A few weeks ago, I wrote that I would be participating in The Great American Taste Test. Well, today’s the day to see how it all played out!

First, a bit about the book:  Ron Douglas has spent the past 5 years of his life ensuring that American families can enjoy restaurant-quality food without the restaurant price.  With his easy-to-follow steps  in America’s Most Wanted Recipes:  Delicious Recipes from Your Family’s Favorite Restaurants, families can now enjoy the meals they love most at a price they can actually afford.

Ron Douglas' "America's Most Wanted Recipes"

Ron Douglas' "America's Most Wanted Recipes"

It wasn’t easy to pick a restaurant.  The rules of the experiment were that  bloggers were to choose a recipe from the book, visit the restaurant to eat it, then make it ourselves using the book to compare.  Jared and I found the choices to be a bit limiting, menu-wise, at some of our favorite restaurants.  A lot of the recipes were for sauces or other small menu items, and I wanted to try to prepare a full meal from one of the restaurants.  Not necessary, I know, but it sounded like fun!

After much debate, we decided to go with Chili’s.  We hadn’t been there in awhile, and the menu options allowed me to make a full meal, from appetizer to dessert.

So, we ordered the following:

Chili's Southwestern Egg Rolls

Chili's Southwestern Egg Rolls

Chili's Margarita Grilled Chicken

Chili's Margarita Grilled Chicken

Chili's Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie

Chili's Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie

So, how did things turn out?  We’ll go dish by dish!

Southwestern Egg Rolls

We were pretty excited to try these at home.  If you haven’t had the chance to try these at Chili’s you really should.  They are simply delicious.  And the home version was pretty simple as well.  The “hardest” part was probably the frying, but otherwise, it really is just a matter of mixing ingredients, rolling them into tortillas, freezing, and frying.

My version of the Southwestern Egg Rolls

My version of the Southwestern Egg Rolls

The frying was a bit tricky, as I think our oil got a little too hot, overcooking the tortillas.  Next time, we’ll definitely have to take them out earlier to achieve the same softer, fried consistency that Chili’s has in theirs.  From a taste perspective, I can’t really say that these tasted the same as Chili’s version.  While they were definitely very good, there was something very different about the taste.  I suspect it might have been a bit too heavy on the pepper flavor.  Regardless, they were very good and I would definitely give these another shot with less time in the frying oil.

Margarita Grilled Chicken

This was a dish I had never tried until we went to Chili’s for this project.  The home version was super simple and had very few ingredients:  just mix margarita mix, tequila and garlic, marinate 4 chicken breasts, and grill!  Really couldn’t be any easier.

My Margarita Grilled Chicken

My Margarita Grilled Chicken

From a flavor perspective, I think they chicken could have used a bit more margarita flavor.  The chicken was very sweet, and we let it marinade longer than the suggested two hours, but it was still lacking a bit in flavor.  I think the other issue with trying this dish at Chili’s and trying it at home is that Chili’s serves its own version with black beans, mexican rice and pico de gallo.  I did not serve mine with that, and I have to admit it was lacking.  This was my own fault, as I just noticed now that the book says to serve it with those ingredients.  I missed it, since it wasn’t part of the recipe.  Oh well.  The beans and rice certainly enhance the flavor of the chicken, so, if I were to do this again, I would be sure to add those elements in.

Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie

Jared and I both agreed that this recipe came the closest to the restaurant version out of everything we tried today. Once again, very simple to make:  a simple graham cracker crust, chocolate chips, and a dough-like topping.  When topped with ice cream, hot sauce and caramel sauce, this dessert definitely came extremely close to the original.

My Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie

My Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie

We did choose to use almonds in our version.  The recipe called for walnuts or almonds, and I happen to prefer almonds.  I can’t specifically recall if the restaurant used walnuts or almonds, but the recipe tasted just fine with almonds.

In all, I can see how the recipes in this book would be a great alternative to actually going to the restaurant.  From an ingredients perspective, I’m trying to figure out if we really saved any money, since we had to buy a lot of the items required.  We had a lot of the basics, but still spent about $50-$70 for the ingredients for all three recipes.  When we went to Chili’s, I think our bill was almost the same.  However, for larger families, I can certainly see how this would be a cost savings.  Also, I think over time, making these recipes at home would end up being a huge cost savings.

Although the recipes didn’t quite match up to the Chili’s version, and we definitely didn’t feel like we were at the restaurant, it was still fun to give this a try and see how close they came.  I’m certainly planning on trying more from this book.  It has to be challenging to develop these recipes on taste alone, so, hats off to Ron Douglas for coming pretty darn close to the originals!  Next time you need taste-testers, make sure you call Jared and I.  😉

For the sake of my hungry fiance, my next attempt from the book will be Applebee’s Walnut Blondie with Maple Butter Sauce….yum!!!

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