Sunday, October 17, 2010

Vegetarian "Sausage" Bake

Now I know I am probably going hear a resounding "I told you so" from several of you who teased me when I first started dating Steven that I too would become a vegetarian. At the time, I was vehemently against the idea and instantly denied that giving up meat was even an option.

Well about two and a half years later I suppose I now get to eat my words, as I am currently 95% vegetarian. The other 5% being for any situations where not eating meat isn't an option/might offend someone (like in Europe).

Now I don't have any scientific or emotional reasons for becoming mostly vegetarian. Since moving in with Steven (who is vegetarian pretty much all the time) it just became an easy option. I found out that I really liked a lot of the meat substitutes, and in general I just feel better when not eating meat.

One positive about making the vegetarian switch is that I can still enjoy a lot of the meals I loved when I ate meat on a regular basis. So, for anyone out there thinking of switching to a low-meat diet (or is feeling particularly daring), I'm going to try to start sharing some yummy vegetarian recipes when I make them.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite dishes was an Italian Sausage Bake that my mom used to make. For awhile, it was a dish that I missed since it was quick & easy to make and tasted great. That is, until I discovered Trader Joe's Italian Sausage-less Sausage.

Now, I'll admit that a lot of veggie sausages taste gross, but this is definitely an exception. It's never going to taste like actual Italian Sausage, granted, but it does have a very nice flavor and texture to it. I highly recommend them!

As I mentioned before, this recipe is really easy to make. All you need is:

(1) Pack of Trader Joe's Italian Sausage-less Sausage
(8) Small red potatoes
(3) Bell peppers (any color)
(1) Onion
(3) Cloves of garlic
Olive Oil
Italian Seasoning

Preheat the oven to 375 and chop up your ingredients. I usually cut the potatoes into eighths, the peppers and onion in long slivers, and dice the garlic. Then, toss all of the veggies into a 5 Qt oblong baking dish (I prefer Pyrex), add enough olive oil so that the potatoes won't bake to the bottom and stick in in the oven. After about 30 minutes, when the potatoes are about halfway cooked, add the sausage-less sausage on top of the veggies (if using real sausage add it in the beginning with the vegetables). This keeps the sausage-less sausage from drying out, and still allows it time to soak up the flavors of the vegetables.

After about another 20 minutes, flip the sausages over an allow them to brown on the opposite side. Dinner is served when the potatoes are cooked all the way through (I find that this time can vary). Last night I paired it with a delicious salad and glass of Merlot... yummy!

Expect more recipes soon, dear Blogland! Steven and I are on a mission to stop being lazy by visiting the grocery store on a regular basis and making more meals at home. It'll be nice to save some green by not eating out all the time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

21-Day Meditation Challenge

So for the last four days, I have been embarking on the Chopra Center's 21-Day Meditation Challenge...because I'm earthy now.

Not really.

But I do find that I have the tendency to get frustrated and angry easily with people. I know what you're thinking - no, not you Jessica, you're positively amazing! But alas, no matter how close to perfection I might be, I do have my faults. And apparently meditation is supposed to be calming.

My wonderful mother turned me onto this challenge a couple of months ago, but I never got past Day 1. Honestly, I just didn't like it. But then a couple weeks ago I saw that they were starting the challenge again so I figured, what the hey, I'll give it another go. One day isn't really giving it much of a chance.

So far this go-round has surprisingly been pretty good. Except I do think the guy (Danny G) talks waaaaay too much. Seriously, I just want to start the freakin' meditation already and not listen to you say the same thing three different times. Maybe I'm just not "spiritual" enough, but it would be great if he would just explain what we had to do, tell us why we're doing it and then stop yapping.

It actually reminds me a lot of that scene from Caddyshack where Ty is giving Danny a golf lesson, and he keeps telling him to "be the ball, be the ball, be the ball, be the ball, be the ball..."

But, ya know, it is kinda hard with you talking like that.

So I'll keep you posted on how it's going my dearest, bloggiest friends. If nothing else I should have some entertaining stories.

Now I'm off to do some cleaning, because the house is cluttered again. Sigh. I really can't wait until we move to a bigger place. This is getting ridiculous.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Just Hangin' at the Airport...

For some reason I have recently been finding myself at airports much earlier than necessary. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means that I find myself with a lot more time on my hands.

Like today for example, I arrived at the airport about 3 hours early - but this just gives me plenty of time to catch-up on some work email and publish a fantastic post for you, dearest Blogland. And also allows me to reminisce about the hours upon hours I've spent on standby or waiting for a delayed flight in this very airport, this very terminal even!

I don't think I've been to the Cincinnati airport for about 8 years, but I'm surprised that not much has changed. There's new restaurants, sure, and my favorite book store that reminded me of Flourish & Blotts (Harry Potter, for those not nerdy enough) is gone.

I might even relive my childhood by walking the opposite direction on the moving sidewalk later. Depends how spunky I'm feeling.

Isn't that a great word, spunky? I think I'm going to start using it more.

But I digress and would, however, like to express my frustration with airports who don't provide free WiFi in the terminal - seriously, what's the deal? I mean, I'm currently tethering my phone and computer (which allows me to get internet on my laptop through my cell service - again, for those not nerdy enough), so I don't have to pay. But I don't get 3G service in this airport, so my connection is painfully slow.

I did, however, find a delicious place to have Lunner, a place called 360 Gourmet Burritos. The prices were quite reasonable, the veggies were fresh, and I got to choose tofu as my "meat"! Surprisingly healthy for airport food - and for Cincinnati in general, honestly.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Playfully Productive

This weekend was an absolute blast, and surprisingly productive! On Saturday Steven and I pulled the top off the Jeep and went cruising around to look at potential new places to rent that we saw online. It went very well, we were able to eliminate certain areas and narrow our search down a bit, which is a relief.

After house hunting, Steven took me to Raley Field for my first lesson driving the Jeep! And apparently I'm the "easiest person ever to teach how to drive a stick." In fact, I started from a stop without him telling me how to! (Still don't really know how I managed that.) Of course I stalled a few times, but it really was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I daresay I'll be an expert in no time flat!

Then, Saturday evening, we met up with some friends at the Dixon Corn Maze. If you are in the Sacramento area and haven't visited yet, seriously, GO! It's currently the Guinness Book of World Records-holder for the largest corn maze, and was a total blast.

We had technical difficulties at the beginning of the maze when we lost some of our group members. They ended up being waaaay better at navigating the maze than we did, and ended up waiting about 30 minutes for us to make our way to the first checkpoint. Us navigationally-challenged people made the mistake of trying to follow the map and look at the markers, a technique which kept leading us astray since all of the markers had been compromised (aka switched around).

After the maze, we hit up one of our favorite bars - O'Malley's Irish Pub in our Old Sacramento hood. We had a few beers, played pool (I accidentally made two shots!) and had a general good time.

Sunday was a wonderfully lazy day, we watched the Rays force Game 5 and then continued our Battlestar Galactica marathon.

Now I'm in Dayton, Ohio for a Project Lead the Way conference until Wednesday. Not as exciting as a business trip to Europe, but it should still be fun! I get to teach a small Boe-Bot seminar, which is definitely one of my favorite aspects of my job.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Terrific Tuesdays!

I don't know why, but I've always rather liked Tuesdays. They're very productive work days for me since I've caught up on all emails from over the weekend and already planned what I need to get done during the week on Monday.

Plus, at around 8:30 this evening (to allow for fast-forwarding through commercials) I get to GLEEk out!

GLEE is definitely one of my favorite shows. As a former Musical Theatre & drama nerd, how could I not love it? In reality, I went to one of those odd high schools that didn't have jocks that slushied or picked on nerds, so I never really got teased about being in Musical Theatre, but I did have their same high hopes of one day being a Broadway star.

And sure, most of the guys on the show are auto-tuned like crazy, but who couldn't love last week's Britney episode? Regardless of your feelings on the pop star, the music was just way too fun and really just kept you bopping the whole time.

Plus - John Stamos is now on the show! How great is that? I'm just waiting for him to be reunited with the Rippers and delight us with an encore performance of "Forever."

So yes, I really, really heart Tuesdays. And you can bet I'll be rocking out to my GLEE Slacker Radio station on the drive to work tomorrow. So don't be surprised if you pull up next to me and see me belting out some wicked notes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wild & Wacky Weekend Adventures

This weekend we decided to break in Steven's new ride and embark on an epic off-roading adventure! Now I know what most of you are probably laughing to yourself and thinking - when the heck did she become so outdoorsy?

Well dear Blogland, I moved to a state that doesn't have 200,000% humidity and has stunningly breathtaking scenery to explore. Therefore, the outdoors and I now get along.

But I digress, back to the adventure!

We started our journey Friday evening and drove up to Nevada City. As we were waiting for a friend to get off work we hung out in historic downtown Nevada City, which turned out to be a really cool area. There were a ton of local street artists and bars featuring local bands, and seemed like it had a really awesome music scene. We also had some delicious kebabs at 'Stik It' and caught the Giants game at an awesome dive bar, The Mine Shaft.

Our friend met us at the bar, and after a couple beers, we headed to the South Yuba Campground for the night. Although the campground had 16 sites and was pretty standard, there wasn't a soul around us, so it turned out to be a pretty cool. Since we were car camping, we were able to roll down the windows and turn up the tunes, so it made for a very fun evening.

The next morning Steven found a hiking trail near our camp sight, and we decided to follow it after his brief exploration promised an awesome trail that got 'more and more scenic with every step.' His promise didn't disappoint, and we even found and explored some old mining caves!

The trail ended at the South Yuba River, which was really pretty, so I stopped to pose!

We decided to stay and play along the river for awhile, and I got to break in my new Keens. Look! They're completely submerged in the river, and it doesn't matter!

After hiking back, we started the real adventure and started on the off-road trail. It turned out to be a pretty technical trail, and I think Steven really enjoyed being able to use his Jeep for the reason it was built for.

Our off-roading trail led us to the quiet town of Alleghany. At first glance, we honestly thought we entered a post-apocalyptic world: there was no one around, the streets were lined with more non-functioning vehicles than functioning ones, and all of the playgrounds were overgrown with weeds and grass that looked to be about 3-4 ft tall. Seriously, we were waiting for the hordes of zombies to come attack our vehicle at any moment.

After driving around the town a bit and feeling what seemed like hateful, invisible eyes watching our every move, we were almost too scared to enter the local bar. But we decided to give it a go, and boy am I glad we did!

Sitting in the bar was a local by the name of 'One Arm Jack' - I kid you not. This gent only had one arm, apparently was originally from Australia, grows 4 ft tall tomato plants, and just rolled his truck off the side of a cliff about 30 minutes prior to our arriving.

No joke, we saw his truck as we were making our way to the town. It was balancing precariously by a couple of trees, nothing but a 100-ft drop to the river below it. We thought to ourselves, man it would suck to be that guy, and then we freakin' met him in the bar!

After enjoying a couple beers and listening to a few of One Arm Jack's stories, we had to hit the trail again to try and get to a camping spot before dark. Well, we didn't make that goal, and even got to do some off-roading in the dark! I was a little nervous, but Steven handled the situation like a pro and got us to a very nice campsite (which we discovered in the morning).

Unfortunately, I had a killer headache thanks to my hair being tied back into a tight bun all day, so I turned in as soon as we got to the site. During the night it rained on us, so we got to learn that our tent's rain flap worked well, and our sleeping bags also keep out moisture very well.

So that was my weekend adventure, I must say I'm rather excited about the Jeep. I've got some great stories to share from this trip, and look forward to more awesome stories in the future!