Monday, November 16, 2009

Cafe Rio Knock-off Recipes

Inspired by dinner at my friend Julie's house, my Dad [and I] decided to make a Cafe Rio inspired meal for people coming over to watch the football game this weekend. For those of you unfamiliar with Cafe Rio think Costa Vida or Chipotle + enchiladas. It is found primarily in Utah and is part of Utah culture. In fact, Julie's friend described it as the best food on the Earth. Not sure if I agree with that bold statement but it is good. (Shannon don't worry I'm still completely loyal to Chipotle!! Cafe Rio just offers some things that Chipotle doesn't plus no one understands Chipotle up here the way you & I do!)

Now I definitely wouldn't consider any of these restaurants to be particularly "healthy" BUT the healthy thing about preparing them yourself is you know exactly what you are using or putting in the recipe. And the most important factor that earns a seat on The Healthy Bite is that I believe in everything in moderation and portion control!

These recipes can be used to make burritos, salads, or whatever you want!

Cafe Rio Style Pork
2 pound pork (recipe calls for pork butt or boneless pork ribs, I think pork loin would work just fine)
3 cans Coke
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch garlic salt
1/4 cup water
1 can sliced green chilies
3/4 can enchilada sauce (recipe did not say red or green, we used green)
1 cup brown sugar

Put the pork in a heavy duty ziplock bag to marinade. Add a can and a half (18oz) of coke and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Marinate for a few hours or overnight.
Drain marinade and put pork, 1/2 can Coke, water, and garlic salt in crock pot on high for about 3-4 hours (or until it shreds easily but is not too dry) or on low for 8 hours. Remove pork from crock pot and drain any liquid left in the pot, shred pork.
In a food processor or blender, blend 1/2 can Coke (6 oz), chilies, enchilada sauce, and remaining brown sugar (more or less to taste*)
Put shredded pork and sauce in crock pot and cook on low for 2 hours.

*I think Cafe Rio pork is too sweet. We actually doubled this recipe and I only used ~3/4 cup sugar in the final sauce so I would recommend being very conservative with the brown sugar at the end. The Coke adds lots of sweet.
-Other thoughts: this recipe specifically says not to use diet Coke but I've seen bloggers say diet works just fine...we used regular Coke but when I make this again I would try diet. Bloggers that used diet Coke also used the Splenda blend of brown sugar and said it came out fine too. Just a personal call on what you want to do!

Cafe Rio Style Chicken
1 (8oz) bottle of zesty Italian dressing
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 lbs chicken breasts

Cook all together in a crock pot of 4 hours on low. Shred meat. Cook 1 additional hour

*Super easy & it was a crowd favorite

Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Dressing
1 packet Traditional Hidden Valley Ranch mix (not buttermilk)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
2 large tomatillos (or 3 if they are small), roasted, husked, and diced
1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
juice of 1 lime
1 small jalapeno (keep seeds and veins in for spicy, remove for a smaller kick)

Roast the tomatillos with the husk on in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Then mix all the ingredients in the blender. Refrigerate for the flavors to mix.

*I could drink this it is so good! Yum!! Also a crowd favorite. They also make a delicious cilantro-lime vinaigrette which we didn't make but I'll have to try it some other time.
*I don't ever use/buy mayo so I couldn't tell you off the top of my head which mayo is the healthiest but READ YOUR FOOD LABELS. In mayo you're looking for the lowest saturated and trans fat without added sugar. Looking online it looked like Reg mayo had 90 calories, 1.5g sat fat, 0g sugar; Light mayo had 50 calories, 0.8g sat fat, 0.6g sugar; and Olive Oil mayo had 45 calories, 0g sat fat, and 0g sugar. Looks like Olive Oil mayo would be the healthiest choice but always check your food labels! Confused or have any questions - just ask me!

Cafe Rio Style Cilantro Lime Rice
1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1 tsp butter/margarine (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp + 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 can (15oz) chicken broth
1 cup water
pinch of sugar (optional)
3 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro

In a saucepan combine rice, butter, garlic, 1 tsp lime juice, chicken broth, and water. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low for 15-20 minutes, until rice is tender. Remove from heat. In a small bowl combine lime juice, sugar, cilantro. Pour over hot cooked rice and mix in as you fluff the rice.

*This rice (as with most homemade cilantro lime rice I've had) comes out sticky. I think the lime juice has a chemical reaction with the cooking of the rice. I think next time I might try to just add all the lime juice at the end although that might change the flavor. This rice was still delicious even though it was sticky! If you guys have any tricks or experience please share :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Caramel Pudding Pumpkin Cupcakes

This is a Hungry Girl recipe. I’m not a cake fan but I needed to use up some canned pumpkin and thought these sounded good. I’ll admit the ‘pudding’ in the name drew me in but I’m not really sure why that’s in the name. I basically thought they tasted like spice cake cupcakes. The caramel stayed on the top for the first day but then after that it soaked into the cupcakes (maybe that’s where the ‘pudding’ part comes from??) I think I’ll stick to pumpkin cookies this time of year but if you’re a big cupcake/cake fan you might want to give these a try.

Caramel Pudding Pumpkin Cupcakes

(Makes 12 servings)
Per serving (1 cupcake): 108 calories, 2g fat, 188mg sodium, 21g carbs, 0.5g fiber, 12g sugars, 2g protein

Ingredients for cupcakes

  • 2 cups moist-style yellow cake mix (1/2 of an 18.25-ounce box)
  • 1 cup canned pure pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute
  • 2 tablespoons sugar-free maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for topping

  • 3 cubes (about 1 ounce) chewy caramel
  • 2 teaspoons light vanilla soymilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all cupcake ingredients in a mixing bowl with 1/3 cup of water. Whip with a whisk or fork for 2 minutes until well blended.

Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with baking cups. Evenly spoon batter into muffin cups.

Place pan in the oven and cook for about 12 minutes (until cupcakes have puffed up but still appear a little gooey on top).

Once cupcakes are cool enough to handle, arrange them closely on a plate so that the edges are touching. Place caramel and soymilk in a tall microwave-safe glass or dish (mixture will bubble and rise when heated).

Microwave at medium power for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir mixture vigorously until smooth and thoroughly blended. (Return to microwave for 30 seconds at medium heat if caramel has not fully melted.) Immediately drizzle caramel sauce over cupcakes.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Japanese Cucumber Salad

This is the recipe I make when I'm craving that cucumber salad I get with my sushi. Yumm!! Also referenced here as a great side dish to a yummy recipe!

Japanese Cucumber Salad

2 cups thinly sliced Japanese cucumbers*
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons sesame seeds

* English cucumbers may be substituted. The English cucumbers need to be peeled, cut lengthwise, seeded, and sliced into thin half moons.

In a large bowl, combine cucumbers and salt; mix well. Add sugar, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil; mix well. Sprinkle with sesame seed and mix. Let marinate for 20 minutes before serving. NOTE: If you desire, drain off some of the vinegar mixture before serving.

To serve, divide salad among individual chilled plates.

Makes 4 servings.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Avocado Salsa Verde

I haven't tried this yet but can't wait to! A friend passed it along and said it was wonderful.

8 tomatillos - husked
2 jalapenos
3-4 hatch or anaheim chilies
1 small onion chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
cumin (approximately - 1/4 tsp or a little more)
cayenne - pinch or two
lime juice a tbls or more
a handful of fresh cilantro chopped
salt & pepper - to taste
1 large avocado - peeled and pitted

Rub the tomatillos, jalapenos, and hatch chilies with olive oil and roast in a 375 degree oven until they start to brown. Let cool. If you have a food processor this is a great time to use it. Or you can chop by hand either way. Chop the garlic and the onion in the processor. Add the roasted peppers and tomatillos and pulse. Add the cumin, cayenne, lime juice and a handful of cilantro and pulse some more. Add the avocado and pulse again. Now you have to taste. Too hot - not enough? If you like it spicy add more cayenne or a fresh jalapeno if you need to cool it off add more avocado or lime juice. It is a beautiful shade of green and just as tasty as it looks. enjoy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Spinach Salad recipe & Pomegranate info

I love when pomegranates are in season (which is now!) and I had some spinach & pine nuts left over from making the salmon Florentine & quinoa so this is the "round two recipe" I made.

Spinach Salad
baby spinach leaves
pomegranate seeds
toasted pine nuts
cut up bits of ripe pear
thin slices of red onion
(I didn't have any feta but if we did I would have added that too)
Ken's Light Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette (or any other light or citrusy vinaigrette would be good too! Find a couple more dressing ideas here)

For those of you not too familiar with pomegranates or have used pomegranates only to get the [horribly staining] juice everywhere I thought I'd share a trick I've learned for getting the seeds out with ease! 1st - cut the pomegranate in half on a paper towel, the towel will absorb the juice that comes out. 2nd - fill a medium sized bowl with water. 3rd - put the pomegranate completely underwater and begin to break about the seeds from the membrane. That way all the excess juice stays in the water instead of spraying on your clothes/kitchen/dog/etc and it also makes it easier to get the seeds away from the membrane. Another good thing is that any stray bits of membrane that come off will float to the top of the water making it easy to strain from the water before you drain the pomegranate seeds.

Superfruits: A Look at the Facts

The term “superfruit” refers to a category of natural plants that are believed to provide great health benefits because of their nutrient and antioxidant levels. The six superfruits are açaí, goji, mangosteen, noni, pomegranate, and seaberry. Blueberries, cranberries, and red grapes are seen as more common “superfruits.”

The more exotic superfruits are mainly available in juice form. Many are available at your local grocery store, and literally hundreds of Web sites sell these fruits in either juice or supplement form.

The main thing to keep in mind is that these fruits do not have scientific validation, sufficient clinical trial evidence, or regulatory approval for their health claim statements. However, they are recognized as exceptional antioxidant sources, and current research is looking at possible antidisease properties. Information specific to each of these fruits follows.

This fruit is an exceptional source of polyunsaturated fats and dietary fiber. Açaí also contains high levels of vitamin E, calcium, copper, potassium, magnesium, and niacin, when compared to other plant foods. Studies have looked at açaí for its vasodilator effect in animals. Açaí probably has the least scientific evidence of all of the superfruits. However, a study from the University of Florida found that compounds in açaí berries could reduce the growth of certain leukemia cells in the lab. This is not yet confirmed through human studies.

This fruit offers high amounts of protein, vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, iron, magnesium, copper, and zinc. Goji also provides high levels of many antioxidants, but especially beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. Research has looked at goji for a wide range of purported health benefits, including immune function, metabolic syndrome, and neurological disorders. In rabbits, goji berry has lowered blood glucose, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, in addition to improving insulin resistance in diabetic rats. However, none of this research is validated through expert-reviewed clinical trials, and all research was completed on either laboratory animals or in vitro work.

Goji is related to the tomato, potato, and eggplant, and offers many of the same antioxidants. If you take warfarin, talk to your doctor before consuming any products containing goji, because this may cause an interaction.

This white fruit does not provide an exceptional amount of nutrients. Medical research on mangosteen is lacking and has included antioxidant properties in vitro, anti-inflammatory effects in vitro, and numerous chemical identity studies. Early animal studies showed a possible reduction in plasma lipid levels.

The American Cancer Society’s Web site states that mangosteen is a source of antioxidants, but that no reliable evidence exists on its use as a cancer treatment. The US Food and Drug Administration has sent warning letters to manufacturers who state that mangosteen is usable to treat illness.

This very pale-colored fruit does not provide many antioxidants and is also low in most vitamins and minerals, with the exception of moderate amounts of vitamin C and potassium. Noni has reports of vague health properties via either animal or in vitro research.

Noni fruits have shown antitumor properties in rats and mice, but clinical evidence is lacking. However, studies of heavy smokers who drank noni juice have shown a reduction in free radicals in the blood, lower levels of total cholesterol, and reduced triglycerides. Other animal studies have shown that noni may combat fatigue and offer some liver protection.

Seaberry is probably one of the plant world’s most nutritious foods. Seaberry contains one of the highest contents of vitamin C and E, compared to other plants. It also contains many healthful fatty acids, carotenoids, and phenolics. Seaberry is the second most studied superfruit, after pomegranate. However, no expert-reviewed clinical trials are published.

Surprisingly, pomegranate has a relatively low nutrient content. However, it provides a moderate amount of antioxidants. Pomegranate is by far the most studied superfruit, with clinical trials and scientific reports completed on several types of cancer, blood cholesterol, infection, obesity, and inflammation, as well as several other topics of research. Several peer-reviewed studies have demonstrated that the antioxidants in pomegranate juice reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation in mice and blood pressure in hypertensive humans.

A 2004 study, which appear in Clinical Nutrition, demonstrated that daily consumption of pomegranate juice for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduced the thickening of their arteries. Talk to your doctor if you take any drugs on a regular basis, as pomegranate juice seems to interfere with the metabolism of many medications.

The bottom line
Many other forms of produce not classified as superfruits also contain exceptional levels of antioxidants and nutrients. Most of the studies on superfruits are small and short-term, are conducted on animals, lack adequate control groups, or are funded by industry. These products also are usually very expensive when compared to other fruits, with some juices costing nearly $100 a bottle.

It is important to remember that many of these manufacturers pay a doctor to attest to the fruits’ beneficial properties, claims that are usually not credible. You should also ignore testimonials by “everyday” people who claim that a juice or supplement has cured them of a disease or changed their life. The journal Clinical Cancer Research released the following statement: “Don’t count on açaí or goji berry juice to boost your health, and research on pomegranate and blueberries is still preliminary.”

Many manufacturers claim that these superfruits provide more antioxidants than other fruits, but this often refers to the whole fruit, rather than the juice that is extracted from the fruit. In fact, one study showed that you would need to drink 150 milliliters (mL) of a popular noni juice to match the antioxidant content of a navel orange, 90 mL of a popular mangosteen juice to match the antioxidant content of 1 cup of strawberries, and 300 mL of a well-known goji juice to match the antioxidant content of a Red Delicious apple.

Different labs performing tests to calculate the antioxidant content of the same fruit can garner highly variable results, depending on how much water the fruit contains, how it is harvested and handled, and how much time has passed since harvest. Furthermore, even if fruit A has more antioxidants than fruit B in a test tube, the antioxidants in fruit B sometimes are more easily absorbed in the human body.

References and recommended readings
ACAI Health and Nutrition Resource Center. Pomegranate & cardiovascular. Available at: Accessed April 20, 2009.

Australia.TO. Superfruit juices. Available at:,25197,23040467-202,00,00.html. Accessed April 20, 2009.

Mitchell S. Superfruits: are they worth the money? Available at: Accessed April 20, 2009.

Searby L. The high-flying fruit. Available at: Accessed April 20, 2009.

Sohn E. Superfruits, super powers? Available at:,0,2602519,print.story. Accessed April 20, 2009.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Quinoa Pilaf

The following recipe I got from the Self November 2009 issue. I served it with the Salmon Florentine from the same issue/recipe. Nutritional facts for one 6oz fillet and 1/2 cup quinoa = 470 calories, 20g fat (only 4g saturated), 27g carbs, 6g fiber, and 48g protein.

Quinoa is one of my favorite grains and I think this was one of my favorite recipes I've made using it. I've included the changes I made in parenthasis, I think they made a [flavorful] difference!

Quinoa Pilaf
(makes ~2 cups after cooked)

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup low sodium chicken broth (I used 1/2 cup chicken broth, 1/2 cup orange juice) *Use vegetable brother for vegetarian
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped (I used shallots)
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted in a dry skillet over medium-heat heat until golden brown, 2 minutes
2 tbsp fresh parsely, chopped

Bring quinoa and broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover, simmer until quinoa absorbs liquid, about 15 minutes. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, cook, stirring occasionaly until onion begins to brown (about 6 minutes). When quinoa is done, fluff with a fork, transfer to a serving bowl, and stir in onion/pine nuts/parsley. Season with salt/pepper.

Salmon Florentine

The following recipe I got from the Self November 2009 issue. I served it with the Quinoa Pilaf from the same issue/recipe. Nutritional facts for one 6oz fillet and 1/2 cup quinoa = 470 calories, 20g fat (only 4g saturated), 27g carbs, 6g fiber, 48g protein

The salmon looked beautiful but I totally forgot to take a picture but you can see what it should look like here. The only thing different I did was use fresh spinach that I cooked rather than using frozen spinach. It turned out pretty, yummy, and healthy.

Salmon Florentine
2 packages (10oz each) frozen spinach, thawed
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup minced shallots
2 tsp minced garlic
5 sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
4 skinless salmon fillets (6oz each)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Squeeze spinach of all excess liquid. Set aside. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, cook, stirring, until soft (about 3 minutes). Add garlic, cook 1 minute more. Add spinach, tomatoes, salt, pepper flakes, and pepper; cook, stirring 2 minutes more. Remove from heat, let cool about 15 minutes. Add ricotta, stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Pack about 1/2 cup spinach mixture on top of each fillet, matching the shape of the fillet. Place fillets on unrimmed baking sheet or glass baking dish, bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes.