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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Red Sangria

Summertime = Sangriatime. :-)

So for a happy hour with some friends at my place last week, I decided to put some fresh fruit to use and make some yummy pitchers of sangria for everyone to enjoy on the deck! Unfortunately, though, our crazy Midwest weather kicked the temperature over the 100 degree mark that day. So we ended up enjoying a lovely evening together…in the air-conditioning. :-)

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Ginger Lime Pork Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin has long been one of my favorite easy go-to dinner meals. It’s convenient, affordable, and with the help of some simple seasonings and/or a marinade, can be incredibly flavorful and elegant!

The key to locking in all of those flavors and wonderful juices, however, is all in the searing. For years I used to just pop tenderloins straight into the oven, which generally left them slightly dry and lacking that golden, flavorful crust. With searing, you retain the moisture and create the crust, and you get the added bonus of the tenderloin cooking more evenly. (Also, if you have an oven-proof skillet, you can save a step and just transfer the skillet to the oven to roast the tenderloin, rather than using a baking dish!)

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Santa Fe Salad with Cilantro-Lime-Peanut Vinaigrette

Salads make me smile. :) Fresh salads, pasta salads, fruit salads, and even my grandma’s jello salad all hold a special place in my heart. But I must confess — this has not always been so. In fact, up until just about ten years ago, I was anti- salad! (I know, I know…picky eater…didn’t know what I was missing.) Thankfully one trip to the Cheesecake Factory changed all of that. A persuasive friend insisted that I try a bite of her Santa Fe salad, and the rest was history…

To this day, it still remains one of my favorite salads ever. The ingredient mix is fun and fresh, but the magic, of course, is in the dressing. Oh my word – it is delightful, and oh-so-rich. The blend of the peanut butter, lime, and cilantro is brilliant, and is complimented well by my beloved favorite ingredient – sesame oil. I’ll often whip up a double batch of the vinaigrette just to have some extra on hand, or to use in another recipe as a marinade or sauce.

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