Queso Critique – Polvos

It seems like the last few posts I’ve written have included an announcement of some sort – new jobs, big moves, confessions of murderous rage, etc. Well, hold onto your hats because another one’s coming:

My queso quest is coming to an end. Sort of.

Deep breaths. It’s okay to cry. I’ll pause for a second so you can grab some tissues.

In a couple of months, my same-named cheese-friend/co-cheese-judge/co-cheese-conspirator Amanda is moving  quite far from this area – to a place in Texas where wildflowers are scarce, but love of queso is still plentiful. To a place so far away, that if I were to take a horse-drawn carriage to visit her, it’d take me at least a fortnight to get there.

Sadly, the distance will make it too difficult for us to keep reviewing on a regular basis, so we’ve decided to press the “pause” button on the project for now. It’s not a full stop, because there may still be occasional reviews when one of us visits the other.

Before you get concerned about me experiencing dangerous cheese withdrawals, I assure you that I’ll continue eating fermented dairy at a frequency that the medical community would find concerning.

With all the sad stuff said, Amanda and I decided that one more queso review was necessary before she moves. She and her kids visited me for a weekend of adventures, and in between touring beloved Austin sites, we squeezed in a visit to Polvos. Before leaving my apartment for the day, her kids performed an impromptu (and rather unprofessional) video interview of the queso judges.

At the restaurant, we quickly ordered the Choriqueso, and then cheerfully sang along with the music, which unexpectedly featured a lot of Beatles songs for a Tex-Mex place. I hear that Ringo was a big fan of enchiladas and carne guisada, so this makes perfect sense.

Here’s a beauty portrait of the queso when it arrived. Swoon.

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As we munched, Amanda and I began reminiscing on our cheese journey and all the quesos we’ve been experienced thus far. We decided that despite the variation in scoring, these dishes all fall into one of three categories:

  • So disappointing that I want to cry into the bowl, which isn’t a terrible idea, as the salt from my tears might make it taste better
  • Enjoyable, and would order again, but is not all that memorable
  • So delectable that I want to eat whatever this cheese touches, including the napkin and my own face

I’ll cut to the chase: the queso at Polvos falls in that middle category with a score of 3.8. It was of the baked flameado style, which is dear to our hearts. This variety  is meant to be lovingly scooped and coaxed into tortillas, and the consistency of this dish was perfect for that task. There was also no shortage on meat and poblano peppers, which provided lots of flavor.

However, the cheese in this dish was quite mild and didn’t provide much flavor of its own, which kept it from reaching that elusive 4-point rating. It doesn’t stand out like the ones above it do.

Still, not a bad queso to pause our journey on!

To read up on our specific judging criteria, OR to see a ranked list of all the quesos we tried, visit Queso Scoring.

 

Queso Critique – Texas Chili Parlor

It’s been many a fortnight since my friend and I have gone on a queso quest, so we decided to pay a little visit to the Texas Chili Parlor on Saturday night. For anyone who may not know, my friend Amanda and I taste-test chips and queso at different restaurants in the Austin, Texas area. We judge the melty cheese on its consistency and flavor, and give it a score between 0 and 5.

Texas Chili Parlor is set in the spleen of downtown Austin, so naturally, our mission began with a $20 parking garage fee.  Don’t you hate parking garages? They suck you in, spin you in circles, and then spit you out on the opposite side of the building, so you have no idea where you are. They’re like concrete tornados. They’re also creepy and shadowy and murdery.

Not once have I died in a parking garage, but I’m pretty convinced that it’ll happen one day.

After leaving the concrete pit of doom, we had a short walk to the bar, which turned out to be the diviest dives of all the dives. The word “parlor” makes me think of wicker furniture and china tea sets – and this place was the exact opposite of that, complete with a flickering Bud Light sign, and a painted mural of a jungle scene. It was perfect. To add to the ambiance, a giant TV was playing the University of Texas football game, and every time they scored, the bar blared the UT fight song from the speakers. Luckily, this didn’t happen often… if you get what I’m saying.

The menu offered several different types of chili, made with various forms of animal flesh. Upon our server’s advice, we ordered our queso containing the Red XX chili, and anxiously awaited its arrival.

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Hey, Queso. How YOU doin’?

Before we mixed the chili and queso together in righteous harmony, it was important to take a few bites with only cheese. You know, for science. We both agreed that the queso had a nice cheesy flavor, but no spice. It was also rather drippy in consistency. Sans chili, this dish would’ve been ho-hum.

But the bites with chili and cheese together? An extravaganza of yum. The meat was clearly the star of the show, but the cheese was a respectable accompaniment, and together, they created beautiful music. All of my troubles melted away. I forgot all about the concrete tornado. I didn’t even touch my margarita after the food came, which should show you how distracted and in love I was.

I was fighting to keep from eating it like a soup.

This wasn’t our first experience with chili-filled queso, but this is the only one that really counts in our hearts. We gave Texas Chili Parlor an impressive 3.9 score.

The deliciousness didn’t stop there. Feeling adventurous, Amanda and I decided to order two different kinds of the Chili Mac & Cheese – one with Venison, and one with White Pork – so that we didn’t have to leave having tried only one type. Both chilis came with beans, which goes against the usual Texas tradition, though I’m not sure why.

Probably, our state just doesn’t want food to be nutritious in even the slightest of ways.

We tasted our own orders, and then quickly traded bowls and tried each other’s. It was practically an orgy of chili and cheese. If you’re disturbed by that thought, then you’ll feel even weirder to know that things got a little sweaty. No, seriously, the place was pretty warm already, and then with all the spicy chili we consumed, we got hot.

The food doesn’t look that beautiful, and the terrible lighting makes it look even worse – but it certainly tasted beautiful. The White Pork and Red XX were our favorites, with the Venison one proving somewhat inferior, yet still tasty. I will definitely be back to this place. Possibly tomorrow.

 

I usually post a link to the restaurant’s website, but the classy parlor doesn’t have one. If you’re new to my blog, visit The Reason for the Cheesin to understand this cheesy project.

Winner Winner – TWO Chicken Dinners

One of the best things about living alone is that you can eat whatever you want, and however much you want, and in whatever clothes you want, without someone else around to ruin the ambiance with their disapproving looks. As a side note, this is also a downside of living alone.

I’ve recently started on an eating plan (not to be confused with a weight loss plan) where I eat multiple dinners a night. Lots of people swear by eating 5-6 small meals or snacks a day – but this isn’t what I’ve been doing. I eat a normal-sized breakfast at 8, a normal-sized lunch at 12, and then TWO normal-sized dinners in the evening. Sometimes the dinners happen back to back, and sometimes they’re more spread out. I suppose it’s not so much an eating “plan” as it is an eating happening.

And I’m not going to lie, I’ve been enjoying it.

It started out innocently enough. One day, I ate breakfast really late in the morning, so I skipped lunch, and then found myself starving at 4:00. I decided to go ahead and eat an early dinner like the elderly person I am. Three and a half hours later, I was hungry again, and helped myself to another meal. It didn’t seem all that unreasonable.

The next day,  I ate on a more regular schedule, but when dinnertime came around, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted taco salad or nachos – so I ate both.

THAT’S RIGHT, BOTH.

Another day, I ate a chicken sandwich before I was due to babysit my friend’s daughter, because I wasn’t sure if she would’ve already eaten or not. When I got there, I learned she hadn’t eaten, and  she requested leftover pizza. So I ate some with her. It was the polite thing to do.

I realized days ago that I was headed down a problematic path, but I seem powerless to stop it.

At least twice, I’ve had a reasonably nutritious dinner cooking on my stove, and am suddenly overcome with a wave of hunger so powerful, that I’m convinced I will faint away from fatigue before my meal will finish cooking. If that happened, I’d probably knock the pan over on my way down, causing the lava-hot food to scald me and then fuse permanently to my skin. It happens. Probably. The paramedics would arrive to find me unconscious and pantsless, with bits of food stuck to my face and arms. It’d be traumatizing for them.

In order to avoid that whole scenario, I thought it best to curb my ravenous hunger by eating something else while Dinner #2 finished cooking. And that’s how I found myself eating Dinner #1 while hunched over the sink like a guilty rodent.

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Look, the US Constitution says nothing about how many dinners a person can have, or how healthy they have to be. I will exercise my American right to take advantage of that loophole! Plus, let’s face it, if this were all happening closer to the holiday season, my overeating would practically be fashionable. It’d be RESPECTED. But no, it’s early October, so gorging myself on fatty foods is suddenly “unhealthy” and “concerning.”

You know that cliché that says that the first step to making a change is to admit you have a problem? Well, they’re wrong. I admitted early on that eating two dinners is not normal or necessary, and yet, nothing changed.

As it turns out, the true first step toward change comes with the realization that your clothes suddenly fit more snugly. Step #2 is waking up one morning to discover that you feel ill and gross and walrus-like. I’m ready for change, but I’m unclear how to go about it. My plan right now is to spend a couple of weeks on a desert island, where my meals will consist mainly of coconuts and raw monkey. I clearly won’t want two dinners there.

Anyway, I shall miss you all. Send tacos. ❤

Has anyone else ever found themselves eating multiple meals like this, or perhaps indulging much more often than you normally do? What made you realize you needed to change? What did you do to help yourself get back on track?

Failure of Flapjacks

Back in August, I told you fine humans about a pancake contest I had entered. Austin’s beloved Kerbey Lane Café challenged area bloggers to create an original recipe using the restaurant’s own pancake mix.

As a fan of pancakes, and an even bigger fan of Kerbey, I was totally up for this challenge. I spent weeks brainstorming and attempting various concoctions before finally settling on three recipes to submit. Last week, the contest participants were emailed the results, and it turns out…

(Drumroll please)

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I didn’t win. Womp womp.

But you know what? NOT WOMP WOMP. Yes, I entered a pancake contest and lost. Yes, I’m apparently a failure at flapjacks. But I had a lot of fun creating different things, and I got to eat a lot of yummy creations along the way. In this particular case, failure tastes pretty flippin’ good.

Get it? Flippin’, like in flipping pancakes? No, DON’T YOU DARE close out of this post! You have to give me this terrible joke. It’ll be worth it in the end.

I thought my fellow food lovers might enjoy taking a stab at one of my recipes and experiencing the pancakey joy for yourselves. It was tough to decide which one to share, but the one I’m ultimately going with is the only one that contains cheese, and this blog is pretty devoted to dairy, if you haven’t already figured that out, but even if you’re new here, you probably noticed that this blog has cheese in the name, albeit in a different language, but it’s food-related foreign language, so I don’t think that even counts, and I’m starting to run out of things to say, but this is a spectacularly long run-on sentence and I kinda want to keep rambling just to see how long I can keep it going, but by now you’ve probably skipped over this giant paragraph in order to get to the good stuff, and I have to understand, because I also have a short attention span when it comes to food, so for your sake and mine, I’ll stop, but for the record, if you’ve made it to the end of this disaster, that is really quite impressive, and you totally deserve to make pancakes for yourself now.

Whew.

Here is the Kerbey Cristo Sandwich (named for its similarity to the Monte Cristo Sandwich). Take a look at this baby.

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Stop it! Stop licking your computer screen! You’ll frighten the children.

This recipe calls for Kerbey’s pancake mix, but you can definitely substitute any other brand of mix. I mean, probably. I haven’t actually tried it, so the measurements might be slightly off, but it’s not like the pancakes will explode or anything. Maybe. I don’t know for sure.

Liability release: if your food or kitchen appliances explode from using the wrong kind of pancake mix, you can’t sue me, or Kerbey Lane, or WordPress. You can still sue the internet though.

If you give this recipe a try, please let me know what you think!! If enough of you like it, maybe we can assemble an army of righteous pancake fans, and show up at the contest  judges’ houses with fire and pitchforks. Or we could all just sit down and eat some pancakes together. Either way’s fine.

Kerbey Cristo Pancakes

 1 cup Kerbey Lane Café Buttermilk Pancake Mix
¾ cup milk
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
2 slices of Hormel Applewood Smoked ham
2-4 slices of cheese (American, Cheddar, and Gruyere all work great)
1 tablespoon butter

Whisk the first four ingredients away to a romantic night in Cancun. Kidding. Just whisk them in a small bowl until batter is free of lumps. Lightly grease a large pan or griddle with nonstick spray and place over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, measure ¼ cup of batter for each pancake and pour it on the pan. There should be enough batter for 4 pancakes.

Cook pancakes until the tops look dry and a few of the bubbles pop. Flip the pancakes over and cook for another couple of minutes until both sides have obtained that perfect summer tan. Transfer pancakes onto a plate, but do not turn off heat.

Slather butter on the pancakes and place one cake butter-side down on the hot pan. Lay on a slice of your favorite cheese and then slap on some ham, because darn it, you’re a nice person and nice people deserve ham! If you’re feeling daring, throw on another slice of fermented dairy product and top with a second pancake, butter-side up.

Grill until bottom pancake is crisp and browned. Flip sandwich over and continue grilling until cheese is melted and attractively gooey. (Pancakes will not have the same “grilled” appearance to them that traditional grilled cheese sandwiches have, but they’ll be beautiful in their own way.) Repeat steps to make the second sandwich.

Transport sandwiches to a plate and attack them down the middle with a knife. Pause for a moment to admire the cheese as it oozes out. Chow down on your cheesy, hammy sammich. Share it with someone else, if you’re feeling particularly generous.

 

 

 

September Remembered

It seems like September is a hard month for a lot of people. Green Day hates the month so much, they want to sleep through the whole thing and not wake up until it’s over.

But in my little neck of the woods, September is (mostly) splendid. Rather than simply telling you about it, I think the photos and screenshots I’ve taken on my phone over the past 30 (well, 28) days will paint a pretty good picture.

Warning: this post contains some vague and confusing nudity.    

September 3
While watching Silver Linings Playbook, I realized that young Bradley Cooper bares a strikingly creepy resemblance to a person I used to be quite close with, but now haven’t spoken to in 6 years. That guy’s probably in prison by now. Not even kidding.  Just to clarify, it’s the former friend who’s probably in prison –  not Bradley Cooper. I mean, Bradley Cooper COULD be in prison right now, I don’t really know.

How much do ANY of us know about him, really?

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September 4
Celebrated my mom’s birthday weekend with lots of mother-daughter shenanigans. Happy Birthday, Cheese Mom! Sorry for any blog-related shame I’ve brought you, and will continue to bring you, for an indefinite period of time!

Also, thank you for providing such good material.

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Yes, her shirt does say “Nope.” I like to to think she takes after me.

September 9
I completed all of my clinical hours for FULL licensure as a professional counselor (as opposed to a lowly counselor intern). First, I celebrated in my office with a mini dance party,  which was witnessed by a bewildered handyman walking by.

Later, I celebrated with potatoes and pretty drinks, just like our forefathers would have wanted.

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September 10
I began a new and weird research project about personality disorders. It was a slow start.

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September 11
I admitted that I am powerless against the mighty Cheeto.

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September 12
Happy Birthday to one of my best friends, who will always and forever be 12 days older than I am, which I will hold over her until the day I die. Or until the day she dies, since she’s so much older and wrinklier.

Rather than putting up a picture of her, I have included this drawing that I made of her when we were 10. She’s the only one with hair.

I don’t know who all the bald people are, or why everyone’s naked. I’m now a little concerned about my 10-year-old self.

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September 16
Celebrated my birthday (early) at an outdoor bar. Bacon-covered cheese and alcoholic beverages were involved. So were dogs. Lots and lots of dogs.

September6.jpg.

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September 22
These birthday presents from mah cheese wife and her kids do a pretty good job of demonstrating my personality. You’re looking at a dolphin nightshirt and a tortilla warmer with a chicken on it. In the past, I’ve used foil to keep my tortillas warm, like some kind of miserable peasant. Now, not only will my carb vehicles be kept toasty, they will look good while doing it. This festive feathery bastard is really going to liven things up in my kitchen.

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A note to my friends and family:  please refrain from buying me chicken-themed  items in the future. The fact that I like this particular chicken does not mean I wish to start hoarding them.

September 24
At last, my birthday! I went shopping, ate too many treats, and petted some more dogs. Needless to say, it was a pretty excellent day.

It’s been a whirlwind 30 (okay, 28) days of festivities, food, and fur babies! It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been just nice enough to make me forget about that whole persistent eyelid infection thing. Which I still have, you guys. I’m going to need some more Cheetos.

Things I’d Rather Meditate About

If you’ve ever done a guided meditation, you’ve probably noticed that the meditation leaders (is that what they’re called? Do those people have an official title?) encourage the listeners to focus their minds on positive, calming things. Typically, you’re supposed to repeat affirmations in your head, or think about the places where you feel safe and happy.  Oftentimes, they ask you to reflect on what you’re grateful for in your life.

That’s all well and good. It’s good to be grateful. It’s good to focus on the things that are going well in my life. It’s good to have a positive attitude.

It’s good.

It’s also a bit of a snooze fest.

During a typical day, we use up 92.7% of our brain power* thinking about plenty of stuff that we don’t really want to think about – bills, paperwork, rogue political candidates, etc. So, if we’re going to use the remaining 7.3% of our mental energy* on meditating, on just sitting still and focusing our minds on something, then that something should be really good, right? Things that make us glad to be alive. Stuff that brings us genuine comfort, or puts a smile on our faces.

*made up statistics

These are the kinds of things I’d rather meditate about:

  1. The smell, sight, and taste of chocolate. Candy bars. Cookies. Ice cream. Brownies. I feel calm already.
  1. The sensation of having my back scratched, or my hair washed.
  1. My own private island: Weather that’s warm enough for swimming, but isn’t too hot. Crystal-clear water. A chimpanzee with bartending skills. A hammock to lie in, but not the kind where your elbow or knee falls through the hole and you get stuck.
  1. What it’d feel like to sink into a bathtub filled with warm mashed potatoes. You heard me.
  1. Sam and Dean Winchester.
  1. The inner peace that washes over me when I walk into a used book store and find that they have a large clearance section.
  1. The delightful, if foolish, idea of Tina Fey discovering my blog, becoming a huge fan of my weird posts, and offering me a job.
  1. The feeling of slipping under a thick, warm comforter on a cold winter night.
  1. The utter joy of being locked in a room with 19 baby corgis.

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I asked the people I know to try meditating about the things that bring them joy in their lives, be they attractive celebrities, the sound of children’s laughter, or the smell of sharpies. No judgment here. Then, I asked the “meditators” to share with me their personal results from this challenge.

These are actual testimonies from the meditation participants:

“Five minutes of meditating about kittens cured my adult acne forever!” – best friend

“I no longer have kidney disease!” – relative

“My spouse stopped cheating on me, and we’re no longer getting a divorce!” – boss

Do you meditate when you need to de-stress or improve your mood? If you were to liven up your meditations, what sorts of things would you think about? Even if you don’t meditate, what kinds of things would you reflect on if you did?

Queso Critique – Lupe Tortilla

Lupe Tortilla – Austin, TX

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

When shopping near a Mexican food restaurant that might potentially serve you queso, enter said restaurant, demand piles of cheese, and write a review for your blog.

That second phrase may not be as catchy as the first one, but it’s great advice.

Saturday, I ran errands around Austin, eventually meeting up with my fellow cheeseketeer at a mall, where she was shopping for school clothes with her kids. The trio was tired and in need of sustenance, and I’m rarely one to turn down delicious foodstuffs, so we all decided that Mexican food was in order.

The wonders of the Internet lead us to a nearby restaurant called Lupe Tortilla. After being seated at a table with a sombrero light fixture, we ordered a bowl of Chile con Queso with taco meat, mentally patting ourselves on the back for ordering the regular size, instead of the large. We’re such health nuts.

As we waited for the food, we sat back to admire the restaurant’s ant-pig-gecko-swordfish theme. Take a moment to let that artistry soak into your brain.

Nonsensical? Probably. Festive? Definitely.

Before we get into the queso review, I want you to see this picture of four tiny baby fajitas that the restaurant gave us just for being first-time patrons:

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I felt overly affectionate toward these little guys. Their cuteness had me wanting to wrap them up and take them home with me to keep forever in a special refrigerated shadow box.

On the other hand, their deliciousness had me wanting to shove my friend’s kids out of the way, so I could devour the fetus fajitas on my own.

Soon after polishing off my one fajita, the queso arrived:

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Amanda’s ravenous and cheese-loving children were eager to offer perfect scores, but my friend and I exchanged dubious glances. The queso had a decent consistency – it was liquidy, but not  too runny. It also had a nice level of spice, and the meat was relatively flavorful.

However, we were 100% convinced that this queso was made primarily of Velveeta, or one of its spongy cousins. To be fair, Velveeta is probably added to many of the quesos we’ve tasted,  because it lends a creamier texture. BUT, ideally, the dish should still taste like some kind of real, actual cheese. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

It’s just cheddar that way.

We settled on a score of 3 for Lupe Tortilla’s Chile con Queso. All in all, we found the dish to be stable, but not amazing. In other words, it was the exact opposite of Britney Spears.

The reason for the cheesin’

Queso scoring

Lupe Tortilla’s website

Ten Truths Behind the Lie

If you were to call or text me on a Sunday morning and ask what I’m up to, the answer would probably be, “Oh, not much.” Or, “Just watching TV.” But that response would usually be a lie.

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I’m often doing something somewhat more riveting, but I fear that the truth would frighten you away, so I give a generic and bland response.  The downside of answering this way is that you might think I’m dull and uneventful, but at least you don’t question my mental stability. I call that a win.

In the interest of being more honest, I will now come clean to you all about my Sunday morning lie. If I were to answer your question about my activities more truthfully, my response could look like any one of these:

  1. “Eating cinnamon toast in my underwear.”
  1. “Lying in bed, looking at Twitter, and making eagle noises.”
  1. “Trying to get pancake syrup out of my pajama top.”
  1. “Singing ‘She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain’ with a gravelly, Louis-Armstrong-like warble.”
  1. “Facebook-stalking myself. I’m really quite fascinating.”
  1. “Meowing to the tune of the ‘The Waltz of the Sugar Plum Fairy.’”
  1. “Reading a book in a British accent.”
  1. “Making up a song about chickens.”
  1. “Watching a Youtube video of a golden retriever playing the drums. He’s better on the cow bell.”
  1. “Trying to get pancake syrup out of my sock. Don’t ask.”

You may have noticed that most of my Sunday morning festivities involve either food, or making some sort of obnoxious sound. That observation is completely accurate. Pigging out and being annoying are two of the many perks of living alone.

Anyway, if I were to text YOU on a Sunday morning and ask what you were up to, what kind of reply would I get? Do you spend time with family? Go on an early-morning jog? Eat foods drenched in syrup?

The Angel of Pancakes

 

Months ago, I did a queso review of Kerbey Lane Café in Austin, Texas. Kerbey is a bit of an institution in this area –  nowhere else can you eat queso-covered eggs, follow them with a fried-chicken-and-pancake combo, and then wash it all down with a $2 mimosa. For the lazy and hungover hermits of the world who can’t be bothered to put on pants and go out for their food, Kerbey even sells their very own pancake mix in local grocery stores.

To my eccentric glee, the restaurant recently challenged Austin-area bloggers to create an original recipe using the beloved Kerbey pancake mix. The recipe could be savory or sweet, pancake or non-pancake, as long as it contained any flavor of their mixes.

As you can probably guess, I’ve been a pancake-making monster over the past few weeks. Well, let’s face it. Someone who spends a lot of time making piles of pancakes is no monster. I’m a pancake-making SAINT.

A breakfast food humanitarian.

I’ve come up with different concoctions by flinging random ingredients into the batter and taste-testing it until it seemed remotely edible. Then, I’ve carefully poured the batter onto a hot skillet, or shoved it into a hot oven, and left it there until it successfully bloomed into something else. I’ve even taken careful notes of the way the results looked and tasted and smelled, so that I could more efficiently alter the recipes for improvement.

Forget sainthood, I was like a pancake-making mad scientist.

Take a look at the chemical combinations I created in the lab over the course of a month:

I attempted to de-sweetify the pancakes by adding savory ingredients…

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I created a s’more-like dessert using a blondie, marshmallow, and chocolate icing (and instantly developed diabetes after one bite)…

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Then, I made a peanut butter bar topped with, once again, chocolate icing. Simply looking at this one will give you 8.5 cavities…

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Taking a break from the sweets, I made some cheesy, garlicky biscuits that had the look and texture of cheesy, garlicky dryer lint…

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As Monica Geller’s mom would say – It did not taste good.

All in all, I probably made around 10 different creations before finally hitting the FLAPJACK JACKPOT. Say that five times fast.

I’ve submitted the recipes and photos for these three beauties:

Caramel-pecan pancakes topped with…well…chocolate icing again. Stick with what you know, ya know?

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Grilled ham-and-cheese pancake-for-bread sandwich, which has a terrible name, but tastes similar to a Monte Cristo sandwich. A beautiful marriage of sweet and savory.

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Peanut Butter Bars, now sans chocolate icing…

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The winner will receive a $250 gift card to Kerbey Lane Café. I tried to tell myself that I was doing this contest for the simple fun of it, and to not get my hopes up, but then my queso-and-mimosa-loving little heart collided with my irrational competitive streak, and now I really want to win.

Cross your fingers for me! And also maybe your legs. You know what? Just go ahead and cross all of your body parts for me, including your eyes and lungs and toe nails. I need all the luck I can get!

Have you ever participated in a cooking contest before? How did it go? If you were doing this pancake contest, what kinds of recipes and combinations would you have tried?

Queso Palooza

One kabillion years from now, when I look back on my career, the work accomplishment I think I’ll be most proud of will be the time that I somehow convinced multiple coworkers to bring me different types of cheese.

Let me set the scene for you. Almost every month, my agency has a potluck lunch to celebrate any employees’ birthdays that occurred during that month. Knowing how much my cheese wife and I adore queso, someone made a harmless-but-genius joke back in June that the next potluck should be queso-themed.

Amanda and I immediately latched on to this idea as though it were a life preserve and we were drowning in the ocean. Our eyes got big. We clapped our hands. We bounced up and down. The joke-maker tried to take her suggestion back, but at this point, it was too late. The toothpaste was already out of the tube.

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The Queso Palooza potluck finally rolled around last Wednesday. Five generous coworkers brought their own beloved queso creations and set up camp in the kitchen. Crockpots occupied every available electrical outlet. Bags of chips were poured into bowls. Some clever human even brought cheesecake for dessert.

It was a lot like how the Mayans used to please their gods by making animal sacrifices. Only, instead of gods, my coworkers were trying to impress two cheese-crazed humans. And instead of animal sacrifices, there were just cheese offerings.

So, to sum it up, it was nothing like the Mayans.

Amanda and I gathered samples of each cheese and sequestered ourselves in the conference room to conduct our official judging business. Regretfully, I was too hypnotized by all the quesos to remember to take pictures of them. But I did take diligent notes!

Queso #1 got us off to an excellent start with a smooth, creamy consistency that didn’t harden even as it cooled. Queso #2 contained white cheese (which we tend to prefer) and poblano peppers.

Appearance-wise, Queso #3 looked more like a chili than a queso, with its liquidy consistency and big chunks of onion and peppers. But it was very flavorful. Like the mad scientists we are, we mixed Quesos #3 and #1 together and found success.

Quesos #4 and #5 were the unique ones of the bunch, as #4 was the only one to be broiled in a skillet (and involve Gouda), and #5 was the only one to contain meat.

All of the quesos had their strengths and weaknesses, but the two we couldn’t stop snacking on were #1 and #4. We ended up awarding the grand prize trophy to Queso #4, which turned out to have been cooked by our supervisor. She triumphantly celebrated her victory.

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Awarded to “The Big Cheese”

Also, I feel like I should mention that all participants were given scratch-off tickets as a thank-you for humoring us, so at least we’re somewhat appreciative gods  cheese-crazed humans.

If you were having a potluck meal and could pick the theme, what would you go with? Breakfast foods? Desserts? Various quesos?

The Reason for the Cheesin’