Guest Chick: Judy Alter

Greetings, Chicklets and Roosters. Arlene here. As I told you last week, I’ve been feeling the pressure of getting ready for my October release, “Diva in the Dugout.”

One of the ways I’ve been preparing is keeping up with all the comings and goings on the Turquoise Morning Press author’s loop. There’s a large and talented group of folks writing great stories — and blogging about them.

When I discovered that my new TMP sister Judy Alter had not one but two blogs where she talked about cooking (and life),  Potluck with Judy and Judy’s Stew, I knew she’d make a great guest chick.

Take it away, Judy!

Judy AlterI love to cook, always have. If I’m not writing or buried in reading someone else’s mystery, I’m in the kitchen. Strangely enough, when I created the heroine of my Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, Kelly turned out not to be a cook.  She took her girls to the Old Neighborhood Grill for turkey burgers, ordered in pizza, or made grilled cheese sandwiches. School lunches were pbj every day.

When I pondered why I, a devoted cook, had created a non-cook, I decided it was because she was a single mother with a career in real estate and renovation. She didn’t have time to cook. But then I realized I was a single mother of four, writing, cooking, and running a small academic press while raising them (and they all turned out to be great people!). A few years ago I wrote a memoir/cookbook about those years and called it Cooking My Way through Life with Kids and Books.

Cooking My Way Through Life | Judy AlterOne of the most popular recipes in that book was one that has always been a family favorite. We call it Doris’ Casserole, but another of my friends calls it American lasagna. We were both at a dinner party where it was served, more years ago than I like to think about. Since the hostess was Doris, my family calls it Doris’ Casserole to this day. Doris was the wife of a radiology resident who was in training while my then-husband was in a surgical residency—we were all poor, and our entertaining featured frugal recipes. I almost never saw Doris after her family left Fort Worth, but once when I did, I told her how important her recipe was in our family, and she barely remembered the dish. I think she had gotten it from a Mrs. America contest.

Since publication of my cookbook, the recipe has been served at several TCU luncheons and passed on in various ways. Doris died a few years ago, and I’m sad she never realized how the fame of her casserole had spread.

P.S.: I don’t think Kelly has cooked this yet, but her cooking is getting better all the time. She’s working on it.

Doris’ Casserole

First layer:

1 lb. ground beef

1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes

1 8-oz. can tomato sauce

2 cloves garlic, crushed in garlic press

2 tsp each sugar and salt (I cut back on those, but sugar is important in tomato-based sauces; my mom taught me years ago that it sort of rounds it off.)

Pepper to taste

Brown ground beef in skillet. Drain grease and return to skillet. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper. Simmer 20 minutes until it thickens a little.

Spread in a 9×13 pan.

For noodle layer:

5 oz. egg noodles (approximately—they don’t come in this size pkg.)

3 oz. pkg. cream cheese (I can’t find these in the grocery anymore so I buy 8 oz. and guess)

1 c. sour cream

6 green onions chopped, with some of the tops included

Topping:

1½ c. grated cheddar

Cook egg noodles and drain. While the noodles are hot, stir in cream cheese, sour cream, and green onions. Spread over meat mixture. (I gave this recipe to a good friend once who insisted that it was backward and the noodles should go first. I finally convinced her, and her family loved it, too.) Top with grated cheddar, bake 35 minutes at 350° or until bubbly and cheese is slightly browned. Supposed to serve eight, but you’ll be lucky if you can feed six with it.  Freezes well.

I have a recipe for something called Hill Country casserole, which is basically the same thing, using ground venison. Haven’t tried it (venison is hard to come by), but I bet it would be good. Unfortunately, the girls in my family—daughters and daughters-in-law—don’t like venison. It’s a texture thing, they say.

****

Danger Comes Home | Judy AlterIn Judy Alter’s latest novel, Danger Comes Home, dogs, drugs and death take Kelly O’Connell on a wild ride with a runaway girl and her abused mother, a relapsed former gangsta, and a drug-dealing gang in her own neighborhood. Add an imperious recluse for variety, throw in a haute cuisine hot dog café, and as usual Kelly’s life is anything but calm. Husband Mike Shandy is right: she has a talent for trouble.

About Judy: An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of four books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, and Danger Comes Home. She is also the author Murder at the Blue Plate Café, with Murder at The Tremont House scheduled for release in February 2014. The Blue Plate Café Mysteries give Judy a chance to include recipes in her mysteries.

Judy also had a long career writing historical westerns, some of which are now available in digital form, and several of which brought her awards from Western Writers of America, Inc., the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame, Texas Institute of Letters, and others. She received the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement from WWA in 2005 and was inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame.

Retired after thirty years with TCU Press, Judy divides her time between writing, cooking, and helping her second-grade grandson with homework. The mother of four and the grandmother of seven, she lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her Bordoodle, Sophie, and says she never knew retirement could be so busy.

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