Sometimes, re-creating a restaurant favorite does the trick!
I've been struggling with the kids and their tastes lately, so I resorted to making some of their restaurant favorites. It's an easy way to know they're going to eat their dinner - without always serving pizza, tacos, spaghetti, burgers and steak. None of the restaurants we frequent are in any danger of losing our business, either - they still do it best - but sometimes a mom has to try to save a buck (or a few hundred calories!).
We all love Penne Rosa at Noodles, which we've sort of re-created (see the post here). That one is a family favorite across the board.
Most recently we made "CBR's" (their nickname for a Chicken Bacon Ranch sub from Subway). I hate Subway - sorry, but I've had one too many gross experiences there. The kids, however, love this sub. So the other night, I made my version at home, and they raved!
I used a soft roll (I actually grabbed a day old loaf from Jimmy John's - they're like 25 or 50 cents, and they still taste GREAT!), with chicken strips I sliced and cooked up, seasoned with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder, some shredded jack cheese, bacon, and yogurt ranch dressing. I threw them under the broiler to melt the cheese before adding the dressing. My daughter likes sliced black olives on hers (ew), so I added those to hers. We served with some fruit and carrots, and some oven fries, and they were happy campers.
Another favorite is the "Billy Barou" nachos from Moe's - we call them Jilly Barou's (har, har). We honed our nacho-building skills during a volunteer stint at the stadium 2 summers ago, and are now we are nacho experts. These ones just have shredded chicken mixed with Frank's Red Hot Buffalo sauce (plain chicken for the little Baker), some shredded cheese (or a cheese sauce), and then whatever toppings one likes on their nachos - sour cream, jalapenos, shredded lettuce, chopped fresh cilantro, salsa, etc.
For the Olive Garden fans, we have a version of Zuppa Toscana - (see my post here) - and it's delicious!
Other easy copycats we've tried include a buffalo blue cheese bacon burger (yeah, I know - our version is smaller, at least!), a favorite sandwich from a little cafe with turkey and havarti, homemade chicken nuggets, and beef barbacoa burrito bowls with cilantro lime rice.
Feel free to share your favorite restaurant copycats or makeovers!