Winter 2019


The word cottage almost seems tied to the word cozy, but cozy doesn’t always apply. My cottage is chilly rather than cozy this February morning. As I write, I’m bundled into a wooly sweater, staring out at a cold, gray day. Yesterday was positively spring-like—high in the upper seventies and sunny. The kind of day when I am tempted put the top down on my car. Overnight, the temperature plummeted, and during the night I heard rain and wind. Somehow, I am much more aware of the wind whistling around the cottage than I ever was in the house.

On my desk…

The Second Battle of the Alamo

For months I’ve focused on my manuscript on the second battle of the Alamo, digging into trails in Texas history. One thing leads to another and studying Adina De Zavala led me to East Texas and the early missions established by the Spanish Catholic Church, whereas Clara Driscoll’s life even took me to Chile where her once-husband was an ambassador. I love the research. In the process of learning about the second battle, I’ve come to have a much better understanding of the first battle—or massacre—and the lasting effect it had on the social structure of Texas, particularly South Texas. I’m hoping this research will lead to related projects.

I get excited when I find a 1920s picture of Laguna Gloria, Clara’s Austin mansion, or a picture of Adina in her much more modest home at 141 Taylor in San Antonio. I looked up the address and today it appears to be the back door of a Baptist Church. Darn! I wanted to see the house where she lived. Next time I’m in Austin I want to drive by Laguna Gloria. Photos are another learning experience for me as I develop a photo log and deal with various archives and permission forms. But it’s all fun.

Mark your calendar for publication in February 2020—sounds like a long way away, doesn’t it? But it’s really not.

Gourmet on a Hot Plate…

My new cookbook is getting lots of buzz on the internet, and I’m super excited to tell you it’s gone into a second printing. I’d like to have you believe, of course, that the first huge printing sold out, but, alas, that’s not the case. The book is print-on-demand: when you order ten, they print ten. But the new printing will follow the designer’s original format—it’s much cleaner and easier to follow.

Publishing a cookbook has also been a learning lesson for me. Recipes are more complicated than the straight text of a novel, but I’ve learned some things—like what format to use for what platform—and the new book is an improvement in both paperback and ebook forms.

As I proofed the new printing, lots of recipes jumped out at me, things I haven’t cooked in a while—chicken pan bagnat, my sloppy Joe (it’s got red wine in it), a smoked salmon and potato salad platter that I really like, tuna pasties, and an overnight salad you won’t believe. Whoever heard of marinating lettuce overnight? Trust me, it’s wonderful. Those and other things are on my “to cook soon” list.

Haven’t gotten your copy of the cookbook? It’s available from Amazon in print and as an ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and Tolino as well as from some subscription and library services.

My “Gourmet on a Hot Plate” blog is getting a good following too. I’m using it to chat about cooking and share recipes that I’ve found that aren’t in the cookbook. Send a recipe for me to feature—I’d love to have some contributions. See the free book offer below.

Recent recipes on this weekly blog have included scallops, both seared and in a creamy mushroom sauce (the classic Coquilles St. Jacques), a chicken/green chili casserole, a sausage, kraut and apple skillet, and a suggestion for improving bottled spaghetti sauce.

Coming up: this weekend I plan to cook kalpudding, a Swedish meatloaf with a caramelized cabbage topping. I’ll report on it next Thursday. Find the blog on Thursdays at


I thought maybe I’d written myself out on mysteries, but apparently I was just waiting for inspiration, for the right idea to come along. I think it did on a recent Saturday morning when I lounged in bed, trying not to let Sophiedog know I was awake—she’d want to go outside once she thought I was conscious. Lying there, I plotted a novel, worked out in my mind the characters, the setting, the place, even the victim and the murderer.

It’s early days yet so I won’t say much about it. I only work on it sporadically, because the Alamo and cooking take up most of my time and attention. But I will tell you it’s a culinary mystery, and for a change it’s set not in Texas but in Chicago, my home town. Of course, Chicago, even my corner of it, has changed dramatically in the many years I’ve been gone so it will take a lot of research.

Title? Not a clue yet.

And news of me…

After a couple of years being tangled in the medical web, I have declared myself healthy. My hip surgeon said, “See you in five years”; the cardiologist said, “See you in a year”; the kidney and oncology doctors have concluded, as I predicted, that the will o’ wisp they were chasing does not exist. And I feel better, physical and emotionally, than I have in along time. I am very blessed to have had such good care when I needed it.

Looming large on my calendar this spring is my oldest son’s fiftieth birthday Surely I am not old enough to have a fifty-year-old son! The family will gather in Tomball, Texas to celebrate, including Colin’s New York aunt and uncle and, if they can get away, some of the cousins. We’re all excited to see this branch of the family and, of course, to be

No travel plans yet. After having to cancel the Great Lakes cruise this past summer, I haven’t quite gotten my travel hat back on. But Jordan, my travel agent daughter, is bombarding me with possibilities, including the Royal Scot luxury train through Scotland. Do we really think I could dress for dinner every night?

And looking ahead—the Alters will gather for Christmas in a huge house near Blanco, in the Texas Hill Country. Lots for the kids to do, while the adults hang out, maybe visit a winery or two, do a little shopping in picturesque towns. We’re getting to that strange point in family life, where it’s hard to tell who’s a child and who’s an adult. We’ve got some in-betweeners.

~ Yay! ~

A recipe, that’s not in the cookbook but may well be in a forthcoming column.

Green noodles (a family favorite)

  • 1 16-0z. pkg. spinach egg noodles
  • 1 stick butter
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (I always buy whole and slice them myself)
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 can quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1 ice-cube size piece of pesto, thawed, or one Tbsp. commercial pesto
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Grated fresh Parmesan

Cook and drain noodles. Melt butter in the skillet. (Megan, weight-conscious in high school, used to insist that was too much butter, and it may be.) Sauté the mushrooms and scallions in the butter. Add pesto and lemon juice to taste—I like lots; the mushrooms soak up the lemon and are delicious. Add noodles and toss to coat. Top with Parmesan.


And a giveaway…

Free copies of Gourmet on a Hot Plate to the first five people who send me a recipe I can use in my Thursday cooking blog. Remember, no stove! It has to be something I can cook on a hot plate and/or a toaster oven. Please include your snail mail address and a little bit about you and the recipe. Email me at .


My sites: / Blog / / Facebook Author Page / Twitter