Sunday, June 5, 2016

Everyone Has Copied This...Here's Our Version


We originally posted these recipes here (along with many, many more!), but here is our streamlined "best of the best" post after we have had years to make this, re-make it, and narrow down our favorites.

Cafe Rio/Costa Vida Salad


Tortillas (preferably the uncooked ones that you cook yourself)
Shredded Cheddar or Mexican Blend Cheese
Black or pinto beans
Rice (favorite recipes to choose from below)
Sweet pork, beef, or chicken (recipes below)
Romaine lettuce, chopped or shredded
Tortilla strips
Cilantro sprigs
Pico de gallo or salsa
Limes, cut into wedges
Creamy tomatillo dressing
Parmesan or cotija cheese, finely grated or crumbled


Warm or cook tortillas (if using uncooked ones). Top tortillas with shredded cheese followed by beans, rice, meat, lettuce, dressing, and toppings of choice.

Source: I got some of these from my sister-in-law years ago and some of them we found all over the internet. It was so long ago that I no longer have the sources.

Notes: This is kind of an elaborate meal to throw together, but for a big family dinner, it is awesome. If you are making it for your immediate family, the leftovers will be a blessing for days to come. This makes way more than my family can eat before it spoils, so I often make the leftovers into burritos which I freeze for a rainy day.

Cafe Rio/Costa Vida Sweet Pork


1 pork roast (3-5 pounds)
20 oz. Coke (not diet)
1 cup brown sugar
1 bottle taco sauce
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons bottled or fresh minced garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste


Place pork in slow cooker. Pour Coke over pork roast followed by brown sugar, taco sauce, ground cumin, minced garlic, and salt and pepper, to taste.

Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Shred pork roast. Stir to coat pork in sauce. Cover and continue to cook on low for another hour or more until you are ready to assemble your salads.

Source: I got this from my sister-in-law. I changed it slightly (mostly just simplifying the directions).

Notes: Perfection. This is spot on to the sweet pork you get at Costa Vida or Cafe Rio.

Just Like Cafe Rio Cilantro Ranch Dressing/Creamy Tomatillo Dressing


1 packet traditional Hidden Valley Ranch mix (not buttermilk)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
2 tomatillos, husks removed, cut into quarters
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lime (1-2 tbsp bottled, if fresh is not available)
1 jalapeno (remove seeds for less heat, keep seeds if you like things spicy)


Place all ingredients together in a blender. Mix until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Source: I found this online a few years ago on another blog. I don't remember the particular site, however.

Notes: This dressing is so spot on. It tastes almost exactly like what you get in the restaurant. Be careful though. This makes a lot, and as you can see, it's not low fat!

Kinda Like Cafe Rio Chicken


1 (8 oz.) bottle of Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing
1 tbsp Chili Powder
1 tbsp Cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 lbs chicken breasts


Place the chicken breasts in a slow cooker. Pour the dressing over the top of the chicken. Add the chili powder, cumin, and garlic. Cook on low for 6-7 hours (high for 4-5 hours), shred meat and then cook an additional hour. Serve with tortillas, shredded cheese, and whatever garnishes you like.

Source: I found this on a blog--but I can't remember which blog!

Bajio's Chicken Chile


5 chicken breasts
1/2 cup salsa
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 cup brown sugar (more, to taste, if desired)
1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles
6 oz Sprite (1/2 can)


Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. Remove chicken and shred. Return to slow cooker and cook for an additional hour. Thicken the juices with a little cornstarch mixed in water.
Serve with flour tortillas, lettuce, cheese, black beans, and any other desired taco fixings.
If you want it spicier, rather than sweeter, add more diced green chilies.

Source: Found on the blog "Your Homebased Mom." Found here.

Cafe Rio Beef


1 (3 lb) beef roast
1 can green chile sauce
1 can beef broth
1 small can tomato sauce
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced


Place chuck roast in a slow cooker. Pour green chile sauce, beef broth, and tomato sauce over the top. Add cumin and garlic. Cut an onion in half and place full onion rings over the top of the roast to add flavor. The onions will be removed and discarded when the roast is cooked. Cook on low for 8-9 hours or until the meat shreds easily.

Source: Darn it, this was again found on a blog that I now don't remember the name to.

Lime Rice


2 tbsp butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 2/3 cup water
8 tsp chicken bouillon (or 3-5 cubes chicken bouillon)
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 tsp cumin
2 small cans diced green chiles (4 oz)
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp lime zest
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp pepper
3 cups rice


Saute butter, onion, and garlic in a saucepan. In a large pot, bring the water, bouillon, cilantro, cumin, green chiles, lime juice, lime zest, sugar, pepper, and rice to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, stir in the onion and garlic mixture. Reduce heat and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes (or until the liquid has been absorbed by the rice and it is tender).

Source: Again, I found this on a blog but I can no longer remember which one.

Cafe Rio Sweet Rice


1/2 - 1 tbsp oil
1 1/3 cup white rice
1/2 white onion, chopped
3 cup chicken broth
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
1/4 - 1/2 cup white sugar

Drizzle oil in bottom of fry pan. Saute chopped onion until translucent. Add the chopped cilantro (no big stems) and saute a minute more. Add the rice cooking until it is light brown (being careful not to burn). Combine the chicken broth and the sugar, letting sugar dissolve. Then stir into rice until combined. Bring to a boil. Cover and let cook on low, until rice is done, about 25-30 minutes. Fluff with fork before serving.

Source: This was given to my Mom by her friend, Karrie. She probably found it on a blog online somewhere!

Bajio Sweet Rice


1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 white onion, chopped
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
1 1/3 cups white rice
3 cups chicken broth
1/4-1/2 cup granulated sugar


Heat oil in pan. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent (about 3-5 minutes).

Combine the chicken broth and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved.

Add rice to onion in pan. Saute for about 1 minute. Add chicken broth mixture. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil.

Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until rice is done. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Source: I don't remember where I got this from.

Cilantro-Lime Rice


1 cup long-grain white rice
Coarse salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove


In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil.  Add rice and 1/ teaspoon salt; cover, and reduce to a simmer.  Cook until water is absorbed and rice is just tender, 16-18 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a blender, combine cilantro, lime juice, oil, garlic, and 2 tablespoons water; blend until smooth.  Stir into cooked rice, and fluff with a fork.

Source: Everyday Food, April 2008. You can find it here.

Notes: You can add sugar to this to make it sweeter (like the rice at Costa Vida/Cafe Rio). Start with one tablespoon and taste. Add more sugar, a tablespoon at a time to match your preference.

Black Beans


1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/3 cup tomato juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro


In a nonstick skillet, cook garlic and cumin in olive oil over medium heat until it is fragrant. Add beans, tomato juice, and salt. Continually stir until heated through. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro.

Source: Another unknown blog!

Sarah's Shortcut Guacamole


4-6 avocados
Garlic salt, to taste
Onion powder, to taste
Ground cayenne pepper, to taste
Ground cumin, to taste
Lime juice, to taste
Bree's Blender Salsa, Pico de Gallo, or favorite store-bought salsa or Pico de Gallo


Mash avocados with a fork. Stir in garlic salt, onion powder, ground cayenne pepper, ground cumin, and lime juice until well blended. Fold in salsa or Pico de Gallo.

Source: Me.

Notes: Sometimes you just don't feel like following a recipe. These are the basic flavors required to make a yummy guacamole. Just add as much or as little to suit your tastes. I like adding in a prepared salsa rather than just cut up tomatoes because it skips a step--you get all of the flavors and ingredients of the salsa (onions, cilantro, jalapeno, etc.) without having to add those ingredients separately to your guacamole.

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