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

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