Archive for food and wine

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!

~use signature
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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Alisa Murray’s Living the Sweet Life featuring Russo’s Italian Coal Fired Kitchen January 2016

It is always nice to find a spot that almost every time you walk through the door you run into a friend. Russo’s Italian Grill is such a place as there have been many a Sunday after church or a weekday afternoon that I drop in and not only always find something perfectly prepared and satisfying but warm and friendly faces to socialize with while dinning.
Allyson Huston, owner of our local Russo’s New York – Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen located at
10350 Hwy 6, Suite G in Missouri City, TX 77459 offers not only the traditional fares that are designed menus for the franchise by Anthony Russo who is also a family friend, but she also boasts two head chefs trained both for over 15 years in the industry and one with the very prestigious Le Cordon Bleu certification. They are a small business that also supports our community through various organizations and they shop fresh locally to support other small farm to market business. Together they create off menu specials and dinning experiences that are one of Missouri City’s little secrets.
The first quarterly seated course meal for 2016, Allyson is hosting January 19th starting at 7pm. Reservations are right now until January 12th. The cost is $76.95 per person. This feature is one of four she and Juan Morales III and Andres Rosales offer locally each year.
This January’s dinning event is a 5 course study of Cabernet Sauvignon. The Courses I was lucky enough to sneak preview and folks…as usual Allyson and the guys have outdone themselves! The courses are as follows:
Course 1
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup – Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon
Course 2
Wild Rice Stuffed Quail atop Mushroom Trio – Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon
Course 3
Grilled Lamb with Twice Baked Cauliflower – Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon
Course 4
Braised Short Rib Ravioli – Educated Guess Cabernet Sauvignon
Course 5
Lampone e Cioccolato Tiramisu – Tom Gore Caberent Sauvignon
The first course Is beautifully presented in a bread bowl with pancetta and a dash of nutmeg, the second course is a delicately stuffed quail that as you open up the little birdie you’ll find tiny cranberries, almonds and wild rice then it is placed atop a beautiful mountain of exquisite mushrooms sautéed in red wine. The third course boasts New Zealand Lamp chops and a creamy cauliflower mash that is both delightful to the sense and to the belly. I loved the braised short ribs because of their hearty stew. Allyson cooked them overnight and they literally melt in your mouth with savory goodness. The final course Lampoon e Cioccolato Tiramisu is homemade ladyfingers soaked in Framboise liqueur with fresh raspberries, mascarpone cheese, whipped cream and a hint of vanilla. If you make it to the the last round of this gorgeous meal you’ll have to be rolled out the door!

Over the years that I have been friends with Allyson I have never been so excited about a 5 course more that this coming January edition. She always does such an amazing job of offering thoughtful pairings with well appointed entrees and that its why she is one of my favorite secrets in Fort Bend!
Bon Apetit!
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