

Maybe it is a price issue.  A jar or can of sauce is ready to go and cheaper than buying the ingredients, right?  Not exactly.  One jar of standard, simple pasta sauce can cost up to $4 or more.  And you're lucky if you get two servings out of it.  Meanwhile, buying fresh ingredients in bulk might cost a bit more, but you can create a sauce that not only blows anything from a jar or can away, but also yields enough to last several meals and is not filled with preservatives.

Homemade pasta sauce is all about the tomatoes and whatever else you choose to put into it.

A simple homemade pasta sauce does require extra effort and time to make, but the final product is worth it.  AND you can experiment with different ingredients and create your own signature sauce that your friends and family will go crazy for.  You can make that special homemade sauce that has people saying, "If I was on death row, I would want YOUR pasta sauce for my last meal!"

A homemade pasta sauce starts with the tomatoes.  Lots of tomatoes.  Whatever kind you choose.  Chop them up, throw them into a big pot, stir occasionally and watch as they become the base of your sauce.  Add your favorite chopped veggies, spices, red wine....THE SAUCE IS YOUR OYSTER!

Lots of tomatoes, some spice and veggies.  Add meat if you want!

Set a date aside for some homemade pasta sauce-making and experiment.  If you're like me, you will never go back to pre-made in a jar again!  If you're like me, you will soon realize that you have more time than you initially thought to experiment with cooking for REAL.

Effort and hard work are worth it.  You have a food artist locked inside of you that is aching to get out!  You will quickly start to enjoy the process of creating something of your own as you not only create food art, but memories as well.  Those are things you cannot get from a jar.

You cannot get this from a jar!

Check out another "How-to" video from Chef Nairby!  "Make Your Own Pasta Sauce", with special guest, Dr. Hannibal Lecter!  Music by Sergei Gavriliuk.


-Lots of tomatoes, chopped.  Base how many tomatoes you need on the size of the pot you will be making your pasta sauce in.  Use enough tomatoes that would almost fill the entire pot.
-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
-2 medium sized cans, or one large can tomato paste.
-4 cups of sliced mushrooms.
-1/2 cup fresh chopped basil.
-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil.

1.  Heat olive oil in your large pot.  Add chopped garlic and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.
2.  Add mushrooms and stir.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Mushrooms will give off liquid.  Good!
3.  Add chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and chopped basil.  Stir.  Cover and cook on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  The tomatoes will turn into a thick sauce over time.  How thick you want your sauce depends on your liking, so use your eyes and nose to determine when sauce is ready.

**If you choose to add more vegetables to your sauce, such as celery, carrots, onion, etc, add them step 2.  If adding meat, such as ground beef, cook the ground beef in a separate pan and add AFTER the tomatoes, tomato paste and basil stage.
Pasta with homemade tomato and mushroom sauce.
Chef Nairby

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Onions.  They are a key ingredient in a lot of our food.

We put them on our burgers, hot dogs, submarine sandwiches.  In our soups, stews and chilies.  So many uses.  Many different varieties.  And yet if you are like I USED to be, you either avoided cooking with them or did not get the usage out of them to justify the big 5 or 10 pound bag you bought, and if you were lucky, you threw them out before they grew those lovely tentacles.

I only recently discovered the awesomeness of perhaps the most versatile and longest lasting version of the mighty onion......the CARAMELIZED ONION!

One weekend recently, I made a very tasty tomato soup in a cheesy baked bread bowl.  I posted a picture of it, as I usually do, and mentioned how I was so blown away with how it turned out, that I had to try other cheesy bread bowl ideas.  An old school friend of mine had some suggestions, one of which being a soup with caramelized onions.

I had never made caramelized onions before, and if you were to ask me, I would have told you that along with a few onions, you also need some kind of sweetening ingredient, maybe some soy sauce for color and who knows what else.

Caramelized onions can be as simple as just two ingredients!

I took to Google and searched, "How to make caramelized onions".  Every result sang the praise of the caramelized onion.  I got a bit intimidated but clicked one of the first links and could not believe what I saw....

Caramelized Onions Ingredients:

"And???????" I thought to myself.

And nothing.  I read the instructions and immediately wanted to kick myself.  Why did I not look this up before?!  I then took to Youtube to search for videos on making these things.  The search results were right.  Onions.  Pretty much.  You can add some salt, maybe some pepper and some Balsamic vinegar for flavor, but just onions.

Cover and cook on medium to high heat for 10 minutes.

I quickly went out and headed to the supermarket right across the street which has a produce section so pleasing to an aspiring Chef, that I will still go over there just to walk around and look at everything!  I picked up about 10 onions, as the recipe I chose to follow on Youtube stated that you need to get a good number of them when making these things because they shrink.  So I picked up about 10 sweet onions and some Balsamic vinegar.

After 10 minutes.  Keep uncovered
for the rest of the process while cooking, stirring every 10 minutes..

I should have picked up some goggles, too.  Chopping one or two onions can burn a bit.  Chopping about 10 of them can feel like a forest fire is happening in your eyes!  But is it worth it?  HECK YA!!!
20 minutes.

Caramelized onions take about an hour to make and they create a scent in your house that you just wish you can put in a can and use as an air freshener!  But maybe that's just me.

40 minutes.

When it comes to cooking, I enjoy the journey just as much, if not more than the destination.  I LOVE making caramelized onions!  LOVE IT!  The smell that builds up.  The slow changing of color and texture.  I love all of it!  I mentioned it in my very first Blog post....if I was a contestant on Hell's Kitchen, I would probably secretly throw some of the competitions just to stay behind and do prep work.  If I was on Hell's Kitchen and my team won a challenge where the losers had to chop and make caramelized onions in preparation for that night's dinner service, I would be very tempted to stay behind!  Maybe fake an injury.  Claim a fear of heights or a tummy ache.  I would.  Surely that would impress Chef Ramsay and not get me eliminated, right?  Screw my teammates!  I want to make some onion stuffs!

Chef Gordon Ramsay.
Courtesy, "Hell's Kitchen".

Caramelized onions can keep in the fridge for a very long time.  Some have even said that you can store them in the freezer for up to six months!

Buy a 10 pound bag of onions, caramelize them and you've got a special ingredient you can add to just about anything for a while.  Put some in your pasta sauce.  Add some extra awesomeness to a grilled cheese sandwich.  Top a salad with them.  Heck, eat them as they are!

50 minutes.  At this point, add 1-2 Tbsp of Balsamic Vinegar or whatever else
you planned to add for extra flavor.  Or just leave as is!  Still tastes great!

You can buy onions in bulk for a very reasonable price at any supermarket.  In my area, a 10 pound bag goes for $3-$4.  I can make two batches of caramelized onions with one of these bags and have that awesome extra ingredient to spoil myself for the next one year if the six months in the freezer thing is true.

Give them a shot.  All you need is onions!

1 hour!  Done and ready to be put to work!



LOTS of onions, chopped!  I use half of a 10lb bag.  The onions shrink quite a bit during cooking.
2 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil.
1-2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar

1.  Heat olive oil on slightly over medium heat in a large skillet (Preferably one that has a cover).
2.  Put all chopped onions into skillet and lightly stab at them a little bit to separate.  They will eventually get easier to separate as you cook them.
3.  Cover and let cook for 10 minutes.
4.  After 10 minutes, uncover and stir.  Leave the skillet uncovered for the remaining cooking time.
5.  Cook for another 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  The onions will produce dark burnt looking pieces.  This is good!
6.  After 40 minutes (50 minutes total), add Balsamic vinegar and stir.  Cook for 10 more minutes, stir and serve or store in fridge or freezer.

My Research has shown that caramelized onions can stay good for up to 6 months in the freezer.  I haven't tried it yet, though.

Eat them as is.  Add them to salads as a great alternative to dressing.  Have a ball!
Grilled Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Sandwich.
Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Pizza with Grape Tomatoes and Fresh Dill.
Caramelized Onions in a Cheesy Baked Bread Bowl.

Chef Nairby

Saturday, February 13, 2016


I love food.  And even more, I love cooking food!

My desire of mixing different ingredients together came one fateful morning when I was about 7 years old and my brother had used up the last of the milk for cereal.  I cannot recall whether I was angry or not, but what sticks out the most about that situation is that I chose to improvise.

I had no milk for my Froot Loops.  Froot Loops is a fruit flavored cereal.  Low and behold, we had GRAPE JUICE!  Surely it would work, if not be better than using milk, right?  Wrong!  But why didn't it work?  Froot Loops taste good on their own.  Grape juice tastes good.  Why didn't they taste good as one?

Young Chef Nairby.  Christmas morning, about 10 years old.

Then came 7th grade at John McCrae Junior High.  For the first time in my educational voyage, a cooking class became part of the curriculum!  I was stoked, especially when walking in to the huge cooking classroom for the first time.  It had to have been the size of at least three average classrooms.  One third of the space had about 7 large round tables for the students to sit in groups at.  The next larger area was the home about about 6 fully equipped kitchens with stove, sink, counter space and mini-fridge.  And a final smaller area which housed the cooking ingredients.  At least I think that was the layout.  Its been a while.

We were put into groups of about 5.  Each student took turns doing a different job each class.  There was the head chef, backup chef, hosts/hostesses and waiter/waitress.  We were to rotate over time so students had a chance to do each position.  I was lucky enough to be put into a group where I was the only one who really wanted the head chef job.  The other kids in my group preferred the hosts and waiting jobs as it allowed them to mingle and socialize.  So as a favor to me, whenever it was someone else's turn to be head chef, the others in my group would sneak the duties over to me, and I gladly took it!  Unfortunately, the cooking class was only for 1/4 of the school year.  It would then change to sewing class, which I hated, followed by metal shop (meh) and then wood shop (fun but nothing like cooking class).

8th Grade graduation.  No more cooking classes :(

Unfortunately, cooking class was only a part of my 7th and 8th grade periods.  High school had home economics, but it was mostly about discussing family, raising an egg like it was a real baby and all of that nonsense.  Boooo!

But my passion for food, both cooking and especially eating it, never went away.  It was more left sitting idle for many years.  Days would come when I would venture out a little from the norm and try something new.  Baked taco shells dipped in pasta sauce.  Cereal with CHOCOLATE milk (never did the grape juice thing again and never will except as a dare!).  Potato chip sandwiches.  Nothing spectacular, really.

I eventually moved out on my own when I was 22 and it was all up to me to feed myself.  Unfortunately there is only so much to experiment with when we move out on our own for the first time and have bills to pay.  So I would be relegated to instant noodles, boxed mac and cheese, bologna and cheese sandwiches and so on.  Every now and then I would try to spruce it up a bit and add canned tuna to the mac and cheese.  Drop a bit of all spice into the instant noodles.  It was nothing to write home about, except for the mac and cheese with tuna which I still get tempted to make sometimes even to this day.

Chef Nairby, 2015.  Making pasta with a homemade tomato and mushroom sauce for my mom.
Rockin' the Hell's Kitchen apron!

Then one weekend, I had a desire to try relighting my cooking spark.  I was sitting at work and had the idea to make a chili as chili from a can was one of the many things I was eating on my budget.  None of the canned chili tasted as good as I thought they could.  I stopped by the nearby grocery store after work and picked up ingredients I figured I would need.  Some ground beef, celery, kidney beans, corn, green pepper and chili powder.  But I knew I would need something else as I didn't see how what I had already picked out would give the chili that sauce base it needed.  So I tossed in a jar of pasta sauce.

I cooked away the next day, made a mess of my hotplate as I was living in a tiny basement apartment with a bedroom too small for even my twin sized bed, so my living room also acted as my bedroom.  My kitchen was barely bigger than a walk-in closet and came with a mini-fridge and hot plate with two burners.  I had to eventually buy a toaster oven to act as an oven and eventually a microwave.  The setup was very primitive, but you have to work with what you have.

My chili turned out quite good, but not great.  I knew it had tons of potential, though.  A lot better than the chili someone in the family makes which is simply ground beef, overcooked and burned with that delightful (sarcasm) burnt flavor, kidney beans, pepper and chili powder.  Crap!  If the person responsible for that so-called chili ever reads this, or someone they know reads this......YOUR CHILI SUCKS!!!

Shortly after the first attempt, I tried making the chili again but used a different method when it came to seasoning with the chili powder.  The outcome was, without a doubt, the greatest chili ever made!  My cooking spark had returned and my homemade chili had officially become my signature dish.

Ingredients for Puffcakes.

Since then, I have made alterations to my chili to make it even better, such as adding canned tomatoes which eventually led to using fresh tomatoes instead of jarred pasta sauce.  (Blog about how to make my chili is coming soon!)

Over the last two years I have taken my cooking quite seriously.  It started out as a way to attract attention from ladies since I was starting to take my health seriously and getting into shape and I figured fanning the flame of my cooking passion and becoming better in the kitchen would be an added bonus.  Since then my passion for cooking has overtaken my desire to attract the opposite sex.  There is a lot more to that part of the story but this blog is not exactly the place for it.

I try to cook something special or new once a week.  Sometimes I will get really ambitious and make two to three things as I love the process of making a dish just as much, if not more than eating it.  Cooking is an art form, in my opinion.  I was once standoffish about trying more advanced methods but am now all for it, especially after realizing that a lot of different dishes and methods are nowhere nears a complicated as I had once thought.

In a perfect world, cooking would be a full time job for me, but who knows what the future holds.

By the way, happy Valentine's Day!


Pancake mix
Red food coloring
Powdered sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 400 F.
2.  Mix pancake mix according to package instructions.  Add 2-3 drops of red food coloring and mix again.
3.  Pour mixture into small heart-shaped baking pans sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  I found these at my local dollar store around Valentine's day.
4.  Bake in oven 5-10 minutes.  KEEP AN EYE ON THEM AS THEY BAKE!
5.  Once Puffcakes have puffed and look done, remove from oven.  Top with desired amount of powders sugar and syrup.  Serve.

Chef Nairby

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Bell peppers are an ingredient that I have used in a lot of my cooking for several years.  They come in a variety of colors and have a bold flavor.

Up until last year, I would simply chop them up and toss them in raw to whatever I was making that day and let them cook along with everything else.  For me, using bell peppers, main red and green, was more about adding color to a dish than anything else.  I am of the opinion that food that looks good manages to taste even better.

One of the methods for cooking with peppers that I had heard about for several years were roasted peppers, in particular, roasted red peppers.  But I would always steer clear of roasting red peppers as I always assumed that the process would add an unneeded amount of cooking time to a dish.

When I started taking my cooking more seriously in 2014 and was adamant about, "cooking for real", as I call it, I started to progress further into the culinary world and that meant trying new cooking methods that I had never tried before.

A Facebook friend posted a recipe with pictures for a pull apart pizza bread and it looked great and simple enough to make.  The recipe called for the most common pizza ingredients:  pizza dough, mozzarella and pepperoni.  I made the bread and it turned out phenomenal!  As per my norm, I posted the pictures and people gawked in amazement.  It turned out so perfect that I wanted to try again but with different ingredients.  That is when it was suggested to me to try one with goat cheese, spinach and roasted red peppers.

Red Peppers de-innarded and ready for broiling.

"Sounds like a great combination", I thought to myself.  "But ROASTED red peppers?  Do I go there?"  My hesitation was very brief as I was deep enough into my advancing culinary journey that I was more encouraged than discouraged to try new things.

I quickly went on Youtube and did a search for how to roast red peppers and not surprisingly, a great number of results came up.  I clicked on the first link, opened Wordpad as I assumed it would be a lengthy process and watched the lady in the video.

Four minutes later, the tutorial was over and my Wordpad document was blank.  Once again, I thought a certain cooking process was more complicated than it actually was.  There was nothing to note down.

After 15 minutes of broiling.  Looking good!  The charred black skin is what we want!

I quickly put on my shoes and ran to the supermarket across the street and bought the two best looking red peppers I could find.  I rushed home, watched the Youtube video one more time and made me some roasted red peppers!

I quickly realized that I had been missing out on some great flavors when I would simply cook with red peppers in their raw form.  Roasted red peppers are an entirely different world!  A lot more flavor and still colorful.  One week later, I made the pull apart pizza bread with goat cheese, spinach and roasted red peppers and to no surprise, it ROCKED!  Not only because of the roasted red peppers, but because I ended up discovering the awesomeness of another amazing new ingredient.....Goat Cheese!  (A lot more on goat cheese in the near future!)

Chopped and ready!  Add them to a dish or eat them as is.

Checkout this video on how to make roasted red peppers with Chef Nairby!  Educational and entertainmental!

Of course if you'd rather not watch the awesomeness of how to make roasted red peppers with Chef Nairby, you can follow these instructions:

Red Bell Peppers.
Baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray or  glazed with a little bit of olive oil.
Plastic sandwich bag.

1.  Cut off the top and bottom of the red peppers.  Clean the insides out.
2.  Slice the peppers in half so you have two pieces.  Place them SKIN SIDE UP on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and non-stick cooking spray or olive oil.
3.  Put tray on the top rack in the oven and BROIL for 15 minutes.  **Broiling is a lot like toasting bread in a toaster.  No pre-heating required as the heating grill starts heating right away.
4.  After 15 minutes, remove peppers from the oven.  If the skin is black, GOOD!  That's what you want.
5.  Put peppers in a sealed sandwich bag and store in fridge for 30 minutes to cool.  The peppers will marinate in the bag.  They will also get pretty slimy.  That's ok.
6.  Remove from fridge after 30 minutes and remove the skin.  The skin will peel off quite easily.  Chop and serve.

Grilled Goat Cheese And Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich with Fresh Chopped Dill!

Chef Nairby