Alisa Murray’s Award winning column | July 2016 |Living the Sweet Life : Lazy days of Summertime!

IMG_9071July is possible the laziest month of the entire year and for great reason. It’s the only month that none of us has to really do anything…except of course work. Children are out for the summer and unlike June where it’s a scramble to finish strong with their classes or August where we are gathering new school supplies and checking to see how many inches they grew over the summer out of their clothes, July seems just really perfect for family time.

July is my favorite time to have family cook outs and invite friends over for an impromptu gathering. It’s well known that I love to cook, I always prepare plenty so that when suppertime rolls around I am ready for one of my friends or the children’s to drop in and join us! Some of my recipes have become their favorites and they will text me and specifically ask for me to make this or that. Probably the most popular during the summer months are my smoked salmon (where people actually go buy the fish and bring it to me to prepare!), cucumber salad, Dorito casserole, and pulled pork BBQ with slaw.

The garden this year has gone wild…and I mean that literally. Featured on the cover this month, both Fernando and Ron were surprised at just how much “good stuff” I was able to grow beside the pool and amongst the rose bushes! It’s a garden that my ancestors, who were farmers would surely roll their eyes about but it serves the purpose… so it can’t be that bad! Its LOL
There’s every herb you’d ever need and I can not tell you how much better things taste if you’d use fresh herbs. It’s like night and day. I also have various peppers, squash,lettuce,beets, carrots,cabbage,spinach,eggplant,cucumbers,corn,blackberries,strawberries,and tomatoes. I have become the expert salsa maker and each week I make a fresh batch for almost every meal. The leftover salsa gets dumped into my bean soup that I make every Sunday.

Quite a few of my friends read my column and when we started talking about this upcoming July edition they asked me to share a recipe… some of which I’d like to keep secret so they still drop by! I think the salsa recipe is so versatile and can be used for everything so here’s mine and I’ll tell you in advance I measure nothing. I cook like I shoot..from my heart and guts and when I get that “feeling” then I know it’s right. I remember Nana cooking and it was exactly the same…a pinch of this and a dollop of that… you’d have to watch her to understand that terminology but that’s part of it..isn’t it? The making of great things that bring back childhood is mot always measured…it happens organically and from our souls!

Here’s you a little salsa that will always treat you right whether on a chip, in a soup or used to brine a turkey overnight!
Auntie A’s Famous and Versatile Salsa
6 large tomatoes
6 medium tomatillos
4 Bell peppers GREEN
1 very large purple onion
1 jalapeno pepper
Handful of Cilantro
1/3 cup of minced garlic
Handful of salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar
Avocado oil

Boil all of this until soft. Transfer to blender and puree everything being careful not to use too much of the liquid so your salsa ends up the right consistency. Pour into Mason Jars and place in refrigerator once the jar is cool to touch.

This summer I am going to try for the first time to learn to can things. I remember Nana and Granny doing this but it seems hard…I hope not! I have more tomatoes that I know what I’m going to do with and since I can not imagine starting a salsa company, it seems like the only solution to my problem! Wish me luck!
Have a wonderful month of slowing down…sipping tea and playing with your children and friends!
Take Care of YOU!

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I hate to throw anything good away… so here’s what to do with that extra liquids from your salsa! Go back to the garden and pick a handful of basil and oregano fresh. Add that to the leftover liquid from the salsa and add back to it four more large tomatoes. Add more water and boil again until the newly added veggies and herbs are soft. Once they are soft, take all of that and puree with all the liquids in the pan and now you have homemade Tomato Basil Soup! Topped with fishily grated parmesan cheese and a swirl of fresh heavy cream and there’s another meal with zero leftovers from your garden!

Houston Award Winning Columnist | Alisa Murray| Living the Sweet Life | Bugs for Lunch? May 2016

MAY 2016
Living the Sweet Life : Ants and Grasshoppers for lunch anyone?

For the longest time when I think of a picnic I have that iconic image of a red checkered blanket and at some point a trail of ants trying to invade and haul off any crumbs that they can. Never in my wildest dreams did that vision include making ants be the main entree! What are you talking about you ask? These days in the world of food consumption, one can choose to eat a sandwich and others can just go eat a bug, making your picnics a whole other experience! Yes, folks you read it right…bugs! Bugs you say? What?? It turns out that around the world insects such as ants, locusts, mealworms and grasshoppers are consumed by about 2 billion people.

This both disgusted me and intrigued me. When I was a child one of the fondest memories was spending time in the mountains with my Granny and Big Daddy. We would plan for a day outside and Granny would make a bunch of sandwiches and lemonade. Big Daddy always had a large watermelon and we would set off on a big adventure. Sometimes we would go to a
picnic table in the Blue Ridge Parkway and other times we would go for a jeep ride up into the mountains themselves and spread out a blanket with the trees as ou canopy and while listening to crickets and birds and most often a mountain stream, we would have our lunch. Never in a million years would I have thought to just reach down and grab an innocent little ant and start chomping away. Sounds kinda sorta well actually YUCK!

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the Unites Nations sees consumption of insects as essential to food security. Due to our ever expanding world coupled with mortality rates dropping slightly due to better health and health care advances or food production must increase by 70 percent to feed 2050’s projected 9 billion people. And Insects, a viable source of life sustaining protein; despite your cringing, are sustainable and less expensive to produce than cattle and pork. Even more crazy, since I’ve been feeding mealworms to James Edward’s bearded dragon and not to us at our dinner table, was to learn that mealworms have as much unsaturated omega-3 fat as fish do and a pound of locusts contain more iron than a pound of beef!

I think that for at least during my lifetime I’ll be sticking to dill pickles, ham and swiss sandwiches and berries! It’s not that I don’t want to be hip and all…at this point I think I am just too old to change. They say that the crickets taste like cashews and sweet corn and the ants, well those are really advanced in the foodie world! Who knew? Those little guys come in flavors such as honey and bacon. I think I’d rather have the real thing though. I could perhaps see having a cricket breakfast bar if I live long enough to see my great grandchildren and don’t really know what’s going on around me anymore! At that point I wouldn’t really care and I guess that’d be alright!

Take Care of YOU! shutterstock_324406838

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Houston Award winning Columnist | Alisa Murray’s “Living the Sweet Life” | April 2016| #alisamurray

Living the Sweet Life : Being unknownMindful of the Greatness

It’s that time of the year when we all are ready for the cold to dissipate and for the flowers to bloom. It’s GREATNESS time too. If your like me you found yourself last year reflecting and wondering “where did the year go?” Sometimes when life starts to happen we let ourselves just go with the flow instead of purposefully positioning ourselves for great things. Now is the time to make sure to access those resolutions and tweak if necessary so you don’t look up and find another year has flown by and you lived mindlessly instead of mindfully.

Let’s think about that for a minute. One of the most important things we have is time. People who are older and wiser often look back over their lives and wish for what? Time. I think it’s human nature to want to rush and get ahead but truthfully as I get older I realize that God intends GREATNESS for all of us and much of that is given through living mindfully and not blindly. So I vowed to not be so rushed. I vowed to spend time wasting time. For me that really means spending time doing nothing because I am such a planned and scheduled person to think of not doing something feels like I am wasting time. I am of course doing the exact opposite of such but it feels that way nonetheless.

What can we all do to make 2016 remarkable…and savor the little moments? Stop. Yep… pretty simple to say but as they say “Oh so difficult to actually do!” One thing that you can do is go through your calendar and block off a day a week or a day a month for just you. Make it an afternoon trip to the park or a day trip to somewhere close by like the sea. Take a picnic and not go to a restaurant (sorry guys…it’s part of the experience). Mainly plan to just “BE.”

An interesting thing will happen as you do these things. You will become enlightened as to what the most important things are in your life. You will recognize people in your life that are rare jewels and want nothing more that your very best happiness and you will also find those that are pretending. You will feel pulled closer to the Holy Spirit (insert divine power for those of my non-Christian friends) and you will be told your GREATNESS. Listen. Obey.

Spring is coming and flowers are beginning to wake up and shine. Through the years in our lives; we are given opportunities to grow and other years opportunities to reflect. Last year I was in a reflection year and with each life event that occurred I became ever more reminded of how precious time is. I was dormant and waiting. This year with renewed purpose I am mindfully savoring my moments and blossoming as an artist, mother, wife, and friend. It takes conscious effort to wait for it…. to then recognize it…. and at last to succumb to God’s GREATNESS for our lives.

Take Care of YOU!

Living the Sweet Life: March is National Reading Month

FrontCover

What’s on your nightside table? I have several books all the time that I am working on. Right now it’s Eve by WM.Paul Young, Euphoria by Lily King and Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. I have always loved books and reading because it is fun but bottom line it makes you smarter!
March is National Reading Month and it’s important to not only grab a great book and READ but to also share those great works that have moved us with others so they can experience it for themselves too.
Today the book industry has changed so much as we go towards a more digital world there’s been talk of a day where library’s are shut down and book stores are a thing of the past. I sure hope not! One positive thing that has really changed in the publishing world is the ability for anyone to write and publish a book. With solid content and a few clicks you can be an author and offer free e-books and print on demand. With that said, I have had a lot of friends that have done just that. Rick Gillis has published five books with is latest Promote! Likewise Minerva Perez and Damali Keith both well known faces in our homes for years, have taken their talents as journalists to write books and share their experiences. Minerva’s I’ve got a story has been so successful that as she signs and tours currently she is working on a second body of work entitled MORE STORIES. Damali’s A Great Day to Live is a wild journey through domestic abuse and raises awareness to a problem often overlooked and left to fix itself. Too often women die at the hands of those they think love them.
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that years ago I hired an agent and actually sent out countless query’s pitching a children’s book collection and a cartoon series. Both are still neatly compiled in my drawers unpublished as I don’t take rejection very well and wasn’t willing to self publish because the industry was so sketchy. Today though things are very different. I have been working on several books for a while now and the first will come out this fall. I’ll go ahead and answer the question what’s the title? with a resounding and confident “I’m not sure yet.” When I asked Damali Keith about the title of her next book she smiled and said Accepting Her Life. Both Rick and Minerva… same thing. Not me though I am winding through some pretty traumatic stuff of my childhood writing those pages and like peeling back an onion and traveling through layers of my life, I know it will come to me. I can only liken it to those new parents that come see me for their maternity portraits and I ask them “what are you naming the baby?” Some know immediately and others contemplate and say things like “we are waiting to meet him or her.” I know like birthing a baby (which by the way is what this is starting to feel like), a title will come in time.
It’s exciting that all of us are now in an age where we all can be an author. Each of us has stories to tell and some have dreams that one day they could have careers like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Like David Sedaris, who by they way is one of if not my favorite along with Fannie Flagg, those books coming out of us all are little pieces of our souls. What makes for great reading is when writers are passionate about what they are trying to say. I hope that each of you will find a great book for your nightside table this month (I’ve given you several in this column!) and if the idea of becoming an author has ever been a fleeting fantasy; that this month you’ll not only be reading but you’ll start writing too!

Take Care of YOU!
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Are you wanting be a published writer? What are your stories? What great books have you read that you think others should as well?
Email me at: alisamurray@yahoo.com

Living the Sweet Life : “Time for some Turmeric” February 2016

shutterstock_319292966As far as spices go my favorite is garlic closely followed by onion. I rarely cook without both and it’s funny because my late Father in law swore off garlic for 83 years whilst applauding me for my dishes and their secret ingredients. As I have been generously sprinkling in those it appears that I should be adding some tumeric…just because, well it’s personal and we will get too that shortly.

Turmeric is a spice that packs a punch for maintaining a healthy brain. Turmeric offers up a vast array of benefits. This spice “counters inflammatory activation, combats hyperactivity of the stress hormone,protects against the dysfunction of the cell powerhouses; the mitochondria. It defers neural degeneration such as Alzheimer’s, restores synaptic plasticity, modulates neurotransmitters and decreases oxidative stress in our bodies.” In a nut shell this spice delivers good stuff to the brain that prevents and staves off depression and degenerative diseases in the brain.

Now my Big Daddy had Alzheimers and gradually he forgot that I was born, favoring a happier time in his life before my mother was killed. He and I had a wonderful relationship and as I grew up under his care and looked just like my mother, I could completely understand as his mind went there to was where he parked himself in her memories. “Turmeric is approximately 2-8 percent cur cumin. Curcumin protects the brain in multiple ways, most strikingly by preventing—even dissolving—-the distinctive build up of amyloid-beta proteins that clog nerve pathways in Alzheimer’s patients.” Furthermore, standing the tests of time..turmeric has long been used by Indians and in Ayurvedic medicine. The heavy use of Turmeric in curries has lead scientists to believe that is one reason why Alzheimers;s is a rarity in India. Alzheimers runs in my family and because of that one single reason I have added a daily dose of Turmeric in my diet. If there’s a spice that nice on the body I think you should too!

Take Care of YOU!

Credits and quotes go to Psychology Today October 2015
Supplemental Science
by Daniel A. Marano