A Few Firsts: Wine Tours & Quinoa

I was having the hardest time deciding what to post this week.  I guess that’s a good thing though right? It means I have lots of totally awesome stuff to share and can’t pick the awesomest of the awesome…ya dig?  Anyway, I decided to share a few firsts with you:

…my first ever wine tour

…and my first time cooking quinoa!

We’ll start with the booze, which let’s be real, is always a good way to start.  I was so fortunate to be invited along with a coworker and his friends on a wine tour around the Charlottesville area Saturday!  If you’ve never been to Charlottesville, you’re missing out.  It is absolutely beautiful and all the wineries we went to (three of them) were within about 5-10 miles of one another.  My coworker rented a van for 12 of us and hired a designated driver to lug us around to all the amazing vineyards.  We visited Barboursville, Keswick, and Horton vineyards.

Before this weekend I had never been to a winery for a tasting. I had no idea what to expect! The first winery we went to was the gorgeous Barboursville Winery. When you walk in there is gift shop as well as a small area to purchase wines.  Behind all of that on a back wall was a bar with four  different sections.  You pay $5 and with that you get a tasting of all of the wines made at the vineyard (there were around 20 or so!) as well as a wine glass. SWEET!  At some of the other wineries we had to pick and choose which wines we wanted, but the amount you choose is fairly unlimited.  Also some places didn’t let you keep the glass, but normally those tastings were less than $5.  Regardless,it was all worth it…as you can see by our multiple wineglasses and wine in the brown bag (classssy).

“RED WINE! Convict…GAGA!”  Nope? No one?

At Barboursville, we traveled down the bar tasting all of their wines. We began with white wines and slowly progressed to the reds.  Finally we finished up with the dessert wines. We were each given a sheet with all the names of the wines as well as a little pencil (think mini golf style) so we could mark which wines we liked and which ones we didn’t. The bar also had pitchers of water to rinse our glasses and bowls of cracker to cleanse our pallets.  I felt like such a pro…obvi so did my friend Kaitie :)

All in all it was a blast and I can’t wait to go again.  The whole experience (including the van and wine tasting fees) only cost a little over $50!  Plus I got two commemorative wineglasses to remember my first wine tour ever.


Nooooow onto my second first…wait, what? You know what I mean. Anyway, ever since I started reading Healthy Living Blogs (see some of my faves on my blog roll) I have seen quinoa come up more times than I can count. I thought, “geez if all these awesome chicks are eating this, there must be something saweet about it.”  After reading a lot of recipes and different uses for quinoa , I felt I had gained an understanding of how it could be used and decided to go for it.

First, a little bit about quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”):

“a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium), is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds.” (Thanks Wikipedia)

Basically what it comes down to is it is a healthy, grain-like, quick cooking canvas for delicious-ness. Even my hubby, the man who won’t eat artichokes because “the name sounds weird”, was a fan!  Qunioa is great if you’re in the mood for something besides pasta, potatoes, or rice.  The first time I made it was as a cold side with grilled chicken.



Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Prep Time: 10 Minutes     Cook Time: 20 Minutes     Yield:  4-6 Servings


1 cup quinoa, rinsed* and cooked according to package instructions

½ large red onion, diced

½ large tomato, diced

½ large green pepper, diced

½ cup Light Italian dressing (or your favorite light vinaigrette)

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

1 small can sliced black olives (optional)


  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.
  2. Combing quinoa and remaining 6 ingredients together in bowl. Toss to combine. Add more dressing if necessary.
  3. Chill in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.

*Apparently Quinoa has a natural coating called saponin that repels insects and birds and can create a bitter taste. Rinsing with warm water removes the saponin. (Source)

The second time I made it I served it warm, threw a meat in there, and made it more of a main course:

Roasted Butternut Squash Quinoa with Turkey Sausage and Goat Cheese

Prep Time:  10 Minutes   Cook Time: 45 Minutes   Servings: 4-5 servings


1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

2 ½  Tbs EVOO, separated

2 Tbs dry sage

1 ½ Cups reduced sodium chicken broth

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp all spice

1 tsp nutmeg

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

½ red onion, diced

4 hot Italian turkey sausages, sliced into bite size pieces

Goat cheese to top


  1. Preheat oven to 425*
  2. Toss peeled and cut butternut squash with 2 Tablespoons of EVOO and 2 Tbs of dry sage.  Place onto greased baking pan (you might need more than one, I did). Bake for 20 minutes, remove and toss, and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  3. While butternut squash is roasting, mix chicken broth and next 3 ingredients in a pot over hi heat until boiling.  Add rinsed quinoa. Cover, reduce heat, and cook for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, turn off heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.
  4. While quinoa is cooking, sauté red onion in a small sauté pan with ½ Tablespoon EVOO over medium heat until soft. Add sliced turkey sausage and cook until cooked through.
  5. Toss roasted butternut squash, quinoa, and sausage & onion mixture together.  Top with crumbled goat cheese
I really enjoyed both versions of the quinoa I made.  The Mediterranean quinoa was also yummy in a wrap with some lettuce for lunch at work the next.  The butternut squash quinoa reheated well and was also consumed as a work lunch. A new, fun, and  healthy meal that is hubby approved and easy to cook is always a plus in my book! Wrigley agrees…Or does she….?What’s your favorite way to cook Quinoa?Have you cooked something for the first time lately? How’d it go?







  1. I absolutely love quinoa. My favourite way to make it is in some sort of stir fry with veggies and beans. Ahh, it is so good.
    And you bet I love wine also!!!

  2. We went on a wine tour in C-Ville for my best friend’s bachelorette and it was a blast! Didn’t get to Barboursville or Horton but loved Keswick (it was our last stop, perhaps that factored in lol :) ) Did you get to go in their back room where they age the wines to do the tasting? I thought that was so cool!

    • We did not get a chance to go in the back room at Keswick. We could see through the windows though and it looked pretty sweet! Next time :)

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