Jon’s $50,000 Chicken

Last week, long-time Wheeler county resident Jon Bowerman invited me to his house for lunch. He wanted to show me how to make one of his favorite recipes, $50,000 chicken. FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS, wow, that’s expensive! It must be really good.

When I arrived, the first thing I noticed as I stepped into the kitchen was his beautiful chrome and black woodstove adorned with many hanging cast iron pots and pans. The dark wooden table in the kitchen was set with pretty blue dishes and wine goblets. I suddenly felt like a school girl who was playing hooky for the day, taking time off in the middle of the week to just relax and have fun.

I was thrilled to know that the recipe had only four ingredients and no pots and pans or dishes to wash. That’s an “un-recipe” – just a list of ingredients and steps. There is no need for exact measurements; just use your senses to get it right.

Here is what you need:  

Skinned chicken breasts or tenders
Thousand Island dressing
Swiss cheese

Preheat the oven to 350⁰. Oil the bottom of a baking dish. If you use chicken breasts, cut them lengthwise into pieces about half an inch thick and layer them in the dish. Next, make a layer of the sauerkraut followed by a layer of Thousand Island dressing. Pop the pan into the oven. We kinda’ lost track of the time but it probably took about 45 minutes until the kitchen was filled with a lovely aroma and little bubbles were popping away around the edges of the pan. Jon pulled the pan out of the oven and covered the entire top with Swiss cheese and slid it back into the oven until the cheese had melted. When he finally took the pan out of the oven, my mouth was watering and I felt like a racehorse chomping at the bit. Buttered, toasted breadcrumbs sprinkled on top would be a crunchy addition.

Jon put the pan on the table and we served it up. I made my favorite cauliflower dish (I will write about it sometime) and Jon made a salad with romaine lettuce, palm hearts, and homemade vinaigrette. Can you believe this? The chicken was so good that I ate four helpings! I am not kidding! All the while I thought about what a special treat it is to receive an invitation to a friend’s home for lunch or dinner. Being “at table” with friends and family is one of my very favorite things to do in life. Sitting down to a beautifully set table and eating delicious homemade food is one of life’s greatest and simplest pleasures. That’s definitely worth at least $50,000!
How to Eat

How to Eat Harmony

Last week, the world witnessed the crowning of King Charles III. I wonder how many people know that he is a deep and progressive thinker with a life-long interest in organic food production and environmental sustainability. He has made vast contributions in these areas.

His book, “Harmony: A new way of looking at our world” is my all-time favorite book. I read this book when it was first published in 2010 and now I am re-reading it. Have you ever read a book that is so thought-provoking that you savor it like a bottle of fine wine? You read a few sentences or paragraphs and then pause for a moment or two to drink in the ideas and reflect upon them? This book is like that, slow going. Even though I read the book years ago, I have thought about it many, many times since then.

Why did this book have such an impact on me? The book explained the reason for sensations that I had for years but could not identify or understand. I have noticed that food not only has flavor, it has a “feel” too. I’m not referring here to the feel of texture, but as an intrinsic quality. Organically grown and humanely raised food definitely feels different than food that has been grown or raised in discordant conditions. This awareness adds a lovely layer of delight to the culinary experience. To know that someone else out there experiences organic food in the same way I do is such a relief to me. It’s always nice to be understood and validated.

Foods raised with agricultural practices that are in harmony with the earth undoubtedly carry a positive energetic charge. They just feel better to eat and they have a lovely subtle layer of sweetness. Food definitely has an aura. This unfurls a whole new spin on the idea of “soul food”. After all, food is life, so eating such vibrant food intensifies your whole sensory experience. Recently, I opened a jar of peanut butter that was utterly delicious and it resonated with my entire being. When I took another look at the jar, the label said “organic”. That’s just one example. I’ve experienced many other accidental “blind tastings”.

In my opinion and the king’s opinion too, the best food on the planet is grown or raised with practices that maintain the integrity and interconnectedness of the entire food chain – the microbes, plants, insects, fish, birds, animals, and people as well as the water, air, and soil on which we all depend.

This book is out-of-print but is available from Abe books and as an e-book from Amazon. If you read this book please let me know what you think about it.

Enchilada Pie

This Friday is May 5th (5/5) and you may have heard it called “Cinco de Mayo” in Spanish. Since we are in 2023 and 2 + 3 = 5, maybe Cinco de Mayo will be an extra special, magical day this year! That could be a great excuse to have a fiesta and serve Mexican food.

My beau, James, gave me his mother’s recipe for enchilada pie. I call this kind of a recipe an “un-recipe” because it’s more of a guide than a recipe with exact measurements. Play a little and have fun; experiment and be creative. You can adapt this un-recipe to suit your own tastes and use what you have on hand.

Here is what you need:

An oven-proof skillet or pie pan
Vegetable oil
Flour tortillas
Enchilada sauce
Chicken, beef, pork or turkey
Onion, finely diced
Shredded cheese
Optional: beans, rice, corn, peppers, chilies, olives and whatever suits your fancy

Preheat the oven to 375⁰. I use a 12” cast iron skillet. Cook the meat you desire. My friend Jerry gave me his old-fashioned meat grinder to experiment with. I bought some beef stir fry meat and ground it up. When I cooked it, it had the nicest texture, more chewy than hamburger. I added about half a packet of taco seasoning mix to the meat. Cumin, paprika, and a bit of oregano would work well too. I didn’t cook the onion first. It had a sweet flavor and a slightly crunchy texture when the dish was done cooking.

Oil the bottom of the skillet or pan. Place a tortilla on the bottom and then layer enchilada sauce, meat, onion, cheese, and whatever else you desire. Repeat until you have used up all the ingredients, ending with a layer of cheese on top. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes.

If you want to turn this simple recipe into a festive dish, dress it up in party clothes! It’s all in the presentation. Add some avocado slices and a dollop of chunky salsa. Put some sour cream in a squeeze bottle and make a few swirls. Chop up some cilantro and sprinkle that on. Add a lime wedge or two. The final touch could be a dusting of smoked paprika which adds a subtle, complex flavor. Suddenly this simple enchilada dish is all dressed up and ready to party with family and friends. Don’t feel like entertaining? You can have a party for one, you know. Invite yourself to dinner and have your own Cinco de Mayo fiesta. Ah . . . this is the essence of the good life. Good food, good drink, and good times – a festive fiesta.

The Plenty Method

I recently revised my book “The Joy of Plenty: How to multiply your food dollars to eat like kings and queens.”  I will give a digital copy to anyone who requests it – just email me and it will be my pleasure to send you one! Lately I’ve been thinking of the book as the “food inflation survival guide”.

I wrote the book after I formed a small food buying club with some of my friends and we increased the value of our food dollars by 40%. Eventually our pantries were stocked with the best food on the planet and much of the food was organic. Organic food definitely tasted better.  No matter the flavor, whether bitter, salty, savory or sour, a notable touch of delicious sweetness was always present, like background music.

Our pantries eventually were stuffed with copious amounts of fabulous food and we had a lot of fun buying it too. And then something unexpected happened. With our pantries full of incredible food, our cooking exploded with creativity – and ease.  With so much food available in our own pantries, we had the courage to try new things. I nicked named my kitchen “Five Star Kitchen” because over time my cooking evolved from ordinary to extraordinary and often it seemed as if I was eating at a five-star restaurant. 

In the book, I define the six steps I took in the process of transitioning from going to the grocery store often to buy small quantities to buying larger amounts at wholesale food resources. I learned to share those larger quantities with friends or properly store the excess. I called this six-step approach the “Plenty Method”.

When you do the Plenty Method, your well-stocked pantry will be like having a good work horse back in the olden days—it makes life easier for you. Individual foods stand out in essence and quality, they become superstars. Then, food doesn’t need much “do” to prepare. You don’t need to follow a recipe exactly to make delicious food. Food doesn’t need to be complicated or take a lot of time. You can easily whip together simple wholesome treats and meals because your pantry overflows with extraordinary food. You’ll have the ingredients to make almost any recipe on a moment’s notice. You may have to substitute a few things, but that is far better than running to the store. Now you’ve made the recipe completely your own, 100 percent tailored to your tastes.

After all, having quality ingredients on hand to serve your friends and family “royal” meals and snacks will do you more than proud every time. I’d love to help you learn how to survive food inflation and have fun doing it.

The Pop-in Crackers

Last year my friend Linda went to the annual Christmas bazaar in Fossil. She returned with a bag of oyster crackers that were seasoned just right and had the perfect crunch. They were a savory and fun treat to eat straight out of the bag and as a garnish on soups, salads, and even on pasta.  “Do you know who made these delicious crackers, I asked?”  She said “No” and then my heart sank.  Should I put up a sign at the post office? “WANTED – REWARD: SEASONED OYSTER CRACKER RECIPE” 

Once in a while the thought of those crackers would cross my mind and I would long for them, as if I was pining over a long lost lover. Then one day, I attended a benefit dinner and much to my surprise, I saw the crackers in a bowl next to the chili. I felt a surge of sheer delight accompanied by an adrenaline rush. With great excitement I inquired “Who made these?” Turns out it was someone I knew. “No problem, I will give you the recipe”, she said.

I call events like these “pop-ins”. A pop-in is an unexpected occurrence that comes out of the blue and fulfills a desire. They evoke feelings of thrill, awe, and joy. Pop-ins are sweet little blessings that warm the heart.  I love to watch for pop-ins every day and feel wonderment when they mysteriously appear. How they come about is sometimes quite remarkable.

This recipe is so simple it only takes about five minutes to make.

Seasoned Oyster Crackers

Preheat oven to 250⁰

One bag of oyster crackers
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon pepper
1 tbsp tbsp dill weed
Finishing salt

Stir olive oil, lemon pepper, and dill weed together in a big bowl. Add the crackers and mix well. Spread the crackers on a jelly roll pan (line it with parchment paper to reduce cleanup) and bake on the lowest rack for one hour. Toss every 15 minutes or so. This recipe can be easily doubled.

When I cook, I usually go more by taste and feel than exact measurements and make adjustments as I go along. You may want to add more or less lemon pepper and dill weed. I use the best sea salt available; not all salt is created equal so I used ground Maldon sea salt flakes. That is Queen Elizabeth’s salt; it says so on the box! Also, the quality of the olive oil makes a big difference. I always use extra virgin olive oil. I try to find olive oil produced in Italy. It’s the best!

Now I know what my friends will be getting for Christmas this year! And I just may include the recipe too.

Wing it Pizza 4.13.23 Last week I visited my dear friend Sunny. Our term of e

Wing it Pizza

Last week I visited my dear friend Sunny. Our term of endearment for each other is “wifey”. She calls me that because when I go to visit I clean, cook, and do the laundry just like a good wife should, or did.  We still laugh whenever we hear this affectionate term as if it was the first time.

When I arrived, she had made a scrumptious dish that seemed like a cross between a pizza and lasagna without noodles, baked in a cast iron skillet. I ate a slice and couldn’t believe how good it was with delicious layers of flavors and textures. Of course I had to ask for the recipe, thinking it would be a somewhat complicated dish to make. But it had only five main ingredients, which means I could write about it since it was simple enough.

This isn’t an exact recipe because you can wing it – no exact measurements are required. My friend Heather helped me make this and it was so much fun it almost seemed like a skit.

Here is what we did:

We browned a pound of ground beef along with a coarsely chopped onion and some salt.  We were startled when the lid on the can of the Pillsbury pizza crust suddenly popped off like a champagne cork as the dough burst out of the tube. Now we know why the dough is kept in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. But when we stretched the dough out, it sprang back like a rubber band. After several rounds of this we gave up and cut it into squares and playfully patted the dough onto the bottom of the skillet. This was fun, like playing with Play-Doh. Next we made a quick tomato-based pasta sauce using a 12 ounce can of Del Monte’s traditional spaghetti sauce, doctored up with Italian herbs, roasted garlic from a jar and some garlic salt. We popped the crust into the oven and prebaked it for three minutes. When it was finished, we layered the ground beef, then the sauce, and topped it with an Italian cheese blend. We baked it for about 25 minutes; toward the end, the cheese was getting too brown so we covered the skillet with foil. Our mouths watered as we pulled it out of the oven.

There was some pizza dough left over and in a spontaneous moment we rolled it into a ball and played catch in the kitchen. It felt so good to laugh and play! Our creation turned out differently than Sunny’s, but it was still tasty. I will make this the next time Sunny comes to visit to see if she even recognizes it.

Lemon Week!

Last week I received some shocking news that threw me for a looptie-loop. Unfortunately, it wasn’t “good” news, or at least it seemed that way. However, I agree with Shakespeare when he said “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so” (Hamlet). Who knows, maybe down the road this event will be the best thing that ever happened to me. Dark clouds can have silver linings, you know.

I bemoaned over this situation to my love, Jim, who then said “Ok, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, lemon meringue pie, lemon cheesecake, lemon bars, lemon sorbet, and lemon poppy seed muffins. What a good idea! I will drown my sorrows in the sourness of lemons. He made me laugh as he usually does. Then I went on to other things and completely forgot about all the treats I could make with lemons.

A few days later, I was at the Merc in Fossil and when I was almost out the door, I felt an inner jolt accompanied by the thought to get an apple box. I wandered into the back room and asked Coco if I could have an apple box. She said the boxes were all gone but there was one with lemons in it that were too soft to sell. They looked fine to me so I took the box and the lemons too.

When I got home it struck me. I have lemons!! Wow!! Now I can make all manner of lemon things. So I did! Ironically, those lemons were juiciest lemons I had ever seen. Those poor lemons were so misunderstood. But, they were such a lovely present for me.

I made lemon bars for the very first time. They were surprisingly simple to make, being a shortbread cookie topped with custard (yes, I asked the AI for a recipe). After that, I made a large bottle of peppermint and lemon elixir for a friend who did not feel well. For dinner one night, I made fettuccine with a lemon cream sauce and capers, shrimp, fresh parsley, and a few red pepper flakes. Being a Moroccan food fan, I made preserved lemons, a staple in Moroccan cooking. And lastly, I froze lemon juice in ice cube trays, and popped the cubes into a Ziploc bag.

After the lemons were gone, I felt truly blessed, as if something out there had a sense of humor and was lovingly watching over me. Whatever it was knew that lemons were just the ticket to lift my spirits. Sometimes I feel like a marble in a maze game, running into dead ends, falling into holes and climbing out. But a lemon a day did keep my sadness at bay!

Food for Thought

I usually write about light-hearted, food related topics and easy recipes that delight the body and the soul. But this week I’m offering up food for contemplation, which is still nourishment, just of a different kind.

Last week, I wrote about a recipe that the artificial intelligence, ChatGPT, gave me for barbeque sauce. The sauce was so delicious that I kept going to the fridge with a spoon and ate it right then and there (yes, I know, that is not very lady like.) Then I learned that AI can now generate images. For example, I can ask the AI to make me a picture of a jar of barbeque sauce held by an angel with a halo and it will create a work of art that is beautiful and thought provoking (check it out at

All this news caused me to deeply reflect. I was rattled with a mix of terror, amazement, and overwhelm. Then just as I was finished contemplating all that, I learned that the ChatGPT had evolved to the next level. Until now, ChatGPT could only spit out answers that drew on data prior to 2022. But now, ChatGPT has access to the internet in real time. Uh oh, nefarious rabbit hole, here we come. AI can also spread misinformation. Scary.

Author Thomas Friedman, a famed New York Times columnist and three times Pulitzer Prize winner, has written books on globalization, technology, and international affairs. In his book “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations”, Friedman reflects on the lightning speed of technological change and its impact on society. He speculates that one of the reasons there is so much anxiety and depression in the world is because technology moves faster than our biological ability to keep up with it.

Ray Kurzweil is a futurist with a track record of predicting the future with great accuracy. In his provocative book “The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology”, he refers to a hypothetical future in which artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence. As AI evolves, it will improve itself and cause an exponential increase in technological progress. Super scary!

My favorite book of all time is “Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World”, written by Prince Charles. He argues that the modern world has become too disconnected from our roots and advocates for human well-being through nature, community, culture, and spirituality.

Words that cross my mind: inconceivable, epic, mind blowing, awesome, thrilling, terrifying, challenging, and weird.  What is AI going to do next? The dishes, maybe the laundry, cook dinner? This all points to our urgent need to have more face-to-face social connection. Food has, and always will, bring people together.

AI Barbeque Sauce!

Wow!! The world is changing so fast that it’s almost impossible to keep up with it all. By now, some of you may have heard of “ChatGPT”. That is a “language model” that makes artificial intelligence accessible to everyone. You can go to the ChatGPT website ( and ask “It” any question and you will get a surprisingly accurate and conversational answer. You can even request the answer to have a specific word count and be written at a certain grade level. When I first asked It questions a couple of months ago, I felt a visceral response in my body. I was slightly nauseous and dizzy, as if my circuits had been blown-up. I had trouble comprehending what had just happened and was overwhelmed with feelings of fear, awe, wonder, confusion, and excitement. What a mix!!  After I recovered from the physical fall out, I got a bit addicted to asking “It” so many random questions.

Since food is my passion, I wanted to know if It could generate recipes. I have been on a mission to find, taste, and use the best barbeque sauce available. I asked It for a barbeque sauce recipe. Lo and behold, I was so surprised when It gave me a recipe that sounded quite delicious, using an ingredient that I would have never thought to put in barbeque sauce ‒ smoked paprika. It is very clever and apparently is also a gourmet cook! I made the sauce and it was wildly delicious. The flavor was multi-dimensional and lingered in my mouth for a long time. When I compared AI barbeque sauce to Sweet Baby Rays, It made Ray’s taste like tomato flavored corn syrup. It, you have a very sophisticated and gourmet pallet! How cool is that?! You impress me!

This recipe makes about 1½ cups. Interestingly enough, the second time I typed in “barbeque sauce recipe”, It gave me the recipe with the addition of two tablespoons of molasses and 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard. It! You appear to be consistently inconsistent! I will soon try that version.

AI Barbeque Sauce

1 cup ketchup
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Mix all the ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil, heat through. Remove from heat, let cool. Eat!

The robots are coming! Nooooo, no, no! They are already here and it’s more than FUN! It is fun and then some!  Now we can get answers to our questions without having to sort through many websites. Try It and see for yourself how incredible and entertaining It is.

Blue Ribbon Barbeque Sauce

Last week’s column was about meatloaf that I topped with barbeque sauce before popping it into the oven. That got me thinking about barbeque sauce. Then I remembered that a few weeks ago, I met fellow food aficionados Clark and Jessica VanHook of Fossil. The pair mentioned that their All Purpose Barbeque Sauce won first prize at the Wheeler County fair in 2020. As usual, I asked if they would share their recipe and they said yes!

When I received the recipe, I was happy to see how easy it was to make. You know how much I love easy! Having a good sauce on hand is like having a magic wand in the fridge. Put a sauce on it and kick the flavors up a notch. There are some excellent barbeque sauces out there. Is it really worth the extra effort to make your own? I wanted to do a taste test. So I went to the store and bought a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s because the label said “Award Winning”. Well okay then. Now we are on a level playing field.

Then I went into the kitchen and whipped up a batch. Clark and Jessica told me to bring the sauce to a bubbling simmer, then to taste and be careful to not overcook it. I did that and the sauce was so delicious that I could not stop tasting it! The deep mahogany mixture was sweet and tangy and had a bold, complex flavor. I asked my friend Heather for her opinion. She tasted it and said “Dang, that’s a humdinger.” I hadn’t heard that word in years and giggled like I was a little kid.

Jessica and Clark use generic ketchup and Brer Rabbit molasses.

All Purpose Barbeque Sauce

2 cups ketchup
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons mild flavor molasses
1½ teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon liquid hickory smoke
¼ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon freshly ground sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together all ingredients in a medium-sized sauce pan. Heat to a low boil over medium heat until thoroughly heated through. That’s it!

I let the flavors meld overnight. Then came the taste test. Sweet Baby Ray’s is good, but since the main ingredient is corn syrup, the sauce had that corn-syrup overkill sweetness that overpowers the other flavors. All Purpose Barbeque Sauce is easy to make and lasts for months in the fridge. Thank you, Clark and Jessica, for sharing your award winning recipe. Stay tuned for their recipe that won a blue ribbon in the Walmart Cooking Challenge.