Restaurant Meals at Home

Whether you don’t want to spend the money, prefer to have control over your ingredients, or have 3 small children who can’t sit still for 30 minutes, it’s good to be able to enjoy a good meal at home. Here are 3 of my favorite restaurant dishes that are easy to re-create at home.

Disclaimer: If you see any bad jokes, know that my husband and I co-wrote this post. He gets the credit for those.

I love eating out. But there are a number of downsides to it, too. It’s expensive, the food is often full of sodium and fat, more times than not I have a stomach ache after eating out, and in the USA it’s all about “turnover.”

Turnover

One mother’s day I went out for lunch with my husband and kids. Another mother and son were at the table next to us in a prime location at a table overlooking the water. Mere minutes after their food arrived, wait staff asked them to move to a table at the back of the restaurant because they were preparing for a large party to come in 30 minutes. Really? The lady was so upset that she left. She paid her bill but did not touch her $10 drink or finish her meal.

I was disgusted how this woman was treated. No one from the next party had even arrived and a seated party of two was pushed away for more profitable guests!

Another time I was out for my birthday and was handed a Styrofoam to-go container as soon as my $20 per person meal was served.

Yet another time, I called ahead to a restaurant to ask if they could accommodate my co-workers for a happy hour. The manager said that it would be no problem. But when we arrived, the waitress was rude and complained that they would be getting busy soon (implying that they needed the tables). She must have heard that we were psychologists and thought we’d be a wild and crazy crowd (haha, that’s a joke).

We had just ordered appetizers, meals, drinks, and even bottles of wine (okay, even psychologists can get a little wild). Needless to say, we canceled our (many) orders and took our business to the restaurant next door.

Why would I spend money to be kicked out of a place?

I’d Rather Stay In

Between feeling rushed by wait staff, drowned out by loud music or distracting televisions, or the fact that I have three young children who climb under (or on top of) tables and throw their food, it’s just more enjoyable to eat at home.

Not to mention the fact that, with a family of five, eating at a restaurant can be expensive (even fast food cost more than preparing meals at home).

Although I have developed a few tricks for saving money when eating out, these days if I eat out, I usually grab a pizza or Chinese food and bring it home for everyone to share.

We do still enjoy some of our favorite restaurant dishes. But we found ways to re-create them at home.

Favorite Re-creations

Let me first clarify that I’ve received great service at these establishments mentioned below. None of the following were restaurants that I was referring to above (those shall remain nameless).

Chili’s inspired Salsa

Some call it an appetizer, but in our house it’s the basis of most good meals. I’ve previously written about our quesadillas, burritos, and cheese wraps. But chips and salsa make a great snack (or meal) on their own.

Ingredients:
  • 7 Roma tomatoes (approx. 1 pound) $1.69
  • 1 jalapeno $0.20
    • remove the seeds and membrane for less spicy salsa
  • 1 white onion $1.27
  • cilantro $0.25
  • 1 clove garlic $0.05
  • juice of 1/2 lime $0.13
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
    • Total is $3.59 for two 16 oz. jars
Instructions:

Cut the ends off the tomatoes and half them. Chop onion, garlic, jalapeno, and cilantro. Add the lime juice, salt, sugar, and cumin then pulse in your food processor until you reach the desired consistency.

Tip:

Using canned tomatoes can actually make it taste more like what I’ve had at Chili’s. But once you have fresh salsa its hard to go back to the metallic taste of canned tomatoes.

Chick-fil-A inspired Chicken nuggets

Tip:

Ever wonder what makes Chick-fil-A’s nuggets so good? Pickle juice. Don’t fret. Your Sunday cravings can be satisfied with this recipe.

Ingredients:
  • Chicken bought on BOGO sale $8.46 for 2lbs (1lb made 5 servings) = $0.85 per serving
  • 2 eggs at $0.23 each = $0.09 per serving
  • Pantry items (flour, salt, pepper, other seasonings)
  • And the secret ingredient: pickle juice
    • save the juice the next time you get pickles!
    • Makes 5 servings
      • Total per serving = $0.94
Instructions:

Cut chicken into bite size pieces. Add 1 cup pickle juice and marinate 30 minutes in the fridge. Drain and dry chicken. Cover with flour, dip into beaten egg and back into the seasoned flour (2 1/2 tbsps. powdered sugar, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp basil, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp onion powder). Fry in peanut oil until golden brown and delicious!

Panera inspired Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Panera’s soup is so good. But they can be a little pricey for my family’s budget. I’ve learned how to recreate my favorite soup at home.

Ingredients:
  • cheddar cheese $8.86 for 2lbs (used 1/3 of a block = $2.95)
  • 2 broccoli crowns $3.37
  • 1 medium onion $1.27
  • 2 cups half and half $1.12
  • 1 carrot (shredded) $0.10
  • 1/4 cup butter $0.41
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • broth (which we make from vegetable scraps)
    • Makes 6 servings 
      • Total $1.54 per serving
Instructions:

Sauté onion in 1 tbsp. butter. Make a roux by melting butter and adding flour. Whisk for 2-3 minutes until a golden retriever like blond color is achieved.

Add half and half and veggie stock. Simmer 10 minutes.

Add carrots, broccoli, and sautéed onion.

Cook on low for 20 – 25 minutes.

Stir in cheese. Once the cheese is melted, serve with crusty loaf of bread (we use a $1.00 loaf of French bread).

Tip:

The trick here is to get the texture right. You want there to be a little crunch, but not too chunky. To do this, take 1 cup out of the pot and blend it. Then return it to the pot and take out another cup to blend. Twice should be good. But taste as you go to get the consistency that’s just right for you.

Carrots and broccoli
Making the roux
Perfect soup!

 

What recipes have you found for re-creating your favorite restaurant dishes at home?

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