featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, the Blue Plate Café Mysteries, and the Oak Grove Mysteries. Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and the WWA Hall of Fame. Learn more about Judy and her books at her website and blog.  

Cookbooks? They’re a dime a dozen these days. And what do writers know about cooking—they spend their days at computers and order in pizza, right? Hold on and take a look at We’d Rather Be Writing: 88 Authors Share Time-Saving Dinner Recipes and Other Tips. The title is a tip-off—most writers would rather be writing than cooking (disclaimer: not always this one, and I do have a recipe in the book). But there are some great recipes here, from meat dishes to fowl and fish and soup and chili, vegetarian and even a few vegan ideas. Some recipes will be familiar sounding—stews, enchiladas, and the like. But they’re shortcuts, much quicker than the way you’ve been doing them.

And a few were downright new and intriguing to me. As the author/contributor writes, “Peas are polarizing—you either love them or hate them.” She loves them and so do I, so I’m going to try peas pureed with crème fraiche, Parmesan and mint. Want to make soup out of it? Add chicken broth. Or blend with mashed potatoes and top with a fried egg.

How about eggs in a tomato-spinach sauce? Or eggs in purgatory, which is much the same thing and one of my favorite dishes. Recipes suggest main-dish smoothies, a good yogurt sauce, all kinds of things that writers rely on and you’ve probably never thought of.

But the unique thing about this cookbook is the timesaving tips, divided into cooking tips, household tips, organizational tips, writing tips, and miscellaneous. In the latter category, I like “Let it go.” If it’s not major in your life, don’t waste time stewing over little things. A tip we all know about but don’t always do: meditate. And one from me: nap.

In the cooking tips, I found an old friend—the soup pot. Just put leftovers in a refrigerator container and once a week, see what you’ve got. I called it soup of the week, but my kids called it “brown soup” because that’s how it always came out. This book has better instructions than my haphazard version.

One tip that appears in several sections is to list, list, list. Errands to run? Make a list of them in geographical order. Grocery shopping: organize your list according to the layout of the store. Too many extraneous details demanding our attention? List them and then check them off one at a time.

And a tip for all of us: if your plate is full, learn to say “No” to that extra volunteer project, that speaking gig you don’t have time to prepare for, even that charitable cause you can’t fit in. You can only stretch yourself so far and trying to accomplish more only results in stress.

In short, this is much more than a cookbook. It gives ideas for feeding the body, of course, some of them outstanding, but it also gives ideas for feeding and caring for the inner you, the soul if you will. It’s a great book to explore.

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Judy's latest mystery is:

Murder at Peacock Mansion
Arson, a bad beating, and a recluse who claims someone is trying to kill her all collide in this third Blue Plate Café Mystery with Kate Chambers. Torn between trying to save David Clinkscales, her old boss and new lover, and curiosity about Edith Aldridge’s story of an attempt on her life, Kate has to remind herself she has a café to run. She nurses a morose David, whose spirit has been hurt as badly as his body, and tries to placate Mrs. Aldridge, who was once accused of murdering her husband but acquitted. One by one, Mrs. Aldridge’s stepchildren enter the picture. Is it coincidence that David is Edith Aldridge’s lawyer? Or that she seems to rely heavily on the private investigator David hires? First the peacocks die…and then the people. Everyone is in danger, and no one knows whom to suspect.

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