Chicken Crescents

Chicken Crescents have been an Ample Bites family favorite for more than 20 years. Kids and adults alike enjoy this comfort food. In the Ample Bites household Chicken Crescents are almost always served with a side of cold mixed bean salad.

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Chicken Crescents
(Sandy Kelly, 2013)

Serves 4

6 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp garlic powder, divided
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast
¼ tsp Kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp cooking sherry
1 Tbsp chopped chives
3 ounces button mushrooms, finely diced and sautéed
2 Tbsp dried minced onion, divided
8 ounce Pillsbury quick crescent dinner rolls
¾ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix cream cheese, butter, chicken breast, salt, pepper, sherry, chives, mushrooms, ½ tablespoon garlic powder, and 1 tablespoon dried minced onions.

Separate the dough into 4 rectangles and press centerline perforations to close them. Divide the chicken-cheese mixture evenly between the four dough rectangles by placing it in the center of each leaving enough room around the mixture to allow the corners to be pulled over it and close completely. Pull the corners to the center and press them tightly together and then seal all of the edges.

In a shallow bowl mix the breadcrumbs, the remaining ½ tablespoon garlic pepper, and the remaining tablespoon of the dried minced onions.

Spray the dough with cooking spray on all sides. Press the dough into the breadcrumbs covering all sides.

Bake on a foil lined baking sheet for 20-25 minutes. Serve hot.

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Pan-Roasted Salmon with Fennel Salad

Pan-Roasted Salmon with Fennel Salad is a very simple dish to prepare. The keys are shaving the fennel very thin with a mandolin; using fresh squeezed orange juice; having a hot pan to sear the fish; and, finally finishing the fish in the oven. Follow the Ample Bites recipe closely and you will enjoy a simple, savory meal.

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Pan-Roasted Salmon with Fennel Salad
(Adapted from a recipe by Bon Appetit, January 2013)

Serves 4

½ fennel bulb, plus 2 tablespoons fronds
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil or vegetable oil
1 1-lb. skin-on salmon fillet, preferably wild-caught, cut into 4 pieces

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Using a mandoline finely shave fennel; transfer to a medium bowl. Add fennel fronds, orange juice, and olive oil; toss to combine. Season salad with salt and pepper.

Heat grapeseed oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season the salmon pieces with salt and pepper. Place the salmon in skillet skin-side down. Cook without moving. Gently press with spatula to ensure skin is golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven (do not turn fish over) and roast until salmon is just opaque in center, 3-4 minutes for medium-rare (time will depend on the thickness of fish and desired doneness).

Divide fennel salad among plates. Top with salmon skin side up.

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Orange-Braised Carrots and Parsnips

Ample Bites has braised vegetable many times before but never using orange juice. Braising normally used an acid but it is usually a vinegar, milk or a wine. Orange-Braised Carrots and Parsnips uses the orange to impart a sweet-spicy flavor to both the carrots and the parsnips.

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Orange-Braised Carrots and Parsnips
(Adapted from a recipe by The Barefoot Contessa, 2013)

Serves 6

1 pound carrots, scrubbed and peeled
1 pound thin parsnips, scrubbed and peeled
1/3 cup diced shallots (1 large)
2 tsp grated orange zest
1 ¼ cups freshly squeezed orange juice, divided (3 oranges)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley, for serving

Preheat the oven to 275F.

If the parsnips or carrots are thick, slice them in halves or quarters lengthwise so that the carrots and parsnips are all about the same size.

Place the carrots and parsnips in a Dutch oven that is large enough for the vegetables to lay flat. Add the shallots, orange zest, ¾ cup orange juice, olive oil, thyme, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons of salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper.

Place the pot on the stove and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover tightly with the lid. Transfer to the oven and cook for 1 ½ hours, until the carrots and parsnips are very tender. Discard the thyme bundle. Sprinkle with the remaining orange juice and parsley and season to taste.

Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

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Sicilian Grilled Tuna

Sicilian Grilled Tuna is an Ample Bites adaptation of a recipe that called for swordfish. This recipe can be used for any meaty fish in steak form. The sauce is nicely balanced and a bit spicy. The arugula gives the dish a peppery flavor. This preparation is a basic, super easy, “go to” recipe for fish.

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Sicilian Grilled Tuna
(Adapted from a recipe by The Barefoot Contessa, 2013)

Serves 4

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1 ½-inch-thick tuna steaks
4 ounces baby arugula
grated zest of 1 lemon

Heat grill to high.

For sauce, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Set aside.

When the grill is ready, sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes on one side, then turn and cook for another 2 minutes on the other side until the fish is almost cooked through. Remove the fish to a flat dish, prick holes in the fish with the tines of the fork, and pour the lemon sauce over the fish while it is still hot. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

When ready to serve, place serving-size pieces of the tuna on dinner plates, pile arugula on top, drizzle with the sauce from the fish and sprinkle with the grated lemon zest. Serve warm.

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Pizza Dough and Chicken, Eggplant and Red Pepper Pizza

Ample Bites has had several request for the a repost of my favorite pizza dough. You will find it below along with a recipe for a new pizza recipe for Chicken Eggplant and Red Pepper Pizza.

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Pizza Dough
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Wolfgang Puck, “Pizza, Pasta & More!”, 2000)

Makes crusts for 4 pizzas of about 10 – 12″ diameter

1 package of active dry or fresh yeast
1 tsp honey
1 ½ cup warm water, 105 to 115F
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and honey in 1/4 cup of the warm water.

in a food processor, combine the flour and the salt. Add the oil, the yeast mixture, and the remaining 3/4 cup of water and process until the mixture forms a ball. (The pizza dough can also be made in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed until the mixture comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and starts to climb up the dough hook.)

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand 2 or 3 minutes longer. The dough should be smooth and firm. Place the dough in to a medium-sized oiled bowl and cover with a clean towel. Let the dough rise for about 2 hours.

Divide the dough into 4 balls, about 6 ounces each. Work each ball by pulling down the sides and tucking them under the bottom of the ball. Repeat about 4 or 5 times. Then on a smooth, un-floured surface roll the ball under the palm of your hand until the top of the dough is smooth and firm, about 1 minute. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let rest for about 1 hour before rolling out and dressing with pizza topping ingredients of choice.

While dough is rising and/or resting you can prepare your toppings.

The best pizza cooking methods include preheating the oven to at least 500F and preheating pizza stones for at least 15 minutes before placing the pizzas on them for cooking. Preheating produces crisp but chewy pizza crusts in 12 to 18 minutes.

Chicken, Eggplant and Red Pepper Pizza
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 4

1 pizza dough, divided into equal crusts
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 red peppers, seeded, roasted, peeled and cut into strips
1 eggplant, sliced, roasted and cut into strips
2 chicken breasts, pan-fried and sliced into ¼”-inch thick pieces
Fresh basil leaves, torn
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces Fontina, Mozzarella or smoked Mozzarella cheese

Prepare pasta dough and divide the dough into four equal crusts. Preheat oven to 425F. Preheat pizza stone for about 20 minutes.

Cover each crust with the vegetables, chicken breast pieces and cheese leaving a ½” rim. Season the pizza with salt and pepper to taste before baking. Brush the rim of each pizza with olive oil.

Bake each pizza for about 12 – 15 minutes at 500F or until the cheese is melted and crust is golden. Before serving, drizzle with oil and cut into wedges.

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Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Roasted Red Pepper Soup is an Ample Bites family favorite. This soup is elegant enough to start a meal and hearty enough to serve alone as a meal. Ample Bites favorite way to serve Roasted Red Pepper Soup is alongside a grilled cheese sandwich or panini. The best thing about this soup is that, once the peppers are roasted and peeled, it takes less than 20 minutes to get it to the table.

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Roasted Red Pepper Soup
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Makes 8 meal servings

6 red bell peppers, roasted and chopped
2 yellow bell peppers, roasted and chopped
2 medium yellow onions, diced
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
6 cups vegetable stock, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Additional red and yellow peppers diced for garnish
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil, onions, garlic and 2 1/3 cups vegetable stock. Boil for 5 minutes or until stock reduces in volume by about half. Lower heat to medium low and cook until the stock is fully absorbed and the onions are beginning to color. Season the onions with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle flour over the cooked onions and stir to incorporate. Gradually add remaining stock, stirring constantly. Add the chopped, roasted pepper and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 5 minutes longer.

With an immersion blender, puree the soup until almost smooth. Re-season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Allow the soup to cool for about 5 minutes before serving. To serve, ladle soup into a bowl and garnish with diced peppers and Parmesan cheese.

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Mexican Creamed Corn

When Ample Bites visited Bien Trucha, an amazing Mexican restaurant in Geneva, Illinois, a couple months ago I had the best corn dish I have ever experienced. This recipe for what I am calling Mexican Creamed Corn is as close as I have found to what I experienced that day. The dish is best served as soon as the corn is cooked. You simply combine the remaining ingredients, to the dish with Cotija cheese and serve it with lime wedges to garnish.

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Mexican Creamed Corn
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Muy Bueno by Yvette Marquez-Sharnack, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith, and Evangelina Soza, 2012)

Makes 12 servings

10 ears of corn
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups lime juice
2 cups crema Mexicana or sour cream
Chili powder to taste
Kosher salt to taste
Hot sauce
12 ounces crumbly salty white cheese (ideally Cotija but Parmesan is acceptable)
Lime wedges for garnish

Husk the corn, remove the silks, and slice the kernels from the cobs with a sharp knife. Place the corn in a saucepan with enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil; let boil for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain. Turn off the heat and return corn to saucepan.

For each serving: Put ¾ cup corn in glass bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and stir to melt the butter. Mix in ¼ cup lime juice and ¼ cup crema. Sprinkle with a good heavy coating of chili powder and salt, if desired, though the cheese adds plenty of salt. If you like spicy then add a few drops of hot sauce. Mix well. Top with about 2 tablespoons of crumbled cheese.

Serve with lime wedges.

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Shrimp Ceviche Verde

Ample Bites loves ceviche. Among the best I have enjoyed are an Ecuadorian Mixto Ceviche with white fish from Rios D’Sudamerica in Chicago and a mahi-mahi ceviche at a seafood restaurant in San Juan, Puerto Rico several years ago. I made a Shrimp Ceviche Verde to accompany my family’s Mexican Christmas Eve dinner. This recipe was brought to my attention by a friend of Ample Bites and is based on a recipe by the great aficionado of Mexican cuisine, Rick Bayless.

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Shrimp Ceviche Verde
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Season 8 Mexico One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless)

Makes about 4 1/2 cups, serving 6 to 10 as an appetizer

1 1/2 pound very fresh uncooked, medium-to-small shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup fresh lime juice
4 ounces fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 cup loosely packed cilantro, mostly leaves
Sea salt
1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and very finely chopped
½ habanero chile, stemmed, seeded, and very finely chopped
2 – 3 Tbsp finely chopped chives
1 ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from skin and cut into small cubes

Cut the shrimp into small pieces. Slightly smaller than 1/2-inch and scoop them into a serving bowl. In a blender, combine the lime juice, tomatillos, cilantro and a large pinch of salt. Blend until slushy looking, but not completely smooth. Stir the mixture into the shrimp and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Just before serving, stir in the two chiles, chives and avocado. Taste and season with more salt, if necessary.

Serve with tortilla chips and sour cream.

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Asian-Brined Pork Roast

Asian-Brined Pork Roast is a new favorite of Ample Bites. The Asian flavors and the combination of the citric acid from the orange and the ginger, mirin and sesame oil give the pork an amazingly good taste. This is a dish worth trying and continuing to perfect. Next time I think I will grill the pork instead of roasting it to get a bit more of a char on the meat.

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Asian-Brined Pork Loin
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Food & Wine, January 2013)

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 ½ cups mirin
1 ½ cups low-sodium soy sauce
4 ounces, fresh ginger, thinly sliced
10 small dried red chiles
1 orange, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
8 cups cold water
1 6-pound, bone-in pork loin roast
1 Tbsp vegetable oil

In a large pot, combine the mirin, soy sauce, ginger, chiles, orange slices, sesame oil and water. Add the pork roast, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Drain the pork and let it come to room temperature. Pat dry. In a medium, flame proof roasting pan, heat the oil. Add the roast and cook over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the roast to the oven, meaty side up, and roast for about 1 hour, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast registers 135F. Cover the roast very loosely with foil and let rest for 15 minutes.

To serve, slice the roast thinly.

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Greek Chicken with Spinach and Feta

Ample Bites was looking for a light chicken dish to serve in the middle of the high-calorie Holiday Season. My refrigerator contained chicken breasts, feta cheese, greek olives, and spinach. The pantry and spice drawer were populated with a variety of spices from which to create just about any dish. This combination of ingredients inspired me to create Greek Chicken with Spinach and Feta, light dinner fare that was a perfect for solution for the problem at hand. The recipe follows:

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Greek Chicken with Spinach and Feta
(Mark Kelly, December 2012)

Makes 6 servings

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
7 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra for drizzling
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound fresh baby spinach
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
6 ounces greek olives, coarsely chopped

In a large non-reactive bowl prepare the marinade by whisking together 6 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, 2 pinches of salt, oregano and 1 tablespoon pepper. Toss the chicken breasts in the marinade, cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Bring the chicken to room temperature and shake off excess marinade.

Preheat oven to 375F. Place a rimmed baking sheet with a wire rack on the middle shelf. Bake the chicken on the wire rack until cooked through 20 – 25 minutes. Cover loosely and let stand for 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

In a large heavy skillet over medium heat add 1 tablespoon and cook garlic for 30 seconds. Add all of the spinach and cook until wilted but not soggy. Sprinkle the feta over the spinach.

To serve, spoon a portion of the spinach-feta on a plate and top with a sliced chicken breast. Drizzle with olive oil, top with olives, and re-season with salt and pepper.

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