Featured On: The Everygirl!

I know, I know, I’ve posted like a billion times today. I promise it won’t happen again (well, I’ll try anyway), but I have exciting news!

About a week ago, The Everygirl (“the newest online resource helping shape the creative, career-driven woman to experience her life better lived”) sent out a call for submissions from their readers for a piece they were doing on the best spring flats for under $100.

It just so happened that I had been crushing on these little beauties, so I figured, what the heck, and submitted them.

And guess what. Out of over 100 submissions, I was one of the 18 they picked!

See the full article (packed with all kinds of spring flat goodness) here. (Plus, be sure to keep tabs on TheEverygirl.com for advice on just about everything.)

Ok, I promise, that’s all from me today.

How to: Inside-Out Stuffed Shells

I love happy accidents. You know, when you were thinking something was going to happen, but something else does, and it ends up being even better than what you expected?

Not sure why I just defined “happy accident” for you. Let’s get down to it, shall we?

So the other day, I came across a recipe for stuffed shells. I’ve never made them before, but my mom has made them, and I know I like them. I also have a rather Italian husband who is a fan of just about any pasta dish.

Obviously, this was fate.

So after skimming the recipe, I headed to the grocery store to procure the ingredients. Well…most of the ingredients.

Turns out I’m not the best skimmer. Because I managed to come home short an onion and some fresh chorizo. (What’s chorizo? It’s sausage. I only know that because I just looked it up when I wrote this. I had been assuming it was some kind of vegetable similar to an onion. I actually did have sausage on hand. Also, I’m an idiot.) And guess what? I also managed to leave the store without purchasing the shells. For my stuffed shells recipe.

Sometimes I really wonder about my brain.

Not to be deterred (and really craving the taste of stuffed shells at this point), I opened my pantry to see what I could substitute. And lo and behold, I actually had half a box of conchiglie, or mini shell pasta.

We were back in business.

I still didn’t have an onion or chorizo (whatever that was), but I figured I could make due.

And when I was done making up my little recipe, it was pretty stinking good. (The hubs can verify.) And that is the story of how Inside-Out Stuffed Shells came to be.

Here’s the recipe breakdown with photos:


1/2-3/4 box conchiglie
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt (plus additional for seasoning)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper (plus additional for seasoning)
Olive oil cooking spray
1 package frozen spinach (thawed in microwave)
1 1/2 cups low-fat ricotta
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
1 egg white

Step One: Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain, and set aside. While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add tomatoes and sugar and season with salt and pepper to your taste. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then set aside.

{sauce simmering and pasta boiling}

Step Two: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Step Three: Combine spinach, cheeses, egg white, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Then mix in the tomato sauce.

Side note: If your “steam it in the bag” spinach tells you to snip a vent hole in the bag of frozen spinach before you start microwaving, it’s really a good idea to not miss that step and simply start microwaving the sealed bag because, I don’t know, it might explode and get spinach shards all over the inside of your microwave. Hypothetically. Not that I know anything about that. See also: I’m an idiot, above.

{cheeses, combined}
{spinach, added}

Step Four: Coat a baking dish with cooking spray (mine was about 6-by-10 inches) and add drained pasta.

Step Five: Add tomato and cheese mixture. Combine thoroughly. Bake pasta for about 30 minutes. (Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving so the sauce can thicken up.)


And that’s it! At first I called it “deconstructed stuffed shells,” but then Joey goes, “So basically it’s like inside-out shells?” And I thought that name was catchier. So here we are.


If you wanted to add in the missing onion and chorizo/sausage, simply brown them in the large saucepan of oil before adding the tomatoes and sugar, easy-peasy.

(Recipe adapted from this version.)

Have you ever accidentally invented something because you didn’t have the right ingredients on hand? Doesn’t it make you feel like a wizard in the kitchen? Share your happy accident recipes in the comments!

The Name Game

Continuing on my unintentional thread of “quirky things about Long Island” posts (didja miss the first one?), I would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention the nicknames.

I know you could make an argument that nicknames are not a geographically specific occurrence. Everywhere you go you’ll find Dannys, Mikes, and Jeffs. (Or maybe that’s just my family.)(*Rimshot*) BUT. In all the places I lived, it was never a thing so much as it is out here.

EVERY name gets a nickname on Long Island.  Even the ones you wouldn’t think lend themselves to shortening.

Take my name, for instance. Justine doesn’t really break down into anything you would want to be called in a professional setting. (My family’s favorite, “Justeenie-Weenie” isn’t exactly a title you parade in the public sphere.)(Oh…oops.)(Oh well. I am who I am.)

That being said, I have two Long Island friends who regularly call me “Jus.” (Rhymes with “fuss.”) I’m pretty sure I always react with a bit of surprise when they address me as such (I’ve never heard it until I moved here!), but it’s not like I mind. It’s just interesting.

Other names I’ve heard shortened that I wouldn’t expect:

Garrett –> Gah
Sara –> Sa
Cassandra –> also Sa

And pretty much everyone goes by the shortened version of their given name: Chris, Steve, Mel.

Or adds an “ee” sound to the end: Joey, Mikey, Jimmy.

None of those things are particularly revolutionary when you happen upon them one at a time, but when it’s virtually everyone you meet, you start to notice.

It becomes especially apparent whenever the hubs and I talk about names for our hypothetical children. (No, we’re not talking about it seriously yet. It’s more like a, “Hey, you know what’s kind of a neat name?” toss-it-out-there convo.)(I’M NOT PREGNANT.)

For example, my favorite names are Henry (or Henrik, as I’ve bargained Joey down to…because there is a goalie in the NHL named Henrik so it’s more acceptable…apparently) or Harrison for a boy and Clara or possibly Hannah for a girl.

Now, whenever I pitch a name, Joey (or honestly, any Long Island friend of mine with whom I would chat about baby names)(…they’re mostly female) will usually say something starting with, “And then we would call them [insert appropriate nickname here].”

For example, when I told my friend Megan about Henry/Henrik, she immediately replied, “And then you could call him Hank!”

Now, I actually kind of like the sound of that. But it was still a surprise to me that the first thing on her mind was that he would actually be called something else. It was similar when I mentioned Harrison to Joey. “People will probably call him Harry.”

Interestingly enough, I’m actually okay with that nickname too. (Maybe I’m subconsciously picking names that have nicknames that don’t drive me up the wall?) It’s more the principle of the idea.

Can’t we just call them by their names?

Of course, I’m sure if I push the issue enough, I can at least get friends and family to call them by whatever name we give them. (Once they hit middle school, though, they’re on their own.) Clara/Hannah would probably only have to suffer through cutesy family nicknames (Clare-Bear and Hannah-Banana seem to be popular options.), but who knows? They could be the Cla and Ha of their generation with how things go around here.

Am I totally off-base thinking this is just a Long Island thing? Or was I just not in a nickname kind of crowd growing up? Bigger question: Do YOU have a nickname, embarrassing/weird or otherwise?