Tag Archives: salad

CLEAN* Copycat Cafe Rio Pork Salad!

Clean eating | Nut-free | Gluten-free option

img_0648

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!

1 Comment

Filed under Recipes

Make-Your-Own Salad Night: Chicken Apple Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Dairy-free | Soy-free | Gluten-free | Nut-free | Clean eating | Paleo

What would you say if I told you that, during our time living in Switzerland, Make-Your-Own Salad Night was my girls’ single most requested meal?

I wouldn’t have believed me either.

DSC_0019

But it’s true. When so many other things were different from what they were used to, we could count on the produce at our corner market to be both familiar and amazingly fresh. The bottle of Ranch dressing we brought with us helped too. (Don’t worry–I have a delicious clean dressing recipe at the bottom.)

Since returning, it’s still one of the few meals that don’t get any pushback or “how many bites?” Because they can make it how they want. Both of my big girls prefer to separate all the ingredients on their plates and eat one at a time.

DSC_0018

You can make this your own; I’m a big fan of fruity salads, so I just keep it simple with chopped apples, seasoned chicken breast, and balsamic vinaigrette, but I pull out as many of my girls’ favorite raw veggies and fruits as they can fit on their plates, and it all gets eaten! Tailor this to your (and your kids’) preferences and any dietary needs, and every once in awhile, add something that’s a little bit of a stretch for them to let them try: kale instead of spinach, for a start.

If making your own dressing sounds intimidating, start with this one. It has 4 ingredients and all you do is shake. Plus, you know what’s in it, and most importantly, what’s not in it.

Do you do a Make-Your-Own Salad Night? What do you include?

DSC_0020

Chicken Apple Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • Greens of choice
  • Chicken breast, seasoned as desired and grilled or broiled
  • apple, diced
  • vinaigrette
    • 1/4 cup GOOD-quality balsamic vinegar (trust me, it’s important)
    • 1/4 cup grapeseed or other light-tasting oil (avoid olive oil)
    • 2 tsp prepared Dijon mustard, no-sugar-added
    • 1/2 tsp (or more, to taste) dried Italian herbs
    • dash salt
  1. Assemble greens, chicken, and apple.
  2. Add vinaigrette ingredients to a jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake vigorously until well incorporated. Drizzle over salad and enjoy!

Adapted from here

2 Comments

Filed under Recipes

Pasta salad a la you.

I LOVE pasta salad. LOVE it. A few weeks ago, I decided I needed to make a batch to snack on during the day, so I decided to poll some of my friends on Facebook: “Best pasta salad you’ve ever had. Ready… GO.” I loved all the variations they came up with! Pasta salad’s endless versatility is one of its many virtues.

My friend Mandy suggested penne, hard salami, mozzarella, & Bernstein Italian salad dressing.

Lauren said orzo, kalamata olives, feta, red pepper, cucumber, & a lemon/EVOO vinaigrette.

Joy submitted “penne mixed with pesto, spinach mixed with ranch/milk, feta, tomatoes, & olives.”

Momo flattered me by saying my pasta salad recipe was her favorite. Isn’t that nice of her?

Stephanie said “orzo with lemon, olive oil, garlic, parsley, and STUFF. Whatever veggies you have on hand. Various parts of animals! STUFF. And CHEESE, Gromit!”

Thanks to a weird olive allergy (just the whole olive, not olive oil…don’t ask) & fear of Listeria while pregnant, olives & deli meats (sorry Lauren & Mandy) were out. But Stephanie’s comment — combined with all the other delicious suggestions — got me thinking. Can you really go wrong with pasta salad? I submit that the answer is NO!

My “usual” pasta salad recipe — the one I bring to parties & barbecues — is generally rotini, Good Seasons Italian dressing mix, tomatoes, feta, & parsley. Maybe a little Italian seasoning sprinkled in. But guess what? I don’t like tomatoes! So this time, since it was just for me, I subbed in red peppers. This is how I made it… do it your own way!

  • 1 pkg. Ronzoni Garden Delight pasta
  • 1 packet Good Seasons Italian dressing mix, prepared according to the packet directions but with a little less water
  • diced red peppers
  • crumbled feta
  • parsley
  • Italian seasoning
  1. Prepare the pasta as directed, then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking & cool it off.
  2. Meanwhile, marinate your red peppers (or whatever crunchy veggies you’re using, like onions) in the dressing for awhile to get rid of that “raw veggie” crunch. You may even want to do this an hour or two before you start with the pasta. This was a great tip from my friend Carolyn!
  3. When you’re ready, toss the pasta with the dressing mixture. Then toss in your other tasty “STUFF,” as Stephanie said, until it tastes perfect.

What’s your favorite pasta salad?

3 Comments

Filed under Recipes

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

Cast Party Wednesday

36th Avenue

1 Comment

Filed under Recipes

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

36th Avenue

4 Comments

Filed under Recipes

Strawberry Spinach Salad.

Hi, all! I’m late posting today because we decided to take The Munchkin to see her first in-theatre movie, Cars 2, this morning to celebrate her using the potty for the first time! (Yes, we were planning on going anyway, but it was nice to call it a reward.) It was a little loud in the theatre for all of us, but we all liked the movie. Munchkin was also quite excited when she saw the Winnie the Pooh movie preview.

I’ll post about the weekend’s crazy birthday bash next, but I need a little detox from Sweets Week first.

This is my favorite salad. Period. I make it all the time during strawberry season. I love how fresh & light it is, plus it boasts lots of antioxidants! This is another great recipe from The Essential Mormon Cookbook, & just like with the last one, I halve the dressing recipe & still have plenty for at least 6 people. This is how I make it; if you’re making it for a huge church get-together or something, double it. Oh, & the dressing keeps really well in the fridge, too!

Honey Celery Seed Dressing

  • 3/8 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. finely grated onion (just take a cut onion to the side of your box grater a half-dozen times & use your 1/2 tsp. to scrape the resultant goo off the inside. You could also use dried onion powder or flakes, but I don’t know the conversion for that)
  • 1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp. celery seed (if you have an aversion to the taste of celery, you can cut this in half)
  1. Add all but the last 2 ingredients to a blender cup & blend well.
  2. Lift the lid; gradually add oil & celery seed while blending.
  3. Toss with washed baby spinach, sliced strawberries (macerate them with a little sugar if you’re serving this outside to keep them fresher), & sliced toasted almonds (if you can find the honey-roasted salad topper ones in your produce section, those are the best, but my grocery store didn’t have them). Serve immediately. If you’re taking this to a potluck or waiting to serve it, leave the dressing on the side for guests to add themselves so that the spinach doesn’t wilt.
  4. Refrigerate remaining dressing to use later.

Get Your Craft On Tuesdays

3 Comments

Filed under Healthy living, Recipes

Easter leftovers: Spinach Cobb Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing.

If you’re like me, you probably have about 8 lbs. left of your 10-lb. Easter ham & are hoping that it doesn’t go the way of your Christmas ham leftovers, which may or may not have sat forgotten at the back of the fridge for, oh, 2 months or so.

Again, if you’re like me, you had the best intentions of making slow-cooker split pea soup, but waking up to a high in the 80s just didn’t make soup sound that appealing. (Completely forgetting about it until lunchtime may have played a role as well. Maybe.)

Enter the Cobb Salad. Now, there are different types of salad eaters out there. Some like the iceberg, some like more veggies than lettuce, some like ranch, some like vinaigrettes, etc. I, personally, am a lover of fruity spinach salads with sweet dressings. So this is my version. The honey mustard complements the honey ham quite nicely!

For starters, here’s the easy dressing recipe. I found it at AllRecipes.

  • 1/2 cup mayo (yes, this is a lot… feel free to sub lowfat, fat-free, or even Greek yogurt)
  • 2 Tbsp. dijon mustard (I used the cheap stuff, so it was a little on the bitter side; I compensated by adding a little more honey. If you have the good stuff, great. If not, you can always use regular old yellow!)
  • 2 Tbsp. (plus a little if you’re using cheap dijon) honey
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  1. Whisk ingredients together.
  2. Chill until ready to use.

Easy enough, right?

Now all you need to do is mound some spinach on a plate, top it with some leftover ham, any fruits/veggies of your choice (think avocado, tomato, onion, etc. — I like Craisins), & one of your leftover hard-boiled eggs. Bonus points if it’s still got egg dye on it:

Top with the dressing, & you’re enjoying a perfect 80-degree-day way to use some of your Easter ham (& dyed eggs!).

Here’s what My Husband The Eloquent thought of it: “That was seriously good. & I’m a guy, so I don’t say stuff like that about salad.”

Can’t get any more rave than that!

How are you using your Easter leftovers? I’ve still got about 7 lbs. of ham to go!

works for me wednesday at we are that family

1 Comment

Filed under Holidays, Recipes