Writer's Notes

Writer’s Notes-Gourmet on a Hot Plate

From Thonie, Hal, Ed, Mikey and all the contributors to this blog: Happy Thanksgiving!

The shopping season is upon us. Looking for something for that hard-to-buy-for chef on your gift list? For a unique idea, check out this fun post from Writer’s Notes guest Judy Alter.

J Alter cover jpeg

By Judy Alter

How did I end up in a tiny kitchen?

When I was in my thirties, I lived what some might think the dream life—in a big but charming old house in a good neighborhood, with a surgeon-husband, four adorable children, and a station wagon in the drive. I cooked a lot, for large crowds, so we remodeled the kitchen. I had six gas burners in my stove, a huge island, a marble slab for rolling out dough. I think the only thing we lacked was a wine cellar.

So how did I go from that to a four-by-six kitchen with only a hot plate, a toaster oven, and a huge refrigerator? It’s a long story that involves divorce, those four wonderful children, and a writing career. Along the way I wrote two cookbooks—Cooking My Way through Life with Kids and Books and Texas is Chili Country—and contributed to two others—Love, Bake, Write and We’d Rather be Cooking.

dangerous driver
Dangerous driver

Encroaching age and hip surgery that left me unable to walk unassisted dictated that I move into a tiny cottage (my remodeled garage/guest quarters) while my daughter, her husband, and son moved into my house, just yards away. Zoning laws forbid the installation of a stove or a dishwasher, and limited counter space made a microwave and other fancy electric cooking appliances, like an InstaPot, impractical. So I learned to cook all over again.


My debut with the hot plate was comical. My daughter and I decided to sauté a lamb chop. We put it in the special pan that came with the hot plate, pressed the desired temperature and waited. Nothing. She poked it, held her hand over to feel the heat. Nothing. Then we finally saw the start button. I have since learned that I can use any flat-bottom pan with the hot plate. Welcome back to my iron skillet.

In slightly over two years I adjusted to my new kitchen. One friend who came frequently for lunch professed to be amazed at the meals I turned out—he particularly liked the chicken pot pie. I entertain often—no more big dinner parties, but lots of happy hour get-togethers, some lunches and light suppers.

And now I’ve written a cookbook about it: Gourmet on a Hot Plate: Tiny Kitchen Tips and Recipes. No suggestions for that Thanksgiving feast, but lots of recipes for casual suppers and cooking hints from my mom. Do you always put a pinch of sugar in tomato-based sauces? It rounds it off.

J Alter cover jpegGourmet on a Hot Plate is available in print or ebook form from Amazon and as an ebook from Tolino, Playster and Scribd with other ebook platforms to come.

Enjoy that turkey. I’ve got great ideas for the leftovers!

In addition to her cookbooks, Judy Alter is the award-winning author of adult and young-adult fiction and nonfiction, primarily historical works about women of the American West and contemporary mysteries set in Texas.

Follow her at, her blog, or on Facebook or

Be part of her ongoing cooking adventure at, where she encourages discussion and welcomes recipes, comments, and questions.

By Thonie Hevron

Mysteries to keep you reading through the night.

5 replies on “Writer’s Notes-Gourmet on a Hot Plate”

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