I’m Sheila Dawson, aka Smart Cookie. I think some of you have met me in Susan’s mysteries, since China occasionally invites me to help her solve a crime. (Just kidding.) In case we haven’t met, I show up first in Hangman’s Root, which Susan wrote while I was still working as the Chief of Security at Central Texas State. I admit that there was a certain amount of jealousy back then (the subject being Mike McQuaid, to whom China was not yet married), but we won’t go into that. To summarize my police experience: I worked for the Dallas Police Department, then for the University of Texas Arlington Campus Security, then for CTSU. Susan tells the story of how I got the job as the Pecan Springs Chief of Police in Lavender Lies. My most recent appearance was in Bleeding Hearts, where China and I tracked down not just one but two killers.
On the domestic front, I confess to being single, with marriage and motherhood not even a cloud on the distant horizon. That's not to say that I haven't been in love, of course. And I've been serially engaged, most recently, to Blackie Blackwell, the Adams County sheriff. Unfortunately, our relationship turned into one of those on-again, off-again things, partly because I began to think that a two-cop family is a recipe for disaster, but mostly because . . . well, I still haven’t figured out whether I really want to be somebody’s wife. (It’s not a comfortable story, but if you really want to read it, it’s in Dead Man’s Bones and Bleeding Hearts.)
China knows where I’m coming from on this, which is maybe why we're such good friends. She put off marrying McQuaid for quite a while, not because he wasn't a great guy but just because she enjoyed living by herself. She told me once that she liked to read Kinsey Millhone mysteries because Kinsey doesn't have a husband and son to cook for, and when her place gets cluttered, she can pick up her stuff and it stays picked up. She doesn't rub up against anyone else in her personal space. All her time is her time, and all her stuff is her stuff. Which is where I am, most days. All my time is my time (even my cop time), and I like it that way. Selfish, maybe, but there it is.
I’m also not sure I want to be married because I’m not exactly the domestic type. Being chief of police is not a piece of cake, and I don’t have time to cook. I am definitely not a hermit, though, and I do like to invite a guy over for a meal occasionally. When I do, the crockpot is my answer to not-enough-time. I like to make Lemon Chicken, which is nice with rice, an easy veggie, a garden salad, and a chilled white wine. While I’m making the salad, the rice is cooking and the veggies are steaming. Dessert? Hey, what’s wrong with ice cream?
Sheila's Crockpot Lemon-Herb Chicken
2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon dry oregano
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 lemon, sliced thin (reserve half for garnish)
1/4 cup sherry
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh herbs: thyme, basil, parsley
Salt and pepper
Parsley or fresh lemon herb sprigs
Wash chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Combine oregano, garlic powder, and paprika in a bowl, and rub it over the chicken breasts. Melt butter in skillet and brown chicken. Transfer to crock pot, layering with half of the sliced lemon and sprinkling with remaining oregano-garlic-paprika mix. Pour sherry into skillet, stir to loosen browned bits, then pour over the chicken. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours. Add lemon juice, lemon herbs, and salt and pepper to taste in the last 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to platter and garnish with parsley or lemon herb sprigs and remaining lemon slices. Skim fat from juices in crockpot and spoon over the chicken.
Coming soon. China asked me to tell you that she's offering a workshop on herb topiaries next week. She says it's easy and fun--and she'd love it if you would drop in!