Stuffed Shells – Dinner for Two

This is a simple dinner, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious. Despite the cheese, it actually isn’t as decadent as it might sound. As with many meals such as this, leftovers can be even better than it was on the first night. We cheated a little on making our tomato sauce, but you could certainly make the entire thing from scratch. Garlic bread can be an excellent accompaniment to this rich and creamy meal.  The nice thing about this meal is that it can be adjusted for a large family or gathering as easily as it was to adjust it for just the two of us.  We’ve provided the recipe for our full batch of tomato and meat sauce, but it too could be scaled down if you wanted just enough for the shells.  We just prefer to make enough to freeze for spaghetti with meat sauce or other recipes later.  It isn’t always easy to find meals that work for a couple or an individual, so these gems are perfect go-to meals when you don’t need to cook for a large group.

Stuffed Shells with Garlic Bread
Stuffed Shells with Garlic Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Lean Ground Beef (or ground meat of your choice)
  • 24 oz Jar of Spaghetti Sauce (whatever brand you prefer)
  • 2 – 15 oz Cans of Diced Tomatoes
  • 2 – 15 oz Cans of Tomato Sauce
  • 3 tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp Oregano
  • 2 1/2 tsp Granulated Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Granulated Sugar
  • 14 Large Shells – cooked to package directions
  • 1 and 1/3 cups Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 cup Mozzarella Cheese – shredded
  • 1/4 cup + 1/8 cup Parmesan Cheese – finely shredded
  • 1 Large Egg – beaten
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Stuffed Shells with Tomato and Meat Sauce
Stuffed Shells with Tomato and Meat Sauce

Instructions

In a large saucepan, add the ground beef, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Brown the ground beef over medium-high heat until thoroughly cooked.  Add to the saucepan the spaghetti sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, and the granulated sugar.  Stir to combine ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer for 1 to 3 hours (cooking the day before and letting sit will let the flavors intensify).  Cook the shells according to package directions, drain, and let cool to room temperature.  In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 2/3 of a cup of mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and half of the beaten egg, and mix thoroughly.  Pre-heat an oven to 350 degrees.  Cover the bottom of a small baking dish with enough tomato and meat sauce to thoroughly cover the bottom of the dish.  Stuff each shell with about 3 tablespoons of the cheese mixture, enough to fill each shell without over filling them.  Place the shells into the baking dish on top of the sauce mixture.  Spoon more of the meat sauce over top of the shells and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil (spray the bottom of the foil with some cooking spray so that the cheese doesn’t stick).  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes and then remove the foil.  Cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce is bubbling.  Plate and serve with garlic toast.

Tomato and Meat Sauce
Tomato and Meat Sauce
Cheese Mixture
Cheese Mixture
Stuffed Shells with Tomato and Meat Sauce
Stuffed Shells with Tomato and Meat Sauce

 

Asian Roasted Duck

We love duck, but it isn’t the easiest thing to prepare and have it turn out to be moist and tender.  After doing some research, we found that either simmering or steaming the duck, prior to roasting it, renders out the fat and produces a moist duck with crispy skin.  We decided to go with an Asian influenced recipe and the flavor couldn’t have been more delicious.  It took a little work, but really wasn’t too difficult and well worth the effort.  We adapted our recipe from one that we found from Tyler Florence, which called for the duck to be steamed and, based on the results, we’ll use this method every time going forward.  This recipe turned out to be extremely tasty and one that we hope that you’ll enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 1 Whole Duck (5 – 5 1/2 lbs)
  • 1 tbsp Chinese Five-Spice Powder
  • 2 tsp Granulated Sugar
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 5 Large Slices of Fresh Ginger
  • 3 to 4 Garlic Cloves
  • 4 Green Onions
  • 1 Tangerine Peel – cut into large strips
  • 1/4 cup Rice Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Honey
  • 1/2 cup Soy Sauce
Chinese Five-Spice, Sugar, and Salt
Chinese Five-Spice, Sugar, and Salt
Aromatics
Aromatics

Instructions

Remove the giblets from the duck and cut away any excess fat from the neck and cavity area.  Wash the duck inside and out and pat completely dry inside and out with paper towels.  Combine the Chinese five-spice, sugar, and salt in a small bowl.  Rub the spices over the entire duck, inside and out.  Stuff the duck cavity with the aromatics, the ginger, garlic, green onions, and tangerine peel.  Fold the wings under the back, this will keep the tips of the wings from burning.  Tie the legs together with some kitchen string and then poke the skin of the breasts and thighs several times with a skewer or knife.  This will allow the fat to escape as it renders as well as allow the seasonings to flavor the meat below.

Duck with Dry Rub and Aromatics
Duck with Dry Rub and Aromatics
Tie the Legs and Tuck the Wings
Tie the Legs and Tuck the Wings

Place the duck onto a rack, breast side up, and into a roasting pan.  Fill the roasting pan with water until it is almost touching the bottom of the rack with the duck.  Cover tightly with foil.  Place the roasting pan over a large burner on the stove and turn the burner onto medium heat.  Once the water starts to boil (you’ll have to listen to it or peek inside the foil), turn the burner down to low and steam the duck for 45 minutes, checking occasionally to see if you need to add water.  Steaming the duck allows some of the fat to melt away and shrinks the skin.

Sweet and Savory Glaze
Sweet and Savory Glaze
Simmering Glaze
Simmering Glaze

While the duck is steaming, combine the vinegar, honey, and soy sauce in a small saucepan.  Cook the glaze on low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly, then set aside.  Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Remove the roasting pan from the burner and remove the foil.  Remove the rack with the duck from the roasting pan and pour out almost all of the liquid, leaving about an eighth of an inch of liquid in the pan.  Put the rack with the duck back into the pan and liberally brush the duck with the glaze, ensuring that the skin is well coated.  Put the roasting pan with the duck into the oven and roast for 1 hour, basting periodically with the glaze.

Steamed Duck with Fat Rendered
Steamed Duck with Fat Rendered
Asian Roasted Duck
Asian Roasted Duck

Tequila Lime Chicken

Perhaps because we’re about to leave for Mexico in a couple of days, we’ve had tequila on the mind.  We originally found this recipe from Ina Garten, but we’ve modified it slightly over time.  The original recipe calls for boneless chicken breast with the skin on, but we chose to do bone in chicken thighs this time.  We’ve also used this recipe on pork tenderloin as well, since it is very versatile and definitely quite tasty.  The key is letting the chicken marinate overnight and letting the chicken soak up all of the flavor.  Jalapeño corn bread is a great accompaniment or a corn salad goes really nice as well.  We hope that you enjoy it.

Tequila Lime Chicken
Tequila Lime Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Tequila (silver or gold)
  • 3/4 cup Lime Juice – fresh squeezed
  • 1/3 cup Orange Juice – fresh squeezed
  • 3/4 tbsp Chili Powder
  • 3/4 tbsp Jalapeño Pepper – freshly minced (seeded if you prefer less heat)
  • 3/4 tbsp Garlic – freshly minced (about 2 cloves)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 3/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 4 Chicken Thighs – skin on
Fresh Fruit
Fresh Fruit
Tequila
Tequila

Instructions

In a large bowl or measuring cup, combine the tequila, lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, garlic, jalapeño pepper, salt, and black pepper.  Whisk the ingredients together.  Place the chicken thighs into a shallow pan or baking dish.  Pour the marinade over the chicken so that it covers the chicken thighs.  Cover and place in a refrigerator overnight (turning the chicken thighs over occasionally).  Heat a grill pan or grill to medium-high heat.  Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill the chicken thighs, skin side down, until golden brown, approximately 10 – 15 minutes.  Flip the thighs, reduce the heat to medium, and continue to grill until cooked through, approximately 10 – 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let rest at least 5 minutes before serving.

Fresh Squeezed Juice is Key
Fresh Squeezed Juice is Key
Mince Garlic and Jalapeño Pepper
Mince Garlic and Jalapeño Pepper
Add Tequila
Add Tequila
Pour Marinade Over Chicken
Pour Marinade Over Chicken
Marinate Chicken Overnight
Marinate Chicken Overnight
Grill Chicken
Grill Chicken