Here is the list of 28 meals (that's 4 weeks worth of dinners) for you to peruse (unless otherwise noted, you can find them pinned to my Yummy Stuff board on Pinterest, or just look it up in the search field there to find the recipe for yourself!)
I am going to highlight the meals we've had so far with my husband's opinion. He loves that I can cook, and he loves it even more when he couldn't think of anything he'd like me to do differently with the recipe next time. Its very rewarding living with an amateur food critic. I love cooking and knowing that he will give me feedback to make me better!
I will actually be nice and give you the links for the highlighted meals, with the exception of my Cafe Rio Copycat. I will type the recipe below because I mixed about 4 recipes to get the recipe that I wanted...I love Cafe Rio, but as my husband isn't a huge fan of Mexican food I haven't had a chance to eat there in a while (he has to be in the mood.) To be honest, I don't think he's ever eaten there, but he was super impressed with tonight's endeavor and would eat/devour this meal again in a heartbeat. He was super excited that there were actually leftovers for him to take for lunch tomorrow. The last few meals that I've cooked, I've cut the recipe in half thinking that I didn't want to have a ton left over if it didn't turn out well...he was a sad panda after two nights of finishing off what was left in the pan and realizing that there was nothing for him to take to work and brag about... Friends that love Cafe Rio- this recipe is the closest that I've ever tasted when it comes to being a copycat...in fact, I'd almost wager to say that its close to darn near perfect in mimicking Cafe Rio...but as its been a while since I've eaten there, you'll have to try it yourselves and be the judges! I'm also including my Cafe Rio Ranch recipe and my Minute Cafe Rio Cilantro Lime Rice. I will be honest and say we just opened a can of pinto beans and let them boil over the stove... but if my husband is impressed, than I think it will impress anyone. I took half of my efforts over to a gal in my ward that just had a baby and her 2 (or is he 3??) year old son actually ate 2 burritos ALL GONE and then had the dessert I'd made (Apple Streusel). It was also nice to get an outsider's opinion. She said her family loved it!
4 weeks of meals-
1. Summer vegetable crepes- pinterest
3.sweet potato and cauliflower soup
4.Bacon and Tomato Spaghetti
5. Cajun Chicken Pasta (Pioneer Woman)
6.PW's Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce (Pioneer Woman/Pinterest) (delicious 5 stars!!!!!)
7.Skinny Crock Pot Pizza Casserole
9.Lightened Up Broccoli Cheese and Potato Soup
10. Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole
11. Pasta Presto (2012 Spring Summer Meal Planning/Pinterest)
12. Grilled Veggie Sandwiches (same as 11)
13.Chinese Chicken Noodle Salad(pinterest)
14. Breakfast Taquitos (Our Best Bites Freezer Meals)
15. Beef with Peppers Stir Fry (Pinterest/Pioneer Woman) (My husband thought it was better than Panda Express...which is saying something
16. Curried Chicken Pasta Salad (Pinterest)
17. Tortilla Rollups (pinterest)
18. Slow Cooker BBQ ranch Chicken (pinterest)
19.Slow cooker Breakfast Casserole
20.Slow Cooker Sweet Salsa Chicken
21.Slow Cooker Cafe Rio Pork Barbacoa Burritos/salad (My husband said it was better than anything he'd ever had in a Mexican Restaurant)
22.Slow Cooker Broccoli Beef (Pinterest)
23.Baby Back Ribs (Our Best Bites Freezer Meals Cookbook)
24.Slow Cooker Chow Mein Casserole
26.Buffalo Chicken Cupcakes (Pinterest)
27.Easy Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas (pinterest)
28.Crock Pot Red beans and rice (pinterest)
Both of the recipes below are by the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond! Believe me when I say, she won't steer you wrong when it comes to food. She has a very discerning husband like mine who knows what he wants and likes! I have never found a bad recipe on her website, EVER!
Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce can be found HERE This dish is a Meatless/Vegetarian DELIGHT! Its also SUPER easy to throw together. My substitution was to use half and half in place of the heavy cream to make it a little lighter. I only used 2/3 a cup instead of a full cup and it was PLENTY creamy. I make my own freezer spaghetti sauce...and I recommend using the spaghetti sauce instead of just the canned tomato sauce. I barely had to add any sugar to mine to make it satisfactory and it had SO MUCH FLAVOR compared to what I imagine it would taste like with just plain tomato sauce. I also didn't add any onion as my homemade pasta sauce already had onion in it. We tossed it with frozen spinach instead of basil. I just threw it in the sauce and let it heat through before throwing the sauce over the noodles. It was AMAZING!!!!
Beef with Peppers Stir Fry is HERE . The only substitutions I made were to use Sesame Oil instead of Vegetable oil to fry everything, and instead of using the rice/cellophane noodles. we ate our stir fry over a bed of white rice. I also didn't pour any marinating sauce over the beef while the veggies and beef were simmering together. I found that what was sticking to the beef was PLENTY...but if you like saucy goodness, go for it! We also didn't sprinkle any red chili pepper flakes over the top or dress it up with cilantro...*Note- the Chili Paste is SUPER important to this recipe. I've been seeing more and more recipes pop up that use it, its well worth the $3-4 investment to have some in your home. I actually used more than the recipe called for because I know my husband's affinity for a little extra spice with his sweetness. This dish is a sweet and spicy delight!
Alright...so, now for the pinnacle of our blog- I give you MY very own Cafe Rio Copycat List! I will say that the pork is a little more work than a lot of the recipes out there make it seem, but its well worth it!
Cafe Rio Barbacoa Pork:
3-4 lbs pork roast (my husband bought a shoulder roast with the bone in...I don't know how much of a difference it makes really, but most chefs will tell you that cooking meat with the bone adds a dimension of flavor...its also cheaper...try it. Its not hard to separate the bone, believe me!)
1 can tomato sauce
2 cups Coca Cola (it has to be Coca Cola, and it CAN'T be diet!)
1 cup sugar
1 can green chilis
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Cumin
In the morning (or the night before) put your roast in the crock pot with a little bit of water over it. Salt and pepper it plentifully. If you have a shoulder roast (like I did) put it in the crock pot with the slab of fat on the top. This way, the fat will drip down into the meat, adding flavor. The salt will help to break the fat down. Let the roast cook for on low for 8 hours. Remove it from the crock pot and shred it. Make sure the crock pot is free of all the water that the roast was cooking in. You won't need it. If you like, you can keep it for the stock for another recipe (which is what I was wishing I'd done after I thought about it...) In a food processor or blender, mix all the rest of the ingredients but the Coke. Pour this over the shredded meat in the crock pot and then pour the Coke in and stir lightly. Taste it to see if you want to add any more salt (we didn't need any.) and cook on low for 3-4 hours more so that the meat becomes infused with the sauce...
Its that simple...then you serve it as a burrito or as a Cafe Rio salad with beans and Cilantro Lime Rice...
Minute Cilantro Lime Rice (serves 4-6)
2 Cups Minute or Instant Rice
2 c water
2 Chicken Boullion Cubes (or instead of water you can use 2 cups Chicken stock, just be prepared to add salt)
2 TBS minced cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp Cumin
2-3 TBS lime juice
Boil the water and boullion cubes together. Add the cilantro and cumin and then the rice. Cook as directed on the package (mine just has you stir in the rice, remove it from the heat and wait for 5 minutes) Stir in the lime juice just before you serve...add more if you feel like you need the limey goodness!
And of course- no Cafe Rio burrito or Salad would be complete without that Rio Ranch!
1 package Ranch Dressing Mix (note- I used a generic Ranch Dip mix that I bought at the store for $0.30...it worked just as well as the Ranch packet would have and it was MUCH cheaper)
1 cup buttermilk or half and half
1 1/2 cups mayo
1/4 cup salsa verde (that's the GREEN salsa)
1 small roma tomato diced
1/2- 1 cup cilantro
1-2 tsp Garlic powder
3 TBS lime juice
Combine ingredients in food processor or blender (if you're using a blender, make sure you dice up the cilantro first! Otherwise you will have not so pleasant chunks) and store in the fridge. Don't worry if its a little thin at first. It will thicken as it sets up. You don't want it too thick anyway because then its easier to drizzle over the top of your salad or burrito.
Bon appetit darlings! I hope this cures some cravings that friends that live away from a Cafe Rio have been having! I promise that as I make meals, I will be sure to post about the ones that we've really enjoyed along with any substitutions or changes that I made. :)
Hugs and loves until next time.