Thursday, May 19, 2011

I'm a Copycat...But in a Good Way

Shhhhhhh!!!!  Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve figured out how a few restaurants make their specialties;)  Yep, today is all about copycat recipes.  One thing you might not know about me is that I love to eat at restaurants.  I LOVE going out to eat.  I have since I was a kid.  We used to go out to eat every Friday night because my mom always said “the kitchen is closed” on Fridays nights.  I love getting to try new things, pick whatever I want, and I never have to clean up!  Yes, I love to cook…..most of the time.  But sometimes….mama needs a break.
When I was little, my mom usually picked where we were going to eat by what was in the Entertainment Book.  Now, I pick where we will go by what is “kid friendly”.  So we eat a lot of casual food.  I’m not spending my nights out at fancy places, by any means.  Today’s copycat recipes will reflect that.  I’m copying BJ’s, Red Lobster, Chevy’s and Boston Market.  Please don’t read this expecting me to copy Gary Danko or Boulevard. 
My first copycat recipe is my version of Cheddar Bay Biscuits from Red Lobster.  I have a strange obsession with Red Lobster.  I swear that part of the reason I moved to Reno is because they have a Red Lobster.  Apparently, I am not the only one, since every time I have been there is at least a 30 minute wait.  Anyhoo, I love their biscuits.  So I figured out how to make’em.
To make these little bites o’ heaven, I used Bisquick, cheddar cheese, cream, butter, garlic powder, dried chives and salt and pepper.  Keep in mind; I never said these were healthy.  They have a lot of butter and cream in them…..But I also am not serving them every night.  I don’t set them on the table as soon as everyone as seated as if I was actually Red Lobster.
I start by mixing the dry ingredients first…..Bisquick, salt, garlic powder and chives.  I chose dried chives as opposed to fresh because I am baking these.  I usually don’t cook fresh chives.  By using dried herbs, you can make these anytime because you probably already have all that you would need. 
Then, I start mixing in the melted butter, cream and cheese.  Super easy.  These are basically drop biscuits.
This is the dough once it is mixed.  It is super thick and sticky.  If you can’t get the cheese mixed in with a spoon, flour up your hands and dig in.  Wash your hands first;)
I drop these on a baking sheet with a mini ice cream scoop.  I have said it before and I will say it again….I feel like I can eat more if something is “mini”.  These are a quick bake.  I mean really, Red Lobster isn’t putting a whole lotta time into these.
These taste exactly like a Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuit, and I should know….I’ve had a lot.  In college, my roomie worked there, and she would always bring these home.  I kept asking for lobster tails….and she kept not bringing them.  Go figure;)
My next recipe is my version of Boston Market’s creamed spinach.  It really is odd for me to love this so much, seeing as I am not a veggie fan….but I think the huge amount of cream, cheese and butter works in my favor.  I think I would eat “creamed” anything.  That sounds dirty…..
I use frozen spinach that has been defrosted, garlic, cream cheese, butter, cream, asiago cheese and salt and pepper.  You could use fresh spinach, but you would need such a huge amount to equal what you get from one box of frozen spinach. 
I defrost the spinach in the microwave.  Then, I put it in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze all of the water out.  Then, I make my kids drink the spinach water because it is good for them.  I’m kidding….I don’t do that.  That would be weird.
In a large skillet, I met some butter with one clove of garlic.  I use my garlic press to mince the garlic, but obviously, a knife would work too.  I don’t brown the garlic; I just cook it for a minute or two.
Then I throw in some cream cheese and melt that a bit.  This would be a good opportunity to use Philly’s new Cooking Crème….but regular cream cheese works just fine.  And I actually used the 1/3 less fat kind;)  Yes, I did!  Sometimes I watch calories;)
I use cream to help make a sauce.  BTW-I am doing all of this over medium heat as cream cheese can burn easily instead of melting.
The final step to the sauce is to grate in some asiago cheese.  I happen to know that Boston Market uses asiago.  There is actually a sign on the window that says so.  But I don’t think anyone would blame you if you used parmesan.
The spinach gets stirred in and heated through …..and that’s it!  Creamed spinach.  Just like mama used to make….or someone’s mama at Boston Market.  Mrs. Market perhaps?
I try not to eat the whole thing…..but how can I not?  I need spinach to keep my Popeye guns!
Let’s move on to my third copycat recipe…..Chevy’s Sweet Corn Tamalito.  You know, the little sweet corn cake that is on your plate with anything you order at Chevy’s?  I love those little things.  Apart from the tortillas fresh of the maquina….these are the best thing at Chevy’s.
I use canned corn, canned cream corn, masa harina, room temperature butter, corn meal, baking powder, sugar, cream (yep-more cream), and salt.  You may also need some water.
I have seen other recipes using fresh corn.  I am sure that would be fantastic, but I like the texture that creamed corn gives.  Besides, scraping corn off the cob is a pain in the tush.
Masa Harina is finely ground corn flour, typically used to make tortillas.  It is readily available at all grocery stores.  I actually cook with it a lot.  It is a great thickener.  And I keep telling myself that one day I will make tortillas…..
I start by beating the masa harina, sugar and butter together.  Just till it is light and fluffy…..about 2 minutes.
Then, I add a cup of creamed corn and mix.
Once the creamed corn is mixed in, I add the remaining ingredients, expect for the water.  I only use water if the mixture is too thick to stir.  This will depend on your humidity.  I live in a very dry area….high desert….which is always so weird to me since it snows here.
I pour the mixture into a baking dish.  I use a pretty Mexican one.  I am nothing if not authentic;)  I sprayed the dish first with cooking spray, just to be safe.
I cover the dish in plastic wrap, and then foil.  This will create steam.  This dish cooks on a low temperature for about one hour.  The steam will help keep it moist.  It should be a bit like a steamed pudding and a bit like a cake;)
I only cook it for half the time with the plastic wrap foil combo.  After about 30 minutes, I uncover it and let it cook another 30 minutes.
When it is done, the edges will pull away and the middle won’t be jiggly.
Ummmm yum.  It is sweet, but not overly sweet.  Now that I know how to make these, I don’t have to go to Chevy’s and steal them off people’s plates.  If I had a Chevy’s margarita I would be all set!
My final recipe is more of an idea then a real recipe.  Have you been to BJ’s and had a Pizookie?  It is basically a cookie that is baked in its own little tin.  They put ice cream on it….and they are fantastic. 
My take on a Pizookie is……I bake one large cookie in a cast iron skillet.  Then, I slice it into wedges and serve it with ice cream on it. 
I use a tube of cookie dough, butter and my cast iron skillet.  This is a perfect dessert to serve if you have last minute guests……if you keep cookie dough on hand.  Of course, you could make your own cookie dough too;)
I pour melted butter into my pan first because I believe butter makes everything better.  But I think you already knew that about me;)
I press the whole tube of dough into the bottom of the pan.  Could not be easier.  I bake it according to the package directions…sort of.  It will take a bit longer then what the package says since it is one big cookie.  Just cook it until it is brown on top!
From here you could cut it into wedges, or take it out and serve it as one big cookie;)
It is like a fancy ice cream sandwich!  Yummers!

I hope you enjoy all of these top secret recipes that I had to steal.  I had to dress like a ninja and break in to many restaurants to get these secrets.  It is lucky that I have cat like reflexes that kept me from getting caught.  I do it all for you;)
Ok, I didn’t do any of that.  It was actually just trial and error in my kitchen.  But I think I came pretty close!  If anyone from Red Lobster, BJ’s, Boston Market or Chevy’s is reading this…..imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?
“Cheddar Bay” Biscuits
2 & ¼ cups Bisquick
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon dried minced chives
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together Bisquick, garlic powder, dried chives and salt & pepper.  Add butter, cream and cheese and mix until blended.  If necessary, use your hand to mix.
With a mini ice cream scoop, drop dough onto a greased baking sheet.  Bake at 450 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.
Creamed Spinach-Boston Market Style
16 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cream cheese
½ cup heavy cream
3 ounces asiago cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large sauté pan, melt butter.  Add garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, over medium heat.  Add cream cheese and cook for another 2 minutes to melt cream cheese.  Whisk in cream until sauce is smooth.  Whisk in grated cheese.  Salt and pepper sauce to taste.  Stir in spinach and cook until heated through.

“Sweet Corn Tamalitos”-Chevy’s
1 cup creamed corn
1 cup canned corn, drained
¼ cup masa harina
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
With a hand mixer, beat together masa harina, butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Stir in creamed corn.  Then, stir in corn, corn meal, baking powder, salt, and heavy cream.  If mixture is too thick, add about 1 tablespoon of water.
Pour mixture into greased baking dish.  Cover with plastic wrap and foil.  Bake at 325 degrees, covered, for 30 minutes.  Remove plastic wrap and foil, and continue baking for another 30 minutes or until edges pull away and middle is set.


  1. I want to make the biscuits right now!!!

  2. I made the sweet corn tamilitos. Really tasted like Chevy's.