Tag Archives: pork

CLEAN* Copycat Cafe Rio Pork Salad!

Clean eating | Nut-free | Gluten-free option

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This past weekend was General Conference for our Church: one of two weekends a year when our prophet and other Church leaders speak to members worldwide about how to be better Christians, better parents, better spouses, better neighbors, better people. These are times we look forward to a great deal, but it’s a lot of listening to lots of talks for small kids to process, so we’ve found small rituals that help them look forward to it too. One is the food. It’s like the Mormon Super Bowl: cinnamon rolls for breakfast, snacks during the sessions, Chick-Fil-A picnic lunch on the living room floor (the only time this is allowed), and Cafe Rio pork salads.

Cafe Rio (and its copycat/competitor Costa Vida, which we personally prefer slightly) is an institution in Utah and other areas with a high LDS population. Their pork barbacoa salads were one of my favorite foods when we lived there. In fact, when I had a medical problem requiring me to be on blood thinners for several months, my biggest concern wasn’t all the needle pokes every week to check my levels (though it was that too); it was the fact that I couldn’t have leafy greens, and that meant no Cafe Rio salads! And then we moved away and I haven’t had one in SIX YEARS.

So I started finding and making copycat recipes every General Conference. But have you seen some of those recipes? Half a bottle of Coke, a cup of brown sugar? That nasty Ranch dressing powder? Sugar in the rice, even? Even before I started eating clean it kinda grossed me out and left me feeling sluggish and dissatisfied.

So this time around I found clean* versions. I add the asterisk because the pork contains canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, and the dressing does contain mayonnaise, so they are not 100% clean. But they feel and taste a heck of a lot better than the other ones I’ve found. I will say that the pork by itself doesn’t taste like what I remember (go figure, since it doesn’t have Coke and brown sugar in it), but put the whole thing together and it really brings back the memories! We had the missionaries over for the Saturday afternoon session this weekend, and one of them gave me the award of “best meal so far on his mission!” So there’s your official unbiased review from a real born-and-bred Utahn.

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork

Original recipe here

  • 3 1/2 to 4 lb. pork loin roast
  • 28 oz. diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 chipotle chilies (from canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce; freeze the rest for later)
  • 1 Tbsp. coarse Kosher salt
  • up to 1 Tbsp. chili powder (it was plenty of heat for us with about 2/3 Tbsp.)
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup honey (increase to 1/2 cup if you want it sweeter, but it tastes great not as sweet as the real 6,000-calorie thing)
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  1. Trim excess fat off of the pork and cut into 2 or 3 large pieces if it’s excessively large. Place in your Crock Pot and turn it on high.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour over the roast in the Crock Pot and cook 5-6 hours on high.
  3. Shred pork with 2 forks and return to slow cooker for at least 20 minutes to absorb the sauce.

Cilantro Lime Brown Rice

Adapted from here

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 2-4 Tbsp. lime juice, to taste
  • 1 drop lime essential oil (or 1 tsp. lime zest)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  1. Bring water and chicken broth to boil. Add rice, salt, and cumin, cover, and reduce heat.
  2. Simmer 45 minutes, until rice is tender and the moisture is absorbed.
  3. Add juice, essential oil, and cilantro, fluff with fork, and keep covered until ready to serve.

Cafe Rio Black Beans – triples or quadruples easily for a crowd!

Original recipe here

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/3 cups tomato juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro (1 Tbsp. dried works great in a pinch, if you’re like me and make these all the time but don’t have fresh on hand all the time)
  1. Heat oil in a large pot on medium heat. Saute garlic and cumin until fragrant.
  2. Add beans, tomato juice, and salt, (dried cilantro, too, if you’re using dried instead of fresh) and simmer until heated through. I prefer to let it go for 10-20 minutes so that it thickens.
  3. Stir in fresh cilantro before serving.

Cafe Rio Tomatillo Ranch Dressing

Original recipe here

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (make your own! Put less than a Tbsp. white vinegar in the bottom of a measuring cup and fill with milk to 3/4 cup, then let sit several minutes)
  • 3/4 cup mayo (NOT Miracle Whip. Also, you could try a “cleaner,” European-style mayonnaise, but I’m betting it won’t taste right.)
  • 2 small tomatillos, quartered
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 Tbsp. fresh dill (or a scant tsp. dried)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley (or a Tbsp. dried)
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. ground mustard
  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.

Assemble the salad:

Top a whole-grain  or gluten-free tortilla with the rice, beans, and pork. Top with romaine lettuce, and dress with dressing, Mexican or cojita cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole, tortilla strips–whatever you want to make it awesome!

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Easy Pulled Pork Sandwiches.

I printed this recipe off a long time ago, while I was getting paid to stare at a computer screen 40 hours a week, from an online community that I don’t think exists anymore. The date on the bottom of the printout says 3/28/2008. And I never made it! It sat neglected in my recipe binder for one reason:

Molasses.

So I finally broke down & bought the $1.28 bottle & made these. Can you believe that it took me three & a half years?

(Note: This smells very vinegar-y while it’s in the slow cooker, so I expected a Carolina-type sauce, but it’s actually quite mild.)

From the Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Slow Cooker cookbook

  • 3 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 4 lbs. boneless pork shoulder cut into 3 equal pieces
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light molasses
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottom pan. Brown both sides of the pork & transfer to the slow cooker. Saute the onion in the oil until golden.
  2. Add vinegar & deglaze the pan, then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring it just to a boil.
  3. Pour sauce over pork. Cover; cook on high 4-5 hours or low 8-10 hours.
  4. Shred the pork on a separate plate & discard any pieces of fat. Skim grease from the sauce, then return the pork to the sauce, stir to combine, & serve on rolls.
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Copycat Cafe Rio.

When I was pregnant with The Munchkin, I craved Mexican food ALL THE TIME. We were living in Indiana, where the owners of Mexican restaurants seemed to hail from no further south than North Dakota, so when we headed west to visit family for Christmas, I gorged on as much as I could. One of my favorite places is Cafe Rio. No, not authentic Mexican, but at least they don’t try to pass off Italian tomato sauce as salsa. (I wish I were joking about that.)

Maybe we’ve been living without good Mexican — or at least a Del Taco — for too long now, but the Mexican cravings are much less frequent this time around.

Still, when Mommy needs her Cafe Rio, SHE NEEDS her Cafe Rio.

Now, like I said, it’s been awhile since we’ve eaten there, so I really couldn’t tell you how close this comes to the real thing. But the copycat J-Dawgs sauce has been such a hit among fellow former Provo-dwellers that I thought I’d put this one out there for more people to try. Tweaks from people who’ve had the real thing more recently are appreciated.

I’m lifting this almost exactly from Favorite Family Recipes. Go there to find her black bean recipe too; I didn’t have the energy to make one more component just to satisfy a craving, especially since I always order my salads with no beans anyway.

Sweet Pork Barbacoa:

  • 2 lbs. pork
  • 3 cans regular — not DietCoke (caffeine-free, of course! ;-)). Our local grocery store sells 2-liter bottles of caffeine-free cola for 98 cents! So I just do that.
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar, divided
  • sprinkle of garlic salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 can diced green chilies
  • 3/4 can red enchilada sauce (Old El Paso, medium)
  1. Marinate pork inside a gallon Ziploc bag with about 18 oz. of Coke & 1/4 cup of brown sugar, a few hours or overnight.
  2. Drain marinade. Place pork in the bottom of a slow cooker. Add 6 oz. of Coke & the water. Sprinkle garlic salt over the top. Cook on high 3-4 hours, until it shreds easily.
  3. Remove the pork, drain liquid in the slow cooker, & shred the pork.
  4. In a blender or food processor, blend 6 oz. Coke with the green chilies, enchilada sauce, & remaining brown sugar. Add more brown sugar &/or Coke to suit your taste & ideal consistency.
  5. Add shredded pork & sauce to slow cooker. Cook on low 2 hours.

Cilantro-Lime Rice:

  • 1 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. lime juice
  • 1 can (15 oz.) chicken broth (I used low-sodium & had to add a little salt to get the taste to my liking)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
  1. In a saucepan combine rice, butter, garlic, 1 tsp. lime juice, broth, & water; bring to a boil.
  2. Cover; simmer on low 15-20 minutes, until rice is tender. Remove from heat.
  3. In a small bowl combine last 3 ingredients. Fold into rice as you fluff the rice.

Tomatillo Ranch:

  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch mix (NOT Buttermilk)
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup buttermilk (make your own by pouring 1 Tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar into the bottom of a measuring cup, then filling it up the rest of the way to the 1-cup line, then let it sit for a few minutes to curdle)
  • 2 tomatillos, husk removed, diced
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic
  • juice of 1 lime (2 Tbsp. if you’re using bottled like me)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded, chopped
  1. Throw everything in the blender & blend it. Done.

Make your salad:

  1. If desired, place a tortilla in the bottom of your dish, sprinkle with cheese, & place in the oven for a few minutes to let it melt.
  2. Layer beans (if using), meat, rice, & lettuce. Top with dressing, guac, a sprinkle of cheese, & maybe some tortilla strips.
  3. Drool.
  4. Savor.

works for me wednesday at we are that family

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Orange-Braised Pork Chops with Spinach Orange Salad.

I can officially call myself a housewife: I have now cooked pork chops.

That were ridiculously on sale.

In my slow-cooker, even!

It was an interesting meal, too: The Munchkin was tired & hungry & didn’t stop screaming the entire time. She also didn’t eat a single bite of pork chop or orange. Dinner for her was a peanut butter sandwich & like 2 bites of strawberries. Eh, well, you win some, you lose some. We thought the chops tasted delicious! My Husband The Skeptical was completely won over, even though he generally doesn’t think meat should be cooked with fruit; the orange zest isn’t detectable in the taste of the finished product.

This is another one from The New Slow Cooker. You really need to get this book. Like, really. I’ve posted my alcohol-free version (no cooking wine). Also, I have to be honest: their salad dressing was super bitter. So I’ve included the tastier orange vinaigrette dressing I like, from Better Homes & Gardens.

  • 6 bone-in pork loin chops, each about 1 1/2 inches thick
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, halved & thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. red or white wine vinegar (it calls for white; I used red)
  • zest of 2 oranges (reserve oranges for salad below)
  1. Season chops generously on both sides with salt & pepper.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Sear chops until golden brown on both sides, working in batches if there are too many. Remove to a plate.
  3. Pour off most of the fat from the pan. Return it to medium heat. Add shallots & garlic; saute until just beginning to brown.
  4. Pour in broth to deglaze the pan. Stir in vinegar, zest, 1/2 tsp. salt, & several shakes or grinds of pepper.
  5. Pour pan contents into bottom of slow cooker. Stack chops on top.
  6. Cover & cook on low 7 hours. (I only made 2 chops & they were done after less than 6.) Chops will be tender.
  7. Place one chop on each plate to serve. Drizzle some of the braising liquid over each chop. Add salad, below, & serve.

Spinach Orange Salad (with BHG dressing)

  • oranges from above
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. dry mustard
  • baby spinach
  1. Segment oranges: Use a sharp chef’s knife to slice off the top & bottom of the fruit so you see the flesh.
  2. Follow the contour of the orange to slice off strips of skin & pith, revealing the fruit on all sides.
  3. Slice wedges out of the orange, between the membranes if you can. (I found a navel orange to be a little “sloppy” on the segmentation…) Cut into smaller pieces, if desired. Set aside.
  4. In a jar with a lid, or a Tupperware, combine vinegar, juice, oil, sugar, & mustard. Cover & shake well. (Your kids will love helping with this step!)
  5. Mound spinach onto plates, top with a few orange segments each, then drizzle with salad dressing.

Do you have a certain “housewife” dish you’ve never made either? Confession time: my other one is lasagna! Any recipe suggestions for that one?

 works for me wednesday at we are that family

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Potstickers

Hi all! We made it safe & sound to our new apartment on Friday night & our stuff followed Saturday, but we won’t have Internet until Wednesday. Thankfully, my awesome sister-in-law Lisa is back posting another delicious recipe in my absence! Take it away, Lisa!

I am from the throw-it-in-the-pot-and-hope-for-the-best school of cooking. I look at most recipes as guidelines, and don’t particularly worry about the end result being perfect.

Potstickers are perfect for experimenting. There are only a few steps to actually make them. First, make a filling. Second, spoon the filling onto the wrappers. Third, fold and seal the wrappers. Fourth, cook and eat! This process is time consuming, so that is why I usually make a large batch and work with a friend.

So, for the filling, your options are endless. I prefer pork, while you could use chicken, tofu, or whatever you prefer. If you use meat, be sure to get it ground so it is easier to mix with the other ingredients. We added shredded cabbage, carrot, and green onions. You will also need a binder to help it all stick together. In this recipe, we used about a teaspoon of sugar and about 2 tablespoons each of soy sauce and warm water mixed together. I have also used sesame oil with a dash of chili oil in the past.

Filling ready to go.

Make sure not to put too much filling in the wonton wrappers. They won’t seal and when you cook them, the filling will come out into the pan. Generally, less than 1 teaspoon of filling is a good guideline.

Don't use too much filling!

To seal the wrappers, dip your finger into a cup of warm water and wet around the edges. You will need to make a pleat in one side of the wrapper as you seal it to the other half to keep excess air out of the potsticker.

Ready to cook or freeze.

At this point, you have a couple of options. You can cook them all first and then freeze, or you can freeze first and cook later. If you want to cook first, put enough vegetable oil into a pan to just cover the bottom. Heat on medium heat until water dropped in makes the oil spit. Place the potstickers in the oil and brown on three sides. Then add about one-quarter cup of water and put the lid on. Steam for about four to five minutes.

If you would like to freeze the uncooked potstickers, line them up on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan that has been lined with waxed paper and floured. You can add another layer on top, just be sure to generously dust the first layer with flour before adding an additional piece of waxed paper. Freeze for 1-2 hours and then you can transfer them to a gallon size freezer bag.

Cooking frozen, uncooked potstickers is a little different. You can still cook them in the pan, but don’t steam them or they will just fall apart. I usually finish them in the microwave to be sure the filling is cooked. A deep fryer also works. It takes about 5-7 minutes.

You can use plain soy sauce for dipping, or add a dash of lemon juice for a little kick.

Our recipe used:

1 lb ground pork        1 green cabbage
2-3 carrots                   several green onions
soy sauce                      sugar
water                              2 pkg. wonton wrappers.

This made about 100 potstickers.

I don’t have any pictures of the finished product because we ate them too quickly.

Have fun experimenting!

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