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When I lived in Provo, Utah while attending college, I probably ate at Cafe Rio once a week. I miss it so much! And that’s why I had to learn to make a copy cat version myself… I simply cannot live without it! I actually prefer Cafe Rio’s version to my own- since its only about $8 for a salad and I don’t have to make it! Ha! Oh I miss that place 🙂 If you’ve never been there, you’ve GOT to try this recipe. It’s a lot of work, but totally worth it. There are several great copycat recipes floating around the internet. I haven’t found one that has ALL the components of the salad PLUS a shopping list all together. So for my own sake, I compiled it all into one place, with all my own tweaks and preferences. Feel free to change it however you like it. I even have a printable shopping list HERE. And not that you’ll be hungry afterward, but I included my favorite Mexican Chocolate Cake recipe too! This is a fun Cinqo de Mayo meal!

*Tips: Begin the pork and make the salad dressing the night before, for maximum flavor. For the cilantro, wash and chop it all at the same time, saving a few sprigs for garnish. Store chopped cilantro in refrigerator and use as needed in multiple recipes. Make everything else in the order that follows…

Sweet Pork:

Marinade Ingredients-
1 can dark soda* 
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 large ziploc bag
*(I prefer Root Beer, but you can also use Coke or Dr. Pepper)

Pork Ingredients-
2 pounds boneless pork loin 
1 can dark soda*
Garlic Salt

Sauce Ingredients-
1 can dark soda*
1 small can diced green chilies
1 (10oz) can red enchilada sauce
1 cup brown sugar
water as needed

1. Make the marinade by combining the soda and brown sugar in a large ziploc bag. Place the pork loin and marinade inside and refrigerate overnight, turning over if possible.
2. In the morning, drain the marinade and place the pork in a crock pot. Add the root beer and garlic salt. Cook on low for 7-8 hours. 
3.Drain liquid and shred pork.
4. Make sauce. In a blender, combine 1 can root beer, chilies, enchilada sauce, brown sugar and water as needed. Pour over shredded pork and stir. 
5. Cook on low for 1-2 additional hours.

Creamy Tomatillo House Dressing:

1 packet Traditional Hidden Valley Ranch mix
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
2 tomatillos, peeled and diced
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, coarsley chopped
1 clove garlic
1 lime (to taste)
1 jalapeno, fresh or canned (to taste)

1. Mix first 6 ingredients in blender. 
2. Add fresh squeezed lime juice and jalapeno according to your taste. (I love limes, but I don’t like the dressing to taste too “limey,” so I don’t use all the juice from one lime. If you don’t like it too spicey, remove the seeds from your jalapeno).
3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Cilantro Lime Rice:

Rice Ingredients-
2 cups white rice
2 tsp butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 lime, freshly squeezed + zested
2 (15oz) cans chicken broth*
2 cups water*
(*4 cups powdered chicken stock + water can be used in place of chicken broth + water)

Sauce Ingredients-
1/2 lime, freshly squeezed + zested
4 tsp sugar
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1. In a pot or rice cooker, combine the rice, butter, and garlic. Saute until the butter is melted, the garlic is brown, and the rice is golden. Add the remaining rice ingredients (salt, lime juice and zest, and chicken broth). Stir.
2. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or follow rice cooker instructions. 
3. Meanwhile, make the sauce by combining the other half of the lime juice + zest, sugar, and chopped cilantro.
4. When rice is tender, remove from heat, and the sauce, and fluff.

Black Beans:

1 TB olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 (10oz) can tomato juice
1/2 tsp salt
2 TB fresh cilantro, chopped

1. In a skillet, heat olive oil on medium heat, then cook garlic and cumin. Be careful not to burn the garlic! 
2. Add the beans, tomato juice, and salt. Stir until heated through.
3. I like to take a potato masher and break up the beans just a little.
4. Stir in fresh cilantro just before serving.

Pico de Gallo:

5 roma tomatoes
1/2 sweet onion
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
1 lime

Wash and chop all ingredients. Mix it all together!


3 avacados
1/2 sweet onion
1 clove garlic
2 roma tomatoes
1 TB fresh cilantro
1 lime

1. Wash, chop, and combine all the vegetables. Mash to desired consistency. 
2. Add fresh lime juice and salt to taste.

Tortilla Strips:

4 flour tortillas
olive oil

*If using unbaked tortillas, bake on both sides, until soft.
1. Cut tortillas into strips using a pizza cutter.
2. In a skillet, lightly fry tortilla strips in hot olive oil until crisp.
3. Remove from heat and place on paper towels. Sprinkle salt on top while hot.

Cheesy Tortillas:

8-10 large flour tortillas
1 pkg Mexican shredded cheese

*If using unbaked tortillas, bake on both sides, until soft.
1. Place tortilla in aluminum tin or on a baking sheet. Sprinkle desired amount of cheese on top.
2. Place under broiler until cheese is melted.

Other Components to Prepare:

Leafy Green Lettuce, washed and chopped
Lime, washed and cut into wedges
Cilantro, sprigs for garnish
Cotija cheese

*In this order, layer food into an aluminum tin. 
1. Cheesy Tortillas
2. Cilantro Lime Rice
3. Black Beans
4. Sweet Pork
5. Leafy Green Lettuce
6. Pico de Gallo
7. Creamy Tomatillo House Dressing
8. Guacamole
9. Tortilla Strips
10. Cotija cheese 
11. Cilantro garnish
12. Lime wedges

*For my own sake, I tallied up all the ingredients so I don’t have to do the math at the grocery store every time I want to make this meal! (For example, nearly every component uses limes, so I tallied the total number of limes used). This list assumes you will make all 12 components of the salad. Just subtract any ingredients from any component you wish to leave out. Also, be sure to check your pantry- you may already have many of these things on hand. Or better yet- grow them in your garden!
*Tip: Download my shopping list HERE, and take it to the store with you! You’re welcome 🙂

Dry Goods:
-3 cans dark soda (Root Beer, Coke, or Dr. Pepper)
-Garlic salt
-Ground cumin
-Olive oil
-Brown sugar
-White sugar
-1 pkg Traditional Hidden Valley Ranch mix
-Chicken broth, 2 (15oz) cans
-White rice
-1 large can black beans
-1 (10oz) can tomato juice
-1 (10oz) can red enchilada sauce
-1 small can diced green chilis
-1 jar sliced jalapenos (omit if using fresh jalapenos)
-Large ziploc bag
-Aluminum tins 
(not necessary, but makes the experience feel more like a real Cafe Rio experience; can be found at most grocery stores)
-Fresh flour tortillas, 1-2 pkgs
(I love the kind from Costco that you cook on your own; could be located in the refrigerated section)

-1 sweet onion
-8 cloves garlic
-7 roma tomatos
-2 tomatillos
-3 avacados
-5 limes
-2 bunches fresh cilantro
-1 or 2 pkgs leafy green lettuce 
-1 jalapeno (omit if using canned jalapenos)

-1 pkg Mexican cheese
-1 small tub Cotija cheese (the white powdery stuff)
-buttermilk, 1 pint
-2 pound boneless pork loin (country style ribs work well)

What makes this a “Mexican” chocolate cake is the mixture of chocolate and cinnamon! For an extra flair, try using a special Mexican vanilla (my favorite kind)!

Cake Ingredients-
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup cocoa
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda

Frosting Ingredients-
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup cocoa
1.5 tsp cinnamon
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Cake Directions-
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. 
3. In a saucepan, mix water, vegetable oil, butter and cocoa over medium heat. Bring to a boil.
4. Pour into dry ingredients. Mix well. 
5. Add remaining ingredients and mix. Pour into greased 9×13 pan. 6. Bake 15-20 minutes.

Frosting Directions-
*While cake is baking, make the frosting. 
1. Combine butter, milk, cocoa, and cinnamon in a saucepan and stir over medium heat.
2. Once heated through, remove from heat and add powdered sugar and vanilla.
3. Pour over hot cake, and serve warm.

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Once upon a time…

I started a blog. This is a tale of my projects, goals, and dreams. Thank you for taking a moment to stop by. I hope you have a beautiful day.

xoxo, Rach H.