Shrimp Tostadas with Avocado Crema

Shrimp Tostadas with Avocado Crema can be served as an appetizer or as a meal when accompanied with some rice or your other favorite Mexican sides.

Shrimp Tostadas with Avocado Crema
(Mark Kelly, 2018)

Serves 4 – 6

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined, at room temperature
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp Mexican chili powder
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp garlic powder

1 14.5 oz. can of vegetarian refried beans, warmed.

12 crispy tostadas

1 large, ripe avocado, pitted and cubed
8 oz. light sour cream
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp hot sauce
2 tsp fresh lime juice
Kosher salt, to taste

Fresh salsa, cilantro and cojita cheese to garnish

To prepare the Avocado Crema: Put the avocado, sour cream, cumin, hot sauce and lime juice in the food processor and pulse until smooth. Season with salt, to taste. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. The crema can be made up to 1 day ahead.

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat the foil with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the oil and spices to coat. Spread the shrimp evenly across the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Turn each shrimp individually. Bake for another 6 minutes.

To serve: Spread a layer of refried beans over each tostada and divide the shrimp among the tostadas. Top with fresh salsa and cilantro. Garnish with a healthy dollop of Avocado Crema and a couple of shakes of cojita cheese.

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Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Quesadillas

Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Quesadillas is a little different than your typical recipe. The slow cooker-braised chicken filling sits inside a freshly pressed masa dough tortilla.

Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Quesadillas
Serves 6 – 10

For the Shredded Chicken
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup mild salsa
1/2 cup medium salsa
6 Tbsp brown sugar
1 4 oz. can diced green chiles
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 Tbsp Mexican chili powder
2 tsp Kosher salt
2 tsp each – ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder
1 tsp each – smoked paprika, dry oregano, black pepper, ancho chili powder

For the Quesadillas
16 oz. prepared masa dough
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp Kosher salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 jalapeños, stemmed and seeded, thinly sliced lengthwise
16 oz. shredded Chihuahua cheese
2 Tbsp canola oil

Guacamole, sour cream, and salsa verde to garnish

To prepare the shredded chicken: In a medium bowl combine the brown sugar, salt and spices. Whisk thoroughly. Drizzle the bottom of the slow cooker vessel with half of the oil. Place the chicken in the vessel. Drizzle the remaining oil over the chicken. Pour an even layer of the rub over the chicken. Pour the diced tomatoes and diced green chiles over the chicken along with the salsas. Cook on high for 3 hours and the 6 hours longer on low. Remove the chicken from the braising mixture. Allow the chicken to cool before shredding.

To prepare the pickled red onions and jalapeños: In a medium bowl, dissolve the salt and sugar in the vinegar. Add the onions and jalapeños. Set aside at room temperature for at least an hour.

To prepare the quesadillas: Form eight equal sized balls of masa and press them until they are tortillas of about 10 to 12 inches in diameter. On one half of each tortilla place a layer of cheese, top is with a thin layer of chicken and finally a portion of the pickled red onions and jalapeños. Fold the tortilla in half and press the edges together to seal the filling inside. Heat the canola oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, working in batches, fry the for about 2 minutes per side. Serve warm.

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Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Pork

Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Pork makes a great filling for tacos and burritos. The slow cooker makes it a breeze to prepare. This recipe will yield a mildly spicy finished product. For a little extra kick, increase the amount of slice jalapeños and add a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce to braising liquid at the start.

Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Pork
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

Makes 10 – 12 Taco or Burrito Servings

8 lbs. pork shoulder cut into 2-inch cubes
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 1/2 Tbsp Ancho chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 large jalapeños, stemmed and seeded, sliced 1/8-inch thick crosswise
2 limes, juiced
1 large orange, juiced
2 bay leaves
1 bottle of beer, preferably Negro Modelo

Mix the seasoning in a large bowl. The night before putting the pork in the slow cooker toss the pork pieces with the seasoning rub in a large bowl until thoroughly coated. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Six hours before serving put the seasoned pork in the slow cooker vessel and add the lime juice, orange juice, bay leaves and beer. Cover and cook on low, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender and just falling apart. Drain the pork, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the liquid. Put the pork back into the slow cooker and gently shred the meat. Pour the reserved cooking liquid back into the shredded pork. Keep on warm until serving.

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Crab and Cheese Crisp Tacos

Crab and Cheese Crisp Tacos are not your typical tacos but they are quite refreshing on a warm summer night.


Crab and Cheese Crisp Tacos
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Makes 12 tacos

2 large shallots, minced
1/2 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and minced
1/2 cup fresh lime juice, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup crema fresco or sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 lb. crabmeat
1 English cucumber, cut into spears
3 cups grated Fontinella cheese
Toasted sesame seeds
12 tortillas

Fresh pico de gallo to garnish

To make the crab filling: in a medium bowl, combine shallots, jalapeno, and 1/4 cup lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Add crabmeat, crema fresco, and mayonnaise. Gently fold together. Refrigerate until plating.

Preheat oven to 350F. On three parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets place four 1/4 cup mounds of cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden, crispy and firm, moving and rotating the sheets as needed to cook all cheese crisps evenly. Remove the crisps carefully with a spatula to a cooling rack.

In a medium bowl toss the cucumber spears with remaining lime juice and season with salt. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Drain the cucumber and refrigerate until serving.

To serve: Place a cheese crisp on a each tortilla. Fold and add a scoop of pico de gallo. Top with a portion of crab. Add a cucumber spear, sprinkle of sesame seeds and a few sprigs of cilantro.

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Slow-Cooker Skirt Steak Fajitas

Slow-Cooker Skirt Steak Fajitas is an incredibly easy recipe for tender, flavorful shredded beef for tacos, burritos or tostadas. My son, Nolan, gave me this recipe and I only tweaked it a little — I couldn’t help myself.


Slow-Cooker Skirt Steak Fajitas
(Nolan Kelly, 2016)

Serves 4

2 – 2 1/2 lbs. skirt steak
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, seeded, chopped
2 large jalapeños, seeded, vein removed, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
4 limes, juiced
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 mango, diced
1 can (15 oz.) pinto beans
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the steaks as flat as possible in the slow-cooker. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook covered on low for 3 to 4 hours turning once halfway through. At that time re-season with salt and pepper. After the initial cooking period add all of the remaining ingredients and continue cooking on low for 5 hours longer.

Remove and allow to cool a bit before shredding the beef. Serve with your favorite toppings and garnishes including some of the cooked vegetables, mango and beans.

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Esquites – Deconstructed Mexican Style Corn

Esquites – Deconstructed Mexican Style Corn is the third Ample Bites version of a warm, salty-spicy, creamy Mexican corn salad. This one is the best of the three. Give it a try.


Esquites – Deconstructed Mexican Style Corn

Yields 3 cups

2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 Tbsp sea salt

6 ears sweet corn (can be frozen, if that is all that is available)
1/2 red onion, minced
1 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
3/4 cup cojita cheese, divided
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp roughly chopped cilantro leaves
Zest of 2 limes

To prepare Chili-Cayenne Salt: Combine the chili powders with the salt and store in an airtight container.

For the corn: Heat a grill or grill pan over high heat until hot. Brush the corn lightly with oil. Add the corn to the grill and char on all sides, turning occasionally, until blackened in parts, 12 to 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove the kernels.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan over medium heat and saute onions until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add charred corn kernels and cook until warmed. Stir in 1/2 cup of cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, cilantro and lime zest. Season with 1 teaspoon of Chili-Cayenne Salt. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup of cojita cheese on top and sprinkle with more Chili-Cayenne Salt, to taste.

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Mexican Style Spicy Pickled Carrots and Jicama

Ample Bites first enjoyed Mexican Style Spicy Pickled Carrots and Jicama at the Chicago-area Lalo’s restaurant chain and then friends, relatives and Ample Bites followers Laura Rice and Patrick Roche shared a batch they made last summer. This inspired me to make my own. Here is the result and how I went about it.

These spicy pickled vegetables can be served atop tacos or eaten alone as an appetizer of sorts. The carrots and jicama soak up the tang of the jalapenos and pickling juice resulting in a pleasantly spicy kick.


Mexican Style Spicy Pickled Carrots and Jicama
(Mark Kelly, 2015)

Makes 8 cups

1 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced on diagonal about 1/4-inch-thick
1 lb. jicama, peeled and sliced into pieces of similar size to the carrots
2 yellow onions, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 quarts warm water
7 oz. sliced canned jalapeno peppers, with liquid
1 Tbsp dried oregano
12 whole garlic cloves
2 cups cider vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp Kosher salt

Put carrots and jicama in a 4-quart pot. Add warm water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 5 minutes and remove from heat. Add peppers, onions, oregano, garlic, vinegar, bay leaves and salt to the pot. Let cool for 2-3 hours.

Divide between jars and refrigerate. The pickled vegetables will keep for a week after each jar is opened.

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