Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Complete Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Salad (Copycat Recipe)

Okay, this recipe will take a couple of days to make everything, so plan ahead.  In fact, make a double batch and feed a crowd!  Actually, it really doesn't take too much time out of your day, but it's not something you can serve if you don't plan ahead.  Ready?  Here we go:

6 large Tortillas
Shredded cheese, Mexican blend
Cafe Rio Rice (recipe below)
Cafe Rio Black Beans (recipe below)
Cafe Rio Sweet Pork (recipe below)
Lettuce (Not iceberg, use leafy green or Romaine)
Diced tomato, onion and cilantro (pico de gallo)
Guacamole (recipe below)
Sour cream
Tortilla strips
Parmesan cheese
Cafe Rio Cilantro Ranch dressing (recipe below)
or Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette (recipe below)

In an oven-safe bowl, lay a tortilla in the bottom, sprinkle cheese in it and bake in 375 degree oven for about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Remove from oven, add beans, rice, pork, then lettuce and a little scoop of the Pico de Gallo.  Add guacamole and sour cream.  Add tortilla strips, a shake of Parmesan cheese and top with a few cilantro leaves.  Serve with the cilantro ranch or vinaigrette dressing and enjoy.  Makes about 6 salads.

Cilantro-Lime Rice

1 c. uncooked rice
1 tsp. butter or margarine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 can (15 oz) chicken broth
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tsp. sugar
3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro

In a saucepan combine rice, butter, garlic, 1 tsp. lime, chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low 15-20 minutes, until rice is tender. Remove from heat. In a small bowl combine lime juice, sugar and cilantro. Pour over hot cooked rice and mix in as you fluff the rice.

Cafe Rio Black Beans

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/3 c. tomato juice
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro

In a nonstick skillet, cook garlic and cumin in olive oil over medium heat until you can smell it. Add beans, tomato juice, and salt. Continually stir until heated through. Just before serving stir in the cilantro. A friend added a can or corn, drained, to the beans with a dash of cumin and chili powder, and said it was terrific.

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork

2 pounds pork (we like to use boneless pork ribs)
3 cans Coke (NOT diet)
1/4 c. brown sugar
dash garlic salt
1/4 c. water
1 can diced green chilies
3/4 (1ooz) can red enchilada sauce (I used Old El Paso brand, medium spiciness)
1 c. brown sugar

Put the pork in a heavy duty Ziploc bag to marinade. Add about a can and a half of coke and about 1/4 c. of brown sugar. Marinade for a few hours or overnight.

Drain marinade and put pork, 1/2 can of coke, water, and garlic salt in crock pot on high for about 3-4 hours (or until it shreds easily, but don't let it get TOO dry). Remove pork from crock pot and drain any liquid left in the pot. Shred pork.

In a food processor or blender, blend 1/2 can Coke, chilies, enchilada sauce and remaining brown sugar (about a cup, you can add a little more or less to taste..). If it looks too thick, add more Coke little by little.

Put shredded pork and sauce in crock pot and cook on low for 2 hours. That's it!


3 avocados
Red onion, chopped (about 1/4 c.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped (or to taste)
1 large ripe garden tomato (or 2 smaller tomatoes), diced
juice of 1 lime
4-5 shakes green Tabasco sauce
Salt, to taste
Fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Pit avocados and mash in a bowl. If you like your guac kind of chunky (that's how we like it), coarsely chop with the side of a fork instead of using the fork to mash it straight down. Gently stir in remaining ingredients until well mixed.

Cafe Rio Cilantro Ranch Dressing

1 packet TRADITIONAL Hidden Valley Ranch mix (not BUTTERMILK)
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. buttermilk
2 tomatillos, remove husk, diced
1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic
juice of 1 lime
1 jalepeno (remove the seeds)

Mix all ingredients together in the blender.

Cafe Rio Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

2 tamatillos
1/2 bunch cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. diced jalepeno (canned) --you can use less if you don't like it spicy at all.
Juice of 2 limes
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 c. balsamic vinaigrette (Kraft is good)

In a food processor or blender, combine tamatillos, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, lime juice, and sugar. After it is all blended up well combine with balsamic vinaigrette in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is best).

Tortilla Strips

10-12 corn tortillas
oil for frying
Kosher salt

Cut tortillas into strips using a pizza cutter. You can cut 2-3 at a time pretty easily. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Place strips into hot oil and fry until they become crispy. When nice and crispy, remove from oil and place on a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt after each batch.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mexican Carnitas

This Mexican Carnitas recipe is the best recipe I have found for authentic Carnitas tacos. You can put them in a salad or you can wrap them up in a burrito or even a chimichanga. This pork Carnitas recipe is fantastic!  I'll first explain how to make them without a pressure cooker.

3 1/2 to 4 pounds of pork Boston Butt roast cut into 2 inch cubes
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 bay leaves
1 lime, zested and juiced with spent rind added to mixture
1 whole onion cut in half
1 orange, zest, juice, remove the seeds and add the spent orange and juice
1 Cup of water

Put all ingredients in an oven-safe pot that has a good-fitting lid.  Start on the top of the stove.
Bring all ingredients to a boil on the stove and put into in a 300° oven, covered, for two hours. Remove to see if it's fork tender after two hours. Remove the meat from the pot and turn up the heat on the stove. Remove the onions, and orange & lime rinds and boil the sauce to reduce to a glaze about 10 to 15 min. While the glaze is reducing shred the pork and then pour the glazed over the meat.  Remove the bay leaves.

To make this recipe faster, place all ingredients in a pressure cooker and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Remove meat to shred in a bowl.  Remove onions, and orange & lime rinds and boil sauce to reduce to a glaze, about 10 to 15 min. Continue as above.

You can also put all the ingredients into a crock pot and cook all day on low.

Tacos are great in toasted or fried corn tortillas with some lime juice, cilantro, cheese, salsa, sour cream and/or guacamole.  What ever you like on a taco.  This meat is terrific in a salad too.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Easy Baked Manicotti

The trick to making easy, cheesy manicotti is to get the no-boil lasagne noodles.

1 lb browned ground beef, drained
3 cups Ricotta cheese
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded provolone cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
16 no-boil lasagne noodles (Barilla brand has 16 in the box)
1 Jar of favorite spaghetti sauce (about 28 oz.)

Combine ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella, 1 cup provolone, egg, salt, pepper, basil, and half of the browned ground beef in a large bowl.  Pour 2 quarts boiling water into a 13 X 9-inch baking dish.  Soak noodles until pliable, about 5 minutes.  Drain noodles on kitchen towel.  Pour off water and dry baking dish.

Mix the remaining browned ground beef in the spaghetti sauce.  Spread half of the spaghetti meat sauce over the bottom of the baking dish.

Top each soaked noodle with 1/4 cup cheese filling, roll into a cheese-filled tube and arrange, seam-side down, over sauce in baking dish.  They will all be very close together.  Spread remaining sauce over manicotti.  Cover with foil and bake until bubbling around edges, about 40 minutes.  Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and provolone.  Continue baking until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.  Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

This is so much easier than trying to fill manicotti noodles with a spoon or a pastry bag.  Add a green salad and garlic bread for a delicious Italian meal.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Secretly Sweet BBQ Pork Chops

This recipe is from one of my favorite Food Network chefs, Cat Cora.  I love to watch her on the Iron Chef.  This marinade for pork chops is delicious and helps keep the chops moist and tender.

1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp fresh thyme, rough chopped (of 1/2 tsp dry thyme)
1/2 cup cherry cola (Secret ingredient)
4 pork chops

In a bowl, combine all ingredients except the meat.  Place the chops in a large zip lock bag and pour the marinade over them.  Seal and let rest for 2 to 3 hours, or overnight if desired. You will want to flip the bag over from time to time to evenly distribute the marinade.  You may need to let some air out of the bag due to the carbonation of the cola.

When ready to cook, remove the chops from the bag and grill until temperature reaches 175 degrees.  You can baste them with marinade while cooking.  If it's not grilling season, remember that your broiler is just an upside-down grill.  Don't over-cook them. After you take them off the heat and let them rest, the temperature will increase by about 5 degrees more.  You'll love them!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Best Pizza Crust

You can make this pizza dough in a stand mixer, like a Kitchen Aid, but if you have a food processor, it's so much easier.  Just to let you know right up front, this pizza dough tastes best if you make it at least a day in advance, but I've had very good results making it as little as 5 hours in advance.

3 cups bread flour
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/3 cups ice water (the dough can get overheated in a food processor, so use really cold water)
1 Tbsp oil
1 1/2 tsp table salt
parchment paper

Sift flour and sugar together into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Add yeast and pulse about 4 times to mix everything together.  With the machine running, slowly add water through feed tube.  Let the machine run until the dough is just combined and no dry flour remains.  This should take about 10 to 20 seconds.  Let the dough stand 10 minutes.

Turn the machine on again after the 10 minutes rest and add the oil and salt.  Let the machine run until the dough forms a satiny, sticky ball that clears the sides of the work bowl.  This should take about a minute.  Lightly oil your countertop and remove the dough ball from the bowl and knead briefly, about 1 minute.  Shape the dough into a tight ball and place in a large, lightly oiled bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.

One hour before baking the pizza,  remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into 4 equal balls.  Place them on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap to let them come up to room temperature.

At this point, you can assemble all your favorite pizza ingredients.  You can make your own pizza sauce (I'll give you a pretty good recipe below) or just use a pizza sauce from the store.  It's really fun to invite friends over and have a "Make your own Pizza" party.  You could ask each friend to bring their favorite topping, or just provide an abundant selection of pepperoni, sausage, black olives, mushrooms, onions, peppers, mozzarella cheese, pineapple, ham, etc.

After your pizza dough has rested at room temperature for about 30 minutes, adjust the oven rack to the second highest position and place a pizza stone on the rack.  Heat the oven to 500 degrees or hotter if possible. (Brick pizza oven restaurants bake their pizzas at the optimal temperature of 712 degrees).  Lightly flour each dough ball and flatten to desired size on a piece of parchment.  (It doesn't matter how much flour you use, the dough will be sticky and it will be hard to transfer the prepared pizza to the pizza stone).  Top your pizza as desired and using a pizza peel, transfer to the heated pizza stone.  After about 1 minute, you will be able to place your pizza peel under the pizza and gently pull the parchment out without disturbing the toppings.  Bake pizza until done and the cheese bubbles.  Check the bottom of the pizza crust to make sure it's browned before taking the pizza out.  Cut and serve.

Homemade pizza sauce

1 (28-oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and liquid discarded
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
2 med garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tsp)
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp dired oregano
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Process all ingredients in food processor with the metal blade until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  This sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, or for up to a month, frozen.