Monday, March 28, 2016


They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Based on that saying, a lot of people are afraid of even borrowing ideas from others and adding their own twists.  I see nothing wrong with borrowing ideas from other cooks and applying my own additions and takeaways.

When I started taking my cooking more seriously in 2014, I solely relied on the recipes of others to try myself.  The more I did this, the more I became accustomed the flavors of the ingredients I was using, especially ingredients that I had never tried before and fell in love with.

My fudge journey began with Skittle Doodle Fudge

As my palette expanded, I would make a dish that I found online or in cookbooks and afterwards ask myself, "What if?"

What if I took Chef Monir Mohammed's Butter Chicken recipe and replaced the chicken with cauliflower and broccoli to make a vegetarian alternative?  So I did, and just like the Butter Chicken, the "Butter Vegetables" turned out great.

After my second attempt at Skittle Doodle Fudge was a success, I thought of using the same basic method, but featuring a different featured ingredient.  That led to Oreo Fudge, Mint Chocolate Fudge with M&M's and Chocolate Peanut Butter fudge with Reese's Pieces.

Using the same basic method from Skittle Doodle Fudge, I changed
a few key ingredients and made Mint Chocolate Fudge with M&M's!

As more time went on and I became more familiar with how certain ingredients and spices taste and cook, I began coming up with my own dishes from scratch.  I will sometimes come up with a possible idea and search the internet to see if it has been done before and will find nothing.  In those cases, you can quit before starting or you can go with your gut.

It might not always turn out like you thought it would (Froot Loops & Grape Juice!), but you never know unless you try.  Even if you are sketchy about an idea, there is always the option of doing a test on a smaller dish and using the same ingredients.  You can easily turn a basic macaroni and cheese into a Greek or Indian version by trading out some spices and swapping one cheese for another.

Ingredients for Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge with Reese's Pieces.  Same
technique as Skittle Doodle, different key ingredients.

A main ingredient is a mannequin.  Don't be afraid to dress it up however you please.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge with Reese's Pieces.



-3 cups milk chocolate chips
-14oz Sweetened condensed milk
-1/2 cup peanut butter AND 1-2 Tbsp peanut butter, melted, for drizzling.
-4 51g boxes Reese's Pieces, divided (3 boxes for fudge mixture, 1 box for topping)
***I know there are 5 boxes in the picture but I only used 4***


1.  Combine chocolate chips and condensed milk in a small saucepan.
2.  Melt over low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is completely melted.
3.  Stir in 1/2 cup peanut butter.  Stir constantly until melted and combined.
4.  Stir in 3 boxes Reese's Pieces.
5.  Pour mixture into 8 inch square pan lined with parchment paper, or a pan or container of similar size (mine was a rectangle Tupperware container.  Don't forget that parchment paper!).
6.  Randomly scatter last box of Reese's pieces on top.
7.  Melt 1-2 Tbsp peanut butter in microwave (or stove top, whichever you prefer).  Drizzle on top of fudge.
8.  Refrigerate or freeze until firm.  (I put mine in the freezer overnight.  It is a lot easier to cut into sharp edged pieces the firmer it is.  Cut into squares and eat them because they taste great!

Chef Nairby

Monday, March 21, 2016


Most of us love cheesecake, but a lot of us will not dare try to make cheesecake.  It's not like you can walk the baking supplies aisle of the supermarket aisle and find a box of cheesecake mix and jar of icing like you can when making a simple cake.  Cheesecake requires work and effort, right?

Well, that is what I always thought.  That is up until, yet again, I stumbled across a recipe for a cheesecake on the internet and all of my assumptions were debunked.

Ingredients for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Skor Cheesecake!  Minus Dr. Lecter.

Sure, more work goes into making a great cheesecake than simply dumping a package of powdered mixture, eggs and milk into a big bowl and mixing., but not that much more work.  And just like I mentioned a time or two in previous Blog posts, the extra effort is worth it.  In the case of this cheesecake recipe, it is barely that much extra effort.

Most people, when they think of cheesecake, one thing that enters their mind is a graham crust.  That is all fine and good, but is also generic.  I guess you could say that I have become spoiled and a bit of a food snob after trying the chocolate chip cookie dough method.

That's right!  I said chocolate chip cookie dough!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough bottom!

Cheesecake filling mixture with chocolate ships and Skor bits inside!

Those ready-to-go graham crusts you can buy in those little pans for cheesecake are all fine and good, but they limit you with their littleness.  And cheesecake does not belong in a typical pie-shaped form.  It belongs in a springform pan.  Those cool little pans with the sides that you can detach.  Those are where the mighty cheesecake belong, so sayeth Chef Nairby!  They are inexpensive and can come in packs of 3 or more, like mine did, with different sizes.  And you get many uses out of them.

I bought a 3-pack of springform pans about a month ago and have already used one of them 4 times in 4 weeks.  With this Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Skor Cheesecake recipe and its simplicity, I don`t blame myself.

Fresh out of the oven and makes the house smell great!

Simply get a package of your preferred cookie dough, spread it out evenly on the bottom of the springform pan, pour in the cheesecake mixture, bake and done!  It is that easy.

"But what about the mixture, Chef Nairby?  Isn't that where all of the work is?"  Yes.  Cream cheese, sugar, 3 eggs, sour cream and vanilla extract.  Whatever you decide to add to it, chocolate chips and Skor bits in this case, is up to you.  The electric hand mixer does all of the work.  And the baking process makes the house smell great!  Once you try making this cheesecake once, you are likely to want to make it again shortly thereafter with a different combination of ingredients!  Perhaps some butterscotch chips instead of chocolate.  Maybe some crushed Oreos.  It's up to your imagination.

Topped with Skor bits after cooling at room temperature for about 10 minutes.

Melted chocolate drizzled after more cooling and ready to spend the
night in the fridge!

As I like to say in my rebuilding posts, "Don't tell ME that YOU can't do it!"

After a night cooling in the fridge.  Ready to devour!


Springform pan
Non-stick cooking spray
Electric hand mixer
3 8-oz packages of cream cheese, softened
1 package chocolate chip cookie dough
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sour cream
1Tbsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 cup of Skor bits, seperated into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup
3/4 cup of milk chocolate chips, seperated into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup


1.  Preheat oven to 350F.

2.  Spray inside bottom and edges of a springform pan with non-stick cooking spray and spread cookie dough evenly to cover the bottom.

3.  In a large mixing bowl, mix cream cheese and sugar using an electric hand mixer until combined and fluffy.

4.  Add sour cream and vanilla extract.  Mix until combined and smooth.

5.  Add eggs, ONE AT A TIME, mix until combined and smooth each time.

6.  Add 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of skor bits.  STIR WITH SPOON.

7.  Pour mixture into the springform pan and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes.  The cheesecake will rise and appear as though it will overflow and spill out of the pan.  Don't worry.  It won't.

8.  Remove from oven and let it cool at room temperature.  Top with 1/4 cup of Skor bits.  Melt 1/4 chocolate chips and drizzle on top (or forgo melting them and simply sprinkle on top if that is your preference).  Refridgerate overnight.  Remove from springform pan the next day and eat until eaten!

Chef Nairby

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Sometimes cooking something new doesn't go as planned.  Especially when you use your experiences from previous recipes and try coming up with your own creation.

A recipe that you followed and turned out excellent will inspire you to use similar methods to try making something different.  If it worked then, if should work now, right?  Not always.  And sometimes when things don't go as we thought it would, our natural reaction a lot of the time is to throw in the towel.

But just because your original idea didn't work, it doesn't mean that you were not on to something.

Sure, there are times when you substituted an ingredient for something similar and it turned out to be a disaster.  In the early stages of when I started taking my cooking a lot more seriously, I had made a homemade pasta sauce from a recipe I found and it turned out great.  It turned out so great that the following week I decided to make it again.  Unfortunately, none of the supermarkets near me had fresh basil, which the recipe called for.  So I turned to dried basil that you get in your typical spice aisle.  BIG mistake!  The sauce was ruined.

But there are also times when a dish is still salvageable.  You just need to change the game plan.

Previously made Pesto Pasta.  Perfection.

Last year, I had an idea to make a pesto dish using broccoli and cauliflower instead of pasta.  A pesto pasta recipe I made a few months prior turned out great and I figured replacing the pasta with broccoli and cauliflower would be simple enough.

I went back to the pasta recipe to remind myself of the ingredients I needed to make the pesto sauce and the basic instructions to make it.  The sauce called for cashews soaked for a few hours, some basil, garlic, lemon juice, grated Parmesan and extra virgin olive oil.

I bought the ingredients and started with soaking the cashews first.  I used more cashews than the pasta recipe called for, thinking I was going to make a large batch of pesto broccoli and cauliflower and therefore needed lots of sauce.

Once the cashews had soaked for a few hours to soften them up, It was time to put them in my food processor and periodically add everything else.  Unfortunately, the mixture was not creating any kind of smooth consistency.  It was becoming more like a ball of dough than anything else.  Adding a little extra olive oil wasn't helping.  I had made the mistake of using too many cashews, and if I wanted to get the mixture smooth, it would have meant adding a lot more olive oil which I didn't want to do.

When my attempt at a Pesto sauce for a Broccoli & Cauliflower dish didn't work, I came up
with Plan B: Operation Salvage.

I stopped the food processor and looked for a minute at what I had.  It looked more like a stuffing you would have with turkey than any kind of sauce.  I decided to give it a taste and it tasted excellent!

I decided that I needed to change my game plan as I had stumbled on to something.  I still had the broccoli and cauliflower, but I also had some grape tomatoes, half a brick of mozzarella and an extra red pepper leftover from the previous days' creation.

I roasted the red pepper, cut the grape tomatoes in half and grated the mozzarella.  I kept some grated mozzarella to the side and put everything else into a large bowl with the cauliflower, broccoli and cashew mixture.  Mixed it all up, put it in a baking tray, topped with the remaining mozzarella and some pepper.  Baked at about 400 degrees for 15 minutes and out came my Cheesy Baked Cauliflower and Broccoli with Pesto Stuffing!

Greatness by accident!



4 cups of raw natural cashews.
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil.
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped.
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice.
2 Tbsp grated parmesan.
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil.
4 cups broccoli florets.
4 cups cauliflower florets.
1 pint grape/cherry tomatoes (about 20 of them), sliced in half.
1 red bell pepper, roasted and chopped.
4 cups grated mozzarella.  Put aside 1 cup for topping.
1 tsp ground black pepper.


1.  Soak cashews in water for about 3 hours.
2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees after the cashews are done soaking.
3.  Mix cashews, basil, chopped garlic, lemon juice and parmesan in a food proccessor while slowly adding the olive oil during the mixing process.  Continue mixing until it has a stuffing texture throughout.  Process will take close to 10 minutes depending on how powerful your proccessor is.
4.  Put stuffing mixture in a large mixing bowl and add the broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, roasted red pepper, only THREE cups of the mozzarella and the ground pepper.  Mix and combine in the bowl.
5.  Put the entire mixture into a baking pan line with non-stick cooking spray.  Top with the remaining mozzarella.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Serve.

Chef Nairby

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


This blog post will not apply to most people, but if you are like me, I can identify.

For the most part, I have not been the most social person on Earth for most of my adult life.  I have always been very careful about who I let into my world of awesomeness due to trust issues, and because of that, I never learned the social skills that most people learn as they grow up.

"BeastWalk" on day 81.  The early stages can be the toughest.

As mentioned in a previous rebuilding post, my world was rocked in a negative way in December 2013 as one of the few people I allowed into my world and trusted for many years turned out to be not-so-cool.  As a result of what I called, "The Tuesday Incident", I went from only trusting this person to trusting no one at all.  The "Tuesday Incident" is also what ultimately planted the seeds for my rebuilding process.

Everything that I would do in the early stages, I did on my own.  Working out in my living room, going for "Beastwalks", I did it all alone.  Just me and whatever songs I felt like listening to on my iPod at the time.

As I started to see and feel results, my confidence grew.  I would no longer look down when walking passed a stranger on the street.  And as my confidence grew, so did my desire to form some kind of social circle.  The social circle building deal can be told in an entirely different set of posts but they would have nothing to do with cooking or rebuilding.  To make a long story short, after two years, I have no social circle.

Day 91.  I had the day off and my head had been in a bad place for a few days, so I got up and went on a
3+ hour BeastWalk to clear it.

After about a year-and-a-half of trying and being unsuccessful, I stopped trying to form a social circle.  There are a few reasons, but I will just stick with one.  While my lifestyle was changing and becoming more active, the people I was trying to build this social circle with were still the same.  I will be the first to admit that it is hard to get started and very easy to become discouraged.  So while I was trying to maintain an active lifestyle and include "friends", their lifestyle was, and still is more along the lines of, "I don't feel like doing anything."

I know that feeling all too well.  Unfortunately since I've become more active, I find it extremely hard to not do anything.  My days of sitting at home on days off, playing video games and watching moves for hours are long gone.  And due to my lack of social skills, it is not so easy for me to go out and meet new people, although I tried and the way I went about it was a HUGE mistake (AVOID DATING WEBSITES, GENTLEMEN!  THEY ARE A WASTE OF TIME AND LIFE!).  I joined online meet up sites like  Unfortunately, a lot of the "socializing" in those groups require paying money.  That, too, is another story.  Let me just say that I will no longer pay money to hangout with people.

Day 99.  The Ultimate Warrior had just passed away and I went down
to the site of Wrestlemania 6 which I attended in 1990 to do a tribute.

In the end, I had to come to terms with the fact that the rebuilding process can be a lonely journey.  You can find out who your true friends are and who they aren't.  It takes its toll on your head and can make you feel very depressed at times.  I have found that the best action to get rid of those feelings of depression are to use them as fuel to up the intensity of my workouts.  It works, but the feelings still come back.  Not as often as they did in the beginning, but they come back.  Rebuilding can not only be challenging on your body, but on your mind, too.

It is an emotional roller coaster.  In the beginning, there can be a lot of anger as you try to find people to join you and they either don't due to them not being up to it, or they will agree and then cancel on you at the last minute with excuse after excuse.  As a result, you get angry and eventually depressed, then angry again.  These are the times when you want to bust out the weights or put your shoes on and go for a walk.

Day 418.  Head doing a lot better.  Still get a bit down every now and
then, but Sally is more than enough for Chef Nairby!

My rebuilding came down to this:  In the beginning, the reason for getting in shape was to get the approval and admiration of others.  But as time went on, it became about being happy with myself and not caring so much about the opinions of others.  Once I got to that stage, life did not feel so lonely anymore, although I will still go through periods of depression and loneliness.  But it is nowhere near as bad as it was in the beginning.

You just need to remember that rebuilding and sticking to it puts you at a higher level than most people.  It is not that there is something wrong with YOU, it is that you are asking too much of THEM.  The things that you used to do are too boring to keep doing, but your friends are still stuck in that bubble.  Rebuilding is about fixing YOURSELF.  Fixing yourself means spending a lot of time alone.  It's just the way it is.

Chef Nairby

Saturday, March 5, 2016


I love my slow cooker!

I don't remember exactly how I obtained my first slow cooker.  I am tempted to say that an old friend of mine told me about them about 15 years ago and I decided to buy one and give it a try.  I still have that first one and one larger one which was a Christmas present a few years ago.

I was blown away the first time I used one.  I made a beef stew.  I believe I found a slow cooked beef stew recipe online and followed it.  I bought some stewing beef, potatoes, carrots, celery, corn, beef broth powder and some seasoning salt.  I chopped the stewing beef in cubes, seasoned them, chopped everything else up and threw it all into the slow cooker with the beef broth mixed with a cup of water.  Cook on low for 8 hours.

Fresh tomatoes, chopped and added to the mix for Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup!

As it was my first time, I could not help but check on the slow cooker every once in a while.  The world of slow cooking sounded too good to be true and my main concern was throwing everything in raw, including the beef, and letting it cook.  So I kept checking.

After almost two hours, it seemed like everything was cooking.  An hour so so later, it SMELLED like everything was cooking.  As the 8 hours started dwindling down, I grew more excited, not because of what I was seeing through the glass lid because the steam and condensation didn't leave much to see, but because of the smell.  And it was everywhere in my tiny one bedroom basement apartment.  My landlord came down to do laundry because the washer and dryer was in the basement, and she even acknowledged that it smelled really good down there and it could be smelled upstairs!

Building awesomeness!

Needless to say, I was beyond surprised with the results.  I was in love with my new slow cooker instantly and began searching online for more ideas, but in the beginning I would mostly stick to the beef stew, because I'm a man, and man love meat!

I love that, "set it and forget it" feel of the mighty slow cooker!  It wasn't until I recently took my cooking more seriously that I finally expanded my slow cooking world to more than beef stew.  I started relying less on searching online for ideas and more on simply picking up ingredients on instinct, prepping them and tossing them in.  And it has come out perfect every time.  It's like the slow cooker cannot go wrong.

Everything added and ready for a slow cookin'!

My slow cooker has never let me down.  I will still cruise the slow cooker aisle every now and then at department stores just to see what latest fancy functions have been added to newer models.  Despite the fact that I have two of them, I am always on the lookout for one with a built-in timer.  I have come close many times but then I stop myself as my oven has a built-in timer on it which I use.  But I still can't help but be tempted.  I sometimes fantasize about having at least 5 slow cookers going at once, but as a single guy, that's not really logical at the moment unless I'm cooking for others.  But I am always on the lookout for the next member of my slow cooker family.

Who knows.  Maybe it will be bigger than my big one.  Or maybe it will be one of the itty-bitty single portion ones which I have seen on shelves.  Have one nice slow cooker family in my collection!  That's not crazy, is it?

8 hours later!

Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup!



1 lb ground beef (or vegetarian crumble)
3 cups of beef broth (or vegetable broth to make vegetarian)
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 TB dried parsley
1 TB dried basil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1, 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (I used fresh tomatoes because that's how Chef Nairby rolls!)
1, 6oz can of tomato paste
1 cup V8 (or any vegetable drink)
2 cups uncooked shell pasta
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup of water
Optional topping- shredded cheese

1. First mix together the can of tomatoes, and tomato paste in slow cooker.
2. Next add broth, beef, garlic, parsley, basil, onion, V8 and salt/pepper.
3. Cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours or on HIGH for 4-5 hours.
4. When 30 minutes are left of cook time, add in the 1 cup of water and noodles. Stir to combine. Put lid back on and continue cooking for 30 minutes.

Chef Nairby