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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Maple Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin w/ Rosemary Cherry Sauce

Today’s posts are both celebrating a trip I had the privilege of making to Des Moines a few weeks ago for the Farmers Feed US 2012 Iowa CornQuest! Sponsored by the Iowa Corn Growers Association, the trip was a total blast. Loved getting to hang out with some absolutely wonderful blogging friends, learn all sorts of things about the Iowa corn, beef and pork industries and the amazing farmers who work hard to provide for us, and of course — loved getting to eat some seriously stellar food!

While we were treated to many delicious dishes on the trip, one of my favorite meals was actually a lunch that we were able to cook ourselves! That’s right. Brave Chef Terrie Kohl from the Country Club Market split the ten of us food bloggers into teams to prepare lunch for one another using her delicious recipes. And I was lucky to end up on Team Pork making this heavenly Maple Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary Cherry Sauce. I think the chef must have secretly known one of my biggest cooking aversions, because she promptly put me to work removing the silver skin from about 8 pork tenderloins. But I admit, it was all worth it when everyone sat down and took their first bites of this pork dish. It was absolutely amazing!

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Pork & Bacon Sliders

Being the granddaughter of proud Kansas farmers, I’m excited that a group of us bloggers from KC are taking today to celebrate a special local group — our Kansas Pork Association farmers! I feel like I have a special connection with this crew, being that my super-stylish aunt (raised on a farm, now a city girl) was once upon a time crowned the Kansas Pork Queen back in the day. True story. :)

But seriously, I have been around enough farmers to know that they are some of the most respectable, hardest-working folk around. And they also love what they do! This was undoubtedly the case with Jim Crane, a Kansas farmer who lives near my hometown. I had the chance to interview Jim, and completely enjoyed hearing his perspective on pork, farming, and his sweet family’s life on the farm. Read below for my interview, and then check out my take on his favorite recipe — what he calls “The Ultimate Pork Burger”! Granted, his recipe was a little more than my small frame could handle, so I decided to adapt it into some simple little sliders. No frills or fancy sauces here — just the delicious pork patties, bacon, and whatever fixin’s you prefer.

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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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