Fresh Finds with Alisa Murray Winter 2016

Many of us struggle with various forms of food allergies and sometimes we do not even know we have them until our bodies have taken all they can take. Over the past few years I have struggled with food allergies. The possibility of having food allergies should have come as no surprise with my daughter having her first anaphylaxis at just only 7 months. 
One of the best ways to avoid allergies is to know what exactly you are putting into your mouth. As with anything the purest, freshest form of food is always the best. Even fruits and veggies purchased with the labels “organic” are sometimes quite old by the time they hit our shelves for purchasing and consumption. Part of my heritage is farming. My grandfather was both a plumber and a farmer and Nana often told stories of picking the harvest and canning for the autumn. As a child, I watched her make things…things that were really good like breads, jams, ailments for sore muscles and of course we had a garden. You might say that exposure was tucked away somewhere in a safe place until I needed it; and over the past few years I have planted and maintained my own garden, using fresh herbs daily, learning about what herb combinations can help with digestion, heart health and overall wellness. Being an artist, I have been creating new recipes by adding little touches of my own to re-create, if you will; already tried and true recipes turning what is already fabulous into something uniquely my own! The results is a part of living a balanced lifestyle that includes conscientious planning of what goes onto my plates for my family and overall wellness in my home. 
One of my favorite recipes is my salsa. People ask me to make it for them and I try to always have at least a quart on hand at all times to use as condiments to huevos ranchero, taco salads, and of course as a side with chips! First you’ll need 6-8 small to medium tomatoes, 8-10 small to med. tomatillos, 8 cloves of whole garlic, two handfuls of cilantro, two purple onions roughly chopped and  one very large and lovely jalapeño! Place all the ingredients into a pot of water and if you want the salsa to be med-hot then place the whole jalapeño there with the other stuff, if you don’t want it spicy then carefully slice down the middle and remove all seeds and pulp before placing the jalapeño into the water. Let boil until tomatillos and tomatoes are squishy. Remove from heat and let sit for about an hour. Grab your blender and spoon into the pitcher the vegetables with a little of the water. Pulse till it is all blended and then add another handful of cilantro and pulse again. Pour into mason jars and store in refrigerator. Although it will keep for a week…you won’t be able to make it fast enough! Every time I go to get it one of my sweet children have already gobbled it up! 
My Fall garden has heirloom tomatoes that I cultivated from the seeds of their sisters this summer, like little babies they are plump and green and in just a few weeks they will be ready to can. My peppers are also continuously producing year-round  jalapeños, bells, and habaneros. The most wonderful right now however is the sea of collards! Being from North Carolina, soul food gets sneaked into our dishes so that the taste buds of my children are primed to recognize savory freshness in old fashioned dishes. The best way to make fresh collards is to cut into tiny pieces and place in organic chicken stock. You’ll want to then add fat back, cut up country ham pieces, onions, garlic and a half a stick of butter. Boil until greens are soft and stalks are very tender…usually about two hours.Salt to taste:) 
Roses also grow abundantly in my garden and I like to use the petals to make bath salts, soaps and milk baths. The milk baths help to moisturize dry skin in the winter months, especially if you have sensitive skin and are prone to itchiness and rashes. I gather buds and dry them, then crumble them and keep in mason jars in a cool and dry place. When ready to make you need to take two cups of epsom salts, 1/2 cup of cornstarch, 3 cups of non-dairy dried milk, a handful of the petals and essential rose hip oil. In a large bowl mix everything dried together and then add the oil. The more oil you add the more fragrant the mixture will become. I like to place mine in glass topiary jars with lids and scoops right beside the bathtub. Just run a hot bath, add as many scoops as you’d like and soak up the goodness of nature! 
Having the weather we have in Houston allows for gardening year round. With a little planning and a growing desire for learning, you too can find fresh fabulous finds right in your own backyard!
Take Care of YOU! 

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