Caramel Apple Snickers Salad – HaliPawz

I received a text message from my niece this morning asking me for the recipe for my Caramel Apple Snickers Dessert.   I immediately came to my blog to pull it up and realized I had never typed it up!  I took all of the pictures the last time I made it, but forgot to write the recipe.  I needed to correct this oversight immediately! Now, yes, the title is misleading, it isn’t really a salad, it’s a dessert, but let’s face it, we all feel better calling it a salad.

Dessert, caramel apple
I will admit, I didn’t come up with the recipe, I found it a while ago, back before I was writing a blog, so I didn’t save the information of where I found it or who had authored it.  I have made some changes to it to suit my preferences and wanted to share it with everyone.  Because it is a nice cool dessert, it makes a nice Fourth of July celebration dish but can be enjoyed all year long.

For my dessert, I chose to use Ambrosia Apples.  You can use any type of apple you want, but I chose these because they are a low acid apple, so more people can enjoy them, they tend to be more sweet, than tart, and they blend well with the other ingredients. If you want a tarter apple, Granny Smith apples may be better for you.

As some of you may recall from my pasta salad recipe, I like to use the half size disposable aluminum steam pans.  I usually buy the pans and lids from Sam’s Club and use them throughout the year.  I never have to worry about remembering my pan after a party.  Depending on the size pan you are using, you can adjust the apples and the snickers to match.

Ingredients

6 Ambrosia Apples (Can use any type of apple you choose)

12-15 Fun Size Snickers Bars (I used the fun size because ounce for ounce,

they are cheaper than the full size ones at Wal-Mart and easier to cut up)

1 16oz tub Cool Whip

1/2 cup Milk

1 5oz package Vanilla Instant Pudding (If you want more pudding flavor,

use two small boxes and 3/4 cup Milk)

Caramel Topping

Chocolate Topping

Handful of chopped pecans (optional)

Before I begin to mix everything, I start by cutting up the apples and the Snicker’s bars.  To speed up the apples, I use my Pampered Chef Apple Peeler Corer Slicer.  It works amazingly well, and then I just have to cut them into a little bit smaller pieces.  I take the peeling off because it’s easier for my mom to eat that way, but if you don’t have anyone with those issues, feel free to leave the peelings on.

img_3179

Apple being peeled by Pampered Chef Apple Peeler, Corer, Slicer

For the Snickers bars, I found it easiest to flip them over, cut down the middle, then cut along the bar in small, bite size pieces.  It is important to make sure you start with a sharp knife.  I’ve tried it before with a knife I didn’t sharpen, and it was a mess.  When I sharpen the knife right before starting, it cuts through the candy bar very nicely.

Flip Snickers bar over for easier cutting

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Chopped up Snickers Pieces

To start putting it all together, I make a small pattern of the caramel topping and chocolate topping on the bottom of the pan.  I know no one sees it, but I think it helps with the flavors being better mixed.

img_3184

In a mixing bowl, combine the milk and the pudding mix.  Slowly blend in the cool whip.  Once you have it at a nice consistency, fold in  the apples and the snickers pieces.

Once they are all mixed well together, spread the mixture out into the pan.  If you’re like me, I try to smooth it all out, so it’s flat and even, but since it’s a “salad” it doesn’t matter how it looks in the pan.  Well yeah, to me, it does!

Drizzle the caramel sauce and the chocolate sauce over the top.  You can sprinkle some pecans on the top if you want as well.  I know I know, with the Snicker’s having peanuts, why would you add pecans….to that I say….why WOULDN’T you add pecans?  Pecans ALWAYS go with chocolate, caramel, and apples!

Caramel Apple Snickers Salad

Chill for at least an hour before serving.  If you’re taking it to a party, you might want to consider taking another empty pan, put ice in the bottom, and let the salad sit on the ice to keep cold until it is served.

Enjoy!

My simple Pasta Salad – HaliPawz

Italian Dressing, Rotini, Colby Jack

You can read the whole story of my experience with Crouton Cups and Pasta Salad here, but I thought I would share my recipe for my favorite pasta salad. I’m not a fan of salads made with mayonnaise, so I like the freshness of this one.  It’s pretty quick to make and goes quickly at every event I take it too.

Italian Dressing, Rotini, Colby Jack

Simple, Fresh, Pasta Salad with Bacon, Cucumber, and Cheese

Ingredients:

Pasta – I generally use Barilla Tri-Color Rotini but I have used Wal-Mart’s Great Value as well.

Italian Dressing – I have always used Wishbone Robusto Italian Dressing but this past one, I used Olive Garden’s Italian Dressing because that’s what Sam’s Club had and I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I liked it ok but will stick with the Wishbone in the future. If you’re a fan of Olive Garden, you’ll like either one.

Bacon – Just eliminate if you want vegetarian style

Cucumber

Colby Jack Cheese – I do the block of cheese from Sam’s Club and cut it to save some money, but you can also buy the cubes.  You can mix sharp cheddar cubes and Colby Jack cubes as well.

If you use the block cheese, I highly recommend a great cheese knife. I use the wavy pampered chef one, but couldn’t find it on their site to share, so not sure if it’s still available.

cheese knife, michigan, cutting, board

Pampered Chef Cheese Knife on Michigan Cutting Board

I throw the bacon on my Pampered Chef bar pan on 350 degrees.  After about 20-25 minutes, I check it.  For this salad, you’ll want it more on the crispy side, so it may take a little longer or shorter depending on your oven and how crispy you want it.
While the bacon is in the oven, I start my water to boiling. Prepare your pasta to the directions on the box.  Drain and rinse with cold water.

In a large bowl, add about a quarter of the dressing to the pasta.

Peel the cucumber and cut into small bite size pieces.  I generally quarter it lengthwise then slice it. Add to the pasta, stir.

Next add your cheese.  Again, bite size.  Big enough to taste the cheese though. Stir in about another quarter of the dressing bottle at this time.

Stir well then cover and place in the refrigerator until the bacon cools and you can add it.  This gives the pasta time to absorb the dressing.

Once the bacon is ready, if you went extra crispy, just crumble it into the salad. I like mine crispy, but not crumbly, so I usually tear and crumble.

Add more dressing, stir, and place back in the refrigerator.

As I have said, I am not a “pretty” cook.  My dishes don’t look perfectly made, things aren’t evenly sliced, but for me, as long as it tastes great, I’m happy!

Leave in the refrigerator for at least one to two hours, giving time for the pasta to truly take on the flavor of the dressing.  You can prepare it the day before, just add a little more dressing in the morning.

Before serving, add a little more dressing to keep it from tasting dry, stir it up again.  Taste.  If you want more flavor, add more dressing.

I usually use one whole bottle (16 oz) per box of pasta.  Just remember to not add as much the day you are preparing if you are serving it the following day.

I will add, I don’t think the Olive Garden dressing sticks to the pasta as well as the Wishbone dressing does. It tasted good the first day but I could barely taste it the next night.  I was surprised because, to me, the Olive Garden dressing has a little bite to it.

Either way, it is a great salad for a hot day.  Fresh and, with the cucumber, nice and crisp.

Enjoy!

If you like this and want to stay up to date with my posts, follow me on Twitter @HaliPawz  or Like me on Facebook.com/HaliPawz 

Why isn’t Ruby Tuesday busier? – HaliPawz

I used to travel a lot for work.  One thing I learned was the importance of consistency with restaurants.  After working all day and spending multiple days in a city, you start to find yourself not willing to try a new local restaurant, you want one of your old reliable(s) because you know what you are going to get.  Depending on what city I was in, I would have one or two “go to” restaurants.  Sadly, I even ordered the same thing from them usually.  Over time, you begin to know which restaurants are very consistent with their quality and tastes and which ones might be hit or miss.  Let’s face it, when you’re tired, eating in restaurants every day, and have been away from home for a few days in a row, you just want something you know and like.  One restaurant I came to know to be pretty consistent is Ruby Tuesdays.  One thing I noticed from town to town, even here in Kansas City, is the restaurant is never packed.  It makes me wonder, Why isn’t Ruby Tuesday a busier restaurant?

My mom and I went out to dinner tonight and we decided to go to Ruby Tuesdays.  I gave her a choice of three and let her pick.  I tried to pick places I knew wouldn’t be too busy for a Saturday night but would still have good food.  We went to the location in North Kansas City, but I can speak confidently about that one and the one in Independence.

I want to talk about some of the facts, based on MY experience……

    • I have never encountered poor service.  Just the opposite really.  It must be a decent restaurant to work at because everyone always seems friendly.  I have laughed over one thing or another with a waiter.  Take tonight for example, I was drinking my typical Coke with Lemon and she brought me another drink with a new straw still in the wrapper.  She asked me something, probably about the food, and as I was answering her, I opened the new straw then chuckled a little and said I didn’t know why I opened the new straw.  She genuinely laughed with me and said she didn’t know why she brought me a new straw!  I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s the little moments you come to appreciate.
Ruby Tuesday Salad Bar     Photo by TripAdvisor.com

Ruby Tuesday Salad Bar Photo by TripAdvisor.com

      • Their salad bar is one of the best around!  I LOVE their salad bar.  I can not say enough good things about it.  Everything is always fresh.  I have never seen a dirty salad bar at any location I have gone to.  The dressings I have tried always have flavor to them.  Their croutons are amazing.  I can honestly say, if they aren’t my favorite croutons from a restaurant, they are in my top three.  The quality of the salad bar is very consistent in every state and every location I have ever been in.  The only thing I have ever encountered was one location, I can’t remember where, was out of croutons on the bar.  I mentioned it to the waiter.  Not only were they refilled immediately, the waiter brought me a small dish of them for the salad I was eating.
Ruby Tuesday Salad Bar Photo by TripAdvisor.com

Ruby Tuesday Salad Bar Photo by TripAdvisor.com

  • Their menu has some hidden gems on it.  I changed the way I cooked my green beans at home because of the way Ruby Tuesday’s prepares them.  I finally asked someone what they were cooked in and how they were cooked and they told me.  I now brush my green beans with olive oil and grill them.  I even went out and bought a pan a few years ago just to grill green beans on my grill.  Since then, I have used the pan for other things, but it was originally purchased because of those green beans.  They also have white cheddar mashed potatoes that I love.  One of my favorite meals from their was their Asiago Peppercorn Sirloin.  I say was because one day I was torn between ordering my go-to and trying theirRibeye.  Ribeye is one of my favorite cuts of meat but I had always been happy with the sirloin from there.  The waiter, ever so helpful, pointed out I could order the Ribeye and have it prepared like the Asiago Peppercorn Sirloin.  Are you serious?!?!  I never even thought about it!  I have a new favorite!  My mom ordered the bourbon glazed pork chop tonight and it came out looking as good as the picture in the menu.  It smelled great and she said it was really good.  She said it was nice and tender.  It must have been because she ate more of her meal than it did.

    Ruby Tuesday Asiago Peppercorn Sirloin

    Ruby Tuesday Asiago Peppercorn Sirloin

  • That leads me to another point…..the portion sizes are good.  I always leave full when I eat there.  Tonight I even took home a small portion of my steak.  I was just too full to finish it.  Not only that, but the food actually has flavor but not so much fake flavor you lose the flavor of the actual item.
  • Their food prices are reasonable.  In addition, if you are like me and like to take advantage of savings, if you have a smart phone with the Retail Me Not app, type in Ruby Tuesdays and there is usually a Buy one meal, get one 50% off.  I use that coupon all the time when I eat there.  I tell the waiter and at the end of the meal, they ask to see the coupon and I show them the code.  I have never been made to feel awkward for using it or felt like the waiter was annoyed I was using it.  ****Just remember to tip them based on the amount BEFORE the discount.  You can also go online with a desktop or laptop and go to RetailMeNot.com and print the coupon ahead of time, but if you have a smart phone, it isn’t necessary to print it.  In doing some searches for this blog, I did find a Facebook group called Ruby Tuesday Coupons where they also have different coupons posted on there.
  • I do think their desserts are a little pricey for what you get.  I ordered the cupcakes once and wasn’t impressed.  I do like their Blondie dessert though, so if you’re not too full from your meal and want a huge dessert or one to share, you might want to consider it.
  • They are a full service bar.  I don’t usually order alcoholic drinks when I’m out.  I just don’t see the point in spending that much money.  I am completely against drinking and driving, I’m usually the driver, so again, I tend to avoid alcohol when I’m out to eat.  I have ordered their signature drink; Ruby Relaxer and it was really good.  According to their website, the drink is: “a mellow blend of Absolut Vodka with Cruzan Coconut Rum, peach schnapps, pineapple and cranberry juices, and fresh orange.”
  • They have these cheddar cheese biscuits they normally serve with the meals.  For some reason, now that I think about it, we didn’t get them tonight, but I didn’t think to ask why.
  • Their carry out service is pretty good as well.  I love the fact you can run in and make your salad and then grab the hot portion of your meal and head back out.  They do have prepared salads on their menu but I don’t know why anyone would choose that over making it yourself at their salad bar.  I’ve never tried it, but I’m sure you could just order a chicken breast by itself to add to your salad if that is all you want.  I know Outback will do that.  I used to do it for carry out all the time.  I’d just order their house salad with a 6 oz chicken breast.  Never hurts to ask if you are interested.
  • They are ADA Friendly.  There is usually enough spacing between tables for wheelchairs and walkers.  Just tonight, I noticed about three different families eating there where one member was in a wheelchair, plus my mom was there with the walker and even with her getting the salad bar, she is able to navigate it on her own.
  • Family Friendly, Meeting Friendly, Date Friendly, and Friend Gathering Friendly.  I wouldn’t say it is a romantic place, but I have actually had two different dates there.  One was even a first date.  I don’t think it should be understood the man pays so if he insists, I try to think of a restaurant centrally located between the two of us with good food and not too pricey.  Ruby Tuesday fits the bill.

So why isn’t it busier?  I’ve been thinking about this.  Perhaps people don’t understand what a hidden gem of a restaurant they are.  Are they the fanciest?  Absolutely not.  They are clean, they are simple.  They are like a neighborhood restaurant that just happens to nationwide.  I remember I didn’t go into one for the longest time because I thought it was a seafood restaurant.  I have no idea why, but I did.  Their logo, the little swoosh on the “s” in Tuesday made me think seafood.  I chalked it right up there with chains like Red Lobster, Applebees, etc, all of which I don’t go to.  I have never been impressed with the quality of their food.  As I don’t eat anything from the water, Red Lobster’s only alternative was a chewy chicken.  So, with this thinking, I stayed away until one day I decided to venture in and I am so glad I did.  I remember taking a friend there once and when we left, he admitted he had never eaten there before and it wasn’t what he thought it was.  I think we’ve been back two or three times after that.

To me, it is just a nice, relaxing, place to go and enjoy a decent meal at a decent price.  The only complaint I have about the locations in Kansas City is that they don’t have one close to me.  If they wanted to put one near Waldo, I would probably just bounce back and forth between them and Chipotle all the time!  Actually, I think Waldo demographics would be perfect for them.  They should consider it!

I encourage you to look to see if you have a Ruby Tuesday near you.  If you do, go check out what coupon would be the best for you, and then head out to try it.  I’d love to hear about your experience if you do.  Or, if you’re already a fan, drop a comment about what location and what you love about it!

Happy Eating everyone!

If you like this and want to stay up to date with my posts, follow me on Twitter @HaliPawz  or Like me on Facebook.com/HaliPawz 

Ticks are back out in full force, let’s understand them and the myths around them – HaliPawz

deer ticks, dog ticks

It’s tick season.  I found one on Luke yesterday, a friend found one on their dog a couple days ago.  It is important to understand ticks to help prevent them.

I recently applied for a writing platform, CrowdSource, and in your submission application, you have to take different questions and write answers to them.  The first question I answered was, “How do ticks breathe?”  You would think this would be a simple answer to find with the help of the internet.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t.  I found answer’s that, ultimately, I learned were not correct.  More research and I learned some interesting facts.

The first thing I learned is ticks are not insects.  They are, in fact, arachnids.  An arachnid has two body parts and eight legs.  This means ticks are in the same category as spiders, scorpions, and mites.  One difference ticks have from spiders is they only have one way of breathing, not two, like most arachnids.  They are are able to breathe through an elaborate tracheae respiratory system which consists of a number of small, branching tubes that carry air to individual open pores, or cells, on their body. These tubes are filled with fluid and the gases diffuse in the tubes and ramify over the internal organs.

With over 900 types of ticks, it is easy to understand how they can live in almost any climate.  The American Dog Tick is one form of a  hard tick, which means it feeds continuously on blood, mates, then lays her eggs and dies.  Soft ticks differ in that they feed intermittently and lay several batches of eggs. Hard ticks are harmful to our pets because they draw large amounts of blood, they secrete neurotoxins that has been known to produce paralysis or even death, and by transmitting diseases, including Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and Rock Mountain spotted fever, just to name a few.

Let’s look at a few tick myths:

Ticks do not jump, fly, drop from trees. They sit on tall blades of grass and wait for an animal to pass by.  They then crawl up and find a place on the animal to attach themselves and begin feeding.

Ticks do not burrow into the animal.  They only insert 1/8th of their body into the animal (or host)

You can not remove a tick with Vaseline, a match, alcohol, etc.  This does nothing except, in some cases, cause the tick to use their defense system and possibly regurgitate infected fluids into the host.

Ticks do not die during winter.  Some types even begin feeding around the first frost.  They can attach anytime of the year.

Not EVERY tick carries a disease.  Many do, but not all.  It can take up to 24 hours for the disease to be able to travel from the tick into the hosts bloodstream, so catching a tick quickly on both the animal or the human will minimize the chances of transmitting any disease.

When removing the tick, if you don’t get the head, it will grow another body is a MYTH!  It may cause an infection like any foreign item in your body can, but will eventually work it’s way out.

In addition to protecting your animal, it is important to protect yourself.

Deer ticks, which carry Lyme Disease, are not as aggressive as dog ticks so once they hit a barrier, such as clothing, they generally stop crawling.  This is why you find them close to sock lines, underwear, etc.  Tucking clothes in will help minimize your risk.

Make sure you protect your animal against fleas and ticks.  Talk to your veterinarian about which method they recommend, but it is important to also do your own homework.  In some instances, veterinarians, like most people in medical fields, may be influenced by representatives of the company or receive some kickbacks for how many quantities of a particular brand they sell.  You do not always have to get your preventative medicine from your veterinarian.  They can write a prescription and you can take it anywhere.  I get mine from Sam’s Club.  I have found them to be the cheapest around here.

If you do find a tick, on either your pet or yourself, do NOT rotate it to pull it out!  Ticks have more of a barb like attachment, not legs so you can not unscrew them out of the body.

The best ways to remove a tick is to take a pair of needle nose tweezers, squeeze the tick, and pull directly back.

There is also a tool called TickedOff Tick remover I have heard good things about.  I have thought about getting a couple, one to leave at the barn and one to leave at home, to see how well they work.  If anyone has used them, please leave a comment.

Bottom line, ticks are bad news.  Let’s get on the front side of preventative measures and react quickly when we find one on ourselves or our pets!

Shopping Safely, Online and In Person – HaliPawz

Online Auction
Shopping can be a sport to some, a pain to others.  I have to admit, I’m not a shopper except at Christmas time, then I love to shop!  When I do shop, for the most part, I will do a lot of it online.  Sometimes it is easier to find what I am looking for online.  For example, Luke, my horse, is a draft horse, so I can’t just walk into any tack shop & buy stuff for him.  Sometimes, it is easier to purchase items from smaller companies than it is from a big box company.  Because of this, you want to make sure you are being SAFE and SMART with your purchases.
Here are some tips:
1.  Whenever possible, look for the little padlock icon in the URL (where it says  http://www…..). That padlock tells you the company is using a secure website.  It is more secure, your information is more protected.
padlock icon
Notice the padlock next to the word “PayPal”
2.  If it’s not a secure site, use PayPal or Google Wallet. Both of them offer the consumer protection against fraud.  Make sure you read their terms and conditions.  Understand there are time limits to request your funds back.  Scammers know the terms and conditions better than you do, so if they are dishonest, they will try to stretch it past that time or try to catch you up and get you to do something that goes against the company policy.  You are responsible for knowing all the details.  I wish I could say everyone is good and honest, but in reality, they aren’t.
3.  Never Never Never wire someone money.  If they don’t use the above, you don’t want what they are selling.  I wish I could say this more than once or have you repeat it over and over.  They will come up with great reasons why you should wire the money.  DO NOT LISTEN!   The same is true for using money orders.  Keep the same mindset.
4.  The old adage “If something is too good to be true….” Definitely applies here.  Sometimes the cheapest isn’t the best.  Make sure to look for hidden “maintenance” fees or outrageous shipping.  One example of this happening is with online contact lens companies.  They will advertise crazy inexpensive pricing for their contacts, when you go to check out, there will be ridiculous shipping charges or a “maintenance fee” tacked on.  It might have another name, like “processing fee.”  No matter what cute name they put on it, it adds to the price and it might not be cheaper.  Too often, by the time you get to that point, you see the amount but you have already put in your information and you don’t want the hassle of starting over.  They capitalize on the psychology of some behavior and still get the business.
4.  Auctions are another great way to get something for a good, or even great, price. I use them often, but again, use only secure sites or PayPal, etc.  Do your homework. Don’t get so caught up in the bidding that you end up spending more than you can find it elsewhere for.  Take a minute, look up the item online, see what price you can get it for, then pick a price you’re willing to spend and don’t go over it.  A lot of the better auction sites offer proxy bidding so you can put in the price you’re willing to spend and then walk away. Have the mindset you might lose, but you’ll be happy if you win.  One of my favorite online auction is Samsclub.com.  This is a fun one because you know the product, you know it’s backed by the company, and, for the most part, it is all brand new merchandise.  It made it to the auction because the item is low in the club or the on hand numbers on-line are too low to keep it on their website, so they move it to the auction to clear it out. For the dog and horse owners, another great one is Horseloverz.com.  One nice feature is you can wait up to four days to actually purchase your winning items, so if you’re bidding on quite a few items, you can pay for them all at once and have them shipped out with less shipping costs.  It is a little messy to wade through all of the items, but once you get comfortable with it, you can learn to use the filters to find what you are looking for.  It’s not as easy to find the dog stuff, but they have it from time to time, so keep checking back, items vary all the time.  Another tried and true site you can find a variety of items is ebay.com.  If you have any other favorites, please put them in the comments below to share with the readers.
5.  When I do shop in person, I like to support small businesses so I always make sure to grab their business card the first time.  Some of the them now use PayPal Here, square trade, or some other form of mobile credit card processing.  Sometimes these are connected to a smart phone or tablet.  It doesn’t mean they are not safe, but if you don’t recognize the company they are using, it is OK to ask them.  Pay attention to your credit card statements.
6. If at a Brick & Mortar (Wal-Mart, Target, etc) always always run your card as credit, not debit (even if it is a debit card).  By doing this, you are protecting yourself from someone seeing you key in your pin.  The person standing beside you on their phone “texting” could be snapping pictures of your credit card and memorizing your pin.  It also protects you more as a consumer.
7.  Make sure you have complicated passwords for anything and anyplace you would be putting your personal info into. This includes social media. If you use a smart phone to shop, always lock it (you should anyway) and don’t use 1,2,3,4 as a password. Make it something only YOU know, not family & friends. Don’t use birthday!  LOL  It is important to use something unique.
8.  Trust your gut! If something seems shady, don’t buy! No purchase is worth it.
9. Last, but not least, if you are truly concerned, get a second card / account that you use for online shopping / small business purchases.  Be careful of the fees that are involved.  I don’t do this because I follow the above steps. I probably purchase 60+% of non food / household items online.  It saves me time & allows for me to find the best price.
Oh….bonus tip….if you find something online that you really like from a larger company, put it in the shopping cart but don’t purchase.  A lot of times, within 24 hours you’ll get a “Did you forget something?” Email and they’ll offer free shipping with a code.  I hardly ever pay for shipping or very little.  Also check the site “RetailMeNot” for specials or just google the Business name with the word coupon after it and you may find some online. They don’t always work, but it’s worth a shot!
I hope these tips help! Happy shopping!

My Chipotle Night at Home: Steak Bowl with White Rice, Chips & Mild Pico – HaliPawz

Chipotle, Copycat recipe, Basmati Rice

I love Chipotle.  It is one of those restaurants I could eat a couple nights a week.  There are times when I’m driving home at night and will weigh the cost of Chipotle over another fast food restaurant and Chipotle will almost always win.  One day recently, I started thinking about it and realized I am spending money for four ingredients.  I get the steak bowl with white rice, cheese, and lettuce.  I already make their Chips & Pico De Gallo so I wondered how difficult would it be to make their white rice and their steak?  I decided to tackle the task.  I was going to have Chipotle at home, I was going to attempt to make their steak bowl with the white rice to go with my Chips & Pico De Gallo.

I’m not a fancy cook.  I’m not someone who can just whip stuff together.  I use recipes when I’m trying something new.  After I’ve made it a few times, I might tweak it here or there to get it where I want it.

Let’s start with the rice. I have to admit, I have never made rice before.  Not in a real way.  I would buy box versions of flavored long grain and wild rice, but never a bag of rice I was preparing from scratch.  I didn’t even know there were so many varieties of rice.  I started doing research and learned I had to use Basmati rice.  I was excited.  I knew if it turned out well, I would probably make it often because I really like the rice.  After looking at a few different recipes for both the rice and the steak, I decided what I liked or didn’t like from various recipes to create my own.

CopyCat Chipotle Basmati (White) Rice

Ingredients

1 tbsp butter

(I always cook with real butter, you can also use 1 tbsp oil)

1 Cup Basmati Rice

2 cups water

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 lime

2 tbsp Fresh Cilantro

Melt the butter over a medium heat, add the rice and saute it.  You want it to have almost a translucent (or wet) appearance.

Add the water, turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a boil.

As soon as it begins to boil, turn the heat down to low, place your lid on your pan, and let the rice simmer for 15-20 minutes.  You want the water to be absorbed

Turn off the heat.  Now the tough part….and trust me, you will be tempted, but DO NOT LIFT THE LID for 30 minutes after you turn off the heat.  The steam will help the rice be nice and fluffy and you want fluffy rice.  🙂

While it is steaming, in a small dish, mix the salt and the lime juice together until the salt is dissolved.  You can also get your cilantro ready at this time.  If you know how to chop cilantro with a knife, go for it, but I use my mini chopper because it works best for me.

After the tortuous, tempting 30 minutes of steaming WITHOUT CHECKING ON IT…..lift the lid, allowing the steam to escape and put the rice into a mixing bowl. Fluff the rice with a fork while adding the salt / lime mixture.

Add the cilantro slowly while continuing to fluff.

For just the Rice recipe without everything else, click here.

Basmati Rice, Cilantro, Copycat recipes

Copycat Chipotle Rice

 I always get the steak option when I go to Chipotle.  I love it.  As I am not a fan of spicy food, there are times I do feel like I would like it better if it wasn’t quite as spicy at times.  By making it at home, I realized I could control the spice level.  Many of the ingredients are used in my Pico De Gallo recipe as well, so it’s a great way to not waste ingredients when you make them at the same time.

Copycat Chipotle Steak Marinade

Makes four 8oz servings

2lbs Steak of your choice

(Recommend Skirt, Sirloin, or Ribeye)

1/2 cup Cilantro (Finely chopped)

1/2 Jalapeno

(Remove the seeds for a milder taste)

6 cloves of garlic

1/2 red onion

1/2 tsp Cumin (use up to 1 tsp to taste)

1/2 tsp kosher salt (or sea salt)

1/4 olive oil

1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper (use up to 1 tsp to taste)

1/2 tsp pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl.  Rub the mixture onto the steak making sure to coat both sides really well.

Place the steak into the refrigerator for at least an hour but not longer than 24 hours.  The longer it marinates, the richer the flavor.  I recommend about 2-4 hours.

Prepare the meat either on the grill or by heating up some olive oil in a pan to medium heat and then searing the steak.  Cook the steak to 135 degrees (Medium rare)

Remove the steak from the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes (this allows the juice to set and helps maintain the flavor)

Cut the steak into bite size pieces by cutting lengthwise then across with the cuts about an inch apart.

To make the Bowl

Put a layer of rice on your plate or bowl

Add the steak

Sprinkle with a combination of shredded white cheddar and Monterrey jack cheese

Add lettuce

I didn’t have the right cheese in the house so I ended up using a mixture I had, that is why it’s yellow cheese in the picture, but trust me, I will make sure to use my shopping list at the bottom of this post to make sure I don’t forget the cheese again!

(That’s the end of mine, but you can top with anything else you would like….guacamole, pico, sour cream)

ENJOY!

To make it easier, here is a shopping list for this whole meal

  • 2 lbs Steak
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • 1 Jalapeno
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 3 Limes
  • 6 Roma Tomatoes
  • Basmati Rice
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Bag of White Tortilla Chips
  • Shredded White Cheddar Cheese
  • Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
  • Lettuce

You will also need the following if you don’t already have at home

  • Kosher Salt (or sea salt)
  • Cumin
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Pepper
  • Crushed Red Pepper
  • (Vegetable Oil if substituting for the butter)

Copycat Chipotle Chips and Pico De Gallo; My Version – HaliPawz

Copycat recipes

I love Chipotle’s Chips and mild Pico De Gallo.  I’m odd.  I do not like tomatoes but I love Pico, Salsa, etc.  I won’t put a tomato slice on a burger but I’ll put tomatoes and other ingredients on a tortilla chip.  I really wanted to try to make it at home but I was afraid it would be a passing fancy and I didn’t have a food chopper, which I thought I had to have to make it, so I went on the search for one. I found one at Wal-Mart for less than $10, Rival Mini Chopper.  Even though the version has changed slightly, they still have one available for less than $10.

I could not wait to try it out.  I checked the internet for recipes for the Pico and found a few different versions.  After trying it a few ways, I have finally come up with a recipe I like and have made it many times.  My friends and family love it so I must be doing something right with it.

Fun Fact….What is the difference between Pico De Gallo and Salsa?  While they are both very similar, Pico De Gallo is always fresh, made with fewer ingredients cut more in into chunks, and served chilled.  Salsa is cooked, more of a sauce, and may contain more ingredients.  You can make salsa ahead of time and preserve it by canning it which you can not do with Pico because it needs to be served fresh.

I have learned from experience my Pico recipe only lasts about a day to a day and a half and then the flavor doesn’t taste the same and needs to be thrown away so you don’t want to make up too much at one time.  I will say it goes quickly though, so don’t be surprised if your family or friends start eating and don’t stop.  I would say to make one serving per every four to six guests depending on how much food you are serving with it.  I usually put the Pico out ahead of the food for my guests to munch on while they are waiting for the food, so I go through more of it.

Over quite a few trials and errors, I am going to be specific about how I prepare it to maximize texture and flavor.

Ingredients

6 Roma Tomatoes

3/4 Cup Cilantro

1/2 Jalapeno

(Remove Seeds for Mild Version)

1/2 Medium Red Onion

1 1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt (or Sea Salt)

1 Lime

Because I am not an expert cook by any means, I am going to be pretty detailed with how I prepare everything to help those, like me, new to experimenting with things outside of meat and potatoes or pasta.  It is pretty easy.  As you prepare each item, just throw it into a mixing bowl.

Starting with the Roma Tomatoes, wash them in cold water, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and juice.  I use a spoon to make sure I have all the seeds out and then place it down so the remainder of the juice runs out while I cut the other tomatoes. Make sure you are using a sharp knife.  It is the best way to cut the tomato without “squishing” it.  The sharper the better, just be careful.  I don’t cut the top of the tomato off until I’m ready to start dicing it, I have found it is easier to scoop the seeds and liquid out if the top is still intact.

I learned the hard way NOT to use the food chopper for the tomatoes.  Dice them with a knife.  It may take a few minutes longer if you aren’t used to cutting food up that small, but it is worth the extra time.  I used to take me about 45 min to do a serving (yes, I’m extremely slow when I’m first making something because I have to keep going back to the recipe, I’m extra careful cutting, etc) but now I can usually have it done in 15 min or less if I’m just making one serving.

I have found a couple links to show how to dice a roma tomato that were helpful to me when I was starting out.  I also have to thank my sister because she was the one who pointed out it would be easier and less of a mess to cut them instead of putting them in the chopper when she was helping me prepare it one day.  Here is one link I found though to help  you with a visual:  How to dice a Roma Tomato  

If you would like a little juicier Pico and you don’t want to remove the seeds, you can also dice it this way.  Video how to dice a Roma Tomato  What did we do before the internet to help us figure all of this out?

Cilantro – I can not cut Cilantro.  I have followed the steps, I have looked it up many times and have learned, it’s ok, just use the food chopper!  So, if you are talented with a knife and comfortable cutting up cilantro, then go for it.  If you’re like me, don’t feel bad.  The chopper was invented for people like us.  Wash the cilantro really well, pat it dry with a paper tower, pull out any wilted or discolored pieces.  Cut the stems off and throw them away.  Throw the leafy part in the chopper.   I usually let it cut it up until it doesn’t look like it’s doing anything anymore, take a small spatula to push the cilantro down off the sides, and run it again for a few seconds.  It’s easiest to then scrape it into a 2 cup glass measuring cup so you can see how much you have cut up.  Once you get more comfortable making it, you will find you don’t need to measure any more, but for starting out, for me, it was the easiest way and dumped out of the glass measuring cup smoothly.

Don’t bother washing out the chopper.

If you want to try your hand at cutting it instead of using the chopper, WikiHow has a pretty detailed example.  

Jalapeno –  Wash the jalapeno, cut the top off, and then cut it lengthwise.  Make sure to get all of the seeds out if you want it to be mild.  I throw the seeds away so they don’t accidentally get mixed in with the pepper while I am cutting it up.  They are sneaky buggers and attach easily!  You dice it up pretty much the same way you do the Roma Tomato.

Red Onion –  Cut the red onion in half and I cut off both ends. I peel off the outside skin.  Then I cut the half into quarters, throw it into the chopper, and let it work it’s magic.  Yes, I know you can dice it yourself, but honestly, the chopper is less complicated for me.  I throw the onion in the mixing bowl with the other ingredients and mix it all up.

Add the Salt – I usually stir it once or twice

Lime – Roll the lime against the counter with your hand.  This is a tip I learned a long time ago to get more juice out of a lemon, tried it and found it helps with the lime as well.  You want as much lime juice as you can get from it.  I also read where you could put it in the microwave, but I never do that, I just roll it along the counter.  Cut it in half and then you can either squeeze it directly into the bowl of ingredients or use a juicer. You don’t need anything fancy to get the juice from the lime into the bowl.  Do not throw the lime away just yet, just set aside.

Mix everything together one last time and then I will transfer to a container with a lid and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.

For the Chips – I LOVE the chips you get from Chipotle so I will usually grab a bag of white tortilla chips from the store, dump half the bag into a large plastic bowl with a lid, take one half of my squeezed lime and hand squeeze any last lime juice I can over the chips, sprinkle with a little bit of salt, put the lid on them, and shake it gently to distribute the juice and salt.  Add the other half, using the other lime half, repeat with the lime juice and the salt, shake gently again, and you have some yummy chips to go with your Pico De Gallo.

Enjoy!