Author: Rand Duren

TV & Pop Culture writer. Half Puerto Rican. Dallas dweller. Lover of Jesús, dance music, silence and Gaga.

Mac and cheese: 5 of the best and cheesiest recipes

macEver since I was a kid I have loved mac and cheese. There is something about those tiny twirls of goodness surrounded with creamy cheese that has always made my heart shout. Yeah, I know I may be being a little over-dramatic but I love it that much. Therefore I think it’s a good idea to make my first food post based on one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures. Mac and cheese comes in many variations nowadays, some Dallas-area restaurants like Sissy’s Southern Kitchen and Smoke keep it simple, yet leave me wanting more. While Oddfellows has a buffalo mac and cheese with bleu cheese that just the thougfht of it makes my mouth water.

One of my favorite things about this dish is that it’s simple to make and with a little creativity you can easily make a masterpiece. Without further ado, here are some delicious cheddar mac and cheese recipes to try.

Slow cooker or crockpot mac and cheese

Slow cooker Mac & Cheese

This mac and cheese recipe not only has four types of cheese, it’s also done crockpot style. Which means that all that cheesy goodness will have a long time to hug and caress the pasta. Delicious, right? Check the recipe here.

Ted Allen’s Mac & Cheese

Remember Ted Allen? He was one of the fabulous gays on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and is now the host of Chopped, which at times has been a guilty pleasure. This recipe uses only cheddar and Parmigiano Reggiano is an optional addition, but hints of nutmeg and bay leaf make this a simple yet interesting recipe to try.

Ricotta Cheddar Mac and Cheese with Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes

Ricotta Cheddar Mac and Cheese with Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes

Can this recipe have any other ingredients to love? I’m a sucker for caramelized onions and have never thought of adding it to my mac and cheese… that may change very soon. Here’s the recipe.

Beefy Mac and Cheese

Beefy Mac and Cheese

This is a variation of a recipe that Mom cooked often at home and it was one of my favorite meals, it’s so hearty and delicious that I often found it hard to eat just one plate. Some time soon I will write up mom’s recipe, but for now you can check this one out.

Roasted Garlic Mac and Cheese

Roasted Garlic Mac and Cheese

Garlic is one of those ingredients, along with cilantro, that I could use in any recipe. Here’s a mac and cheese recipe that makes roasted garlic be more than just a simple addition and makes it one of the stars of the dish.

What’s your favorite mac and cheese recipe?

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One year after losing dad, heartbreak and thanksgiving

One year after losing dad, heartbreak and thanksgiving This week marks the one year anniversary of losing dad to cancer. It’s hard to believe how fast a year goes by. It’s been more than a year since I haven’t been able to pick up the phone and call him, hear his voice, ask for advice, and give him good news about my life. It’s been more than a year than someone from my family calls for the simple reason of knowing how I’m doing. Don’t get me wrong, I get calls from my family, but most of them come with side issues for me to solve. Dad’s calls were different, which may explain why I barely talk on the phone anymore. Never during my dad’s struggle with cancer did I receive a call from him complaining about his pain, about how miserable chemotherapy made him feel, about the times he thought of just giving up. Never. My dad’s phone calls were always filled with joy and love, he never missed a chance to remind me how proud he was of me. He never missed an opportunity to give me advice, which is one of the things I miss the most. Now I can just hold on to the memories, to the way he guided me while he was still around, to those things he once said that now I can just try to mold into advice that will fit in other scenarios. It hurts a lot. Many people have believed in me, but no one did it as strong as he did. When I came to him with a trembling voice and told him what had been one of my deepest secrets, his response was one filled with love. Unphazed by my confession he reminded me how much he loved me and how nothing could ever change that. It wasn’t just words. He meant it, and I knew he did. A year has passed since I’ve been able to hold his hand, to hear him burp, to laugh at his jokes, to hear the joy in his voice when he reacted to good news I’d delivered. It’s been a year filled with emotions, feelings, struggles. It’s been a year where many, even in my own family, have not understood what I’m going through. While others have focused on material things I’ve had to hide my pain, put a straight face and remind myself of how Dad would’ve dealt with them. One of my proudest achievements is not even something I did to be successful. One of my proudest achievements is that while my dad was around I strived to make him proud. I got my Master’s Degree in part because he had one, I left Puerto Rico in search of a better life, because he also did that once upon a time. You see, my Dad, as successful as he came to be wasn’t raised with a silver spoon, how could I having been raised with better things not at least attempt to be successful? One year after losing dad, heartbreak and thanksgiving Dad worked his ass off to achieve success in life. Born in Florida, he went through foster home after foster home, hitchhiked through the states while being a teen, slept under trains and went through some very difficult situations that did not deter him. He enlisted in the Air Force, moved to Puerto Rico, was a high school teacher, a college professor with a master’s degree in business from Harvard and a top executive for an international company. He had open heart surgery a very long time ago, and while Cancer ultimately beat him, he fought it for years. David Duren was one hell of a fighter. Those are just some of the reasons why I too have always wanted to succeed, he was my closest example of success, and a great one at that. While tears stream down my face I can find a certain solace and peace in remembering those times when he told me how proud he was of me. That peace is what I have been able to hang on to when my heart keeps breaking from not having him around. It’s one of the toughest balancing acts I’ve had to deal with. I never knew this pain before, the pain of an absence that will simply remain, knowing that I can’t grab the phone and call him, or get on a plane and see him. A pain that constantly shakes me to the core and that most of the time I can’t even explain. On April of last year his phone calls changed, a lack of clarity seemed to start, and that’s when the first cracks of my broken heart happened. I knew something was changing, he tried to tell me things that he would forget mid-sentence, but he never once forgot to say I love you. Then on my last trip to Puerto Rico at the end of May 2012 my pain took a visible form when I saw what his once-strong body had become. His skin had turned to a ghastly yellow hue, his eyes lacked direction and purpose, his words had become grunts of pain and discomfort. But even in the haze that he appeared to be in, every now and then I would see him stare into my eyes and without words I could still see him communicate the love that he so often expressed with words. I would hold his hand and tell him to rest, to let go if possible, to not fight anymore so he could get rid of the pain, words that pierced my heart as each came out of my mouth. But I didn’t want him to suffer anymore. Dad and I, we always had a connection. I knew he didn’t want me to suffer his death. I also know he knew his absence would create a deep void in my life, it hurt him deeply. Laying in his deathbed I saw him struggle to stay for one more day. The day after I arrived back in Dallas, he left. My world still seemed to crumble. One year after his death, my heart seems to be in a deeper pain from the lost I have experienced. Maybe because it went so fast, but maybe because as I achieve happiness in other areas of my life it saddens me to not have him rejoice along with me. As I type these things I have to look deep inside and say thanks. I’m thankful to God for he Dad he gave me. I’m grateful or the friend, the mentor, the teacher he allowed me to have for thirty years. I feel privileged and highly favored for being able to enjoy the company of the illustrious David Duren, a man of caliber, with a ridiculous sense of humor, who really liked good food and cold beer. A man who gave his relentless love to his children no matter how much pain they put him through. A man who fought for what was right and showed me that many things in live are worth the hard work. This difficult year, there have been a few people who have stood by me in the midst of all the turmoil that my Dad’s passing has brought, and I am very thankful to those people. It would be hard to mention every single one of the people who have told me “I know it’s hard, I understand” but if you’ve said even a word to encourage me through this I thank you. I do need to give special thanks to some people that have stood by me, that have seen the depth of my heartbreak and that have held my hand through the pain. Natalia(King Boo), I am more than thankful for all the time you have been by my side, keeping me in the right mindset and allowing me to grieve, it is no coincidence we both ended up here in Dallas. Karen(Pechu Jr.) we have texted each other every single day for about three years now, and through the best and toughest times you were there, thank you. Rafy, my little brother, who texts me an “I love you” in our own made-up language at the most random(and needed times) ta mo paui. And Mark, you arrived in my life shortly after Dad left, and when my pain has become unbearable you have held my hand, hugged me and made me feel loved, I love you mah boo. If you read this whole thing, thank you for taking the time, I know it was a long one. I just felt the need to let some things out that have been too hard to put into words this past year. Rand A. Duren 10 seconds

Short-sighted American Christianity, morals and Jesus’ Love

Will we some day be able to look further than our short-sighted American Christianity? I sometimes wonder if some Christians, especially in the United States, realize that there are millions of other people who have totally different sets of beliefs. People who deserve respect as much as they do.

It boggles my mind that some Christians put so much emphasis on their “duty to tell others how to live” when their marriages, their lives, their families in many cases are falling apart.

So much time and effort spent on upholding certain “moral” values when other commands by Jesus himself, like loving your neighbor, are disregarded or just blabbed about as just words. Believe me, the world around them can see the difference between saying you love them and really showing love. Would the Jesus of the Bible sit beside these Christians to condemn others for their sin, or would he show real, true love to those they constantly badger because of their lack of morals?

Here’s a few stones… do with them as you may.

Short-sighted American Christianity: Pick up a stone

HOW HARD IS IT TO BE GAY AND CHRISTIAN? IT’S KINDA HARD, HERE’S WHY…

All Gays are sleazy; All Christians are bigots

In a world where every side seems to have bigots, what should be my response?

I find it incredibly sad that one of the biggest misconceptions regarding gay people is that all of them are sleazy. Something is very wrong when a whole group of people is labeled because of the actions of a few. This doesn’t happen only with homosexuals. It happens everywhere, we fail to look at the individuals. We fail to get to know people and to realize that they may not fit the box that we have placed them in. We don’t care about their needs, we don’t regard them as equals, we have no interest in knowing what they have been through that has changed their perspectives in life.

I have been through this. For a variety of reasons I have avoided certain people because of what I thought they were, to then realize how wonderful they really are. Things changed when I challenged myself to be open. I asked myself: What’s the worst that could happen? And to my surprise, only goodness came out of it.

One of the reasons many religious people avoid homosexuals, and only allow the topic if condemnation is involved is in part because they don’t know better. They have been told all the reasons why homosexuality should be condemned. Their image of gay people is a clip they saw in the news of someone almost naked dancing in the street in the middle of a parade. My question is… How can a simple image determine your perspective on a complete group of people? And if so, why stop there? If that man dancing on the street is “perverse and an abomination”, are all gays “perverse” too? Would that mean that because a woman on a skimpy swimsuit, drinking a beer on a TV ad fits the “slut” label, are we to count all women as sluts? I think not.

I don’t think we care enough. I don’t think that the almost-naked man dancing on a parade is more of a sinner than I am. I don’t get naked on parades or party every night. I can actually be pretty boring, but that doesn’t make me less or more of a sinner. I was a preacher for several years, I have a diploma in Practical Theology, I traveled to other nations to help others, but at the end of the day, there I was, someone in desperate need of true love and acceptance. Through all my years in Church I saw people condemn homosexuals time after time, the same people that shortly after were found to be in adulterous relationships or some other ugly scenarios. I could easily call them hypocrites and label Christians as a whole as hypocrites, but I believe I have learned.

People are just that, people. Humans in need of affection, love and understanding. Individuals who have been through a great diversity of scenarios, some of them good, some of them horrible. But to typecast a group of people as something because of the deeds of one individual is plain wrong. I learned not to do it while being a Christian, and now that I am openly gay and still holding on to my Christian beliefs I believe I can see both sides a little clearer. If I as a gay man decide to be intolerant against all Christians because of the opinion of a few I too end up becoming a bigot.

I believe that in order to see a positive change in the relationships between gays and Christians we need to start with ourselves. We need to choose to love. We need to elevate the discussion from “the things that we disagree on” to “the things we can agree on”. We need to understand that not all Christians are homophobic that want to send us to hell, and we need to show them that not all gays think that they are bigots who think they are better than them. I know this is an uphill battle, but I have decided to be optimistic.

Have you had any experience that relates to this? I would love to read it.

What do you do to release stress? I do dishes.

What do you do to release stress? I do dishes.

I like to do my dishes. I don’t mean stacking them in my dishwasher and waiting for two hours of incessant humming and voila! No, I like spending some time doing my dishes, and especially when I need to release stress. Mark is amused with how much I enjoy it. He doesn’t understand why I choose to do something that a “robot” has been created to do. Believe me, I am by no means someone that chooses to do things without the use of technology. I love technology and how so many things are made so much easier because of it. Dishes. It’s just my outlet, I find doing them therapeutic. And I find it funny that so many people are shocked by my confession.

Let me tell you what’s my fabulous mundane process. It is very simple actually, but it starts some time before the tower of dishes tumbles out of control over my kitchen sink. My father taught me that whenever I’m done with a plate I should at least remove the excess food I left(not a lot in most of my plates) and if I am not gonna wash it right away to at least rinse it. Then, when I am ready to go full-on kitchen maid, my job is easier and I can emerge as the triumphant king of my kitchen. My Dad obviously didn’t make it so dramatic but I like to add some flair. Mark told me today that I’m “110% flair”. I’m still trying to determine if thats a compliment or an insult. Maybe its a little bit of both. Ok, back to the dishes.

Get some good music going. Today I chose a Spotify radio station based on Marked by EMA and it just helped set the right mood. Sometimes I just choose some great Spanish music by some Puerto Rican singers and well, the atmosphere is completely different. That’s when I do my dishes to party. In Puerto Rico we never had a dishwasher, maybe that’s where it all started. Some incense also helps in setting the mood, which reminds me that Dad also liked to have incense burning at our home, during the college years I lived with him. I like to get some good detergent, the hot water running and just chill, get my mind off things. Or after a full day of doing what I exhaustingly love doing, talking about Pop Culture news, I take some time to refocus on life, the present and the future. Doing the dishes for me goes beyond dishes, I end up trying to make my kitchen shine. Which reminds me, I am writing about doing the dishes when my kitchen is half-way through. Mark is out with his mom and bringing back Indian food, I need to get this place in order.

What do you do to relax? What’s your outlet to release stress?

Must listen: Adam Lambert’s gay anthem ‘Outlaws of Love’

Adam Lambert's gay anthem "Outlaws of Love"

Many artists have songs that people classify as “gay” anthems. Most of these artists are not gay but due to different aspects on the record it becomes an anthem for the gay community. Outlaws of Love is Adam Lambert’s gay anthem and it brings to the forefront the pain that many in the gay community experience daily. The pain of having experienced rejection for something that he did not choose. The pain of not being treated equal in something so essential as loving another human being. Lambert, the first openly gay artist to have his album debut at number one on Billboard, with his album Trespassing, sings a song that is echoed in the hearts of many gay men who live their lives longing for equality but not letting the absence of it determine their role in society. Yes, there is pain in the song but also a quality of strength and perseverance, pride in knowing that while others may not see us as equal, we are the same, we have just been privileged with a more accepting an open-minded view of the world. Thankfully, society is catching on.

While the song is not dancey, like many others in his album, it is a song with a strong message, one that, again, many can identify with. Does that make it an anthem? Most assuredly.

Other great songs on Trespassing are: Shady(featuring Sam Sparro and Nile Rodgers), Kickin’ in, and Running.

Read the lyrics after the jump… … Continue reading

Stay positive when hate knocks on your door

Stay positive when hate knocks on your door
I’ve always tried to stay positive no matter what comes at me. My dad always said that I wake up in the mornings with the biggest smile on my face. As years pass by I have remained a pretty positive person. When bad things happen I usually try to see something good that will come off it, and I try to move on. When I hear people talking about really “hating” someone because something they did or say I feel relieved that I don’t feel like that towards anybody. Even though the word hate is not one I use all the time, I have used it for some things I really dislike, but that’s not my norm. I try to not give space to any hate in my life.

This morning I had a dream that I was visiting someone from my past and well, it was not great. I woke up upset and realized that because of a dream, a tiny seed of discontent towards that person was trying to find a place in me. Yes, this person, with whom I was very close about 10 years ago basically cut all communication when rumors of me being gay started to spread. It was an interesting time when my calls were not answered, not that there were many. But there never has been an altercation that would make me hate that person, it was a dream, a passing thought trying to shake me from my place and make me feel something towards someone I have no interest in feeling.

Every moment of the day we will see things, hear things, think things that will try to shake our very foundation. We will see things done to us or others that will provoke hatred in our hearts, but we shouldn’t let our surroundings determine how we act or feel towards people. Some of these things will merit a strong negative action, but in most cases a negative reaction will just snowball into more negativity that will end up hurting you and whoever else stands in the way.

I’m still learning and I realize that many will not understand and will even try to come after me because I decided to live a happy life that happens to be seen as a bad thing for them.

You are the owner of your thoughts and life and only you can give permission for negative thoughts to work within you. Don’t do it. Be happy and enjoy your life. Hate is not worth it.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. – Oscar Wilde

Gay Christian: A daily test of tolerance, love and respect

gay christian

I am thankful that through the years I have developed somewhat of a tough skin. I am constantly put to the test because not only am I am homosexual, I also identify myself as a Christian. Many say this can’t happen,  but yes I’m a gay Christian.

I’ve been attracted to men in secret for as long as I can remember, publicly for just a couple of years. This means that most of the people in my past knew me as a “normal” guy and even if there were assumptions of me being a homosexual, I was a Christian, so of course I couldn’t be gay.

While things seem to be quickly changing on people’s understanding of homosexuals, there are still many who think that being gay is something people can choose and that by saying “I am gay” they are rejecting God. I don’t think like that because I can’t afford to think like that. Why? Simple, because many years ago I chose God and well, he has been good to me.

It is very easy to repeat something you have been taught without giving it a second thought. It is simple to state that loving another man is wrong, when you don’t care enough.

Day after day I see God-loving Christians, many who I know personally, expressing their thoughts on how evil and perverse homosexual relationships are. Some of them, I know as a fact, have never bothered to understand, because they were taught being gay is wrong so it must be condemned, criticized, talked about. Where is God’s love in that? Is this one of God’s new main topics?

Every day I have to decide. I have to choose love over hatred. Tolerance over disrespect. I have to choose to live standing strong on my beliefs and what I have experienced, while I respectfully try to disregard the misinformed opinions of others. There is hope. A close friend, who is a Christian, was ecstatic when I came out to him, because he now had a gay friend who could help him understand what being gay is like. We need more friends like that.

Tolerance, love and respect. We all need them.

Anti-gay remarks get Indiana teacher, probably Diana Medley, suspended

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Does the name Diana Medley ring any bells? She is the special education teacher who supported some students that wanted a “traditional prom” without gays. Medley doesn’t believe anyone is born gay, she believes that people are gay because of “life circumstances and they choose to be that way; God created everyone equal”.

“‘So the same goes for gays? Do you think they have a purpose in life?’ No I honestly don’t. Sorry, but I don’t. I don’t understand it. A gay person isn’t going to come up and make some change unless it’s to realize that it was a choice and they’re choosing God,” said Medley.

Yeah, she’s sounds like a lovely gal. Sadly, this is the way that many, many Christians think now. That because I chose to be gay, I have, therefore, chosen to reject God.

Newsflash: I didn’t choose either of those things.

Anyway, there are reports that an Indiana teacher has been suspended for her anti-gay remarks and most signs point to this being Diana Medley.

The Indy Chanel reports:

Superintendent Mark Baker of the Northeast School Corp. in western Indiana’s Sullivan County issued a statement Wednesday saying the teacher has been placed on administrative leave and that state and local police are stationing officers at North Central Junior-Senior High School as a precaution because of “aggressive” email messages sent to the school and the teacher.

Baker did not identify the teacher, but special education teacher Diana Medley’s comments have circulated widely on social networking sites amid news coverage of an alternative prom dance at a nearby school that would ban gay students.

So, Diana, yes, I believe we are created equal. I tried long and hard to be attracted to women, it did not work. God? Well, yes, that I chose.

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