Harvest Quinoa Bake

There’s just something wonderful and inviting about this time of year. The weather is just starting to get that crisp Fall chill to it, beckoning all of its victims to add another layer or two. It’s when the hubs and I begin our ritual herbal tea and cider drinking and spend our precious Sundays snuggled up with stacks and stacks of books. I am nearly giddy while adding Butternut and Acorn squash to my grocery cart, dreaming up all the wonderful ways I will pay tribute to their golden goodness this season. And of course who can ignore the glowing orange pumpkins that seem to be everywhere you turn. So with all of the tastes, color, and textures as my inspiration, I dreamed up this little creation, I call it the Harvest Quinoa Bake. I first made a variation of this for a friend’s birthday potluck (which is a genius idea for a Fall b-day) mostly on a whim and because everyone enjoyed it so much I decided to try to re-create it using some of this seasons delicious varieties of squash. This recipe sounds much more laborious than it really is, let me assure you that after you get through the peeling and hacking of squash it becomes quite simple. So try it out and let me know what you think!


Harvest Quinoa Bake

Note: A common problem I find with Quinoa is how to enhance its flavor and keep it from being bland. The method I use slightly toasts the grain in an onion infused olive oil, giving it a deeper and aromatic nutty flavor. This takes a bit of extra time but is well worth the effort. All of the vegetables can be prepped/chopped ahead of time to reduce the cooking time.

– 2-3 c. Butternut squash (about 1/3 of whole squash)
– 1 sweet potato
– 1/2  Summer squash (yellow variety)
– 1/2 yellow bell pepper
– 1 carrot
– 1/2 large Granny Smith apple
– 1 small bunch fresh parsley
– 1/2 yellow onion
– 2 c. Quinoa
– extra virgin olive oil
– 3-4 c. or less freshly grated Parmesan
– 1/2 c. Feta
– handful dried cranberries
– spices: several sprigs of fresh (or dried) Rosemary, dried Thyme, Sea salt & cracked pepper

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

With a cleaver (or other very sharp heavy knife) chop off the top third of the Butternut squash, remove seeds if any, and then peel skin with a vegetable peeler. Once peeled, cut squash into 1 inch cubes.

Peel sweet potato, and cut into 1 inch cubes as well. Toss Butternut squash and sweet potato in a small bit of olive oil and arrange on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with generous amounts of Rosemary, Thyme, and sea salt and bake for 20 minutes or until fully cooked and slightly crispy on the edges.

2) While those are roasting in the oven…

finely dice the onion and parsley, and coarsely chop the yellow squash, bell pepper, carrot & apple. Set aside, but do not mix together.

3) In a medium-sized pot, saute the onion in a small amount of olive oil till softened and translucent. Add in the Quinoa and allow to toast for about 30 seconds, then add 3 c. hot water to the pot and bring to a boil. When water comes to a rapid boil, lower the heat and allow Quinoa to simmer (much like you would steam rice).

Meanwhile… in another deep skillet or pot saute the remaining vegetables and apples in a small bit of olive oil. When they are almost cooked, stir in the parsley and cook for a few seconds until wilted yet still bright green.

4) In a 9×12 casserole dish layer the cooked Quinoa and onion, next add the sautéed vegetables & parsley, then the roasted Butternut squash & sweet potato, and finally top with Feta, Parmesan, & cranberries. Salt & pepper and bake for a few minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly.



Homemade Tomato Sauce

Is it a fruit or a vegetable?  That’s the question I often ask myself while sorting freshly bought produce in the crisper bins of my icebox. I always seem to be momentarily stumped when I get to the tomatoes. Yes, they are technically classified as a fruit..or at least that’s what I’ve always known..but on the other hand, they are not eaten like a fruit, they are prepared and used like a vegetable. When I’m feeling rebellious, they go in the vegetable crisper with an indignant thump. When I’m feeling like being a perfectionist, they get safely tucked away in the fruit crisper. And on those days when I just can’t muster up the energy to think it through, they go wherever they will fit. And that’s that.

I have recently grown to love tomatoes. When I was a little girl, I wouldn’t touch them. But as I grow older I am learning that the many many things I turned my nose up as a girl, are resurfacing one by one and rocking my world in a completely new way. So as a result I have been eating a lot of tomatoes lately. Tomatoes are widely available in Texas and come in such a variety of species that they are virtually always in season. Another perk is that they are very versatile to cook with and can (when prepared cleverly) take on numerous tastes and textures. So with my new-found love for tomatoes and a few pounds of beautifully ripe Roma’s and Vines, I set out to make this tomato sauce. My first ever, and I must say I’m very pleased with how it turned out. I’d love to know, what vegetables or fruits you have come to love as a grown-up?

Homemade Tomato Sauce

My recipe is seasoned by a garlic and red pepper infused olive oil (we like it spicy), but you can easily add your favorite dried herbs during cook time. I recommend keeping it simple so you can use it for a wider variety of dishes.  

– 3-5 lbs. ripe tomatoes (Roma’s work well  for a thicker sauce, but Vine tomatoes also give it a hearty flavor, so I used a mixture of both. Feel free to use whatever grows well in your hometown!)
– extra virgin olive oil
-4 cloves garlic, minced
*(optional) dried red pepper flakes
– sea salt

1) Thoroughly clean/rinse your kitchen sink. Fill one side of the sink with HOT boiling water (from a tea kettle), and the other with COLD water and ice cubes.

2) Soak tomatoes in the hot bath for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to the ice bath. Let tomatoes soak until the skins crack and begin to peel. This will help loosen up the tomato skins so the skins can be easily removed with a small pairing knife.

*If the skin does not crack within about 5 minutes of being in the cold bath, return to hot bath and repeat this step again. Make sure your water temperatures stay hot/cold.

3) Peel skins completely and chop tomatoes in quarters. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Careful not to over-blend or it will liquefy.

4) In a deep stew pot, drizzle olive oil to coat and form a thin puddle, when hot saute garlic and red pepper flakes. Add pureed tomatoes,sea salt to taste, and cook on low heat for 1-2 hours until the sauce is fully concentrated and thick. Cool and store in jars.

Recipe yields approx. 8 cups or 64 oz. Extra sauce stores well in the freezer for future use.



Smokey Skillet Burgers /w Dilled Oven Fries

With the summer season slowly coming to a close, our routines change to follow suit. Fall brings milder weather, crisp colorful leaves, and a cozy sense of comfort in the great indoors.

Grilling season may be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a nice juicy burger. If it’s burgers and homemade fries that you crave you’ve come to the right place. My smokey spice blend gives the burgers a fresh from the grill mesquite flavor and the sautéed peppers,onions, and mushrooms take it to the next level. My homemade oven fries are a lighter alternative of the traditional french fries, and have the perfect balance of crisp and softness. The fresh dill really gives them a brightness and delicious salty taste. This recipe makes a great weeknight dinner and can be easily doubled to fit a larger family. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Skillet Burgers with Dilled Oven Fries

For optimal use of time, I recommend starting the fries first to allow proper cooking time and then add the burgers to the skillet  later. Notes on prep order are included, but are of course optional, so feel free to deviate. This recipe makes a standard size baking sheet portion of fries, but if a larger amount is needed simply double the recipe using an additional baking sheet.


-2 or 3 large russet potatoes (or several small ones)
– olive oil spray
– small bunch of fresh dill
– spices: onion powder and sea salt

1)Preheat oven to 425.

Scrub potatoes well with warm water and a clean sponge or scrub brush. Keeping the skin on, slice in moderately thin wedges. Try to keep length and thickness consistent  so fries will cook evenly.

2)Coat with a thin layer of olive oil spray (or toss just enough EVOO to coat evenly), generously season with freshly snipped dill, onion powder and sea salt. Bake at 425  for 30 minutes, then turn fries over with a spatula and continue to cook for an additional 13-15 minutes. The fries should be crisp and evenly browned yet soft inside.


{I did prep for the burgers after the fries were in the oven, this allowed plenty of cooking time for the fries while not over-cooking the burgers.}

-1 Lb. lean ground beef
(90/10 or better makes the best burger, but lesser cuts can be used as well)
– spice blend: equal parts of Liquid Smoke sauce, steak sauce,
chili powder, and black pepper
-5 or 6 button mushrooms
-1/2 green bell pepper
-1/4 yellow onion

1) With your hands (yes, that’s the only way to do it!) combine the spice blend with the ground beef allowing enough of the sauce to season and coat it without making it too wet to be workable. When blend and meat are combined well, divide meat into four portions and gently but firmly pat out four burger patties. Set aside in a plate or dish.

2) Remove tops and slice mushrooms from top to stem. Slice peppers and onions into 1/2″ strips.

3) In a large stainless steel/non-stick skillet grill up burgers according to preference. (I like mine well done on the outside and a bit pink on the inside,approx. 4 min. on each side more or less.) Remove when cooked and place on a clean plate/dish.

Drain pan of any excess oil and wipe clean. Add one turn of olive oil to the skillet and allow to heat through. Add vegetables and saute till just fully cooked. Season with salt and ground pepper.

4) Serve burgers open-faced or on a bun with a thin sliver of cheddar or pepper jack cheese and sautéed vegetables. Serve alongside fries hot from the oven. Add extra snippets if dill to fries when plate is assembled.

Poulet Roti

“Many chefs claim to be able to tell everything about a prospective cook by how he or she roasts a chicken – and I can well believe it.”      Anthony Bourdain, from the Les Halles Cookbook

Although I am not accustomed to posting recipes that are not originals, I must admit I cannot take credit for this one…well entirely. As much as I would love to boast, I did not invent the roast chicken. This beautiful bird has been introduced in numerous kitchens long before I was born. I will say that through my experience as a novice cook, I have learned the tricks of the trade when it comes to this classic dish. My favorite thing about Poulet Roti, or French style roast chicken, is its simplicity. It requires little, just a little care and time and the results are fantastic. This deliciously understated recipe is loosely based on the traditional French Poulet Roti, and it is similar to the great Anthony Bourdain’s version, as well as the recipe of the beloved Julia Child. Poulet Roti has become a Linville family favorite, and hopefully it will make its way into your homes as well!

Poulet Roti
This dish is so versatile it can be paired with many different sides, roasted new potatoes and carrots with garlic, creamy mashed potatoes, a savory barley dish, or roasted root vegetables all are great choices. Be creative, but keep it simple!
1 whole chicken, approx. 4 lbs
sea salt & cracked black pepper
1- 1 1/2 oz. unsalted butter
1 sprig of fresh Rosemary
1 lemon, sliced in quarters
*optional : 1 onion, sliced in quarters and 1 sprig of fresh Thyme
1 1/4 cups good quality Chicken Stock (homemade would be best, but a good boxed Organic stock will do)
1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2)Prepare the bird by trimming off excess skin and removing the giblets bag and excess fat from the inside cavity.
(I like to snip the tail with kitchen shears as well) rinse well with cold water and gently pat dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel.
3) Salt and pepper inside the cavity, and place half of the butter, both the Rosemary& Thyme sprigs, and half of the lemon wedges inside the chicken.
4) Truss the chicken with twine or kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under. Gently rub the remaining butter on the outside skin of the chicken and generously salt& pepper. Be careful not to tear the skin!
5)Place in a large roasting pan, breast side down, and add the stock, remaining lemon, and onion wedges.
Roast for 60-70 minutes, basting every 30 minutes or so. Be sure to rotate the pan’s position  in the oven as you baste, so that it cooks and browns evenly.
**Repeat after me: “I will not over-cook this bird. I will not over-cook this bird!”  Please I beg you, do not ruin all of your hard work by destroying the integrity of the bird and turning it into a dry mess. To check, just poke the inside of the thigh with a small knife or skewer and if the juices are completely clear it’s done! Be sure to let it rest for a couple of minutes outside of the oven before you carve it. Now relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Please note: If you would like,  you can save the liquids from the roasting pan to create a simple rich sauce to serve alongside it. Simply skim off any fat residue, remove onion and lemon, and pour liquids into a sauce pan. Bring to a rapid boil until it forms a slightly thick syrupy sauce and pour into a serving dish. Serve over hot slices of roasted chicken.

Challenges and Mushrooms: Part Three

My dear friends and readers, I apologize for the neglect and keeping you waiting. I hope you haven’t missed me too badly. Over the past few weeks I have been undergoing what you might call a Spring Cleaning of the attitude. This meaning that I have been challenging myself with setting goals and a steady routine. Let me elaborate by saying that I am an extremely goal oriented person. I was born with an ambitious mind that loved to see gold stars on my papers and my report card on the fridge. Even as a grown-up I love to see my hard work and steadiness turn into something I can be proud of. That being said, you would think that I am very organized and keep a planner on my person night and day…well sorry to disappoint you but that is not true. In fact, I am terrible at keeping a routine or schedule. I’m honestly not sure why this is. It just doesn’t come naturally to me. So in an effort to become more organized, I challenged myself these past few weeks with setting a weekly general plan. I mapped out what my week would look like as far as appointments, dates, chores, etc. and set a daily routine to accomplish all the small tasks I needed to complete. I even drew up a two-week Menu plan, (which is something I never do) in hopes to create some Zen in my kitchen. This has actually helped boost some creativity with my meals and allowed me to try out some new recipes without having to stress over the one ingredient I forgot to buy. (Don’t you just hate when that happens?!)

Two weeks ago, I also accepted the challenge from Sarah Mae’s blog “Like a Warm Cup of Coffee”. She encouraged women to dump their sweatpants and frumpy clothes for a week and join her in a week of getting dressed completely (plus hair and makeup) by 8am. Being a lover of yoga pants and challenges I rose to the occasion. This required a bit of planning, but I passed with flying colors. It was actually kind of fun to dress up and be creative with accessories. I think I’m going to continue this. That challenge was a catalyst to my new fitness routine. Last week I began devoting at least 30 minutes a day to exercise. In addition to the 30 minutes of exercise, my husband and I are now going to the gym three times a week. Let me just say that without his support and accountability I could not keep this up…and vice versa.

This week I guess it’s safe to say that I am trying to stay afloat with all of my new-found habits and routines. I’ve been indulging in some guilt-free reading time thanks to a special Library date with my hubby (book reviews coming soon!). I have also been spending more time with friends and family, which makes everything worthwhile. So the past few weeks I have had a bit of an attitude and life overhaul, and I must admit it’s actually been very rewarding. And so to keep my promise of the three-part mushroom series, I give you the delicious baby bok choy& mushroom stir-fry. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Baby Bok Choy& Mushroom Stir-fry

2 Chicken Breasts
2 Baby Bok Choy heads, ribs and leaves included
Raw Almonds, 1 oz. or less
Portobello Mushrooms, approx. 1 cup or more (about 3-4 whole)
1-2 tsp. Fresh Garlic, minced
Soy Sauce

1. Slice the chicken breasts in 1″ thick strips then set aside in a small bowl or dish.

2. On a separate chopping mat or clean board, chop the baby bok choy leaves and all at an angle in approx. 1/4″ pieces, coarsely chop the raw almonds, remove the tops and dice the mushrooms at a medium dice.

3. Pan sear the chicken slices until golden brown in a skillet with a bit of good quality oil.

4. Add the baby bok choy ribs and the almonds and mix in stir-fry fashion. After a minute of cooking the bok choy ribs, add in the mushrooms and continue to stir-fry. Next, add in the minced garlic.

5. When the bok choy and mushrooms are almost fully cooked, stir in the bok choy leaves and drizzle a little soy sauce over the chicken and vegetables. Continue to stir-fry until the bok choy leaves are slightly wilted. Taste and adjust garlic and soy sauce if needed.

*Serve immediately over steamed brown rice or quinoa

Mushrooms: Part Two

It’s amazing to me sometimes how quickly time flies. Before you know it you’re another year older, and hopefully wiser. Last weekend I celebrated my 22nd Birthday. I had a wonderful birthday weekend full of surprises and lots of  fun, family, and food…all of my very favorite things in life! I will elaborate a little more about my birthday and Easter adventures in a future post, but for now I will share with you one of my cooking secrets. This recipe is one that has been frequenting my kitchen in many variations. The premise of this recipe is that food doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated or require a long list of ingredients to be full of flavor. All you really need is to start with a strong base, add some fresh nourishing  ingredients that have a nice texture, and season well with a balance of flavored oils, fresh herbs or spices. With these components in mind, you have a non-fussy delicious meal. This one pot recipe is certainly a simple one. It only requires 8 ingredients and can be completed in about  15 minutes. In continuum with our mushroom series, this dish features the Portobello mushroom and is perfect for a healthful last-minute dinner. Feel free to use this as a springboard for your next meal.

Spinach &Mushroom Rigatoni

Whole Wheat Rigatoni pasta, 2 generous handfuls
Fresh Raw Spinach, 1 1/2 cup
Baby Portobello Mushroom caps, 1-2 cups chopped
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil Vinaigrette made from equal parts: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, fresh Lemon juice, and fresh Garlic
Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1. Cook the pasta al dente in a medium-large pot. Once the pasta is done, drain and return to pot.

While the water is boiling, gather the spinach in tight bundles and slice in thin ribbons. Repeat this step until all the spinach is chopped, and then dice the mushrooms.

2.  In a small bowl, whisk together the Olive Oil, Lemon juice and Garlic.

3. Finally, add Spinach ribbons and mushroom to the pasta pot. Drizzle with Balsamic Vinegar according to your preference, and then add the Olive Oil Vinaigrette. Turn the heat up to med-high, and stir to combine ingredients. When the spinach and mushrooms are slightly cooked and wilted, remove from heat. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

*Please Note: This recipe serves about two people, but it can be easily doubled, due to the flexibility of the ingredients. Simply adjust pasta and vegetable amounts.

Feel free to add extra ingredients to round it out, such as grilled steak strips, toasted pine nuts or almonds, extra vegetables, tomatoes etc.

Mushrooms: Part One

My dear readers, Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me via the new poll feature. I really enjoyed learning more about what you would like to see from this blog. I was especially delighted to see the majority vote for recipes, seeing as I have quite a few up my sleeve. If recipes wasn’t your preference, don’t worry I’m thinking of you as well in my current writing. Didn’t get the chance to cast your vote? Well there is no time like the present.

To all my fellow foodies, I have written a three-part series (with recipes) featuring one of my very favorite ingredients, the Portobello mushroom. Although I am fond of the Shiitake and Crimini mushrooms, the Portobello is tops in my book.  These nutritional powerhouses are rich in Niacin which is also known as vitamin B3, Potassium (they contain more potassium than the average banana), and Selenium, and to top that they contain almost zero fat and are very low in calories. Another plus is  that the size and shape of the mushroom are just right to create a petite appetizer bowl. And so without further ado, I give you Italian Mushroom Cups.

Italian Mushroom Cups

Baby Portobello mushrooms, whole, 8-10ct.
1 lb. lean ground Turkey
1 can of Natural Diced Tomatoes, 14.5oz. (Without tomato sauce)
Zucchini, ½, seeds removed and diced
Red Bell Pepper, approx. ½ cup, seeds removed and diced
Fresh Garlic, minced, 1 clove
*Spices: Sea Salt (to taste), Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (1tsp.), Paprika or Chili Powder (1/2tsp.)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Possible Garnishes: Fresh Parsley, Thyme, or Basil

*I give approximate amounts for each spice, but depending on your preference level, feel free to adjust.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove stems from the mushrooms and then discard. Scoop out the black inner parts of the mushroom, leaving a hollow bowl shape mushroom shell, and set mushroom cups aside Reserve mushroom “meat” for another recipe, perhaps for my upcoming Spinach and Mushroom Rigatoni?).

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the ground turkey until fully cooked. Drain any excess liquids from the turkey and return to the skillet.

3. Add the zucchini, and red bell pepper and sauté till fully cooked. Next, add the diced tomatoes, stirring well to combine all ingredients. Then, add the garlic, sea salt, red pepper flakes, and paprika.

4. With a small spoon, generously fill the mushroom cups with the turkey and vegetable mixture. Arrange on a small baking sheet, and drizzle the tops with a little bit of olive oil. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and slightly dark brown

Top with fresh parsley, thyme, or basil. Enjoy!

Roasted Radish Salad

The great thing about this time of year is the colorful variety of produce available at the market. As a seasonal shopper, I try to utilize what is in season (along with my regular produce) as a springboard for new recipes. It’s a great way to cook outside of your comfort zone, not to mention have the freshest food at lower cost. Thus, I stumbled upon this recipe. With radishes as my inspiration, I combined some of my favorites to create a Roasted Radish Salad of sorts. The Roasted Sesame Oil finishes the dish, adding a slightly smoky flavor to the hearty vegetables. This recipe may seem understated in nature, but trust me when it comes to texture and flavor this one’s definitely got it.

Roasted Radish Salad
Radish, 1 bunch
Carrots, 2 whole
Squash,1 (I used Yellow Summer, but any firm squash will do)
Zucchini, 1/2
Red Kidney Beans (Dried) approx. 1/2 cup – Soaked, Rinsed well, and Cooked Completely*
Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Spices: Red Chili Powder, Cracked Pepper, Minced Garlic ( 2 Cloves), Sea Salt
Roasted Sesame oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash all vegetables and trim off the ends.
  2. Cut the radishes in quarters. Peel the carrots and slice them in thin rounds. Cut squash/zucchini in half and remove seeds with a  small scoop or spoon, then chop in 1/4 inch thick slices.
  3. Add all vegetables and kidney beans into an oven-safe dish, and drizzle lightly with Olive Oil. Add Chili Powder, Pepper, Garlic, and Sea Salt. (I usually don’t measure spices, but as a guide use about  1 teaspoon of each.)
  4. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until tender and almost fully cooked, stirring occasionally.You must watch the vegetables, because they cook up fairly quickly.
  5. Remove dish from oven, and drizzle with Roasted Sesame Oil (lightly coated). Return the dish to the oven, and continue roasting till slightly golden around the edges.

*Note: I used dried beans that I had pre-cooked, but canned will also work if rinsed very thoroughly.

This recipe is great as a stand-alone dish, or paired with grilled beef or brown rice. It’s very versatile.