Category Archives: Cooking

That time Brian and Niyaz made ravioli with lamb ragu together


With Niyaz in Cali and Chef Brian in Vegas, the opportunity to cook together never really came together … until now. Chef Brian’s family is from the Bay Area where I recently relocated to, so in celebration of his dad Pete’s birthday, we decided to throw a little dinner party for his family and our friends.

On the menu: Ricotta ravioli with mint pesto and lamb ragu.  Continue reading That time Brian and Niyaz made ravioli with lamb ragu together

Chef Brian’s 3-course Asian fusion menu


Because I’m the writer, the majority of this blog focuses on myself and my fat boy stories. But the other half of the magic duo that is Fat Niyaz and Chef Brian is “Chef Brian,” he who I’ve known since elementary school and grew up to become a professional chef.

He taught me how to cook by writing more than 90 healthy recipes to help me lose weight. He didn’t have to help, but he did and for that I will be forever grateful. I often joke that he and Thomas Keller are the two most influential chefs in my life, but realistically he’s No. 1 because he gave me the tools and knowledge to enjoy kitchen work.

He’s always cooking in his capacity as a private chef, so I wanted to share his latest work, a 3-course Asian fusion menu that he whipped up for a recent dinner party:

Course 1 (at top): Mango and avocado salad with toasted peanut-chile dressing, mint and black sesame

chefbrian_dinner_2Course 2: Sesame-crusted ahi tuna with roasted shiitake mushrooms, cucumber salsa and yuzu-edamame puree


Course 3: Green tea coconut ice cream, mochi, strawberry-coconut “anglaise” and pistachio praline

Looking good brother! Keep ’em coming!!

Reflection, action and dedication.

I’m approaching Week 8 in Norcal and I’m finally starting to feel grounded in many facets of my life. This is an opportunity to better myself through reflection, action and dedication.

This change hasn’t come over night, but I’m pushing every day to stay consistent and honor myself through hard work in the kitchen, in the gym and on this keyboard. I’m seven pounds down since arriving in February and while I still weigh more than I did at this time in 2014, the pieces are in place to accomplish my weight loss goals through action and dedication.

To that end, I have implemented several changes or stuck to certain routines over the last several weeks that have helped me build a consistent routine and stay on course:

I’ve been forcing myself to cook even when I don’t want to … especially when I don’t want to, actually. It has helped me regain my creativity and resourcefulness in the kitchen and I’ve been making some of the best-tasting dishes that I’ve ever made. Most of them have been reasonably quick and simple to make, which has been a bonus. Follow everything I’m cooking on the Fat Dude On A Diet Instagram page.


I’ve also been working on a new streak of days logged on MyFitnessPal. I have a 23-day streak logging my calories and I take it very seriously because it has provided me with an engaging way to document what I am eating. Counting calories this way has become an integral part of my efforts now that I am focusing on the consistency of my healthy choices. It was also something that helped me in previous weight loss efforts.


Finally, I’ve been pushing myself to improve physically almost every day. I train in the mornings, at nearly the same time every day, and my routine carries between many different activities: walking long distances, burst running up hills, throwing punches at the bags, and doing box jumps, bear crawls and planks. I was struggling to walk even two miles in February; now I walk more than five miles a day and recently accomplished a goal of walking 25 miles in a week. I’m also able to box longer than before. Fitness is becoming fun, and that’s how I hope it stays.


I have one month before I leave on an exciting vacation, so there are certain actions I am talking beforehand to ensure I can be the healthiest I can be when I get there. I will continue counting calories and eating healthy, trying to do a better job of eliminating sugar from my diet. I will also start weight training very soon, with the intent of hiring a personal trainer beginning in June. I was taught by my former boss to always have a strategy 40 days out. I have a gameplan and whether I fail or succeed is solely on me now. There are no other variables left in the equation.

Only me. Only dedication.

My favorite fitness and nutrition website


The best thing about the Internet is also the worst thing about the Internet when it comes to self-researched weight loss: there’s a lot of information online, but almost too much information to know what to do with. That’s not including conflicting sources, stories or methods, or websites designed to sell quick fix weight loss solutions.

Everyone I know who has lost weight or maintains a healthy weight earns it through consistent diet and exercise. But even that for me can be confusing at times. That’s why I like (formerly Neila Rey). The website provides in-depth resources and information, meal plans and the greatest workout plans, modeled after cartoon and video game characters (like the Super Mario workout or the Batman workout).

I went through the website recently and had several links I wanted to keep for reference, so I thought I’d write this post and get them all in one place. Here are some of my favorite resources from Darebee:

How to maintain your commitment to fitness
A few tips to get to the right place mentally to stay committed to your fitness routine

How to lose weight
“In order to get fit and then stay that way you need to understand how the process works. It’s not magic and it’s not rocket science, it’s logic—more specifically your body’s logic.”

How to get rid of the belly
“Since we can’t target our bellies specifically no amount of crunches or other ab specific exercises will help us burn reserves there faster. It doesn’t matter how much muscle we put on in a specific part of the body, we burn body fat in an overall way.”

How to build muscle
“It really comes down to what you have access to. Any way you choose to train will get you results provided you put in the time and you keep on challenging your body.”

Boxing basics
“Boxing training is awesome. It will teach you to use your arms and legs. It will push your aerobic capacity to the max. It will tone you and make you feel like a war machine. And it all starts so seemingly simply.”

Hero’s Journey
The ultimate video game-themed battle: A 100 percent bodyweight training crash course in 60 days. Level up, then defeat win the Boss Fight on Day 60.

Muscle soreness and recovery
“Exercising with sore muscles, reasonable training without going all out, is extremely beneficial and will help you get stronger faster and, eventually, reduce the next day soreness.  You just need to power through in the beginning and do something, anything but do it all the same.”

Calorie counting explained
“Although Calorie counting can be very handy if you want to keep yourself in-check there are a few things we should keep in mind when you count them.”

Practical guide to eating healthy
“A reasonable guide to eating just a little bit healthier by changing our eating habits and not going broke in the process.”

Healthy eating on a budget
“Healthy doesn’t mean rare or complicated, that’s where “expensive” comes from. Healthy is what your body, not just your taste buds, will appreciate and then use to build a healthier and stronger you. It simply means: nutritious food.”

Top affordable protein sources
“If you need to lose weight protein diets are the best. Low calorie diets may work fast but you lose too much muscle in the process and then gain fat back a lot faster.”

How to eat more fruits and vegetables
“The key to solving this lies in convenience: if we make it convenient to eat more of the healthy food and we will. Here are some practical tips.”

The Modern Hero Diet
A full weight loss and maintenance meal plan. Here’s one for vegetarians.

Healthy snacks
Pictures and recipes of some great healthy snacks.

Recipe: Sous vide top sirloin with garlic roasted broccolini


One of the last meals I had before leaving Orange County was the Ultimate Steak Dinner at Playground 2.0 in Santa Ana (info), an over-the-top beef party (yeah, I said it) that only left me with the craving for more bloody red flesh.

If I’m ordering a steak out, chances are it’s a ribeye, skirt or hanger cut. But Costco sells packages of prime top sirloin in quantities of four to six for between $20 and $25. Top sirloin’s one of the leanest cuts of red meat, so it makes for a great weeknight dinner in portions that aren’t of the XL steakhouse variety.

I’ve been trying to pair simple meats with simple veggies since I got back in the kitchen. We cooked the meat first in a water bath and then pan seared it to produce a very flavorful dish. Keep reading for the recipe and how-to.

Continue reading Recipe: Sous vide top sirloin with garlic roasted broccolini

Here’s how I cooked my Thanksgiving turkey, and what I did with the leftovers


We had guests in town for the holidays, so I was honored to cook the Thanksgiving turkey in our house this year. It’s not every year that I get to cook because we typically eat Thanksgiving lunch out with my family and then fill our bellies at night with Nadia’s family, but lucky me, this bird had my name on it.

I wanted to make something a little different this year, so I went with orange and orange juice, and a few Asian ingredients I had in the pantry. I guess we’ll call this one Asian Orange Turkey. Keep reading to see how I brined and cooked the bird, and what I made with the leftovers. Continue reading Here’s how I cooked my Thanksgiving turkey, and what I did with the leftovers

The chef’s pantry


If you’re like me, you need variety of meals to keep yourself interested in eating healthy foods. Though I do have a handful of go-to dishes, often times it’s trying new things that keeps me inspired in the kitchen. Whether it’s something I’m putting together on the fly or a recipe from a cookbook that I am following meticulously, nothing throws a wrench in the plans like a missing ingredient. There are good resources like this one for figuring out ingredient substitutions, but it’s always a good feeling to be stocked up.

I’ve often asked Chef Brian what the ingredients for a proper pantry should be and he provided a list of the things he has in his house–an array of ingredients that help him whip up almost anything he can think of.

Note that necessities are marked with an asterisk.

Salt*; Sea salt; Smoked salt; Pepper*; Allspice; Anise seed; Caraway seed; Cardamom; Cayenne pepper*; Celery seed; Cinnamon*; Chili powder; Ancho chile powder; Chipotle chile powder; Cloves; Coriander*; Crushed Red Pepper*; Cumin*; (Madras) Curry powder*; Fennel seed*; File powder (for gumbo); Garlic powder*; Ginger*; Liquid smoke; Mustard powder*; Nutmeg; Old Bay seasoning; Onion powder*; Dry oregano*; Paprika*; Sweet paprika*; Smoked Paprika*; (Dry) Rosemary; Saffron; Star anise; Dry Thyme; Turmeric

Baking powder*; Baking soda*; Cocoa powder*; Flour*; Powdered sugar; Semolina flour; Sugar*; Vanilla extract*

Bread crumbs; Panko bread crumbs*; Tabasco sauce

Almonds; Peanuts; Pine Nuts

Grains and starches
Arborio (risotto) rice; Basmati rice; Black lentils; Cous cous; Jasmine rice* (multi-purpose); Polenta; Sushi rice; Wild rice

Apple cider vinegar*; Balsamic vinegar*; Champagne vinegar*; Red wine vinegar*; Sherry vinegar*;  White balsamic vinegar; White wine vinegar

Fish sauce*; Green curry paste; Mirin*; Oyster sauce; Red curry paste; Rice vinegar*; Sesame oil; Soy sauce*; Sriracha*; Sweet chili sauce; Ume (plum) vinegar

Cooking wines
Cheap red wine*; Cheap white wine*; Marsala; Plum wine; Port

Summer picnic on crack

A little while back I wrote about “summer picnic,” Nadia’s favorite dish of grilled shrimp and asparagus (abd sometimes other random grilled meats and veggies) with toasted bread. We recently started limiting our bread, pasta and sugar intake, so instead of the bread, I just upped the veggies and the meat.

I purchased the asparagus, red bell pepper and corn from the Laguna Niguel Farmers Market. The chimichurri on the shrimp, the beer-marinated chicken and chorizo Argentino came from Puerto madero in Santa Ana.

Everything was finished with a spritz of lemon.

Everything was totally awesome.


Zucchini frittata to go

I’ve been looking for new ways to increase my vegetable intake so I tried out this frittata that made four portions, or enough for two days worth of breakfast for me and Nadia.

Eight eggs whipped with 1/2 c of part-skim ricotta, salt and pepper. Add that to sliced zucchini, scallions and parsley that has been sautéed in a light amount of oil or butter (or a little of both) until brown, about 15 min. Mix in a non-stick skillet and bake for 35 minutes at 350.


I’m a blue ribbon winner!


Back in January I wrote a post for OC Weekly’s Stick A Fork In It blog about homemade chicken stock and the reasons you should make it.

On a rando whim, I decided to enter the post into the brand new food blogging competition at the 2013 OC Fair, and I won!

Chicken stock. Who knew?!

You can read the full post here.

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