Stuffed to the Brim

So my big surprise dinner?


STUFFED SHELLS! Four cheese stuffed shells at that, at let me tell you, not to toot my own horn or anything….but they are REALLY good! 🙂 I was thinking back and realized that I hadn’t yet made my stuffed shells in the year I’ve been blogging, which is weird because its always Ryan’s dinner request and I’ve made this recipe tons of times! Its actually pretty easy to throw together, can feed a crowd (or a really hungry boyfriend!) and freezes beautifully. I use all low fat cheeses and that lightens the load of this dish a lot. So, without further ado, here’s my yummy recipe!

Four Cheese Stuffed Shells

15 oz part skim ricotta

1 cup italian blend cheeses (the kind that comes in a bag)

3/4 cup parmesan

about 12 oz cottage cheese (I just buy the lb container and then eyeball it!)

1 lb jumbo shell pasta

2 1 lb jars of tomato sauce (or homemade)

1 cup mozzarella cheese

10 oz frozen spinach, defrosted and water pressed out

1 tsp sea salt

dash of freshly ground pepper

1/2 lb ground meat or chicken sausage, cut into chunks (optional but Ryan always asks for this!)

1. Boil the pasta in salted water. Drain and lay out shells on a wax paper lined kitchen counter. Let cool and make the filling.

2. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, cottage cheese, italian cheese blend, parmesan, salt, pepper and spinach. Mix well.

3. Spoon about tbsp of cheese into each shell and lay each seam side up into a greased casserole dish. Pour sauce over the shells and sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese. ***If adding meat, I usually combine it in the sauce before pouring over the shells***

4. Bake covered at 375 for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

*Serves about 10, split into two casserole dishes

Tonight to appease Ryan’s carnivore ways and to play with a new meat I don’t have much experience with, I used 1/2 lb of ground buffalo! Bison is very very lean and high in protein…and Greenwise had a sale! 😉 I browned the meat with a splash of canola oil in my cast iron and then combined it with the sauce before pouring over the shells.


I made Ryan “garlic toast” by smearing smart balance on a slice of my potato/rosemary/roasted garlic bread and then broiling it in the oven for a few minutes. I had a big bite!


This afternoon we were busy baking MORE cookies for my brother’s project. Its real fun when your oven is broken and you have to run sheet tray after sheet tray of cookies over to the neighbor’s house……….


Here are some ugly/broken ones my mom and I may have nibbled on…hehehe 😉


In other news, I finally bought a new bible today. I had been reading from the Teen Study Bible (NIV) for the past 10 years and decided it was far time to upgrade since CLEARLY (sadly), I am no longer a teen anymore. Sniff sniff. So, I made the plunge and bought the Life Application Study Bible in the New Living Translation. I feel so grown up now! As I was going through my old bible and pulling out little notes and prayers I had written over the years that I wanted to save, I came across this note that I had written as a prayer back in October of 2004 when I was only 19 years old. It reads:

“Father God, please help me with my daily struggle against food. It is so hard for me to just let go and know you are God. Deliver me from my struggles and instead fill me up with your love. I want so badly to be satisfied with myself and not feel the way I do. Lord, grant me strength.” 10/12/04

Underneath my prayer I had copied down a verse that I actually picked THIS MONTH for my LPM Scripture Memory Verse team! “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:18

Ladies, I never have had an eating disorder. But I feel that I can relate to so many of you when you tell me about your struggle with appearance. Thinking back, when I was 19, I was feeling very insecure about myself! I had gained about 10-15 pounds my first year of college and was surrounded daily by gorgeous toothpick sized girls in my sorority. In my mind, I just didn’t measure up. How wrong I was and how RIGHT God has been to re-direct my negative thinking path into something positive and beautiful. I no longer have feelings of insecurity (although I’d be lying if I say I LOVE LOVE LOVE to go bikini shopping!!! haha!) and have come to feel at peace with my body and myself.

I just wanted to share! =)

Tomorrow is YOGA with my mommy at 9 at our studio (yay!!) followed by my first Beth Moore Esther bible study at Sarah’s house. Tomorrow also is apparently going to be the coldest day of the year (??!!) and I am MORE than happy to spend the 3 am hour cuddled in my bed rather than climbing the five flights of outdoor stairs at Greenwise!

See you tomorrow!

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  • Rachel
    February 4, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    I hear ya-one of the nicest parts of getting older is getting comfortable in your own skin. When I was younger I totally used to nitpick parts of my body and compare myself to other girls. Now, I like what I see in the mirror. It’s a good feeling. I also think exercising regularly helps that feeling–when I lift I feel like I see my body in a whole different way, not for how it looks but for how it feels.

  • Adi
    February 4, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Thank you SO MUCH for sharing that prayer. Telling you “I can relate” seems so insignificant for explaining how much I really DO connect with that prayer and the verse underneath… thanks for that. So awesome to find some peace tho, eh?
    Oh…. and those shells look GREAT! Mmmm.

  • Sarah (now in FL)
    February 4, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    You are so sweet, Jenna. Thanks for sharing this beautiful growth in your life. I am humbled that you would be so honest with us. God is so good and He works in His timing to heal us of our hurts and frustrations. Congrats on the new Bible! Holla!
    PS- bikini shopping is every girl’s favorite activity, what are you talking about?! 🙂

  • Beadie @ What I Ate Yesterday
    February 4, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Oh, how I love stuffed shells!

  • Julz
    February 4, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Jenna, I feel honored that you shared such a personal prayer with us. You are an absolute PRAYER for us readers, who admire your strength, determination, and PURE Brilliance of Heart, Mind, AND body. Your relationship with yourself is one that I KN0W I can achieve one day. I really am so beyond touched that you have found a safe haven, feeling able to share you struggles and tough times. You are nothing short of a beacon of light. Namaste and G-d Bless, Sweet one!!

  • Victoria
    February 4, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Thanks for sharing Jenna. And those stuffed shells looks very yummy.

  • Andrea
    February 4, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    have you ever tried vegan ricotta? One version is made with cashews and it’s so good – even healthier than lower fat ricotta!

  • haya
    February 4, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    that looks delicious! and i think i count 5 cheeses, which i think makes it 5 times better.
    i’m happy to hear that your insecurity is gone. i think every girl goes through that to a certain extent, which is pretty awful.
    don’t you love finding stuff that you wrote years and years ago?

  • Courtney (The Hungry Yogini)
    February 4, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Those shells look awesome!

    That verse is beautiful as well! It seems as though many of your prayers were answered.

    Have fun at yoga. I AM SO JEALOUS. I will be there in spirit =)

  • Jenny
    February 4, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Thank you for sharing that jenna! I am so inspired everyday by you, you are my role model, really! I definitely need to turn to God more and you remind me to do that. He will set my mind back on track when I start getting down on myself in more than just physical ways. That prayer is very special 🙂

    Wow that dinner looks amazinggg!

  • K
    February 4, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Stuffed shells!! They look fabulous Chef Jenna 🙂

    Isn’t growing older and growing out of most insecurities soooo nice! To think of how I used to feel about myself back in high school saddens me sometimes. Live and learn, right?!

  • BridgetP
    February 4, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    Thanks for sharing that! When I think back to my early college years or read my journal entries from then, I’m amazed at how thoughts of my appearance consumed me.
    Beautiful stuffed shells, I’ll be trying these sometime 🙂

  • linds
    February 4, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    You just have the best attitute about everything. You are a constant inspiration Jenna!

  • caitlin
    February 4, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    jenna you rule! cant wait to see you!

  • Jessica
    February 4, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing Jenna! I can definatly relate as well. I’m going through that struggle right now, being happy with my body. I had a sorta eatind disorder at one time, meaning I was slightly anorexic but not completely-just severely restricting what I ate and exercising complusively. I got down to a really really low weight and while it was NOT healthy at all, the scary part is that sometimes I wish I was that size again and I wish I had the self-control not to eat. BUT i’ve learned a lot about nutrition and fitness over the past 2 years and that has helped me to get back to a healthy size and have healthy habits. At times I am perfectlly happy with my body but at times I just am disgusted with how I look. I still struggle with having a good relationship with food and not feeling guilty when I eat certain things or a certain amount of calories or when I don’t get to exercise sometimes. I’m trying to pray and hand this problem over to God but it’s always a struggle. It helps to know i’m not the only one. Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart!

  • Wondering K
    February 4, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Jenna, thanks for posting that verse. I’m not a very religious person, but those words really resonated with me today. Appearance is so temporary, what’s on the inside truly does matter more. Taking care of our health for the long run is so much more important than starving away 5 pounds now, you know? Take care!

  • Leila
    February 4, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Jeanna – thank you so much about your comment regarding ED and body image. I’m currently recovering from an eating disorder and have been reading your blog for awhile now as it inspires me to look at food as fuel & pleasurable rather than the enemy as my ED thoughts tend to go. I just wanted to say thank you for your empathetic understanding & comments. Take care!

  • Shelby
    February 4, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Great recipe!!! Love the garlic toast. Yum yum.

    Sorry about the cookie fiasco, at least they got finished…and you got to sample some =)

  • polly
    February 4, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    You are a true beauty, inside and out.

    Praise Jesus for verses like that, for food that amazing, and for faithfulness that knows no bounds. MASSIVE HUGS! XOXO Polly

    ps… good Bible pickin’!!! 😉

  • brandi
    February 4, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    the shells look great! and yay for a new Bible!! I got a new one for my birthday last year, and just loved getting one that wasn’t a “teen” Bible, too 🙂

    Isn’t is amazing looking through old stuff and seeing how God has grown us in areas? At times, it seems that nothing is happening and that we will always struggle with the same things…but then years later, you can see where God has moved in your life – in HIS timing, not ours. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Sarah (Tales of Expansion)
    February 4, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    yum, your stuffed shells look so good! looking at that picture, i can almost taste it, yum!
    like polly said above, your inner and outer beauty comes through in all your posts, and i know you’re a big inspiration for so many people!
    (and good thing you have oven privileges with the neighbor!)

  • mh
    February 4, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    you are amazing Jenna! I still struggle with body image and food, and I look to strong, beautiful women like you as my inspiration. Keep it up girl! Din looks divine!!

  • Sarah
    February 4, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    Thankyou for sharing your positive words with us Jenna. Beautiful words, beautiful spirit and beautiful food.

  • kristi
    February 4, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    I’m so glad you posted that, Jenna. You make me want to be so positive and an all around better person. 🙂 And I agree with everyone else, the dinner looks SOOO great!

  • Jen
    February 4, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    I just got that bible for Christmas and I love it! Hope you enjoy it too =)

  • bee
    February 4, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    you are going to LOVE your new Bible!! i have the same one, but it’s NIV. all the notes and maps are so helpful and interesting.

  • Meg
    February 4, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Congrats on getting a new bible.

    Stuffed shells rock!

  • Jennifer
    February 4, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    What a terrific post 🙂 Great recipe (which I am soon making…), cool update on your life, and news that you’re starting the new Esther study! I just started it a week ago and it is AWESOME! The second week, which I just started today, is about appearances… so that verse is so timely 🙂 Hope you have a great study!

  • Sharon
    February 4, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Congratulations on the new bible!!!!
    And oh my gosh, tasty tasty eats!!!

  • fitforfree
    February 4, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Thank you for sharing your prayer and struggle. It gives me hope that there’s an end in sight for the insecurities!! hope you have a lovely day off tomorrow 🙂

  • Ali
    February 4, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Lovely post all the way around… and I am very jealous you get to do yoga with your mom tomorrow! My mom is in Atlanta, and I’m up here in very very chilly Boston! Enjoy your day – and take advantage of the cold and stay snuggled up!

  • Kailey (SnackFace)
    February 4, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Hey Jenna! Thank you for sharing your story about the body image stuff. Your outlook is always so healthy and refreshing to me, and I find it utterly inspirational.
    On a lighter note, those stuffed shells look amazing! I don’t think I’ve ever had a stuffed shell before. Bizarre.
    Enjoy sleeping in tomorrow! 🙂

  • Caroline
    February 4, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    Those stuffed shells look heavenly!

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the battle against food. I think it’s something a lot of us bloggers have dealt with, including myself. I know the only way I got through my struggle was by relying on my faith.

  • Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter)
    February 5, 2009 at 12:02 am

    That dinner looks decadent – all that melted ooey gooey dairy goodness. Yum!

    Thanks for sharing about the body image stuff. It’s comforting to know that everyone struggles at some point. Your words were very encouraging. 🙂

  • Becca
    February 5, 2009 at 1:16 am

    Um, I am DEFINITELY adding that shells recipe to my list in the next few weeks! It looks so delicious!

  • Sarah (lovINmytummy)
    February 5, 2009 at 1:19 am

    Thank you for sharing something so personal. I guess He answered your prayer, huh?

  • Leah
    February 5, 2009 at 1:42 am

    I love how honest you are!

    Your dinner looks fab!

    Enjoy yoga with your Mom in the AM 🙂

  • MizFit
    February 5, 2009 at 5:42 am

    you and I are so alike.

    no sororities in my college—-but surrounded none the less.

  • Amanda from Pittsburgh
    February 5, 2009 at 6:35 am


    I have been a long time reader or Kath’s blog, but started reading yours too after she mentioned you when you guys traveled to the Quaker convention a few months back.

    Although I have never commented, this post really touched me – I am a firm believer in God and have had/do have an eating disorder. I just wanted to say thank you for your prayer. I will write it down and keep it with me always. You are such an inspiration to me (and every meal you create is amazing!) Thank you for everything!

  • Lauren
    February 5, 2009 at 6:52 am

    The stuffed shells look scrumptious! I’m intrigued by the buffalo meat… just might have to give that a try 🙂

  • Holly
    February 5, 2009 at 7:02 am

    hi jenna! i’ve actually been reading your blog for a bit now and love it. thank you for speaking out about what the Lord’s done in your life. i’ve been through similar struggles and throughout my years of college have seen Him rescue me from insecurity and comparisons. how encouraging!

  • Sarah W.
    February 5, 2009 at 8:00 am

    I’m sure Ryan is LOVING you for making his favorite dinner!!! mmmmmm with buffalo meat too! I will have to keep this recipe in mind for the carnivores I’m friends with – thanks for the recipe!

  • Brooke
    February 5, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Beautiful prayer Jenna! That just spoke to me, as I’ve struggled with eating troubles for years. I’m glad God laid that on your heart to speak with us! Hope you have a wonderful day doing hot yoga and your first Bible study of Esther!

    Take care!
    ps. can’t wait to make stuffed shells for my girls night oscar party!

  • Jess
    February 5, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Since your oven was broken, you should have just eaten that delicious-looking dough 😉

  • Fitzalan
    February 5, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    I will be making stuffed shells tonight. I knew I bought those jumbo shells for a reason on Sunday. I must have known you were going to put up an AMAZING looking recipe to use them with.

    And thanks for sharing that note….it is amazing what time does for a female’s self esteem and body issues. I wish I could go back to the 18-22 year old me and tell her to enjoy life more because she did look fabulous (and to stop being self conscious!) At least we get some clarity with age.


  • Lisa
    February 5, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    That’s awesome Jenna. When I was at bible school for a year I read a book called “Love to Eat, Hate to Eat” It was written by a christian author but I can’t remember the name. It definately helped me out that year when a lot of the food served there wasn’t the most nutritious and I got in a habit of eating more than I needed too. It had great scripture to encourage the reader and use self-control and have a healthy body image. Women and food can have real issues but it’s always good to remember that our God made us perfect in His eyes and we need to honor our bodies and treat them accordingly.
    I’m really proud of you sharing so much of yourself with us!

  • Michelle
    February 6, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Hi Jenna,

    I have lurked on your website for a bit but read the scripture you wrote today. My grandfather passed away yesterday and that verse spoke to me. I am hoping to use 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 in his service in some way. Thank you for your blog!