The Weekend Gourmet: 6/26/11 - 7/3/11 F

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: CopyKat.com's Dining Out at Home Cookbook + An At-Home Version of Chili's Monterey Chicken

I'm an equal opportunity foodie: I enjoy eating out at my favorite restaurants, but I also love cooking a nice meal in my kitchen. Lucky for me, the book I'm sharing with you today allows me to have the best of BOTH worlds! I enjoy visiting CopyKat Recipes | Restaurant Recipes, which features make-at-home versions of many of my favorite restaurant dishes. The blog's author, fellow Texan Stephanie Manley, recently published a cookbook entitled CopyKat.com's Dining Out at Home. She sent me a copy of the cookbook to review and feature a recipe for you to see how easy it to create restaurant favorites at home.

The book is laid out in chapters for drinks, appetizers, salads, soups, main dishes, side dishes, desserts, breakfasts, and sauces/dressings. Recipes range from fast food classics to national chain restaurants. Chances are you'll find many of your personal favorites to try out in your own kitchen. The recipes feature easy-to-find ingredients and clear, easy-to-follow instructions. In no time, you'll make spot-on re-creations of popular restaurant items at home...for a fraction of the money. Best of all? You can eat the at-home version in your jammies in front of the TV if you're so inclined!

Let me tell you, it was SO HARD to pick just one recipe to spotlight for this post. The book features many of my best-loved restaurant dishes...including:
  • Chili's Awesome Blossom
  • Black-Eyed Pea's Squash Casserole
  • Olive Garden's Pasta Alfredo (Stephanie's personal favorite, she tells me...)
  • Popeye's Red Beans and Rice
  • Cracker Barrel Hash Brown Casserole
  • The Cheesecake Factory's Cheesecake
I decided to try making one of my favorite dishes from Chili's: Monterey Chicken. Seared chicken topped with BBQ sauce, crispy bacon, melted cheese...and a sprinkle of chopped tomatoes and green onion just before serving. It was ooey-gooey and delish...and ready in less than 30 minutes. That's faster than I can drive to the nearest Chili's and order...not to mention the aforementioned PJ perk!

Chili's Monterey Chicken
from CopyKat.com's Dining Out at Home


Step 1:  Cook enough slices of bacon to equal your chicken breasts until crisp. I cooked three chicken breasts, so I cooked three pieces of thick applewood smoked bacon. Set aside. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spray with nonstick spray or coat with a little bit of olive oil. Salt and pepper your chicken breast. Cook for about 5-7 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Spoon about 1 tbs. of your favorite BBQ sauce on top of the chicken.


Step 2:  Preheat oven to 375. Top each piece of chicken with the bacon. I found it easiest to cut the cooked bacon in half and put it on top in a crisscross pattern. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar-monterey jack blend cheese on top. Place the skillet in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese.


Step 3:  Just before serving, sprinkle each piece of chicken with a bit of diced tomato and sliced green onion. I served this chicken over a boxes rice pilaf, with a green salad on the side. 


This dish was great...I paid approximately $10 for enough ingredients to make three portions of this dish, which is a fraction of what I would have paid to go out to eat this meal. The flavor is nearly identical to what I've eaten at Chili's, and it was ready in no time flat dirtying only one skillet and one saucepan in the process.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of this cookbook, you can buy it via this link at Amazon. I hope you'll also go check out Stephanie's blog, which features even more of her recipes for at-home versions of famous restaurant dishes...she recently featured a CopyKat version of McDonald's amazing new frozen strawberry lemonade that I can't wait to try!

So, friends...it's just about vacation time at Casa Garcia. That means I'm taking a little blog break for the next week. We leave for Chicago tomorrow afternoon, and we return late next Wednesday evening. We've got all sorts of fun things planned: foodie adventures at Giordano's and Frontera Grill (for starters...), time spent with family, tons of museums and other tourist attactions...and we're FINALLY getting to see U2 after a 1-year delay since last year's show had to be rescheduled! I promise to come back with all sorts of pictures and all the fun details next week. I hope all of you have a fun, food-filled July 4th!!

One last thing...the winner of the Sucre 15-macaron sampler box is: 

#8 Christina

I'll be in touch to get your shipping info so Sucre can get that sent right out to you! I hope you enjoy these tasty macarons as much as I did...a little taste of Paris by way of New Orleans...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Frozen Strawberry-Grand Marnier Mousse

Well, friends…it’s only a few days before we leave for Chicago, and I’ve got a huge container of organic strawberries in the fridge that I need to use before we leave! What’s a girl to do? Well, if she’s a resourceful food blogger, she comes up with a fantastic recipe to showcase these beauties! My criteria was pretty clear: the recipe had to be simple…and it needed to be something refreshing to help us deal with this crazy Texas heat. I went to one of my “go to” recipe resources, Cooking Light's website, to see what ideas they might have. As usual, I found just what I was looking for after a few minutes of looking: a simple frozen strawberry mousse. 

Only a handful of ingredients and a few minutes are needed to make this dessert, which is perfect for my busy week! Of course, I tweaked the recipe a bit…but what else is new? Rather than completely puree the strawberries, I left them just a bit chunky so there would be little bits of strawberry in the mousse. I used French Vanilla Cool Whip – a seasonal flavor – to add a hint of a vanilla in the background…and I couldn’t resist adding some Grand Marnier since I LOVE the way it pairs with strawberries. This dessert comes together in about 15 minutes, then it goes in the freezer for a couple of hours while you attend to other things…like, say, packing a suitcase? It doesn’t freeze solid…it’s totally spoonable and delicious! I topped each serving of mousse with half of a large strawberry…eye appeal is important too, yes?

Frozen Strawberry-Grand Marnier Mousse
adapted from Cooking Light


Step 1:  Add 2 cups chopped strawberries, 1/3 cup superfine sugar, and 1/4 cup Grand Marnier to a food processor. Pulse until the strawberries are just short of pureed...leave some little bits of strawberry for flavor and texture.


Step 2:  Pour the strawberry mixture into a mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup light sour cream and whisk until combined.


Step 3:  Add 1.5 cups of Cool Whip to the bowl. If you can find it, use the French Vanilla seasonal flavor. If you can't find that, add 1 tsp. vanilla extract in its place. Whisk the Cool Whip well to totally incorporate it into the mousse.


Step 4:  Spoon the mousse into four serving bowls. I used pretty stemmed wine glasses that are freezer safe, but ramekins or rocks glasses would also work nicely. Freeze for about two hours, then garnish with a strawberry half before serving.


This dessert is perfect for a warm summer evening…it’s so refreshing and light! To me, nothing says summer quite like strawberries. This recipe makes four individual servings of mousse. In my household, that means we have dessert left for tomorrow night too…which is perfect when you’re trying to take care of the millions of little details that come with preparing for a vacation. We leave on Friday afternoon, but I’ll be back with one more post on Thursday. I have a cookbook review and recipe feature to share, and I’ll announce the winner of my Sucre macaron giveaway. If you haven’t entered, you have until tomorrow evening at 1159 p.m.

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