Café Rio Taco Salad Recipe

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

With its rich history, thousands of places to visit, great schools, and good cultural opportunities, I'd have to say that living near DC definitely has its perks. There's only one more thing that would make it perfect....a nearby Cafe Rio [oh and maybe less traffic too]. This knock-off recipe for Cafe Rio's taco salad is one of our very favorite dinners to make. In fact, the last time I was out west and ordered the real deal salad from Cafe Rio, I found I'd actually grown to prefer this version over the real deal. I'd still take not having to cook it myself, so if you're thinking of starting your own Cafe Rio franchise in Northern Virginia, don't worry I'll be your first loyal customer.

When you make this, I recommend making the dressing and starting the chicken early in the day. Then about an hour before dinner, start the rice, add the spices to the chicken, chop the lettuce, and start cooking the tortillas. Right before serving heat up the black beans and start bringing your delicious feast to the table!

Click here for Printable Recipe.

Café Rio Dressing
1 buttermilk ranch dressing packet (make as per recipe)
2 tomatillos (tomato like vegetable with a husk around them--your produce manager will know where they are)
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.)

**If you don't like the feelings of your hands burning for hours (like my poor sister Kristina) PLEASE wear gloves while you work with the jalapeno (and if you go ahead and chop without protection....please don't rub your eyes or scratch yourself.) Read here if you want more details**

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

Cafe Rio Chicken
(not pictured: chicken breasts)

1 small bottle (8-oz.) Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
3 cloves garlic—minced
2 lbs chicken breast

Cook all together in a crock pot for 4 hours, shred meat and cook 1 additional hour--this is what the instructions say. I cook my chicken in the crockpot with water and onion for 6-8 hours and then drain the water, shred the chicken with a fork, and add the dressing and spices about 1 hour before we're eating.

Café Rio Rice
6 cups water
6 chicken bouillon cubes
4 tsp. garlic –minced
½ bunch cilantro
1 can green chiles—or equivalent fresh
¾ tsp. salt
1 Tbs. butter
½ onion
3 cups rice (I like to use brown which takes longer to cook but is healthier)

I saute the dry rice and onion in the butter until it is just browned. Then blend cilantro, green chiles and the onion together in food processor (with 1 cup of the rice water for easier blending). Bring water to a boil and add all ingredients, simmer covered 30 minutes or 50 minutes if using brown rice.

The rest of the ingredients:
1-2 cans black beans, heated
Flour tortillas
Cheddar cheese, shredded (for sprinkling on tortillas)
Shredded lettuce

Brown both sides of the flour tortillas (we use whole wheat) on a lightly buttered griddle, sprinkling a little cheese to one of the sides after it is browned. It should be slightly crisp.

Serve with the crisp cheesy tortilla on the bottom, then layer the black beans, rice, lettuce, chicken, and dressing.



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About This Blog

My name is Lara and while I'm definitely not a gourmet cook, I do love preparing tasty, healthy meals for my family. Finding new recipes to try and sharing the ones we've already fallen in love with is a passion I've had since college and the reason why I've started this blog! With five kids, I'm usually in a hurry, so you'll find most of these recipes kid friendly and simple to make.

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