Just a warning – before reading this column, be aware that it has some fowl language.

The word “chicken” is often associated with cowardice.  It has caused many a person to act in ways they would not ordinarily behave.  After all, who wants to be called a chicken?  The dread of being associated with poultry seems to make people lose their common sense.

Take my sister, Cindy, for instance.  Besides being known as a tomboy, she was never one to back down from a dare.  The boys in our neighborhood used to try and see if they could come up with something she wouldn’t do.  They thought they had reached the ultimate challenge when they dared her to eat a raw chicken heart.  At first, Cindy refused.  Then the boys added a lure she couldn’t resist – if she accomplished the dare, she would get a quarter.

In these days, a quarter wouldn’t be worth the risk of salmonella or other awful things one can get from ingesting raw chicken.  But back then, salmonella was not a household word.  And a quarter went a lot further than it does today.  Coloring books were a dime, and so were comic books.  One could purchase an ice cream bar for ten cents, and a pack of gum was a nickel.  The thought of having a whole quarter of her very own was just the incentive Cindy needed to accept the dare, not to mention she wouldn’t have to hear those boys call her “chicken!” 

Cindy swallowed the raw chicken heart, only to have her two tormentors inform her that they were only kidding about the quarter.  Proving herself not to be a “chicken” hadn’t produced the reward she had hoped to earn.  Knowing Cindy, she most likely refused to cry even if she had wanted to do so.  However, the story wasn’t over yet.

I don’t know how the mother of one of the male instigators found out about what had happened.  Maybe one of her two daughters tattled on her brother and his friend.  Perhaps she heard the boys bragging about what they had done.  Whatever the method of discovery was, this mother took matters into her own hands.  She made the boys forfeit the money they had promised to Cindy if she would take the dare, telling them that they should keep their word.  They were the ones that offered the quarter, and it was dishonest not to follow through with their bargain.

My sister proved herself not to be chicken-hearted, even though her tummy was.  The boys were too chicken not to give her the quarter when they faced the wrath of a mother who stood up for justice. 

For those who find this story a little fowl, I am sorry.  I needed something to tie in with chicken recipes, as September is National Chicken Month.   The two new ones I tried include citrus – one has orange marmalade, and the other has lemon juice.  Each of them turned out well; one is baked and the other cooked on top of the stove.  The other two selections are from past columns and well-worth repeating.

Marmalade Baked Chicken

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/4 cup orange marmalade

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

1 teaspoon minced dried onion

1 teaspoon dried parsley

Hot, cooked rice; optional

Cut chicken into portion-sized pieces; flatten to an even thickness.  Spray baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; arrange chicken pieces in pan so they are not touching. 

Stir remaining ingredients together.  Brush evenly over chicken pieces.

Cover pan with foil.  Place in preheated 350-degree oven. 

Bake chicken for 15 minutes; remove foil.  Baste chicken with pan drippings.  Bake an additional 8-10 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked.  If desired, serve over hot, cooked rice.

Yield: 4-6 servings.

Creamy Lemon Chicken Piccata

4 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chicken broth

2 whole lemons

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup capers (optional)

chopped parsley, for garnish

8 ounces linguine or angel hair pasta, cooked according to package directions

Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. (If chicken breasts are overly thick, pound them thinner.) Salt and pepper each side of chicken breasts; dredge in flour. Place chicken breasts in skillet. Cook about 3-4 minutes per side, or until cooked through and no longer pink. Remove from skillet; set aside on a plate.

Turn heat to medium. Add broth, juice from both lemons, heavy cream, and capers. Bring sauce to a boil; reduce heat to medium low. Test sauce; season with salt and pepper as needed. Allow sauce to cook and bubble about 3 minutes.

Place chicken over cooked pasta; spoon sauce over both. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.   

Yield: 4-6 servings.

Chicken Dinner in a Packet

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (may be frozen)

1/2 cup red wine vinegar salad dressing

1-1/2 teaspoons paprika

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced

1-2 medium zucchini, cut into thick slices

1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored, and cut into chunks


Heat grill to medium (if using gas grill), or until charcoal is covered with gray ash and is medium-hot.  Meanwhile, combine salad dressing and paprika and mix well.  Place each breast on a 12-by-18-inch rectangle of aluminum foil that has been spritzed with no-stick cooking spray.  Sprinkle each one with salt.  Divide salad dressing mixture evenly over chicken.  Distribute onions, zucchini, and peppers evenly over chicken.  Bring two opposite ends of foil together over chicken; fold under.  Repeat with other edges to make sealed packet.

Place foil packets on grill, seam side down.  Grill for 20 minutes if chicken is frozen, less if thawed.  Turn packets seam side up and grill for 15 to 20 minutes or until thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken reads 170˚. (Internal juices of chicken should run clear.)  Remove packets from grill and serve immediately or keep warm until serving time.

Chicken and Black Bean Salad

1/3 cup olive or canola oil

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

1-1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon salt, optional

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (15.25 ounces) sweet corn and diced peppers

1 medium sweet red pepper, julienned

2 green onions, thinly sliced

6 cups torn romaine lettuce

1-1/2 cups cooked chicken strips

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the first 8 ingredients; shake well and set aside. (I used a small food processor.)  In a bowl, toss beans, corn, red pepper, and onions; set aside.  Arrange romaine on individual plates; top with bean mixture and chicken.  Drizzle with dressing. 

Yield: 6 servings.