Friday was a CRAZY day around here! I won’t bore you with all the details…because none of it was really all that exciting…there was just a LOT of it!
But here are the HIGHLIGHTS:
- Major garage cleaning (supposedly the hubster’s “project”…but he managed to wrangle me into it several times!)
- Last Day of school (Oh Lordy…not sure if I’m ready for this!)
- Basketball Camp for my 2 boys and 3 of their friends (over an hour away!)
- Trip to Home Depot for garage organization paraphernalia
- Trip to IKEA to pick up a new bed for No. 3 son (his finally gave up. We’ve had it for longer than I can remember!)
- Lunch at Cafe Rio with 5 hungry, tired, cranky, (sweaty) boys after basketball camp.
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing Cafe Rio…let me first offer you my condolences…and second, a little background.
Cafe Rio is Mexican-style restaurant chain located primarily in the Western United States with locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Maryland, Montana, Utah, Virginia, Idaho, and Wyoming. The menu is inspired from the Rio Grande Valley regions of Northern Mexico, Texas and New Mexico, and you will find endless “copycat recipes” on the internet from people who have tried their food and LOVED it and now want to be able to make something similar at home.
As I was driving home from lunch at Cafe Rio on Friday (about an hour-long drive), I got to thinking about what I was going to post today and it occurred to me that I had several of my own “copycat Cafe Rio recipes” posted on this website…but they were all scattered about. So for my OWN benefit (as WELL as yours) I decided to combine them all into one big Cafe-Rio Favorites post for today. This way when the mood for Cafe Rio (at home) strikes….we’ll have it all in one place. :-)
First off….my FAVORITE of my favorites…….Sweet Pork Barbacoa! No matter how you have it…in a burrito, on a salad, in a taco, etc….it’s sooooooo delicious!
Sweet Pork Barbacoa
Inspired by Favorite Family Recipes
- 2 pounds pork (I like to use the pork butt – my butcher concurs)
- 2 cans Coke (NOT diet)
- 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp garlic salt
- 1/4 c. water
- 1 can diced green chiles
- 3/4 can enchilada sauce (I used Old El Paso 14 ounce can)
- 1 c. brown sugar
Put the pork in a reclosable bag to marinate, pour in one of the cans of Coke and 1/2 c. brown sugar. Marinade for a few hours or overnight. (I’ve done both…they both work.)
Drain marinade and put pork, 1/2 can of Coke, water, and garlic salt in crock pot on high for about 3-4 hours. Remove pork from crock pot, drain off liquid, shred pork. (I use two forks because I’m too impatient to wait until it’s cool.)
Mix together (in a bowl or in the blender) other 1/2 can of Coke, can of chiles, enchilada sauce and brown sugar.
Put shredded pork back in the crock pot, cover with sauce, heat just until warmed through.
I have made this recipe literally dozens of times (not too often lately….I need to remedy that!) and it has definitely achieved family favorite status at our house!
I haven’t made the Cafe Rio Chicken copycat recipe nearly as much (which is odd because we LOVE chicken! I guess we just love the Sweet Pork MORE!)…but it is also delicious. I found this version at Life As A Lofthouse.
Gotta love another crock pot, naturally gluten free, chicken recipe! :-)
Cafe Rio Chicken
from Life As A Lofthouse
- 2 lbs chicken breasts
- 1/2 a small bottle of zesty italian dressing
- 1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 pkt ranch dressing mix (mixed with 1/2 cup of water)
- 1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
- 1/2 Tbsp. ground cumin
Place all ingredients in a crock pot. Cook on High 5-6 hours OR on Low 8 hours. Shred with fork and serve in salads, burritos, tacos…etc. You can also double or triple this to make extras for freezing. Then simply thaw and reheat for a lickity split meal.
This chicken is great in tacos, burritos, salads, etc etc etc! Just add cheese, lettuce, sour cream….the usual suspects….and ENJOY!!!
And last, but certainly not least….Nick at Whatcha Got Cookin? shared his copycat recipe for Cafe Rio BEEF that now makes it REALLY hard for me or my family to decide which one is our favorite. :-)
Cafe Rio Beef
- 3 lb Chuck Roast
- 1 Can Green Chile Sauce
- 1 C Beef Broth
- 1 Small Can Tomato Sauce
- 1 T Cumin
- 1/2 Onion
- 3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
Place chuck roast in crock pot, pour green chile sauce, beef broth, & tomato sauce over the top and add cumin & garlic. Cut an onion in half a place full onion rings on top of the roast to flavor…they will be removed when the roast is cooked and discarded. Cook on low for 8-9 hours, or until meat falls apart easily. Shred meat into a different container, strain juices from the crock pot and pour over shredded beef.
Of course there are lots more wonderful Cafe Rio copycat recipes out there….including their Black Beans, Pico de Gallo and Guacamole….just give Google a quick look.
But MY all-time favorites (after the pork, chicken and beef) are the Cilantro Lime Rice (YUM!) and their Creamy Tomatillo Dressing! I actually don’t make ANY of the “meat” dishes unless I also make the rice AND the dressing. They just BELONG together. So I’m including them here…..once again as much for ME and anyone else. :-) Now when I want to make any of these recipes….I will only have to pull up ONE post on my laptop/recipe book. Yay me!
Cilantro Lime Rice
- 1 cup. uncooked rice
- 1 T oil
- 1 tsp minced garlic (I use the jarred kind)
- 1 tsp fresh squeezed lime juice
- 2 cups water (or chicken broth – leave out bouillon)
- 2 tsp chicken bouillon granules (or 2 bouillon cubes)
- 1 T fresh squeezed lime juice
- 2 tsp sugar
- 3 T 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 minutes, until rice is tender. Remove from heat. In a bowl combine lime juice, sugar and chopped cilantro. Pour over hot cooked rice and mix in as you fluff the rice.
Creamy Tomatillo Dressing
- 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix
- 1 c. mayonnaise
- 1 c. milk
- 2-3 tomatillos, remove husk, cut in 1/2
- 1 bunch of fresh cilantro (cut off most of stems)
- 1 generous tsp of minced garlic
- juice of 1 lime (I use two!)
- 1 jalapeno (I’m a wimp so I remove the seeds, leave them in if you like it SPICY!)
Throw it all in the blender and BLEND! Refrigerate.
There you have it! All MY Cafe Rio Favorites in one place.
A big THANK YOU to Cafe Rio for inspiring such wonderful copycat recipes that we can ALL enjoy…..not just those LUCKY enough to live near one of your wonderful restaurants. We are forever grateful…and of course we’ll keep coming back for the one-and-only ORIGINAL Cafe Rio fare :-)