I don't know about you, but I love eating out at restaurants. The problem is that my budget doesn't always support it since even a simple meal out at a restaurant can cost an arm and a leg. The good news is that rather than having to miss out on your favorite meals because you are on a limited budget you can use a "copycat recipe" to make your favorite restaurant dishes at home.
These recipes are reverse engineered to make a dish that tastes just like that one you have at the restaurant. The difference is that instead of having to pay the huge price tag for a restaurant meal, you just pick up the ingredients at the grocery store and make it yourself for a fraction of the cost. Not only that, but by making it yourself you get leftovers, too, which is always a good thing!
As an example, here's a copycat recipe that I have for Applebee's Cheese Chicken Tortilla Soup.
2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
4 Cups chicken stock
1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
1 can tomato puree (15 oz.)
1 Tbsp. finely minced jalapeño pepper (optional)
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. hot sauce (optional)
1 tsp. chili powder (optional)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 Tbsp. flour
1/2 Cup water
1 lb. cooked chicken, cubed or pulled
1 Cup cream
1/4 Cup non-fat sour cream
8 oz. processed cheese, 1-inch cubes
10 (6-inch) colored or yellow corn tortillas, 1/4-inch strips, fried
Roughly chopped Fresh cilantro (optional)
Sauté oil, garlic and onions in large pan until soft. Add the vegetable oil, chicken stock, green pepper, tomato puree, jalapeño pepper, salt, pepper, sugar, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Bring to low boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Cut tortillas into 1/4-inch strips and fry in oil or spray with oil and bake at 400ºF (while soup is cooking). Sprinkle with salt if desired. Thoroughly mix flour and water, then whisk into soup. Bring to a low boil, then simmer 5 minutes. Add chicken and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream and cheese (to taste). The soup should be served at 165ºF. After serving soup, pile tortilla strips into a "haystack" shape on top of the soup. Optional: garnish with freshly chopped cilantro. Makes 6-8 servings
This recipe is delicious and is really great for cold winter nights since soup is always a warm, filling meal. One of the great things about this recipe is that it makes enough to feed an entire family and is pretty cheap to make. Even if you just have one or two people to feed the leftovers can be easily stored and feed you for a few days. It's a great way to get restaurant-style soup on an eat at home budget.