Wander Aloud

Sharing stories of travel and new adventures.

Quinoa: The New Rice


Recently, it seems there has been a bit of a quinoa craze going on. The truth is, however, that most people don’t even know how to pronounce the name of this tiny, powerful pseudocereal (KEEN-WAH), let alone why they’re suddenly eating it in everything from burritos to cookies.  Quinoa is making its way from a sacred place in the ancient Incan diet to the plates of Americans all around the country, and with good reason. Here are some of the reasons YOU should make quinoa your “new rice”:

  1. Bigger Muscles

Ok, so you might have to hit the gym a little too, but quinoa is a great way to add some extra protein to your meal without trying too hard. Quinoa is about 14% protein by mass, meaning a ¼ cup serving size has 6 grams of protein. It’s a complete protein, meaning it has all nine essential amino acids (the ones our bodies can’t make on their own).

  1. Vitamins Galore

Instead of only relying on your horse pill multivitamin to give you the nutrients you need every day, why not make it your goal to get your vitamins from whole food sources instead? Quinoa is rich in manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, folate, zinc, and more. It has a high fiber content, which will help to reduce food cravings by keeping you feeling fuller longer, and will also regulate your digestive tract.

  1. Prevention of Heart Disease, Obesity, and Type 2 Diabetes

We are living in a time where people are taking more of an initiative to prevent lifelong health problems than they have in the past, thanks to years of scientific research! Quinoa contains anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and antioxidants, which help prevent these conditions, as well as some types of cancer. It also provides a dose of heart protecting fat in the form of oleic acid (a monounsaturated fat), a percentage of this being from ALA (an omega-3 fatty acid). These healthy fats can improve your cholesterol levels and also help regulate your blood sugar.

  1. Works as a Gluten-Free Grain Alternative

Whether you’re working with your celiac disease or you’re just on the gluten-free bandwagon,  quinoa can work as a grain substitute for many people. It has been shown in research studies to not stimulate the same immune response as gluten in the small intestine. It can be cooked as a hot cereal instead of oatmeal, or even ground into flour instead of wheat to make bread!

  1. It’s a No-Brainer to Cook and Tastes Good With Anything

Slightly crunchy, a little nutty, and very mild tasting, it would be hard for anyone to hate the taste of quinoa. It can be added cold into a salad, baked into a tasty granola, or eaten as a pasta substitute in a main dish. Sometimes I just add it as a side dish on my plate instead of rice or potatoes. To cook the quinoa, just add one part quinoa to two parts water (i.e. one cup of quinoa to two cups of water) and boil for about 15 minutes until the water is absorbed.

Here are some great recipes to try with your quinoa:

Applesauce Parfait with Yogurt and Crispy Quinoa

Greek Quinoa Salad

Black Bean and Quinoa Burgers

Quinoa Fried “Rice”

I like to pack as much nutrition as I possibly can into each meal that I eat. This is why I choose quinoa as my go-to grain. It just seems like a waste of carbs to use rice in my meals now after learning how much punch is packed into just one serving of quinoa. Now, you too can join the quinoa craze with purpose.

Discovering Wine Country in Texas


I had lived in Texas for five years before giving the city of Fredericksburg more than a second thought. The second thought was only given because I had been invited to celebrate a friend’s birthday there. Being thoroughly uneducated about the city, my bar of expectations was set low from the beginning. I envisioned us driving around a sleepy town in our shuttle van, trying our best to pretend a few cheesy establishments were Napa Valley wineries, and sampling wines similar in quality to the box variety. I found that I was wrong on all accounts after just my first visit.

I knew I was headed somewhere good when I was about a half hour away from town on my first drive to Fredericksburg. Hills appeared in the distance and expansive vistas rolled out all around me. Deer poked their heads out from behind the gnarled mesquite trees that lined the roads. Soon I was passing miles of open fields and vineyards stretching out in every direction. I was in the heart of the Texas Hill Country.

“Willkommen!” This was the German greeting sign I was seeing everywhere along Main Street, a road lined with tons of cute “mom and pop” style shops selling everything from Amish furniture to gourmet dog treats. Until checking the plaque on one of the historic limestone buildings along Main Street, it was unknown to me that Fredericksburg was a town settled by German immigrants in 1846. It retains it’s German heritage to this day. This is apparent with all of the German words used in signage around town, the fact that “biergartens” are the local watering holes, and the number of authentic German restaurants you’ll find, like Der Lindebaum (where I later put down a good amount of sauerkraut and bratwurst).

One thing that excites me more than the average person, is researching and picking out unique accommodations for my trips. I’ve had way too much fun choosing places to stay in Fredericksburg. There are tons of country style log cabins to pick from in the area, as well as bed and breakfasts, and of course the boring ol’ regular hotel rooms. Cabin stays are where it’s at in Fredericksburg. There’s nothing better than coming home from a day of wine tasting with your new favorite bottle from your new favorite winery, and enjoying it on your patio rocking chair as the sun goes down, or later in front of the fireplace.


Puppy loved his stay at Country Inn and Cottages


My first experience with cabins stays in Fredericksburg was at the Country Inn and Cottages, in one of their stand alone cabins. This was a reasonably priced, spacious cabin with a “mountain lodge” style interior and a large wood burning fireplace. The reason for the lower price compared to most cabins in the area is probably due to their remote location. During the drive out to the cabin we kept asking ourselves, “Did we miss a turn?” as we continued to drive down desolate, windy roads through the bush for 20 minutes from the main part of town. It’s quite a treat, however, to stay off the beaten path when night falls and herds of deer of all varieties gather right outside your cabin for a little wildlife show under the stars.

Cotton Gin Village cabin

Cotton Gin Village cabin

My second cabin love in Fredericksburg became the Cotton Gin Village. It is an adorable community of eight small cabins and a delicious restaurant, The Cabernet Grill, located just a few miles from Main Street. The property is filled with pathways and sitting areas around fire pits, waterfalls, and even a koi pond. The best part is getting transported to a late 1800’s farm house when you step through your cabin door. The cabins have tin roofs, hand crafted wood and stone walls, and are filled with rustic hardware and antiques to make you feel like you’re living back in simpler times. I also get way too excited about all the little “extras” they give you here, like all the fixings to make s’mores over your fireplace, popcorn to cook, a huge selection of teas, hot chocolates, and coffees, and the best part – a picnic basket delivered to your door every morning filled with all kinds breakfast delights. The picnic basket is a new addition here, and this new plan of theirs definitely entices me to come back. It’s the little things! I loved getting my picnic basket off the hook next to my front door every morning, and opening it up like an excited little girl on Christmas morning to find the new breakfast treats of the day inside. I would then sit out on my patio table sampling my spread  of egg souffle in mini casserole dishes, fruit cups, home made yogurt parfaits, and mason jar orange juice.

There is one more noteworthy cabin that I’ve discovered on my trips to Fredericksburg. The shining star of all cabin stays, and definitely my top pick for lodging here  – Barons Creekside. It’s a collection of Swiss log cabins hand built by the owner from parts of historic 1700’s Swiss farm houses that were shipped to Texas.  The expansive property has plenty of areas to explore, and you’ll come across swings, waterfalls, creeks, and even a duck pond. It has the feel that you’re far out in the country, but you’re really only two minutes around the corner from Main Street. Being inside the cabins is a cozy, comfortable step back into time that also feels like a little museum. Everywhere you turn you’ll discover another Swiss antique that you didn’t see before. Each cabin is completely different from the next, and full of unique touches, like crafty stained glass windows, an antique stove converted into a sink base, Swiss coins embedded into the walls, or a traditional Swiss alphorn on display. Each cabin’s fireplace is hand crafted and different from the next. Words truly don’t give these cabins justice. You’ll just have to experience them for yourself!

Inside the "Grindewald" cabin at Barons Creekside

Inside the “Grindewald” cabin at Barons Creekside

Now, on to the main attraction of Fredericksburg – the vino! There are more than two dozen wineries in Fredericksburg, with 15 of them being dispersed along Highway 290, which is also referred to as the Fredericksburg Wine Road 290. There’s even a wine shuttle that will take you up and down this highway all day, dropping you off at which ever wineries you’d like for a $20 flat fee. Just get ready for crowded buses full of rowdy, wine-drunk patrons at the end of the day! There are some great, well-known and widely distributed wineries here like Grape Creek and Messina Hof,  some unique and little known family establishments, and some simply awful cellars selling peach and blueberry wines. Of the serious contenders, my favorite and probably the most well-known would have to be Becker Vineyards.

A busy Saturday at Becker Vineyards

A busy Saturday at Becker Vineyards

Becker Vineyards has a huge variety of wines, including some extraordinary award winners like the 2014 Provencal (a dry, summery rosé) and the 2012 Claret (a unique, Bordeaux style blend and my personal favorite). The tasting room gets ridiculously packed on the weekends, so it would be ideal to enjoy this winery on a week day if possible. If you visit on a busy day, you can try to escape the crowds somewhere on their expansive outdoor property. There are tons of sitting areas on their large grassy lawn, the covered patio, or in front of the vineyards. Becker Vineyards is also famous for their lavender fields. I’m a bit of a lavenderaholic. Not only is it a beautiful  flower, but it’s scent can actually transport me from a stressful state to peace and relaxation with a couple of deep breaths. One of my favorite possessions is my Becker lavender essential oil aromatherapy stick, which I take with me to work every day! They have tons of different products for all the other lavender junkies of the world like myself to go crazy over.

One of the most scenic spots to enjoy a glass of wine in Fredericksburg wine country is the boutique winery Pedernales Cellars. I’ve spent hours under the trees on a swinging bench enjoying one of their fine Tempranillos and looking out at the panoramic views of the valley.  I learned during  my tasting at Pedernales that Tempranillo is one of the best grape varietals to grow in the area, due to the similarities of Fredericksburg’s climate and soil to that of Spain.  Viognier, a white grape from the Rhone Valley of France, has also proven to be a top choice for growing in Texas, and has produced some award winning wines for Pedernales as well. This spot is definitely a top pick for an afternoon of relaxation and wine tasting.

With all of the high quality wineries, charming places to stay, and outstanding dining options, it will take many trips to explore all that Fredericksburg has to offer. It’s a great local escape for residents of the big cities of Texas who want to retreat for a weekend and enjoy a slower pace of life for a little while.  The more I visit, the more I find to love – whether it’s a quirky art shop or an unassuming peach stand. Fredericksburg has become my favorite little country getaway, and it’s hard to go more than a few months without being drawn back to its charm.


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