Monday, May 16, 2005

Cafe Rio Dressing, Chicken and Rice

Since my sister Sandee first took me to Cafe Rio, I've discovered there are imitators springing up all over. They specialize in salads which start with a tortilla, then layer on cooked beans, rice, lettuce, specially seasoned chicken, cheese and a cilantro ranch dressing that is delicious.

My brother-in-law Kelly made the version below for my sister Pam for Mother's Day. Pam is a real Cafe Rio fan and she pronounced it tasting "just like Cafe Rio" so I thought I would pass it on, with a few recommended changes if you want to make it better for South Beach dieters.

Café Rio Dressing
(In 2009 I added this to Recipe Favorites and posted step-by-step photos of how to make Cafe Rio Creamy Tomatillo Dressing.)

1 buttermilk ranch dressing packet (make as per recipe)
2 tomatillos (tomato like vegetable with a husk around them)
½ bunch of cilantro
1 clove garlic
Juice of 1 lime
1 jalapeño (Use the seeds too if you like it spicy. You could substitute a few drops of green tobasco for the jalapeno.)

Use a food processor to blend all the ingredients well. Refrigerate.


Cafe Rio Chicken
1 small bottle Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
3 cloves garlic—minced
5 lbs chicken breast

Cook all together in a crock pot for 4 hours on low, shred meat and cook 1 additional hour.

(Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing has 2 grams of sugar per serving. I try to avoid dressings with sugar, but this is a very small amount. You're only using 8 ounces of the dressing per 5 pounds of chicken if you follow this recipe, so it should be fine, even for South Beach Dieters.)


Café Rio Rice
(Edit - Jan. 2008 - Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader who noticed that the proportions for this rice recipe are not right for regular rice. When I called my sister, I found out that the original recipe called for Minute Rice (instant rice). I didn't know that when I posted the recipe, but it explains why it uses 3 cups water to 3 cups rice. I'm not sure why the cooking time said 30 minutes, which doesn't seem right for Minute Rice? I would recommend using regular rice, about 2 cups rice to 4 cups water. If anyone has tried making this rice and adapted the recipe to work, let us know in the comments.)

3 c water
4 t chicken bouillon
4 t garlic –minced
½ bunch cilantro
1 can green chiles—or equivalent fresh
¾ t salt
1 T butter
½ onion
3 c rice (see note)

Blend cilantro, green chiles and onion together in food processor. Bring water to a boil and add all ingredients, simmer covered 30 minutes.

(For South Beach diet, use Uncle Ben's Converted Rice to make this, which is very low on the glycemic index. I would still use the rice sparingly on my salad.)


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88 comments:

  1. delicious, i think this is very close to the real thing and i to am i huge cafe rio lover. thanks for your help in discovering this little peice of heaven!!!

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  2. Thank You!!! I love their salad dressing. My mother in law is going to be so impressed, she goes to the "Cafe Rio" all the time and I love to tag along.

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  3. Do you have a recipe for their other salad dressing? I love the Cilantro Lime!

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  4. Any idea how to make their Hot Enchilada sauce? Or a recipe for their Pork?

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  5. I too would like the Cafe Rio or Costa Azul cilantro lime vinaigrette recipe.

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  6. I'd love to hear from anyone who knows how to get any of the other recipes, but the only ones I have are the ones shared here.

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  7. After much searching online I found Cafe Rio's Sweet Pork recipe. I haven't tried it yet, but you basically slow cook 2 1/2 pounds of pork in 1/3 cup water with a pinch of salt, pepper and garlic salt. Then you drain and pull the pork and stir in 1/2 cup green chili sauce and brown sugar. I hope it's as good as the real thing!

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  8. I have made the salad dressing and it definitely comes close! I have also tried to "replicate" the chicken burritos. What I do is I put them in the crockpot with whatever beans we like (either pinto or black), a packet of taco seasoning, and a can of green sauce. After a few hours on low, I shred the chicken and mix it all back together. It turns out very yummy!

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  9. While we're searching recipes...Does anyone know how to make they're pico de gallo? Or close to it?

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  10. Pico de Gallo is easy just chop up some tomatoes (I usually use roma), white onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and add some sea salt and fresh squeezed lime.

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  11. Anyone know how to imitate their tortillas?

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  12. How about the recipe for Cafe Rio's fresca salsa?

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  13. I made the recipe for the Dressing, and to me it was just like the real thing. I used regular hidden valley mix (not the buttermilk) and it still tasted exactly the same. Thank you so much! Now I can eat Cafe Rio at home! Woo hoo!

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  14. Costco sells uncooked tortillas which taste similar. They come in a large pack, I just cook them on my griddle for a minute until they're browned.

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  15. If you don't have a food processor, can you blend the ranch dressing in a blender??

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  16. Andrea, a blender would work fine here.

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  17. Does anyone have the recipe for Cafe Rio's steak?

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  18. Add a can of Coca Cola to the sweet pork recipe. I watched them make it one day and they really pour coke into it.

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  19. This recipe is for the chicken, not sweet pork. Keep in mind that something with Coke would not be South Beach friendly if you care about that.

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  20. I followed the recipe for the sweet pork but added about 1/2 cup of coke and IT TURNED OUT GREAT!! I started laughing it tasted so much like Cafe Rio. My husband totally agreed and it is now going to be one of our favorite recipes.

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  21. did you add 1/2 the can of coke after ther pork was cooked or did you cook the pork in the coke?

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  22. I don't mind if people leave questions here about other Cafe Rio Recipes like the sweet coke, as long as you realize that I don't know anything about any of these other recipes or whether the people who left these other comments will ever come back here and answer your questions.

    By the way, if you're on South Beach, be sure to use DIET COKE for the recipe.

    If anyone finds some of the other Cafe Rio recipes somewhere online, e-mail me at kalynskitchen AT comcast DOT net and I'd love try the recipes, (making them South Beach friendly if needed) and post them.

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  23. I have made the Cafe Rio dressing recipe with one change that really helps- I roast the jalepeno peppers and tomatillos in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. I will then squeeze out most of the seeds and liquid from the tomatillo before adding it to the blender. This gives a slightly smokey taste and gets rid of the weird raw flavor this dressing has for the first 24 hours. It also keeps it from getting too runny and having just a few seeds is nice too.

    I love your version of this dressing and have made it (with the above adjustments) many, many times. Everyone raves when I bring this to a group activity.

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  24. I think the tip about roasting the tomatillas and peppers is a great idea! Thanks for sharing.

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  25. When you use soda in a crock-pot I have read that you do not want to use diet. I am not sure why, but I have read this a couple of different times. Just thought you might want to know. Also, I have a pork recipe that calls for Dr. Pepper and it tastes a lot like Cafe Rio's.

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  26. You are so far off on the Cafe Rio items. Nice try!

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  27. Derrick, I'm merely passing on a recipe I got from someone who liked it. I never claimed it was exactly like Cafe Rio's recipe, although others have told me they think it's close. I've probably gotten as much e-mail on this recipe as any recipe on my blog, plus all the comments here. If you have a better recipe, please share it with us.

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  28. Café Rio Pork
    3 lb. pork roast
    16 oz. salsa
    1 can of Coca Cola
    2 cups brown sugar
    water

    Fill your crock pot with just the roast, and fill it half way with just the water.
    Cook on high for 5 hours.
    Take the pork out after the 5 hours, and drain the liquid down the drain.
    Cut the roast into 3 or 4 sections and place back into the crock pot.
    Puree the salsa in the blender and transfer to a bowl.
    Add the Coke and brown sugar and mix.
    Pour over the roast and cook on high for 3 more hours.
    Shred with a fork.
    My recommendations:
    I also added ½ pack of fajita seasoning, 1 can green chilies, and about 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning during the last hour of cooking.
    Also, when it was done cooking, I drained out most of the liquid and reduced it in a saucepan so it was thicker. With my additions, it tasted AMAZING!

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  29. Shannon, thanks for sharing the recipe. I just want to be sure that people who read the blog looking for South Beach Diet recipes realize that this recipe is NOT South Beach friendly with coke and brown sugar. (Sounds delicious though!)

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  30. I Have a Recipe for cilantro vinigarette dressing wich bypasses cafe rio 10 times. Got It from My old Waitressing job at a mexican restaraunt. 3 Large bunches cilantro, 1 C oil,1/2 C Red whine vinegar, 6 Crushed garlic cloves,1 egg yolk,1/4 onion, 1 or 2 jalpenos, white pepper and salt, water. Blend vinegar,garlic, egg,onion,salt and pepper to taste. add water (a tablespoon at a time) till desired consistancy. makes a great dip too.

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  31. oh I forgot add the oil too

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  32. oh Yeah, sorry... Use a blender for the cilantro vinegarette.

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  33. Jamie, thanks. Will pass this along to some people in my family and probably try it myself too.

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  34. does anyone know the recipe for cafe rio's mild (green) enchilada sauce?

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  35. Hi, the pork recipe sounds great. Any luck on finding the burrito sauce recipe from cafe rio?

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  36. I live in Hawaii and some specialty vegetables are hard to find such as : tomatillos. Do you have a substitute? thanks

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  37. Ohana, I think the flavor of tomatillos is quite distinctive in this dressing, so I don't know if I would make it without them. Some people do say that green tomatoes are a substitute for tomatillos if you wanted to try that. If it were me, I'd try to find frozen or canned tomatillos, which are both made by quite a few companies. Maybe you could get a store to order then for you, or possibly even find them online. Good luck finding some.

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  38. Here is a good sweet pork recipe that tastes a lot like costa vida and cafe rio

    Pork Roast (cook in crock pot until tender enough to shredd)

    Boil these ingredients
    1 16oz taco sauce
    2 cans Dr. Pepper
    1 1/2 cup brown sugar
    1 tbs cumin

    Shredd the pork and add the sauce into the crock pot. The longer you let it cook, the better it tastes

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  39. Hi Julie, thanks for the recipe. Anyone who's a South Beach Dieter, be sure to use Splenda instead of brown sugar if you try this. You could use part Splenda, part amber agave nectar also for South Beach.

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  40. I was wondering if anyone knows what there green sauce is. Its there mild sauce I LOVE it!!! I love salsa but am allergic to tomatos so this sauce is wonderful!

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  41. about the diet coke the reason for not using it is if it reaches a certain temperature it can make you sick (I think it has something to do with nutrasweet). During desert storm some diet coke was sitting out in the hot sun before it was cooled down and the soldiers who drank it got sick.

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  42. Anonymous, I'm wondering about that claim about the diet Coke. I've used diet sprite in marinades and then grilled the meat many times, and it's never made me sick.

    Still, if you're worried about it, don't use Diet Coke, simple as that.

    And remember South Beach Dieters, this whole thread of ideas for sweet pork are not from me. I don't know anything about any of these recipes in the comments (although some sound great.)

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  43. I have a slightly different recipe for the Cafe Rio pork if anyone wants to try it.

    5-6 lb pork roast
    1 cup brown sugar
    1 Tbsp cumin
    20 oz Coke
    12 oz red taco sauce

    Place roast in crockpot and coverh alfway up with water. Cook on low for 12 hrs. Add remaining ingredients to roast and cook an additional 4 hours. Take out roast and shred. Put back in sauce and cook for an additional 2 hrs.

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  44. Does anyone know how to make the Cafe Rio soup? I have to eat gluten free, and I LOVE their chicken soup - thanks!

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  45. I have made this rice a few times now and its WAY too much rice. It doesn't take near 30 minutes to cook either!

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  46. I have a VERY easy recipe for their sweet pork! For each pound of pork roast, add 1C Brown sugar and 1/2 C salsa (whatever kind is your favorite). I think the non-chunky salsa works the best, but if your favorite salsa is chunky just strain the chunks out before you shred the roast. I cook it on low in my crock pot for 8 hours, then shred it and put it back for the remainder of the day. Each day you let it sit, it gets better. I eat at Costa Vida all the time and I swear this tastes just like it. It is a lot of sugar...but I tried the recipes with Coke and the flavor was way more mild than the restaurants is! Good luck!

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  47. A reader e-mailed me this recipe which she got from someone who claims it's exactly like Cafe Rio's sweet pork, so I'm posting it here for anyone who wants to try it:

    2 1/2 lbs Pork
    1 bottle honey barbeque sauce
    1 20 0z bottle of coke ( use diet I guess for calorie check)
    1 tablespoon honey.

    She didn't get any recipe directions except to pour this mixture over the pork and cook it. If anyone tries the recipe, let us know how it turns out.

    (Even with diet Coke, this isn't a South Beach diet recipe with honey barbecue sauce and honey in the sauce.)

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  48. WOW I am impressed that you all have decoded the recipes! I am actually enjoying their pork burrito right now when I found this site! THANK YOU!!! my standing ovation!

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  49. Hi Kalyn -- this question is so basic, I almost hate to ask -- no, actually, I do hate to ask, but I really need the info as I plan on trying this recipe next week. :)

    How do I assemble the salad?

    You mention beans and a tortilla in the description, but I don't see those items in the recipe.

    Thanks!

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  50. Bikinime, Cafe Rio is such a Utah favorite that I guess I assumed people would know how to make it! I have no idea how they make their beans, except they have a choice of black or pinto beans (this isn't actually my recipe, I was just passing it on when I got it from my sister.) But I can tell you how to assemble the salad. In a flattish bowl, put a tortilla (Cafe Rio even has whole wheat tortillas now), then beans, rice, chicken, and lettuce. At the restaurant they put salsa, sour cream, guacamole, and tortilla strips on the top of the salad and serve the dressing on the side. When you eat it, you mix the whole thing up with the dressing, with the tortilla as kind of a "bowl." Hope that helps.

    It's really delicious. I skip the rice when I go there, but even with just the black beans I love it.

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  51. Just wanted to add one more thing about the diet coke... I've been making my version of cafe rio sweet pork for about two years... I'm on Weight Watchers so I use the splenda brown sugar blend and a can of caffeine free diet coke. I've never gotten sick from it. And neither has my husband or four children... so if you like the sweet pork recipe and don't want the sugar. Go ahead and try the diet coke, it's great!!! Also, at Costco they have a really lean pork sirloin roast. It's only 2 points for 4 ounces!!! (that's really good by the way!)

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  52. We have been making this for about a year and a half now and we have been doing 4/12 cups water to the 3cups rice just using regular rice. We cook it for 30 minutes and it turns out perfect!

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  53. Oh, and I have a pork recipe that is very similar to the Cafe Rio pulled pork if you want it!

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  54. If I don't have a crockpot, is there something else I can use for the chicken?

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  55. Anonymous, I'd cook it on the stove with the heat as low as you can get it, but the cooking time will be shorter.

    (That is only a guess, since I haven't cooked it.)

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  56. Does anyone know what kind of cheese they put on the salad? It looks like grated Parmesan, but I'm pretty sure it isn't parm chs. Thanks

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  57. Thank you so much Kalyn. I have tried and tried to duplicate their dressing and have never come close. This is extremely close and is so good, if not better than Cafe Rio's! I love that I can make it at home. My family doesn't eat refined flours or white rice, so I made homemade whole wheat tortillas and used brown rice and they were absolutely delicous! Thanks again!!!

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  58. Sixx, glad you liked it. I love the idea of using brown rice with this. When I go to Cafe Rio I get whole wheat tortillas and skip the rice; wish they would offer brown rice there too.

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  59. ok so I have made the rice one time before this and it was ok but even with two cups rice 4 cups water it didn't seem right so this time I cooked the 3 cups of rice before and then added it to the recipe and followed the directions the same and it turned out awesome!

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  60. to the parmesan cheese question I believe it is feta cheese that they crumble on the top :)

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  61. Anonymous, thanks for letting us know how you did it and that it turned out well.

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  62. Anonymous, actually I am pretty sure that Cafe Rio uses Cotija Cheese, a type of salty cheese from Mexico that tastes a lot like Feta.

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  63. Recipe sounds yummy. I think the not using diet soda in a recipe is because something about the chemical used to sweeten diet soda when heated turns to formaldehyde and is poisonous. Scary.

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  64. I found this recipe elsewhere listed as Cafe Rio Chicken Burritos. We don't have Cafe Rio here (in Missouri), so I can't compare, but I do know these recipes, all together, make an amazing burrito!

    I didn't have instant rice, so I used 4-1/2 cups water with just 2 cups of converted(parboiled) rice. I don't know how long I cooked it; I cooked it until the rice was tender and all the liquid had been absorbed.

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  65. A lot of people in the comments have asked for a recipe similar to Cafe Rio's sweet pork. A reader named Teri sent this sweet pork recipe which she says is very similar. She calls it Sweet Shredded Pork. I haven't tried the recipe (since it's not South Beach diet friendly) but I'm sharing it here from Teri for anyone who wants to try it.

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  66. Oh, my! Sorry, I don't have time to state this "sweetly" :
    I just gained 20 pounds by reading about sweet pork! Cokes and CUPS of brown sugar? What are you gals thinkin'? Get your family hooked on sugar? Love dental bills? Trying hard to get diabetes?
    Why not add what can be near the TASTE of brown sugar (you can get that with anywhere from 2 TBS (1/4 cup) per 2 qts sauce.
    Coke? That is 8tsp more of sugar)! There are healthier recipes out there, please!
    No wonder we have health problems!

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  67. Anonymous, I agree that the sweet pork recipe isn't something I would personally eat or make, but I think people have the right to make their own food choices. I'm just offering the recipe for all the commenters who asked for it. I don't feel like it's my job to lecture or monitor what other people eat.

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  68. It's not like you have to eat it every day, and it's a lot better than some things are out there.

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  69. I LOVE YOU!!! Thank you!!!! You don't know how badly I was craving this today!

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  70. Jenny, glad I could help with that craving!

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  71. Just fyi I always make the rice with 3 cups water and 2 cups rice and it turns out perfect. I've been making it for over 2 years that way...love it! Thanks for sharing it!

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  72. Please, for the love, does anyone have the recipe for the mild green enchilada sauce (I think it's tomatillo sauce)? I would pay anything to be able to make this at home!

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  73. Someone wanted the recipe for the tomatillo mild sauce. Although mine isn't exactly the same, it is pretty close. I just take about 3 pounds of tomatillos (husks off) 1/2 onion, 3 cloves of garlic in a saucepan and just cover with water. Let boil until they are all soft. Stick the whole thing in the blender until smooth. Add back to the pot and add chicken base (not stock or boullion- you can buy chicken base at Costco) to taste. Usually 3 TBSP. Simmer and you are done. I usually add a couple peeled Anaheim Chiles to make this hotter. You can add a jalepeno or a can of green chiles if you want. It is wonderful. I promise!

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  74. Katie, it does sound good, thanks for sharing!

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  75. When I have made the rice it turms green. I haven't eaten at Cafe Rio but others say the rice isn't green. How do I make it with the cilantro and not be gree? Or is green ok?

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  76. Anonymous, I don't get rice when I go to Cafe Rio, but I can't think of any reason why green wouldn't be okay. After all, the cilantro would make it green, wouldn't it?

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  77. Oh yay - I just moved to Texas from SLC & was missing Cafe Rio terribly (like dreaming about it at night...). I made the salad & dressing tonight & it was very close to the real thing (minus their yummy chewy tortillas). Thanks so much for sharing. This will help soften the blow of the move. :)

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  78. This post was fun to read! I love everyones comments on the pork and the chicken and all of the yummy cafe rio taste-alikes! cheers to all of your helth and wellness, I am making all of these items this weekend for a big cabin retreat.

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  79. Tortillas-

    I've made tortillas all of my life. Mom learned to make them from an awesome Latin neighbor who was willing to teach her.

    Here is Maura's authentic recipe.
    Maura did not measure things, so Mom measured them as Maura made them and then wrote it down.

    6 cups all purpose flour
    1 cup all purpose shortening
    2 1/4 cups water
    1 tbsp salt
    1 tbsp baking powder

    Mix together well. I mix it in my Bosch.
    Test the texture. It should be sticky enough to feel a bit sticky to the touch, but not come off on your finger when you touch the dough. (I do not have a weight measure for this recipe. Weights are so much more accurate.)
    Roll into just larger than golf ball sized balls. Roll out with rolling pin. I use a marble one because I can roll them quick with because the pin is heavy.
    Toss onto a hot griddle. I use a round cast iron griddle made from steel. (My Dad made it when he was a R/R mechanic.) Lodge makes a flat cast iron griddle with a handle. Or in a pinch and large hot electric skillet would work well.
    Cook on one side until little brown spots appear on the underside. Flip the tortilla and cook until done on the other side.
    Lay a paper towel in the bottom of a large kettle. Lay the tortillas in the bottom and replace the lid between additions. A paper towel on the top prevents the top tortilla from becoming wet from condensation.

    These are a piece of heaven! I grew up eating the leftovers the next morning. Mom made these a lot. Our family LOVES this kind of food.
    Hope this helps you.

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  80. Mom to Many, thanks for sharing the tortilla recipe. I do want to caution though that for anyone who's a South Beach Dieter, this type of tortilla with all purpose flour wouldn't be suitable for the diet (along with many of the other recipes people have left in the comments here.) If you're not dieting though, go ahead and indulge!

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  81. Thank you so much for having these recipes!!! I have missed Cafe Rio these last 2 years. My husband is in the Army and we're stationed in S.Korea. Its funny how much we've missed Cafe Rio!! Thank you for having them posted so we can have a small taste of home! :)

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  82. Cook Family, how fun, and it makes me happy that I can give you a taste of Cafe Rio while you're away from home.

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  83. On the chicken recipe... Cooking on high or low?

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  84. Anonymous I checked with my sister and she says use low. I will edit the recipe, thanks!

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  85. Hi Kaylyn;

    I love your recipes... However, I am currently on weight watchers and have to calculate my daily points intake. Do you have WW point values for your recipes listed? If so, it would be so helpful as it seems to take me forever to calculate a whole recipe with a long list of ingredients.

    Thanks;

    Kari.

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  86. Hi Kari,
    I talk about this in the FAQ. I chose South Beach to manage my weight so I wouldn't have to calculate calories, carbs, or points, and since I'm already spending hours each day working on the blog, I simply can't add one more thing to the features I'm providing in each recipe.

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  87. Kalyn, I'm using your recipes to cater a small luncheon (I teach a cooking class at a high school and we are catering for some teachers). I am planning on serving about 30 people. Any idea how much chicken I should cook? I haven't tried these recipes before and I'm wondering how many people you usually serve with one crock pot... how much should I increase the recipe to feed the masses? Thanks!

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  88. Sorry, but I have not made this for a while and have no idea how much you'd need for 30 people.

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Thanks for joining the conversation! I love hearing from readers and even though I can't always reply to every comment, I will always answer specific questions on a recipe as soon as possible.

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