It takes a bit of hubris to describe a recipe as “perfect”, especially for a recipe such as cheesecake, for which so many have their own personal favorite. But, this is simply the best, most wonderful cheesecake I have ever had, and have ever made. It is based on a master recipe, from the master of baking herself, Dorie Greenspan.
If there’s a case to be made for nurture versus nature, I’d have to cop to Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special playing at least a small role in my personal little gay development. The primetime special, initially aired December 1988, is some of the greatest — and gayest — holiday TV of all time. Now, as of this week, the special (along with the rest of the Pee-Wee’s Playhouse series) is available on Netflix to delight a whole new generation.
For a children’s program, it was an incredibly unique world, blending retrofuturist glitz with absurdist humor, a richly diverse cast, and a touch of morality. “I’m just trying to illustrate that it's okay to be different — not that it's good, not that it's bad, but that it's all right,” Reubens told Rolling Stone about the series. “I’m trying to tell kids to have a good time and to encourage them to be creative and to question things.”
Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special, written by Paul Reubens and John Paragon, follows Pee-Wee (Reubens) as he preps the playhouse for the holidays. The special doesn’t find Pee-Wee visited by ghosts of Christmas past, present or future, but it does feature more gay icons than the last three New Now Next Awards combined. There are appearances from Annette Funicello, Grace Jones, k.d. lang, Dinah Shore, Oprah, Whoopi Goldberg, Cher, and many more alongside playhouse regulars like Laurence Fishburne (Cowboy Curtis) and S. Epatha Merkerson as Reba.
Don your gay apparel and relax with some of our favorite clips, AFTER THE JUMP …
In lieu of a nativity set, more people should adorn their lawn with a figurine of Grace Jones popping out of a box in a breastplate.
Cher filmed this short cameo in only 25 minutes due to her busy schedule.
The late Joan Rivers brought her acerbic wit and a bit of Hollywood Squares style to the playhouse.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get more campy, there’s Charo.
My personal favorite scene involves Pee-Wee giving Little Richard an ice skating lesson.
For a complete list of special guests, check out the opening musical number, above.
Happy holidays! What’s your favorite holiday special?
“I’ll make cioppino,” my brother John announced as the family discussed what to make one Christmas eve a few years back. “Great!” said my father and I, relieved that someone else would do the cooking that night. “Have you ever made cioppino before?” Dad wisely asked. “Uh, no, but it can’t be that hard, just make a tomato base and throw in some fish, clams and crab.” Okay. Relief short lived.
A few years ago my father announced to his now very grown kids that he would no longer be participating in Christmas gift exchanges and encouraged us to follow his lead. As Scrooge-like as this may sound, it has turned out to be quite the blessing. Instead of racing around the week before Christmas stressing over buying presents for our grown family members, who quite frankly are in no need of additional material possessions, we focus on holiday meal planning instead. We love prime rib for Christmas dinner and seafood for Christmas eve. All the sides are open for discussion, as well as the desserts.
Cream of mushroom soup has been a favorite of mine as long as I can remember. Of course when we were growing up it was Campbell’s and it came in a can. But even as an 8 year old I took great pride in heating my own soup, and discovered for myself how much better it was if you added milk instead of water, and how important it was to slowly add the milk while stirring so it wouldn’t form clumps.
Prime rib claims center stage during holiday season for a very good reason. It is the king of beef cuts. It’s called a standing rib roast because to cook it, you position the roast majestically on its rib bones in the roasting pan. Beautifully marbled with fat, this roast is rich, juicy, and tender—a feast for the eyes and the belly.
One of our most popular recipes around the holidays is this one—Swedish meatballs. They’re terrific over egg noodles for a main course, or served as individual appetizers.
But before you all gather round my canister of food-grade lye, my latex gloves and the onion goggles I really should have more shame about owning, and sit me down for a talk about where things are going, I think we need one more pretzel thing this year, and I’d like to believe I saved the best for last.
Pan dulce was made popular during the French occupation in the mid 1800s, and as Mexican President Porfirio Díaz was considered to be a Francophile, French influence on Mexico’s gastronomy was allowed to grow from the time Díaz first took control as president in 1880 and flourish into the early 1900s.
In 1911, Díaz left Mexico to live in exile in Paris when Madero became president; he would live there for four years before he died in 1915. And although Díaz died in exile, the French pastries and sweet breads adopted by Mexico morphed into uniquely Mexican creations, with a variety of shapes, textures and creative names that still exist today.
Pan dulce can encompass pastries, sweet breads and even cookies. Other popular kinds of pan dulce include conchas (circular sweet rolls with a sugary, crunchy, crumbly topping made of flour, confectioners’ sugar and butter or vegetable shortening, and shaped to resemble a seashell), sweet empanadas, mantecadas (similar to pound cake, and shaped like muffins or mini loaves), cuernitos (croissants), and puerquitos or marranitos (pig-shaped cookies). Of course, these are only a few of the most popular and common kinds of pan dulce. Some types have a directly translated name from the original French name, but others have more creative names in Spanish.
Orejas are a staple at my house and I often make a batch to enjoy with a cup of coffee throughout the week, to take to work for a breakfast meeting, or when I need to drop off something easy for a bake sale or party. Some of my other favorite variations include churros, garibaldi, and rieles (mini strudels with a fruit or cheese filling and coarse-grain sanding sugar).
Orejas are made by spreading cinnamon sugar on both sides of a sheet of puff pastry, then rolling the puff pastry with a rolling pin to press the cinnamon sugar into the pastry. Then, the pastry is folded and sliced, and baked at a high temperature so the sugar caramelizes and creates a sort of glassy sugar glaze on the pastry dough.
Although every Mexican panadería is a little different, it’s guaranteed you’ll always find orejas. But you’ll feel like a fancy pastry chef and a little bit like a rock star when you make them on your own—and you’re likely to impress people who have no idea how easy they are to make!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 9 minutes
Yield: Yields 15-16 cookies
Recipe prep and cook time does not include 45-60 minutes of inactive prep to defrost frozen puff pastry sheets.
Summer has finally decided to vacate the premises and the cool weather has set in here in Northern California. I don’t know about you, but I look forward to the cooler days, especially when they bring rain (which we desperately need right about now). Things slow down, not as much needs tending to, and I can curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and a blanket and read a book without any guilt over taking it easy.
This post is part of a compensated campaign in collaboration with Hunt’s and Latina Bloggers Connect. All opinions and the recipe are my own.
There are a few key ingredients to this recipe that help you get it on the table quickly: Store-bought rotisserie chicken, tomato sauce and canned diced tomatoes. Like many traditional Mexican dishes, tomatoes are an important flavor as the base of this recipe. And if you shred the chicken in advance or have some help shredding it, you’ll really have dinner ready in no time!
This tangy, slightly spicy, stewed dish originally comes from the state of Puebla and is sometimes also made with shredded beef or pork instead of chicken. Ingredients in this dish can sometimes vary slightly from family to family, but most recipes have a tomato base, call for chorizo and fresh tomatillos—all of which, when combined, lend a little umami flavor and texture to this popular dish.
Cooking with fresh, natural and quality ingredients to feed my family is very important to me and I know it’s important to you, too. I’ve used Hunt’s tomato sauce and canned tomatoes in my kitchen for several years because they’re grown in California, canned within hours of being picked, have no artificial preservatives and are 100 percent natural, so I feel good about feeding my family with healthy, natural ingredients in my recipes that call for tomatoes when they’re out of season or I don’t have time to make tomato sauce from scratch.
Paired with chipotles in adobo sauce and fresh onion, garlic, and spices you surely already keep in your pantry, this dish is sure to become a family favorite if it isn’t already a dish you eat regularly.
And the bonus? You really only need to dirty one pan to make it!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings
Tinga de pollo is a Mexican dish from Puebla with a tomato base and shredded chicken, along with chorizo, tomatillos and spices. This dish is also commonly known as tinga poblana or chicken tinga.
Serve on top of tostadas with crema mexicana and avocado (as pictured in this recipe); or with a side of rice, as tacos or inside of a quesadilla (known as tingadillas).
Get more recipes—in Spanish and English—from the Colección de recetas de Hunt’s y Kraft.
Yet I adore harissa, a Northwest African chile pepper paste with red peppers and spices and herbs such as garlic, coriander, caraway. Of course, when a condiment is used everywhere from Tunisia and Libya to Algeria and Morocco, you’re bound to find as many versions of it as there likely are people who make it, so there are recipes with cumin, lemon juice or even smoked chiles. There’s no one correct way to make it.
This high holiday season, however, I decided to audition a different chocolate babka — the stunning, twisty, glossy chocolate krantz cakes that I imagine have tempted anyone that’s opened Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. Although I was curious, I knew there was no way they could be as good. How could they be, what with only 2 1/4 ounces of dark chocolate and just over 1/2 cup of butter per loaf? It was going to taste abstemious, and wrong. Abstemious chocolate babka is wrong, wrong on a moral-ethical level, as far as I’m concerned.
This post is part of a compensated campaign with Maseca, but all opinions and the recipe here are my own.
Atoles date back to pre-Columbian times in Mexico and are well-documented as a form of sustenance amongst the Aztec and Mayan cultures. Historical texts tell us the drink was often flavored with fruits, spices or chiles.
Vanilla, strawberry and chocolate are the most common flavors of atole nowadays, but you can sometimes also find mora (blackberry; one of my favorites), nuez (pecan), pineapple, elote (sweet corn), piñon (pine nut), and many other flavors. In some areas of Mexico, you can even find savory atoles—one made with with green chile is called chileatole.
This recipe also calls for Mexican vanilla beans, which have a smooth, creamy flavor and a unique, woody spice profile that you won’t find in other varieties of vanilla beans. Did you know Mexico is considered the birthplace of vanilla? The vanilla orchid flower was first cultivated by the Totonac Indians, who were then conquered by the Aztecs. For at least several centuries after the Spaniards conquered the Aztecs, and had already brought vanilla beans back to Spain for the rest of the world to try, vanilla was still exclusively cultivated in Mexico. If you don’t have access to Mexican vanilla beans or don’t want to buy them online, you can also substitute Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans or bottled pure Mexican vanilla extract, which is available in my store.
Atoles can be made with different kinds of corn, as well: white, yellow and even blue corn can be used. And in some recipes, water or nut milk can be substituted for dairy milk.
Many Mexican markets sell store-bought atole packets that are thickened with cornstarch and take just a few minutes to make, but making your own atole from scratch with Maseca instant corn flour is so easy you’ll never want to buy one of those store-bought envelopes again. This version gives you all of the taste of atole made from scratch without having to grind your own nixtamal and turn it into masa, and then dissolve it in cheesecloth.
A note: Real vanilla bean makes a world of difference in this atole de vainilla recipe, but if you can’t find one, you can also substitute one tablespoon of vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract. If substituting pure vanilla extract, add that to the saucepan in the last five minutes of cooking and whisk to incorporate.
Depending on how sweet you like the atole, you can add three to four ounces of piloncillo. If you find that four ounces is too sweet, you can dilute the atole with another half-cup of milk.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Yield: 3 cups (4 servings)
Atole de vainilla is a traditional masa-based hot beverage, popular during the holidays, and made with milk, piloncillo, vanilla bean and Mexican cinnamon.
To substitute real Mexican vanilla bean, you can use a Madagascar Bourbon vanilla bean, or bottled pure Mexican vanilla extract. I like the Nielsen-Massey brand extract.
To substitute for real vanilla bean, use one tablespoon of vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract. If substituting pure vanilla extract, add that to the saucepan in the last five minutes of cooking and whisk to incorporate.
*Gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly recipe.
Get more ideas for recipes made with Maseca at mimaseca.com.
This post is part of a compensated campaign in collaboration with Barilla and Latina Bloggers Connect, but the recipe and all opinions here are my own.
What makes this dish different than any typical pasta dish is that the pasta is first fried, which brings out a somewhat nutty flavor in the pasta, and then is soaked in a tomato-chipotle puree to absorb the flavor. It’s cooked by baking in the oven, and when finished, the consistency is moist but not soupy.
Fideo seco can sometimes be a spicy dish, but this recipe is not too spicy; if you prefer yours on the spicy side, you can add one additional chipotle and another tablespoon of adobo sauce. You should still remove seeds and veins from the chile if you decide to add one more, as the seeds and veins are where most of the chile’s heat comes from.
I’ve used Barilla’s fideo cut in this recipe, which is a cut familiar to any Mexican or Mexican-American family—it’s the same cut used in sopa de fideo, a tomato broth soup with noodles. Barilla’s superior quality pasta means your fideo won’t stick or clump, and has a flavor that complements this traditional Mexican dish.
The best garnishes for this dish include avocado and crumbled cotija or queso añejo. You can also add cilantro for a touch of color. Some people also like to garnish with crema mexicana or julienned chipotle chiles.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Fideo seco is a Mexican pasta dish made with chipotle chile and a tomato base. The sauce soaks into the pasta, giving it a moist but not soupy consistency.
Prep time includes 15 minutes of inactive prep while the sauce soaks into the pasta before baking.
We all know Halloween is about one thing: candy. Whether you’re 13 or 30, it’s not Halloween without those delicious bite-sized morsels of sugar. In recent years, it seems that a lot of these treats (cookies included) have fallen into the same trend of offering a “candy corn” variant. From Starburst to M&M’S, even Oreo’s has ridden the yellow, orange and white-stripe wave, it either tastes like candy corn or looks like it.
This year, I’m assuming this is new since I don’t recall seeing it last year, Hershey’s joins the bandwagon with their own “candy corn” chocolate bar. Well, technically the bag calls it “candy corn creme with candy bits,” but… come on, it’s white chocolate. Or is it? Apparently, the ingredients include stuff like “wax” and “resinous glaze.” Either way, it looks like white chocolate to me with tiny particles of candy corn-colored “stuff” sprinkled in—though the bits are so small you’ll barely notice them. The bigger question is: do these bars taste like candy corn?
No, not really. That’s not a terrible thing, though. Much like Candy Corn Oreo’s these have a pungently sweet taste to them similar to a “birthday cake/icing” flavor. They’ve definitely got a creamer taste than regular chocolate and the occasional clustering of the “bits” do provide a good crunch, but really it’s like eating icing in bar form. I definitely couldn’t eat more than 2-3 at a time (trust me, I tried) without getting a little nauseous. That’s probably isn’t the best pull quote for Hershey’s marketing folks, BUT I kept eating them so they’re not terrible… or I was just really hungry. Would I buy them again? Eh, probably not until next year.****
No doubt hoping to capitalize on the success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, organization Check One Two has created the Crotch Grab Challenge hoping to raise awareness about testicular cancer and encourage men to self-examine down below. Hugh Jackman decided to lend a hand to support the cause and tweeted out the above photo signalling his acceptance of the challenge. He then nominated Niel Patrick Harris, Michael Strahan and Ricky Gervais. Gervais has already accepted and nominated William Shatner.
See Gervais' crotch grab, AFTER THE JUMP...