About mkelly612

During my years of designing buildings and managing a real estate business I discovered a love of food and cooking. While I am not formally trained as a cook I have a passion for exploring different flavors. I have a great family and group of friends who are willing to test my cooking explorations. My cooking influences start with my mother, my wife, and my father-in-law and mother-in-law. I have been inspired over the years by great chefs, including Emeril, Bobby Flay, Thomas Keller, Michael Symon, and Giada DiLaurentis - to name a few. I love to travel and explore the tastes, as well as the sights and sounds, of the United States and other countries. I live in St. Charles, Illinois with my wife, Sandy, and my two grown children, Nolan and Madeline.

Scallop and Bacon Pizza

Scallop and Bacon Pizza uses a béchamel sauce, or white cheese sauce, in lieu of the traditional tomato based sauce. The ingredients are simple but rich. Slices of sea scallops and pieces of thick, crispy bacon provide the featured flavors.


Scallop and Bacon Pizza
(Mark Kelly, 2015)

Makes 4 12-inch-diameter pizzas

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3 cups 2% milk
1 lb. mixed shredded Italian cheeses, such as romano, parmesan, asiago, fontina
6 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked crisp and cut into 1″ squares
6 sea scallops, sliced 1/4″ thick and patted dry
1 small onion, halved and sliced thin
Chopped parsley to garnish
Cornmeal, for dusting
Pizza Dough (See previous post titled “The Best Pizza Dough”)
Extra-virgin olive oil, to brush
Very good extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Place baking stone or baking steel in the oven and preheat the oven to 475F.

To prepare the béchamel sauce; cook the garlic in 1/2 cup of oil over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the garlic just begins to sizzle. Ladle out the garlic chunks and discard them. Gradually whisk in the flour until lightly golden, another 3 to 4 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk until the béchamel is smooth and thickened, another 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in two-thirds of the cheese, reserving the rest to top the pizzas.

On a flour-dusted cutting board, roll out a quarter of the pizza dough and brush the dough to the edges with oil. Ladle and spread a layer of béchamel sauce to evenly over the dough. Place a quarter of the bacon pieces and a quarter of the onions on the pizza. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pizza and place a quarter of the scallop medallions on the pizza and sprinkle a quarter of the remaining cheese over top. Bake for another 3 minutes. Garnish with parsley and drizzle with olive oil before serving.

Repeat for the remaining 3 quarters of the ingredients.

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Shrimp Remoulade Salad

Shrimp Remoulade Salad is simple and healthy way to prepare shrimp. Using the freshest and largest shrimp you can find makes the dish extra special.


Shrimp Remoulade Salad
(Mark Kelly, 2015)

Serves 4

2 lbs. jumbo shrimp (10-15/lb), preferably Royal Reds, shelled and deveined
1/2 head romaine lettuce, rinsed and patted dry, coarse shred
1 red pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch-long pieces
4 hard boiled eggs, halved
1 large tomato, large dice
2 slices thick bacon, fried into lardons
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For Remoulade
1/2 red pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 cup light mayonnaise
2 Tbsp catsup
2 Tbsp grainy mustard, preferably Zatarain’s Creole mustard
Dashes of hot sauce to taste

Preheat oven to 375F.

Rinse and pat shrimp dry. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Flip the shrimp and bake for another 5 minutes or until done. Set aside.

To prepare the remoulade; pulse the garlic in a food processor, add celery and red pepper and pulse. Add the mayonnaise, catsup, mustard, and hot sauce to taste. Pulse until smooth.

To assemble salad; arrange equal portions of lettuce on each plate. Divide the shrimp, pepper slices, tomato, lardons and eggs between the plates. Season with salt and pepper and top with remoulade.

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Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Carolina Mustard Pan Sauce

Sauteed Chicken Breasts and Thighs with Carolina Mustard Pan Sauce is adaptation of a previous Ample Bites recipe made with a balsamic pan sauce. Either version produces a rich meal with an ample sauce to serve over the chicken and accompanying starch. The Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce recipe makes about 4X what is needed for the chicken dish but save it and use it to accompany grilled pork chops or chicken or mix it into some pulled pork or pulled chicken.


Sauteed Chicken Breasts and Thighs with Carolina Mustard Pan Sauce
(Mark Kelly, 2015)

Serves 6 to 8

1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce (see recipe below)
2 tsp agave nectar
1 tsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp finely chopped shallots

Combine the broth, mustard and agave in a small bowl.

Melt butter and oil in a large non-stick skillet over low heat.

While butter melts, sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour; shake off excess flour.

Increase heat to medium-high; heat 2 minutes or until the butter turns golden brown. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm. Add shallots and saute 30 seconds. Add the broth mixture, scraping browned bits. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced to 1/2 cup. Serve sauce over chicken.

Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Saveur.com)

Makes 4 Cups

2 cups yellow mustard
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp hot sauce

In a saucepan, whisk the ingredients together and bring to a simmer. Allow to cool before bottling. Refrigerate for up one month.

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Eggplant with Basil, Gorgonzola and Balsamic Vinegar

Eggplant with Basil, Gorgonzola and Balsamic Vinegar can be served as a side dish with meat or a pasta entree. Alternatively, these eggplant bites can be served as an appetizer.


Eggplant with Basil, Gorgonzola and Balsamic Vinegar
(Mark Kelly)

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

2 medium eggplants, trimmed and sliced 1/4-inch-thick
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz. gorgonzola
20 fresh basil leaves
Balsamic vinegar

In a large plastic container with a lid, sprinkle the bottom of the container with salt. Place a layer of eggplant over the salt. Sprinkle the top of the layer with salt and add another layer. Repeat until all eggplant pieces are in the container. Sprinkle the top layer with salt before closing the container. Allow to stand at room temperature for at least an hour. Draining the accumulated water about every half hour.

Remove the eggplant slices from the container and place on a paper-towel-lined rimmed baking sheet. Cover with paper towel and allow to stand at room temperature for another 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Rinse the salt from the eggplant, squeezing the excess moisture from the eggplant. Place the eggplant on a fresh layer of paper towel.

Place the eggplant slices on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Place a basil leaf on each slice. Top each slice with some gorgonzola. Drizzle each slice lightly with good olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and season with pepper before serving.

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Another Delicious Sauceless Pizza

Another Delicious Sauceless Pizza features good extra-virgin olive oil, mushrooms, basil, prosciutto, cappocola, cheeses, and fresh mozzarella and gorgonzola. Ample Bites likes pizza with tomato-based pizza sauce as much as the next guy but these pizzas come out crispy golden with the flavors of the cheeses, basil and oil jumping.


Another Delicious Sauceless Pizza
(Mark Kelly, 2015)

Makes 4 12-inch-diameter pizzas

8 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced
8 oz. fresh basil leaves, torn
6 oz. cappocola, sliced into strips
6 oz. prosciutto, sliced into strips
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
8 oz. gorgonzola, crumbled
Pizza Dough (See previous post titled “The Best Pizza Dough”)
Extra-virgin olive oil, to brush
Very good extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Place baking stone or baking steel in the oven and preheat the oven to 500F.

On a flour-dusted cutting board, roll out the pizza dough and brush the dough to the edges with oil. Thinly layer the mushrooms and basil over the dough. Place the sliced meats on the pizza overlapping them slightly, if necessary. Top with crumbled gorgonzola and pieces of the fresh mozzarella.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting and serving.

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Slow Cooker Italian Braised Pork with Polenta

Slow Cooker Italian Braised Pork with Polenta takes 8 hours to produce a finished product but it is outstanding. The pork is juicy and tender. The braising liquid is rich and savory. Served over freshly made creamy polenta this dish an absolute winner.


Slow Cooker Italian Braised Pork with Polenta
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Cooking Light, January/February 2015)

Serves 4 to 6

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 (1 1/2 to 2-pound) boneless pork shoulder
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups sliced onion
1 cup sliced yellow pepper
10 garlic cloves, minced
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 Tbsp dried thyme leaves
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 cups 2% milk
3/4 cup cornmeal for polenta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Season the pork generously with salt and pepper. Add pork to the pan and brown all sides. Transfer the pork to a slow cooker. Add onion, yellow pepper, and garlic to the pan, saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker. Add season with salt and pepper, add tomatoes, rosemary and thyme. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 1/2 hours. Add vinegar and Worcestershire. Cook, uncovered, for an additional 30 minutes. Turn off the slow cooker and shred the pork using two forks.

To prepare polenta, put milk in a medium-sized non-stick skillet; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; add cornmeal, whisking constantly to eliminate lumps. Cook 4 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cheese and season with pepper.

Serve pork over polenta in shallow bowls with some of the braising liquid. Garnish with additional grated Parmesan.

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Steak and Egg Sandwich

Steak and Egg Sandwiches are a great way to use leftover steak from the weekend. Slicing the medium-rare steak super-thin is the key to this classic sandwich. Serve the sandwich with a few sweet potato fries and some fruit salad and you’ve got yourself a meal. These Steak and Egg Sandwiches are perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner or, even, a late night snack.


Steak and Egg Sandwiches
(Mark Kelly, 2015)

1 loaf of ciabatta or a wide baguette
Extra-virgin olive oil
Thinly sliced leftover steak (10 – 12 ounces for 2 to 4 sandwiches)
Dried oregano
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 – 4 large eggs (one per sandwich)
4 – 8 thin slices of smoked mozzarella
Sriracha (optional)

Cut the bread into the appropriate number of portions. Drizzle the cut sides of the bread with olive oil.

Season the steak slices with salt, pepper, and oregano. Place the steak on the bottom half of each sandwich. Cook the eggs until the yolks are just firm. Place an egg on top of the steak on each sandwich. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with Sriracha, if desired. Top with slices of cheese.

Place the sandwiches in a hot panini press and cook until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted, about 3 to 4 minutes.

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Grilled Chicken Dinner Salad

Grilled Chicken Dinner Salad is a way to use leftover grilled chicken to make a healthy and filling meal. Just incorporate the sliced chicken along with a handful of fresh vegetables on top of leafy greens and add a little salad dressing and dinner is ready.


Grilled Chicken Dinner Salad
(Mark Kelly, 2015)

Serves 4

4 – 6 chicken thighs (or 2 – 3 breasts)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cajun Seasoning
1 head red romaine lettuce
8 oz. arugula
1 avocado, halved, pitted and sliced about 1/4-inch thick
cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
4-6 asparagus sprigs, cooked and cut into 1 1/2-in long pieces
1/2 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
2 hardboiled eggs, halved
Blue Cheese Salad Dressing (or dressing of choice)

Heat grill to medium-high, direct heat.

Pat chicken pieces dry. Brush all sides with oil. Season all sides with salt, pepper and Cajun Seasoning. Place chicken on grill and cook for 1 minute, turn pieces over and cook for 1 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, indirect heat and cook until chicken registers 180F internal temperature.

Set chicken aside to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, rinse greens and add them to a large salad bowl. Add the onion, asparagus, red pepper and tomatoes. Toss to combine. Slice the chicken into 1/4-inch thick pieces.

To serve, divide the salad between serving plates or bowls. Top each salad with chicken pieces, egg halves, and avocado slices. Drizzle with dressing and season with freshly ground pepper.

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Baked Onions with Fennel Bread Crumbs

Baked Onions with Fennel Bread Crumbs can be used to accompany any grilled meat, poultry or fish. The onions are super tender and the seasoned Panko breadcrumbs enhance the flavor of the vegetables.


Baked Onions with Fennel Bread Crumbs
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of FoodandWine.com, January, 2015)

Serves 6

3 medium onions, peeled and halved lengthwise, root ends left intact
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
Kosher salt
1/2 cup chicken stock
6 bay leaves
2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp dried sage

Preheat oven to 425F.

Brush the onions halves with oil, season with salt and arrange, cut side down, in a 9X13 Pyrex baking dish. Add the chicken stock and scatter the bay leaves around the onions. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

In a small skillet, toast the fennel seeds over medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and allow to cool, then crush the seeds. Transfer to a small bowl, add the Panko, sage and 2 tablespoons of oil and toss.

Carefully, turn the onions cut side up in the baking dish. Spoon the fennel bread crumbs on top and bake for about 15 minutes longer, until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned and crispy. Discard the bay leaves and serve the onions warm.

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Smoky Black Bean Soup

Smoky Black Bean Soup is a classic recipe that is kicked up a notch with the addition of chipotle and adobo sauce.


Smoky Black Bean Soup
(Mark Kelly, 2015)

Serves 4 to 6

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup chopped onion
Kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped, plus 2 tablespoons adobo sauce
1 quart hot vegetable stock
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
Sour cream for garnish

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Soften carrots, corn and onion, about 8 minutes. Season with salt.

Add garlic, chili powder and cumin and cook for about 1 minute. Add the beans and chipotle and sauce. Stir to combine. Add stock and 1 cup of water. Simmer and cook, covered, until thick and creamy, about 45 minutes.

Add lime juice and re-season with salt. Puree the soup using an emersion blender. Serve with cilantro and sour cream.

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