Carnitas Caldo (Carnitas Soup)

I mentioned on Instagram recently that my family is unashamedly obsessed with Mexican food. We love it local, we love it authentic, we love it good, and we love it OFTEN. So of course, even while we were in Chicago celebrating Thanksgiving for a few days, we had to get our Mexi fix. So we ended up trying XOCO, one of Rick Bayless‘ restaurants. The line on Black Friday was practically out the door, but we were freezing and once I saw the long menu of caldos (soups), I was hooked. I had a minor crisis trying to decide what to order (they literally ALL looked amazing!), but I read that the XOCO carnitas caldo was the most popular soup. So I had to try it. Let’s just say that my family was a little stunned when I finished the entire bowl. It was massive. But holy cow – I had to. This soup was insane. Based on the most yummy spicy broth, this soup had everything from tender carnitas, to yummy avocado, these amazing little potato-masa dumplings, amassive bunch of fresh cilantro and arugula on top, and all garnished with lots of lime. Without a doubt, one of the best soups I’ve had in my life. (And I don’t say that lightly.) So of course, I had to come home and try to recreate it. I would never presume to top (or match) a Rick Bayless recipe, since the guy is a Mexican food genius. But I have to say that this recipe turned out pretty awesome. I even succeeded with the little potato-masa dumplings! (Although you could easily just use diced potatoes.) ;) It definitely took a bit of time to prep when making the carnitas from scratch. But let me tell you, the final product is completely worth it. And it’s also one of those soups that tastes better and better each time you warm it up for leftovers.

What are some of your favorite Mexican soups? Has anyone been to XOCO?

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Shrimp, Avocado and Roasted Corn Salad

Any of you Instagram followers will know that I had the pleasure of spending last week in Iowa with a bunch of stellar farmers and bloggers learning all about…CORN! Lots and lots and lots of corn! It was a fabulous experience (which I will be telling you about soon in another post!). But ever since then, I have been craving this salad I adore from one of my favorite local KC restaurants, Urban Table, that it sprinkled with the most delicious roasted corn. They call it the “Shrimp Buena Terra Salad”. I call it…one of my favorite salads EVER.

Seriously. I know that food bloggers are supposed to be all adventurous and everything, but this salad was the first dish I ever ordered there and I love it so much that I may have ordered it every time since. SO GOOD. So after a year, I finally decided I should try making it at home. And I must say, my little homemade rendition seemed to be pretty spot on!

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Chicken Tostadas

My crazy-busy season of the year has officially hit. From conferences and launching new programs at work, to teaching my first-ever cooking class last night at church (SO fun!), to taking my choir on the road to sing in a national gospel choir competition in St. Louis (believe it!), to our fitness challenge at work, to weddings and concerts and times out with friends galore…somehow I haven’t had a night at home to myself now in weeks. Nor, apparently, has there been much time to blog. Or cook. Eeks. (I’m working to remedy this!)

But as you’ve read on here before, one of my favorite defaults when pressed for time is to bring home the most deliciously-smelling item at the grocery store — a rotisserie chicken. I’m telling you — they are little miracles. So delicious, easy, and versatile. I usually just cook for one or two, so I generally can stretch mine into at least three recipes. Love it!

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Feta Avocado Salsa & Pita Chips

You know those people who always go to a restaurant and order next to nothing, just so that they can fill up almost completely on chips (or bread) and dip??? Yep, pretty sure I’m one of them. (Although I make it a point to always thank the waiter/waitress with a far-more-than-15% tip!)

Seriously, though, I love all kinds of dips! And fresh guacamole and a stellar salsa are undoubtedly two of my favorites. So when I found myself needing to whip up an appetizer this week, and had a tomato plant begging to be picked and a ripe avocado waiting to be used, I figured why not have the best of both worlds? For kicks, I typed the ingredients into a search, and was (divinely, I think) led to this brilliant recipe, which marries the combo with feta and Italian seasonings. The result? Fabulously fetalicious – definite crowd-pleaser. :) Will be returning to this one time and again, I’m sure…

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