Cafe Rio Chicken

I found this recipe for Cafe Rio Chicken online recently and thought it looked delicious. I am really glad that I tried it because it tastes every bit as good as it looks (if not better!). I think that it will now be my go-to alternative to taco seasoning packets when I want to make Mexican food!

I have to confess that I had never heard of Cafe Rio before coming across this recipe. It turns out that there aren’t any in Massachusetts, which I suppose excuses my ignorance. After eating this delicious chicken, all that I know is that if I ever come across one, I will definitely have to eat there!

The recipe is easy (I got it from Chef in Training here). All that you have to do is throw the following ingredients in your crockpot and cook on high for 5-6 hours or on low for 8 hours: about 2 pounds of chicken breasts (although I just used one package, which was slightly less than this), 1/2 a bottle of zesty Italian salad dressing, a packet of ranch dressing mix, and 1/2 a tablespoon each of minced garlic, chili powder, and ground cumin. When it’s done, shred the chicken with two forks.

And then, voilà…you have Cafe Rio Chicken:

I turned mine into a salad with the following as toppings (avocado, onion, red pepper, tomato, and shredded cheese):

What a great salad! The blog where I found this has several other Cafe Rio recipes, which I am looking forward to trying.

Mashed Cauliflower

I recently made mashed cauliflower to go with the crock pot pepper steak that I made and it turned out really well! It tastes shockingly like mashed potatoes, making it a great low-carb alternative when you’re in the mood for some comfort food.

Making it was easy. To begin, steam some cauliflower until it breaks apart easily with a fork. I used two small bags of pre-cut cauliflower florets because I couldn’t find regular cauliflower in the store, which made this part even easier. Put the cauliflower in a food processor like this:

Then, add a generous splash of milk, a tablespoon or so of butter, a generous amount of garlic pepper, a little bit of salt, and about half a tablespoon of cream cheese (optional). Then, all that you have to do is puree all of the ingredients in the food processor until you have mashed cauliflower!

Pretty easy, right? Give it a shot sometime if you’re looking for something different. It tastes really good (even if you aren’t trying to eat fewer carbs) and has a consistency that is very similar to that of mashed potatoes (although not quite as fluffy). What a great way to sneak some extra vegetables into your diet…

Crock Pot Pepper Steak

Check out what I got for my birthday (from a loyal reader who picked up on one of my not-so-subtle hints…):

That’s right…my very own crock pot! Of course, I had to try it out immediately, so I decided to make this pepper steak recipe from MJWAGNER68 on Allrecipes.com. It turned out very well and I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a slow cooker recipe.

I didn’t really stray from the recipe, other than to add a few more spices, an extra pepper, and a little more onion than it called for, so I won’t repeat it here. However, I would highly recommend not adding the peppers in until the last hour of cooking (even though the recipe says to add them in with everything else). Mine were way overcooked and I added them in half-way through!

Here’s how I made it. I followed the recipe and browned the beef in a skillet before putting it in the slow cooker. I actually cheated by buying steak that had been pre-sliced, which made this step even easier! Then I added in the other ingredients (except for the peppers). At this point, it looked like this:

I cooked it on low for a total of about 6 hours. When it was about half-way through, I added the peppers and stirred it. As noted above, I would definitely recommend not adding the peppers until the last hour or so…mine were way overcooked.

When finished, it looked like this:

What a delicious (and easy) recipe!

I served it with mashed cauliflower (recipe coming soon!) and it was really good.

Be on the lookout for more crock pot recipes in the coming months! And thank you Matthew for the birthday present :)

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

I was looking for some new spaghetti squash recipes recently, and came across this one and thought it looked good. It is basically a cross between lasagna and spaghetti, but with spaghetti squash instead of pasta. It’s really easy to make and is a great low-carb alternative to these traditional dishes!

Here’s how I made it (recipe adapted from weight watchers):

Ingredients:

  • one medium spaghetti squash
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 29 oz can of diced tomatoes (or tomato sauce from a jar)
  • Italian seasoning to taste
  • fat-free ricotta cheese (don’t recall how much I used…maybe 8 or 10 ounces?)
  • 1 bag of spinach
  • parmesan cheese to taste (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 large egg
  • cooking spray
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

To begin, preheat your oven to 350 and then cook your spaghetti squash in the oven. Meanwhile, brown the turkey in a skillet with olive oil and drain away the excess fat. Add the chopped onions, minced garlic, Italian seasonings, and salt and pepper. Once the onions have softened, add the canned tomatoes or add tomato sauce from a jar. In the end, I thought that tomato sauce from a jar would have been better since it would have created an actual sauce, rather than just tomatoes, but I’m sure either way is fine.

Continue simmering for a few minutes. You should now have something like this.

Cook your spinach in another skillet. Then, in a large mixing bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, parmesan, and drained spinach.

Hopefully, by this point your spaghetti squash will be done or almost done cooking. Once you remove it from the oven, increase the oven temperature to 375.

In the meantime, prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish for the casserole by spraying it with cooking spray. Once the spaghetti squash is done cooking and has had a chance to cool a little, scoop the spaghetti squash into the baking pan to form the bottom layer of the casserole, like this:

Next, spread the spinach and ricotta layer on top of the spaghetti squash.

Then spread the turkey and tomato sauce layer on top and sprinkle it with the shredded cheese.

Bake the casserole for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the casserole is heated all the way through. Eat and enjoy!

I thought that this casserole was really good and would definitely make it again! It’s a nice alternative to a lot of the other spaghetti squash recipes that I’ve come across. My casserole came out kind of watery and I’m not sure why…if you have better luck, let me know what you did to help with that problem!

A little quiz

One thing that I have enjoyed about food blogging so far is that I am learning to spell a lot of new words. I consider myself to be a good speller, so I have been surprised by the number of words that have posed a spelling challenge. Putting aside obvious difficult words that I’ve used on this blog, like Htipiti and Almendrados, do you know how to spell the following words?  I am throwing in a few easier ones because I think that will make the quiz a little bit trickier overall.

Which of the following is correct for each question?  Whatever you do, do not look up the answers before you guess!

1.  A. balsamic  B. balsalmic  C. basalmic

2.  A. rasberry  B.  razberry  C. raspberry

3.  A. mascarpone  B. marscapone  C. marscarpone

4.  A. worcheshire B. worcesteshire C. worcestershire

5.  A. carmelizing  B. caramelizing  C. caremalizing

6.  A. parmesan  B. parmesean C. parmeasan

Raspberry Chipotle Chicken and Apple Salad

This is one of my favorite salads to make. It’s simple, but full of flavor and really delicious. To make the salad, I use this amazing raspberry chipotle sauce that I found in the grocery store. The combination is sweet and smoky…it tastes somewhat like barbecue sauce, but has a distinct raspberry flavor to it as well. It gives the chicken a really great flavor!

To begin, marinate sliced chicken in the raspberry chipotle sauce and then cook the chicken in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil.  To make your salad, toss together spinach, feta or blue cheese, chopped apple, dried cranberries, chopped celery, salt and pepper, and the cooked chicken. Drizzle it with balsamic vinegar or the salad dressing of your choice.

Eat and enjoy!

Bailey’s cheesecake

Happy New Year! Today, I’ll share a delicious dessert that could break the strongest of New Year’s resolutions. After all, what’s not to love about Bailey’s, chocolate, and cheesecake, especially when combined into one delicious dessert? Bailey’s is one of my all-time favorite desserts drinks, so when I found this recipe, I knew I absolutely had to make it! It definitely lived up to my expectations. I guess that means I’m setting a high bar since this is the first cheesecake I’ve ever made!

(Notice the not-so-subtle product placement. I do not get paid by Bailey’s, but if you happen to work for Bailey’s, feel free to send a free bottle my way…)

Here’s the recipe that I used (from gimmesomeoven). I won’t repeat it here, since I only made one significant modification.

First, I made the crust, using chocolate graham crackers, and pressed it into the cheesecake pan.

Then, I made the filling, poured it into the pan, and baked it. I also made a water bath, as the recipe suggested, by filling a 9×13 pan half-way with water and placing it in the oven below the cheesecake like this:

You can tell that I’m at my parents’ house since the oven is so clean. Sadly, as you can see below, my cheesecake still cracked, despite the water bath. Oh well!

Then I covered the cheesecake with a delicious ganache, after which the cracks didn’t matter so much. When I removed the sides of the cheesecake pan, I tasted a little of the cheesecake that was crusted onto the pan and didn’t think it had a strong enough Bailey’s flavor, so I decided to modify the ganache somewhat…

Since Bailey’s is “Irish cream” and the ganache recipe called for “heavy cream,” I substituted Bailey’s for the heavy cream. I thought that the result was delicious and that it greatly enhanced the cheesecake, but the Bailey’s flavor in the ganache was quite strong (perhaps why I liked it so much…). If you aren’t sure how much Bailey’s flavor you can take, you might try using half Bailey’s and half heavy cream for the ganache.

Here’s the finished product:

I wasn’t quite sure whether I wanted the ganache to drip down the sides or stay on top, so I kind of ended up somewhere in the middle. Probably not the best decision, but it tasted great! Looking forward to making this one again sometime!

Almendrados (almond cookies)

Almendrados may be my new favorite cookies. They are flour-less almond cookies and oh man are they good! I had never heard of them until recently when I discovered them while searching for new Christmas cookies to make, but I figured I would like them since I love pretty much anything that is almond-flavored.

I actually didn’t make this batch, but will write about them anyway since I ate quite a few :) Almendrados have a delicious almond flavor and are fairly chewy, which makes them pretty unique compared to most cookies I’ve ever eaten. They would be great if you are looking for gluten-free cookies, since they still taste a lot like regular cookies. According to the recipe I found, almendrados are from a region in Spain with very little wheat, but lots of almond trees.  Pretty interesting!

Here’s the recipe we used. If you like almonds, I would highly recommend that you try them.  From what I hear, they aren’t very hard to make! The recipe calls for whole blanched almonds and I couldn’t find any in the store, so I bought almond slivers that had been blanched, and that seemed to work fine.

Christmas tree spritz cookies

When I think about Christmas food, one of the first things that comes to mind is, of course, Christmas cookies!  Between the baking, decorating, exchanging, and eating of Christmas cookies, it just wouldn’t seem like Christmas without them.  One of my favorite kinds of Christmas cookies is Christmas tree spritz cookies.  When I was growing up, they were never one of my absolute favorites (I think I always went for something that was chocolatey and/or covered in icing), but sometime a few years ago, I discovered a newfound love for them.  Since I got a cookie press for Christmas last year, now I can even make them at home! Here are a few of the ones that I made the other day:

The recipe was just from the box for the cookie press, so I won’t repeat it here.  However, I think it is key to find a recipe that calls for almond extract, which is, in my opinion, what gives them their semi-addictive quality.

Last time I used my cookie press, things went really well and it was very easy to use.  This time, I was not so lucky.  For whatever reason, the cookies did not want to stick to the cookie sheet as they came out of the cookie press, creating quite the problem.  I’m not entirely sure why not, but the most helpful approach seemed to be refrigerating the dough for a few minutes (despite the fact that the recipe explicitly said not to do this).

After resolving the dough problem, here is the first successful cookie sheet full of spritz cookies:

The cookies were delicious in the end!  As an added bonus, they have definitely put me in the holiday spirit.  What is your favorite kind of Christmas cookie?