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.

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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!

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!

Shepherd’s Pie

I recently made a delicious low-carb shepherd’s pie.  How does one make a low-carb version of shepherd’s pie you might ask?  Well, I adapted this recipe from a South Beach diet cookbook, which has you replace the usual mashed potato topping with a mashed cauliflower topping.  Never would have come up with that idea on my own!

The recipe turned out really well, although I think that my vegetable-to-meat ratio was too high and the cauliflower-to-filling recipe was too low.  That being said, it still tasted really good!  I would definitely make this one again!

Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16-oz) package of frozen cauliflower florets
  • 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt & pepper
  • garlic pepper
  • ketchup
  • 1 lb of lean ground beef
  • assorted frozen vegetables (I used three 10-oz packages of veggies — one package of corn, one of peas, and one of mixed veggies)
  • 1 package of brown gravy mix
  • 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon low-fat sour cream
  • 2 tbsp ricotta cheese (optional)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or other cheese…I used Gruyere, since that’s what was left in the fridge)
  • paprika (optional)

Directions:

To begin, preheat your oven to 350 and spray a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with cooking spray.  Boil the cauliflower until tender (about 10 minutes) and then drain.  While the cauliflower is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the chopped onions and garlic and simmer for several minutes.  Then, add the ground beef and cook until the beef is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper, garlic pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and several squirts of ketchup.

Next, add the frozen vegetables to the skillet and continue to simmer.  Add the brown gravy mix and a little bit of water.  Then, you can conduct a taste test to see if you need more seasoning.  Continue simmering for another 5-10 minutes and then pour the skillet mixture into the casserole dish.

That’s a lot of vegetables!  I would probably recommend using only two packages of frozen veggies instead of three like I did.

To make the cauliflower topping, beat the cooked cauliflower, sour cream, egg yolk, ricotta, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl with an electric mixture.  I actually didn’t have any eggs on hand when I made this, so I just left out the egg yolk.  I thought it turned out fine without it, but maybe it would have been even more delicious with the egg yolk!  Looks kind of like mashed potatoes, doesn’t it?

Next, spread the cauliflower mixture over the beef and vegetable mixture and sprinkle the grated cheese and some paprika on top, so that it looks like this:

Now all that you have to do is bake it for 20-25 minutes.  The recipe I used said to bake until “golden on top,” but mine didn’t look very golden in the end…maybe that’s what the egg yolk was for?  Anyway, here it is!

I thought that this was a really good recipe, and as an added bonus, it’s pretty healthy overall!  The cauliflower topping tastes remarkably similar to mashed potatoes, which gives it a nice casserole feel.

Lebanese Salad

So, I have a confession to make.  I almost never make vegetarian food.  Like, ever. Especially lately, since I’ve been trying not to eat too many carbs and all of my vegetarian food ideas tend to involve cheesy pasta.  But, I saw some frozen falafel at Trader Joe’s recently and thought that it looked really good.  To be fair, I was looking for the frozen chicken when I found it, but that’s beside the point…

I ended up making a nice Mediterranean meal of falafel, lebanese salad, hummus, and tzatziki and it was really delicious!

The lebanese salad (which was inspired by a couple cooks) was really easy to make.  I chopped up two cucumbers, two tomatoes, 1/4 of a red onion, and a couple of green onions.  I put it all in a mixing bowl, added some crumbled feta cheese, and seasoned it with generous amounts of lemon pepper, garlic, garlic pepper, salt, and pepper.  I tossed it all together with about a tablespoon or two of olive oil and a generous amount of lemon juice (maybe about 1/4 cup).  And that’s it!

The rest of the meal came straight from the fridge or the freezer (via the microwave, of course!).

Here’s another picture of the lebanese salad:

And here’s the falafel (which I must say, is possibly the best falafel I’ve ever had.  Pretty impressive, Trader Joe’s.):

Spaghetti squash look-in-the-pan

When I was growing up, my mom always used to make a dish known as “look-in-the-pan.” The basic idea behind the name was that if you asked her what was for dinner, it would be easier for her to tell you to look in the pan than describe what she was making.  Look-in-the-pan almost always involved some kind of pasta, hamburger meat, spaghetti sauce, a variety of vegetables, and possibly cheese, but rarely consisted of the exact same combination as the last time.  It was a popular dish in our household that we ate many times over the years.

Well, today I made a new, low-carb version of look-in-the-pan.  It is much different than the kind I always ate growing up, but the name still seems appropriate.  Want to know what’s in it? Look in the pan…

Just kidding!  I’ll still tell you.  I combined cooked spaghetti squash, cooked chicken that had been marinated in a sun-dried tomato sauce (from Trader Joe’s…not homemade), olive oil, garlic, onion, fresh basil, feta cheese, salt & pepper, and a little bit of a sun-dried tomato spread that I had in the fridge.  It turned out really well, although nothing like traditional look-in-the-pan.  I did especially like the flavor of the feta cheese in this dish…something to remember!

What ingredients would you use if you were making your own look-in-the-pan?

Salsa Chicken Soup

A friend of mine loaned me her crock pot recently, so I have been on the lookout for something interesting to make with it.  I wasn’t really in the mood for beef stew, pulled pork, or any of the other usual suspects for crock pot cooking, but when I came across a recipe for “salsa chicken,” I thought that it sounded perfect.  The original recipe looked really good, but I decided to try to make it into more of a soup so that it could be eaten on its own, rather than over rice or in tacos.  In the end, I think that the recipe was a huge success!  I will definitely be making this one again (if someone wants to get me a crock pot for Christmas, that is…hint, hint).

Here’s how I made it (recipe adapted from mad tasty):

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 (16-oz) jars of your favorite salsa
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of whole kernel corn, drained
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (I used a kind that had green chilies in it and that worked really well)

Directions:

All that you have to do is layer all of the ingredients in your crock pot and then cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Start with about half the salsa, then add the chicken, then layer in all of the remaining ingredients except for the rest of the salsa.  Spread the remaining salsa on top and it is ready to go!

I cooked mine on high for about an hour before turning it to low because I only had about 5 hours until dinner and my chicken had not completely defrosted.  I ended up cooking it on low for a little more than 4 hours after that. This worked very well and everything was cooked through at the end.

When there are about 20 minutes of cooking time remaining, you can open the crock pot and shred the chicken with two forks.  It should be so tender that it is practically falling apart on its own.  Then, stir it all together and let it heat for another 15-20 minutes.

In the end, it should look something like this:

Eat and enjoy!  I served it with shredded cheese on top, which I would highly recommend. This would also be really good with some tortilla chips or some sour cream!

Stuffed green peppers, chicken enchilada style

Inspired by my last round of stuffed green peppers, I decided to make chicken enchilada style stuffed green peppers.  I took my favorite chicken enchiladas recipe and simply replaced the tortillas with green peppers.  I wasn’t sure how this combo would turn out, but they were really, really good!  I think that I like them even better than the Italian flavored stuffed green peppers from last time!

Making them was really easy and they were so good that I’m sure I’ll be making them again soon.  Here’s the recipe (I actually made a 2/3 batch, but you can make as much as you want):

Ingredients:

  • 3 cooked chicken breasts (cubed or shredded)
  • 1 8 oz container of sour cream
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1 small can of chopped green chilies (optional)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (optional)
  • shredded mexican cheese (8 oz bag)
  • 1 can enchilada sauce
  • 5 green peppers

Directions:

To begin, preheat your oven to 350.  Mix together the cooked chicken, sour cream, cream of chicken soup, chopped onions, green chilies, and about half of the shredded cheese in a large mixing bowl.

Cut the stems off of the peppers, cut the peppers in half, and remove the seeds.  Unlike last time, I did not parboil the peppers this time to see how they turned out this way.  As expected, they were much crispier than last time, but still tasted really good.  I think that whether they should be parboiled in advance or not is really just a matter of personal preference…I think I like them a little better when they have been parboiled, but there are fewer dishes to wash when you skip that step, so who knows how I’ll make them next time!

Line the peppers in a baking pan like this:

Then, scoop the chicken mixture into the peppers.  Pour the enchilada sauce over the peppers and sprinkle with more cheese…how much cheese is up to you and can be varied based on how healthy you want them to turn out!

Bake them for about 20 minutes, or until the peppers are hot and the cheese is melted.

And now, you have a relatively low-carb, delicious chicken enchilada-like dinner!  Try not to eat too many of these at once!