Cream Cheese and Nutella Pancakes {the best pancakes you’ll ever have, inspired by Valencia Luncheria}

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Yes, that’s right…Cream Cheese and Nutella. All in one bite. All in one pancake.

This morning I made the best pancakes I’ve ever had. And I just had to share it with you right away!

These pancakes are inspired by one of my favorite treats at a restaurant down the street from me in Norwalk, CT called Valencia Luncheria.

Valencia is known for their arepas and empanadas. I actually first came across this place the night I moved into my current apartment in Norwalk, CT. I had just sat down after moving all day and turned on the TV to, what else of course, Food Network. Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives was on and Guy happened to be at this place in Norwalk. What a coincidence! I knew after watching the episode that I just had to go. And the next morning that’s exactly where I ended up. Less than half a mile away to the best thing that has happened to me since moving here, Valencia Luncheria.

When you walk into Valencia you feel like you’re stepping off of the beach. Leading up to the restaurant is a sand-covered pathway and tiki torches that make you want to put on a Hawaiian skirt and do the hula. Well, maybe that’s just me. But I really would have because that’s how happy I always am after leaving this place. The decor is very similar to the theme of the restaurant, Venezuelan beach food.

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Valencia is known for their arepas. In case you’re not familiar with an arepa, it is basically a fried open-faced corn cake that can be filled with just about any combination. My favorite combinations are the “Real Deal” which is chorizo and mozzarella and I also love the “Chef “which is chipotle jalapeno cheese steak (Philly represent, what what). Their guacamole is also to die for along with their super fresh ceviche. However, Saturday and Sunday mornings are the absolute best time to check out Valencia because that’s when they have their Bloody Mary bar! Oh my goodness. They have four different kinds of tomato mixtures you can choose from, from mild to Italian to spicy, and they also have just about everything imaginable you can put into your Bloody Mary, from bacon on a stick (my fav), to sweet potatoes, olives, pickles, blocks of cheddar cheese, shrimp…just about anything! It’s truly a reason in itself to drag yourself out of bed early on a Saturday or Sunday morning. And they also make this ridiculous green secret sauce they bring out to every table. They won’t tell you what’s in it but all I can tell you is it’s creamy like an avocado, it has a kick of garlic, there’s definitely cilantro and one day it may accidentally end up falling into my purse…just saying!

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But, what I haven’t told you about yet is my absolute FAVORITE thing on their menu. Their cream cheese and Nutella empanada. A perfect combination of cream cheese and Nutella, fried in an empanada and sprinkled with powdered sugar. I usually can only get through a couple of bites at this point of the meal but I make it happen and I am always SO glad I do. And this cream cheese and Nutella empanada is exactly what inspired me to make these pancakes.

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The key to these pancakes is to stick the cream cheese in the freezer the night before. This will ensure you actually get chunks of cream cheese in every bite. Otherwise I have found if not frozen, the cream cheese will bake into the pancake and you won’t get the oozy-goodness chunks of cream cheese in each and every bite.

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And the Nutella topping adds a richness that when paired with the cream cheese, just like in the empanadas, is a crazy good mouthful that makes you keep wanting more. So good, you won’t be able to stop eating. The entire stack. Like I did. And for added texture, I sprinkled chopped walnuts on top for a nice crunch. You can use any nut you prefer, but walnuts were all I had. Make this for your boyfriend, girlfriend, mom, dad, aunt, uncle, cousin, brother, sister, husband, wife, friend, noisy neighbor who has a coughing problem (hey- that’s not a bad idea!) and they will surely love you forever. And hopefully stop coughing…

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Peanut Butter and Cream Cheese Banana Bread with Candied Bacon {and a peanut butter and cream cheese icing}

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I have an obsession with tornadoes.

I don’t know why. I don’t know where it came from. But all I know is they have always been my biggest fear and for some reason lately I just CAN’T STOP watching videos online, reading articles and scientific websites and watching Tornado Road and Storm Chasers on TV. Since I was little I’ve always been deathly afraid of thunderstorms because I somehow convinced myself a thunderstorm would automatically lead to a tornado. I’d be playing softball and it would start to storm and I’d get hit by the ball because I’d be too busy looking at the clouds trying to seek out a funnel cloud. When a severe thunderstorm warning would come on the bottom of the TV screen I’d make my mom go hide in the basement with me. One summer when I was in Virginia with my teen travel camp I hid under the sink because there was a tornado watch. And, the worst of it all, the only nightmares I ever seem to have involve tornadoes, and I’ve been having TONS of nightmares lately.

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Now, if you Google dreams and tornadoes you will find that they sometimes mean you’ve lost control of your life and are feeling overwhelmed. I can’t tell you how accurate this is to my life right now. Sure there has been a lot going on in the country with tornadoes lately and that’s all that has been in the news the past couple of weeks. But I’ve also been in a weird place the past few months. Maybe because I’ve been feeling so stagnant, bored, in need of a challenge, itching to travel and hike up a mountain. Or maybe because my roommate and closest friend in Connecticut moved across the country and it’s taking time to adjust. Or maybe because I’m trying to figure out my next move and make some big life-changing decisions- and that all scares and excites me. I’m not really sure what it is exactly BUT what I am sure of, is out of all this tornado hype something good evolved. Something more than good. Something INCREDIBLE.

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The most delicious tornado went off in my kitchen this weekend. I made a Peanut Butter and Cream Cheese Banana Bread with Candied Bacon.

Yes, that’s right. Peanut butter, cream cheese and candied bacon, all in one. And, to add to the amazingness? Topped with a peanut butter and cream cheese icing.

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Candied bacon has to be one of the best things I’ve ever had in life. The sweetness and chewiness of the maple syrup and brown sugar when it caramelizes mixed with the spiciness of the cayenne pepper and the saltiness and crispiness of the bacon. All the best textures and flavors in one. So good, I ate half of it before it actually made its way into the batter.

Now I have to say, I’ve been on a major peanut butter and banana kick lately. Which is what inspired me to add the peanut butter to the banana bread. I must go through a jar of peanut butter a week! I know it’s not that good for you (everything in moderation) but I can’t seem to just stop after one spoonful. But who cares, it tastes so good! That’s what the gym is for, right?! Except when you eat peanut butter right before a run…I don’t recommend it. And bananas, I can’t stop baking with them! In pancakes, cookies, breads. But at last, I combined all my loves into one, creating the most delicious, moist and flavorful banana bread yet. And a tornado in my kitchen while doing so. And it was all SO worth it. You must try it!

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