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.

Chicken Gyros

Chicken Gyros is healthier version of the classic Greek street food. The chicken, substituted for the lamb gyros meat, draws tremendous flavor from the yogurt-lemon-oregano marinade. The preparation is simple and leftovers are super easy because only the chicken needs to be reheated. The Tzatziki Sauce recipe makes more the enough for the 4-6 servings so you’ll have plenty left to use for a dip with baked pita chips or cut fresh peppers, celery and carrots.

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Chicken Gyros

Serves 4 – 6

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin

For Marinade

3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp Greek yogurt
2 tsp dried oregano
1 pinch kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For Tzatziki Sauce

2 medium cucumbers
2 cups Greek yogurt
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon juice (about 1/2 large lemon)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For Salad

3 tomatoes, deseeded and diced
3 cucumbers, diced
1/2 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

4-6 pita breads

To prepare the marinade: Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Place chicken breasts in a large zip-top plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken and massage and squeeze out as much air as possible. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.

To prepare the Tzatziki: Cut the cucumbers into quarters lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Coarsely grate the cucumber. Wrap the shredded cucumber in a large piece of cheesecloth and squeeze to remove excess liquid. Place the cucumber in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix to combine. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to allow flavors to combine, longer if possible.

Combine all of the salad ingredients in a bowl.

Heat grill for medium direct grilling. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Cook until golden brown and cooked through. Set aside and cover with foil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before cutting.

Warm the pitas. Top each with a generous amount of grilled chicken. Top with salad and tzatziki. Serve warm.

Cut the chicken into 1/4-inch thick slices.

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Giardiniera Dip

Giardiniera Dip is a new classic Super Bowl appetizer. Try it with chips or veggies. It is creamy and spicy. You can make this dip with hot or mild giardiniera. Alternatively, you can use Italian Olive Salad.

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Giardiniera Dip
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Makes about 3 cups

12 oz. giardiniera, drained of excess oil, plus more to garnish
12 oz. 1/3-less fat cream cheese

Pulse giardiniera in food processor until finely chopped. Add cream cheese and pulse until smooth. Refrigerate for and hour before serving and for up to 3 days. Serve with chips and/or vegetables.

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Roasted Carrots with Sherry-Maple Glaze and Shiitakes

Roasted Carrots with Sherry-Maple Glaze and Shiitakes is another side that goes well with grilled meats.

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Roasted Carrots with Sherry-Maple Glaze and Shiitakes
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Serves 4

12 whole carrots, washed, root ends trimmed
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large shallot minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb. shiitakes, wiped clean, quartered if large
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, for garnish
Sea salt

To prepare carrots: Preheat oven to 400F. Half the carrots lengthwise. Put the carrots in a large mixing bowl, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil and season with kosher salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Spread the carrots out on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until tender and slightly charred. Set aside.

To prepare the glaze: Combine the maple syrup, vinegar and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan and cook over medium -low heat, until the mixture is reduced and syrupy, about 10 minutes. Cover and keep warm.

To prepare the mushrooms: Put a large saute pan over medium heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and the butter. When the butter is melted, add the shallot and saute until softened but not browned, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and suate, stirring frequently, until they lose their moisture, soften and begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

To serve: Crisscross the carrots on serving plates. Drizzle with maple glaze and top with mushrooms. Scatter chopped parsley on top and season with sea salt.

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Bacon Hasselback Potatoes

Bacon Hasselback Potatoes are an indulgent side that is perfect with a grilled steak or pork chop.

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Bacon Hasselback Potatoes
(Adapted from a recipe courtesy of BonAppetit.com)

Serve 6

4 slices thick-cut bacon, each cut crosswise into 9 pieces
Kosher salt for boiling potatoes
6 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled except for a lengthwise wide strip along the bottom of each
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp, finely chopped parsley
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

Lay the bacon pieces on a bacon sheet and freeze until hard, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Using a sharp knife, make crosswise cuts in each potato, about 1/8-inch apart, stopping about 1/4-inch from the bottom. Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook for 4 minutes. Remove them carefully and transfer them to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, let cool slightly. Pat the potatoes dry.

Insert 6 pieces of the frozen bacon into the cuts of each potato, spacing the bacon evenly. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter and brush generously over the potatoes and into the cuts. Season the potatoes with sea salt and pepper.

Transfer the potatoes to the oven and bake until the outsides are browned and crisp, about 2 hours.

When the potatoes are almost done, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and mix with the scallions, parsley and garlic. Spoon over the potatoes and roast for the final 5 minutes. Transfer to a platter and re-season with sea salt and pepper. Serve warm.

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Spinach Tasso Skillet

Spinach Tasso Skillet makes an awesome dinner, breakfast or brunch for one and is a great way to use up any Tasso left over from making gumbo. If you don’t have any Tasso on hand simple substitute cubes of ham or slab bacon.

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Spinach Tasso Skillet
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Serves 1

2 frozen hash brown patties
2 large eggs
1/4 lb. Tasso ham, cut into 3/8-inch-cubes
1 Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
1/4 red onion, chopped
1 (8 oz.) bag baby spinach
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
Canola oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Sriracha for garnish

Preheat oven to 425F. Bake the hash browns for 18 minutes on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet.

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, brown the Tasso cubes until crispy, about 5minutes. Remove to a bowl and set aside. Add one tablespoon of oil to the skillet and saute the onions for 3 to 4 minutes. Add spinach and cook until just wilted. Remove onions and spinach to a bowl and set aside. Season with salt and pepper.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet and fry eggs to desired doneness, sunny-side up or over easy recommended.

To serve, place hash brown patties in the skillet with the spinach and onions. Add the cooked eggs. Top with tomatoes and then cheese. Broil for 2 minutes taking care not to burn the cheese. Serve immediately with a few generous dashes of Sriracha.

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Shrimp and Tasso Gumbo

Shrimp and Tasso Gumbo features a deep mahogany roux, beautiful shrimp, and smoky, spicy Tasso ham. Ample Bites got the Tasso for this recipe from Ream’s Elburn Market.

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Shrimp and Tasso Gumbo
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Makes 8 Entree Servings

12 cups shrimp stock
1 cup canola oil, plus 2 tablespoons more for browning the tasso
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 lb. tasso ham, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup garlic, finely chopped, about 12 large cloves
1/2 lb. fresh or frozen okra, thick sliced
1 lb. Roma tomatoes, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 tsp Creole seasoning
2 thyme sprigs, tied together in a bundle with cooking twine
1 bay leaf
2 lbs. medium shrimp (31-40 count), peeled and deveined, tails on
2 Tbsp Tabasco
Brown rice, cooked and drained

Brown the tasso in a large Dutch oven in 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat, about 8 minutes. Remove tasso to a paper-towel-lined bowl and set aside.

To make the roux: In the same Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Whisk the flour into the oil over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the roux is a deep mahogany brown, about 40 minutes.

Stir in the onion, celery, okra, and peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tasso and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, Creole seasoning, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover and simmer for 90 minutes. If serving soon, add shrimp and Tabasco and cook until the shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes.

Serve in a wide shallow bowl with 1/3 cup of cooked rice in the center. Garnish with additional hot sauce.

The gumbo can be prepared up to 3 days ahead of time and gently reheated. Add during reheating. Add additional shrimp to the gumbo when serving as leftovers.

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World’s Best Pizza Dough with Craft Beer

World’s Best Pizza Dough with Craft Beer substitutes craft pilsner or lager beer for the water Ample Bites uses in the other version of World’s Best Pizza Dough.

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World’s Best Pizza Dough with Craft Beer
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Makes enough dough for (4) 12-inch diameter pizzas

3 cups farina 00 flour
1 1/4 cups craft lager or pilsner beer, at room temperature
1 (1/4-oz.) active dry yeast
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt

Microwave the beer in a small microwavable bowl on HIGH for 35 seconds. The beer should reach a temperature of 105-110F. Stir in the yeast and let stand for 5 minutes or until foamy. Add oil to the beer-yeast mixture. In a mixer, combine the flour with a healthy pinch of salt. Add the beer-yeast mixture to the flour and beat with a dough hook until thoroughly combined. Remove the dough to a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover with a moist towel and keep in a warm place, preferably an oven on Proof-setting at 100F. Let the dough rise for 1 – 1 1/2 hours before forming pizzas.

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Roasted Cauliflower Lasagna

Roasted Cauliflower Lasagna is a meatless variety of this popular pasta casserole that features cauliflower that has been oven-roasted and caramelized before being baked into the dish

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Roasted Cauliflower Lasagna
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of FoodNetwork.com, 2016)

Serves 4

8 cups cauliflower florets (from 1 head, about 2 1/2 lbs)
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 28-oz. can whole plum tomatoes
3 garlic cloves (2 sliced, 1 chopped)
1 large red bell pepper, diced
4 oz. button mushrooms, chopped
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup fresh basil leaves
8 oz. no-boil, whole wheat lasagna noodles
1 cup part-skim ricotta
1 large egg
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 425F.

Toss cauliflower in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon oil and a pinch of salt. Spread the florets in an even layer on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet, turning the florets over once midway through, until tender and golden brown in spots, 30 to 35 minutes. Allow to cool.

Put the tomatoes in a medium bowl and, using your hands, crush them. Rinse the can with 1 cup of cold water and add it to the bowl of tomatoes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the 2 sliced garlic cloves and a pinch of salt and cook until the garlic begins to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Add pepper and mushroom and cook, stirring, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir to incorporate, about 30 seconds. Add the crushed tomatoes and their juice and 4 large basil leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 40 minutes. Will yield about 3 1/2 cups of sauce.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the ricotta, egg, 1 1/2 cups of roasted cauliflower and the chopped garlic and pulse until evenly pureed. Tear the remaining basil leaves into small pieces, add to the processor and pulse 3-4 more times. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.

To assemble the lasagna: Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pyrex dish. Place a layer of noodles over the sauce. Spread half of the cauliflower-ricotta mixture, followed by half of the roasted cauliflower, one-third of the remaining tomato sauce, one-third of the mozzarella, and one-third of the Parmesan. Top with a layer of noodles. Spread the remaining cauliflower-ricotta mixture, followed by the remaining roasted cauliflower, one-third more of the tomato sauce, one-third more of the mozzarella, and one-third more of the Parmesan. Top another layer of noodles then add the remaining tomato sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake at 425F until bubbly and hot, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and cook until the cheese begins to brown, about 10 minutes more. Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.

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Cannellini and Sausage Risotto

Cannellini and Sausage Risotto is a different type of risotto than Ample Bites has made before. Usually my risotto has mushrooms or vegetables in it or it might include some sautéed shrimp but almost never meat. In making the risotto, I normally use warmed chicken or vegetable stock but in this recipe I use the water reserved from the cooked beans.

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Cannellini and Sausage Risotto
(Mark Kelly, 2015)

Serves 6

8 oz. dried cannellini beans (by weight), about 1 1/2 cups, soaked overnight
6 whole sage leaves
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
5 cups bean cooking water
6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
12 oz. Italian sausage, skins split and sausage removed
2/3 cups white wine
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp finely grated Parmesan
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Best quality olive oil for drizzling

Drain the beans and put them in a large pan with sage, tomato, and garlic. Cover with fresh cold water, bring to a boil and cook for 1 hour, until soft. Drain the beans and reserve 5 cups of the cooking water. Keep this liquid warm while you make the risotto.

Heat half the oil in a large saucepan and, when hot, add half the onion. Cook until lightly golden, then add the ground sausage. Brown the meat and continue to cook until any liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage and onion. Set aside in a bowl.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan. When hot, add the rest of the onion and cook until soft. Add the rice to the pan and toast it for a few minutes, until the grains are covered in oil and the onions are translucent. Add the wine and let it reduce. Ladle in hot bean water and continue to cook the risotto.

When the risotto is almost finished, stir in the beans and sausage and onion mixture. Stir in the butter and cheese. Cover the pan, turn off the heat, and let rest until serving, up to 15 minutes. When serving, drizzle with best quality olive oil.

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Chicken Stuffed with Asparagus and Ham in White Wine Sauce

Chicken Stuffed with Asparagus and Ham in White Wine Sauce is worth the preparation. It takes some time and patience to pound out the chicken breasts and wrap them with the ham and prosciutto around the asparagus spears. After that, the rest of the meal is a breeze and quite the crowd-pleaser. Serve with a side of Cannellini and Sausage Risotto and you’ve got yourself a meal.

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Chicken Stuffed with Asparagus and Ham in White Wine Sauce
(Mark Kelly, 2015)

Serves 6

2 lb. asparagus spears, ends removed
6 thinly sliced chicken breasts
12 thin slices cooked ham
6 oz. Parmesan shavings
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
12 slices prosciutto
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
12 sage leaves
1 cup dry white wine, at room temperature

Par cook the asparagus in the microwave in a plastic-wrap-covered in a Pyrex dish with about a cup of cold water. Chill the asparagus in an ice bath to stop cooking. Drain on paper towels. Drain and reserve the cooking water.

Pound out the chicken breasts until they are between 1/4-inch and 1/8-inch-thick. Cut each of the 6 in half to create 12 pieces to wrap around the asparagus bunches. Lay the chicken breast scallops on a work surface. Top each with a slice of the cooked ham. Place 2 to 3 asparagus spears on each. Trim the asparagus so that it doesn’t extend beyond the scallops. Reserve any leftover asparagus and chop it into 1/2-inch pieces. Top each with parmesan shavings and season with salt and pepper. Roll each up and secure them by wrapping a piece of prosciutto around each one.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil. When it shimmers, cooking in batches, brown the rolls on all sides with the sage leaves in the skillet. Remove the rolls, as they are cooked and set them aside and cover them with foil. Deglaze the pan with the reserved asparagus water and wine and allow to reduce for 15-20 minutes. Add the rolls back to the sauce with the asparagus and cook for a few minutes. Season to taste.

To serve: Slice each roll in half on the diagonal and arrange four halves per plate. Pour sauce over and garnish with additional shaved parmesan.

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