Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hola!! What's for Dinner at Your House??

My husband and I are in love with Mexican food. Not the restaurant chain / from a package or can-type, but the real, from-scratch, fresh-fresh-fresh stuff. Having both grown up in southern California, with avocados and cilantro being mainstays in our diets, we took the many hole-in-the-wall Ma & Pa restaurantes for granted. When we moved to San Francisco in our early 20s, we sniffed out a family-owned, tiny take-out place called La Canasta in our neighborhood, which had THE BEST steak burritos ever ... for the last 20 years we have been trying to find burritos that even come close to those. Chipotle Grill, (yes, a chain!) with their fresh and organic ingredients, is the best we've found. (You can find my husband there for lunch at least twice weekly and probably again with the rest of us on our Saturday soccer days.)

When our oldest daughter was having her wisdom teeth removed during the summer while she was away at college, I traveled down to help out. I happened into Cafe Rio, which salsa-d its way into my Mexican food heart. My friend Sheila sent me these recipes for Cafe Rio Sweet Pork, Cilantro-Lime Rice, and Black Beans, and they taste JUST like the real thing, only made at home. I have my pork roast in the oven as I type ... this is what's for dinner at our house tonight! Try these out ... I don't think you'll be disappointed.

I have altered the recipes slightly in a couple of places, which I've noted in parentheses, in an effort to take them to the next level of healthy. For my own dinner tonight, I will start with a layer of shredded Romaine lettuce, then add small scoops of rice, beans, and pork on top. Finishing touches: chopped tomato, a sprinkle of Monterey Jack cheese, and some diced avocado. My family will eat theirs either "bowl style" or wrapped in a tortilla with the addition of sour cream. Don't forget a squeeze of fresh lime over the top!

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork

3-4 lb. pork roast
1 c. brown sugar (or 2/3 cup)
3 c. mild salsa

Put roast in crockpot. (I am doing mine in the oven - four hours at 300 degrees in a covered soup pot) Mix sugar and salsa and pour over. Cook for 10 hours on low. In the last hour, skim any fat from the top, and shred pork with two forks. Mix thoroughly with sauce and continue cooking until ready to eat.

Cilantro-Lime Rice

1 c. uncooked rice (I use brown)
1 t. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. lime zest
1 can (15 oz.) chicken broth
1 1/4 c. water
2 T. freshly-squeezed lime juice
2 t. sugar
3 T. fresh chopped cilantro

In a saucepan, combine rice, butter, garlic, lime peel, chicken broth, and water. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook 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 toss.

Black Beans

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (I use low-sodium)
1 1/3 c. tomato juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. ground cumin
2 T. olive oil (I use 1 T.)
1 1/2 t. salt (I use 1/2 t.)
2 T. 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. Combine and heat through. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro.


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  2. Okay, I think I am finally getting the hang of this Google blog-follower-thing.
    Mexican food is mainstay at the Tiegs' home. We love Cafe Rio' and I have a similar recipe to the one you posted. Below is another favorite! It is so very yummy!

    Apricot Pulled Pork Tacos

    2-2 ½ lb boneless pork roast
    2 tsp kosher salt
    1 tsp black pepper
    2 tsp cumin
    1 c apricot jam or preserves (I use extra)
    2 jalapenos, sliced into rings and seeded
    1 red onion, roughly chopped

    Corn tortillas, fresh cilantro, limes, avacado.

    Heat oven to 300. Place 2 large sheets of aluminum foil on a work surface. Place the pork in the center of the foil and season on all sides with the salt, pepper, and cumin. Spoon the jam over the pork, turning to coat. Scatter jalapenos and onion all around. Fold the double layer of foil (use lots!) around the pork and crimp edges to seal tightly. Place in a baking dish and roast until fork tender, about 4 hours (when I do three roasts it’s more like 5-6 hours). Use a fork to shred pork and transfer to a bowl reserving all the fixings to pour over the pork. Serve with the tortillas, lots of cilantro, limes, and avocado!