Catalina Chicken and Whistling Women


Catalina Chicken and Whistling Women

This past weekend I came across a book that I could hardly put down. I generally go to bed about an hour early each night to give myself time to read. (Sidenote: It is amazing how much giving up television has improved the quality of my life!).

So I came across this book and I’m going to tell you a little about it, but not enough to spoil it should you decide to read it, too. It’s called Whistling Woman and it is based on the ancestors of the authors. So many of the history, stories, and personalities of the characters echo those of my own heritage. My people were descended from Cherokee and “Black Dutch”, with a little Swedish, Irish, and German thrown in for good measure. The women in this book, and the men, too actually, could have easily been related to me. Their background, personalities, and even some of the family stories sound like they came from my own people.

The main character is a girl named Vashti Lee. Only, she hates that name so she insists that everyone call her Bess. Her grandmother is a Cherokee from North Carolina (where my Cherokee ancestors are from). One day, Bess is picking berries with her great grandmother and a lady walks by. Her grandmother tells Bess “She’s a whistling woman”. Bess asks what this means and her grandmother declares “You know what they say, a whistling woman and a crowing hen will never come to a good end. That there is a whistling woman. She whistles all day long and she don’t care none who hears it!”. (This is paraphrased from my memory of the book).

Bess decided right then and there that was exactly the kind of woman she wanted to be. The rest of the book follows along as she grows into a woman, struggles with a life that washes over all of us unexpectedly from time to time, and learns to be strong – just like her grandmother told her she would be someday.

I come from a long line of whistling women. Some might view them as eccentric, head strong, stubborn, or even trouble makers. Some of them were tiny little women in stature but never afraid to go head to head with a man twice their size. So many stories swirl around in my mind that were passed down to teach us inner strength and fortitude, joy and gratitude. Unfortunately, not many of the stories are fit to be shared in such a public venue so you’ll have to catch me when I’m doing one of my talks in person to hear them :).  Some of my best friends have been whistling women and those who I admire most..whistlers all.

Looking back on my life and even living it from day to day, I do believe I was born to be a whistling woman. 

And I find my whistle becomes louder and more out of tune the older I get…and that suits me and my maker just fine :) You can find out more about this book and buy a copy in paperback or ebook by clicking here.

Today’s recipe is simple. It needs only three ingredients but you can feel free to dress it up and add more if you like. But you know, cooking does not have to be a complicated thing. Neither does life. Keep it simple whenever possible. That gives you more time to whistle :) 

Catalina Chicken and Whistling Women

To make this, you’ll need an onion, a bottle of Catalina Dressing, and some Chicken.

I am using boneless skinless chicken breasts here but you can use whatever you like and you can easily make enough chicken for 6 people with this same recipe, without having to add any additional dressing or onion.

Catalina Chicken and Whistling Women

Place chicken in bottom of slow cooker, top with onion and dressing. Cover and cook on low 7-8 hours or on high, 3-4.

Now we’re gonna make our yummy sauce to go over it! 

Oh by the way, when your chicken is done it will be pink. I don’t mean pink like it was before it was cooked, but I mean pink as in the red catalina dressing will have turned it pink. We’re fixin’ to cover that up so don’t worry. Besides, take a spoonful of that sauce or try a forkful of that chicken. Chicken that tastes like that can be any color it wants! 

Catalina Chicken and Whistling Women

When chicken is done, remove chicken breasts from slow cooker and ladle the sauce into a saucepan.

Catalina Chicken and Whistling Women

Take 2-3 tablespoons of flour and vigorously stir it together with equal amounts of water. Pour this into the sauce.

Catalina Chicken and Whistling Women

Bring just to a boil over medium heat while stirring constantly.

Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for a few minutes, or until desired thickness.

Catalina Chicken and Whistling Women

Pour over chicken.


Were you destined to be a Whistling Woman? Do you have Whistling Women in your life?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Catalina Chicken and Whistling Women
  • 4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 16 ounce bottle Catalina Dressing
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour
  1. Place chicken in bottom of 5 or 6 quart slow cooker. Top with chopped onion and entire bottle of dressing. Cover and cook on low, 7-8 hours or high, 3-4 hours.
  2. Once chicken is done remove it to plate and cover with foil to keep it moist. Ladle sauce in slow cooker into a small sauce pot.
  3. In a cup, vigorously stir together flour with 2-3 tablespoons water using a fork. Pour into pot with sauce.
  4. Place sauce over medium high heat and bring to a boil stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce heat to low and simmer until it reaches desired thickness, just a few minutes more. Pour over chicken and serve.

“Many people lose the small joys

in the hope for the big happiness.”

~ Pearl S. Buck

Submitted by Jenny. Click here to submit your own.


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  1. D'Ann says

    This is one of my favorite recipes…haven’t made it in a long time…thanks so much for the reminder…

    Never knew it before, but I’m a whistling woman, too…and come from a long line of same…what a super thing to discover…

    cheers from here, Christy…and, God bless…

  2. Reneé says

    I love this story. My mom loved to whistle. Although my dad didn’t want her to. He always said that – “A whistling woman and a crowing hen never comes to no good end” and he believed it. LOL He even killed one of Mama’s hens because it crowed. I am going to definitely try this recipe. Love your website, you always bring back childhood memories for me.

      • says

        I’m not Renee but if you’ll permit me I’ll take a try at answering this :) Hens are not “supposed” to crow but every now and then, one will. Usually, this happens in a flock that doesn’t have roosters and one hen will work her way up in the hierarchy and kinda start bullying the others around a bit – next thing you know, she starts to crow.

      • Reneé says

        LOL. Yes, not often but it does happen occasionally. And as Christy said, it is usually a “bossy” hen that does. I was about as country as you can get and I only remember the one hen that did and unfortunately for her, she didn’t do it very long. Hope my answer made sense Mary (it did in my head).

  3. Kate says

    Chickens going in the crock pot now! We have similar geneology. Thank you for your sweet encouraging spirit. One of these days Gods going to cross our paths and I owe you a neck hug for all the encouragment thru the years. Blessings

  4. Felica says

    While I have little time these days for reading for fun, you never know when you have to wait for something somewhere, so I got the kindle version! (Only 99cents, folks!) While I sadly, have never learned to whistle in my 52 years, I think I fit right in with these women! I look forward to the read and the chicken! Thank you, again, Christy!

  5. ruby milam says

    I used to whistle at work all the time and one woman commented negatively every time! I never knew why until now just jealous I suppose!!!! I will continue to whistle!!! Thanks Christie for solving my mystery!!! Great story!!!!

  6. Eva says

    My momma bless her, was a whistling woman, hope I hope I am too! I love the recipie, will have to try it out. I am sure we can use homemade Catalina dressing. I am trying to keep the storebought stuff down to a minimum, keeps the cost down and as its 10 miles to the store, is a lot easier on gas consumption.

  7. Sharon says

    Sounds delish! I make a recipe like this by putting the chicken in a baking pan, covering with dressing and a few pats of butter, salt and pepper, then bake in the oven. Love the idea of using the crock pot for convenience, and I never thought of thickening the sauce with flour. Can’t wait to try it! Thanks, Christy!

  8. Sue Horne says

    Going to be trying this soon…from one Whistling Woman in NC – (descendants of Cherokee and Irish/German ancestors) to another – Hope you are still celebrating one year and going strong! Love Southern Plate and your family!

  9. Shirley McLendon says

    You always make my day. Your remarks are an inspiration to behold; like a breath of sunshine that make each day shine as never before. It is a pleasure to open your mail each day with words of encourgement & wonderful receips. Thanks a million & HAVE A GREAT DAY…..

  10. Kim S says

    I read Whistling Woman on my Kindle a couple of months ago. I loved it! The two sisters that authored the book really made the characters come to life. Loved to read the stories that Bessie’s Cherokee grandmother, Elisi, shared during their walks. The next book in the series is on my “to read list”! I imagine you would enjoy a blog I follow by Charlene Notgrass. I enjoy the stories she shares. Definitely worth the time!

  11. Brenda Caldwell says

    Love this simple recipe! I am too a whistling woman :) When we used to whistle while sitting at the kitchen table, my Dad would make us get up and leave the table, lol. Although he whistled a lot, I guess he thought is was inappropriate at the table.

  12. mama jane says

    My mama taught all her children and grandchildren to whistle. She was severely disabled with RA, and there were a lot of things she couldn’t do with us, but she sure could whistle. My closest brother married a whistling woman, too. I remember being in the car with them and Joe and Patti would whistle in harmony, usually an old Bob Wills tune, prettiest thing you ever heard. Joe went home to be with Jesus in November, and every time I hear a Bob Wills song I miss him more than ever.

  13. Tabatha says


    My people are also “Black Dutch” and Cherokee…I have never heard of anyone else having that combo! Matter of fact, I have never heard of anyone else who ever heard of Black Dutch. I thought maybe my Daddy made that up lol! My husband says that crazy combo is why I’m so honery;) Now I’ll just tell him it’s because I’m one of those “Whistlin’ Women” :) Enjoyed the post <3

  14. Barbara says

    My Heritage is also Black Dutch, Irish and German. My mom was a whistler! I wrote a story about her, entered in a contest….did not win!! Do not think they understood the great feelings that we, the folks from Appalachia, have about our loved ones!

  15. Ruth E. Chidley says

    What good memories…my dad was the whistler in our family and always pitch perfect. He was a singer as well, so came by whistling naturally. Now my mom, that is a totally different story. Don’t get me wrong as she was musical and was a singer too. She and dad would sing beautiful duets together for church, when I was growing up. But for mom to whistle was a totally different story. My two brothers and I would beg her to whistle for us, just to watch her try to get her lips to pucker just right. We would howl with laughter (naughty children) every time she tried. She would keep saying,
    “I just don’t know how you all can do this. It looks so easy but my mouth won’t work right!” : )
    I use to whistle quite often myself but somehow challenges of life seems to have taken the urge to whistle away. Thank you, Christy, for sharing this story for it has made me aware that I need to look for my whistle and bring it back into my life! : )

  16. Wanda Thrasher says

    I love your posts and I plan to buy the “Whistling Woman” book, too. I think I come from a long line of strong, eccentric “whistling women”! God bless you and your family!

  17. Cassie Wilkins says

    Hey Christy,, am going to try this one. I have to use my homemade Catalina Dressing, which is bettah than store bought anyway. lol The store bought dressings just all have ingredients that do NOT agree with me! I think I am going to add some apricot or peach jam to this also to kick it up a notch or two. I love using a great recipe and getting inspiration to add my own twist to it! Thanks!
    Oh, even though I am not a whistler, I do love to hum little tunes or sing and some of my family members have teased me (some not so gently) about my off-key tunes. I quite letting all that bother me a long time ago and now just tell them that this is just the way I am, it makes me happy and that I was singing with the angels before in perfect harmony and will be again, that in this life I have other gifts to share. So at heart, I am most certainly a whistling woman!

  18. Kathy says

    I love the stories you share. I am a whistling woman. My 5 year old granddaughter is a whistler also, much to the annoyance of her older brothers who can’t whistle as well as she can. I know you don’t want to retell the story of the accident you had last year on the horse. Is there a post available that I can read? Oh, I love your recipes too.

  19. ELIZABETH says

    Hi Christy, I LOVE TO READ CANT WAIT TO BUY THE BOOK .My mom was a whiseling women as well as being a very strong women. I am from NC and part cherokee and a lot of other stuff,(smiles) Have made this using french dressing with chicken breast and with wings.Iwill be making this recipe your way. Thank you for being in our lives,the rest of the ladies and I are so blessed.God bless you and yours. Liz

  20. Bev says

    A wonderful story. I followed your link for the book and bought it for 99 cents for my Kindle. I loved your story and your history. While neither I nor my mother are whistlers and we are of German heritage I feel we do have some of the same traits. Thanks Christy for your entertaining stories as well as your great recipes.

  21. Sue Wright says

    Second time in my 84 years I heard Whistlin woman. The first time was when my grandmother told my mom that very saying, as I went whistling around the house. My grandmother passed along so many great old sayings that must-have been part of her North Carolina/Eastern Tenessee heritage. I downloaded the book on my Kindle and already know I share a kinship with the author

    Yep, I hated my name Mary, and in second grade changed it to Sue Ellen, which I explained to all who would listen that I simply was not a Mary.


  22. Barbara Miller says

    awesome, bet we are related. love the blog, will get the book for my kindle. great recipe. will try it soon…just put angle chicken in the crock pot for tonite. love ya

  23. Margaret F Williams says

    I have been a whistler for as long as I can remember. Mom quoted the
    crowing hen saying, every time I puckered up.
    I have used the Catalina dressing over browned pork chops, in a skillet, with a lid, before slow cookers. deelish!

  24. Mary Lou Brown says

    I have been chastised by my mother in law for whistling, she said those very words to me. I thought her so strange at the time and continued to whistle even though she disapproved. Now I get it…now I understand. Thank you so much.

  25. Betty Grubbs says

    What a wonderful story. I am going to get the book right away. My husband’s people are from Cherokee heritage in that same area. I too am giving up so much TV. I often tell myself if I spent as much time reading my Bible and studying it as I do TV, I would do much better and am trying to do just that. What a great recipe, sounds like a good book to read and even mentioned Bob Wills, one of my favorite singers in this so this will be one of my favorite Southern Plate articles. Keep up the good work.

  26. Gretchen says

    My dad also used to say “whistlin’ woman and crowing hen…” when he would hear me whistle. I’d love to know where everyone who had this quoted to them is originally from (state, etc). My dad was from the SC. And he never said this to my older sister. Maybe she didn’t whistle, but more likely it was my personality he was commenting on!

  27. Charlotte Anderson says

    My grandmother used to say something like this when she would hear me whistle. Guess she thought it wasn’t ladylike. My dad liked to whistle and I wanted to be like him. Got to be a better whistler than my younger brother. HA! My grand mother’s family lived in Texas and her people were probably from the British Isles as there is no memories of any other language being used. Her madden name as Neil.

  28. Christy Tillery French says

    As one of the authors of “Whistling Woman”, I cannot thank you enough for talking about our book. This is a wonderful site – I’ve already tried the recipe and love it!

    Our great-aunt Bessie, the main character in this series, was truly a whistling woman, a woman who was independent and strong and lived her life the way she saw fit, not by what was dictated to her. We are thrilled you loved the book enough to talk about it and your comments have certainly brightened our day. We cherish readers like you who are so generous and willing to share their thoughts with other readers. God bless.

  29. Sandi McAlister says

    Thank you for your kind words about the book. This was written by my cousins. Bess is my great aunt, and Thee was my grandfather. It is amazing to read about my ancestors. There are sequels as well…..hope you can read them as well! Thx again!

  30. Debora says

    Thanks for the recipe will try this with the gravy. Yum…Chicken breasts are on sale this week. The crock pot is always on standby especially during this time of year when we are preserving our vegetables/fruits. I plan to download The Whistling Woman to my kindle sounds like a great read. Have a blessed Day!

  31. Cyndi Tillery Hodges says

    As the other half of the author team of CC Tillery, I also would like to thank you for the lovely words about Whistling Woman. The book was actually written not only as a tribute to our great-aunt Bessie but also to honor our dad who told us most of the stories when we were growing up. Though she passed away when Christy and I were in our teens, we remember her quite well and as Christy said in her comment, she was a true whistling woman.
    I’ll also echo Christy’s comment that we are thrilled you liked the book and appreciate you mentioning it on your beautiful blog (I’m trying your Catalina Chicken recipe tonight! Sounds yummy!)
    Again, thank you so much for your lovely words–and the comments from your readers, too! I just know Aunt Bessie is smiling down on all of you from heaven!

  32. Sharon H says

    My Mama taught me that saying about a whistling woman and crowing hen. Have you read much about Melungeons? My dad always said his ancestors were Black Dutch and I’ve learned that was one term Melungeons used to describe (or hide) themselves. My brothers and I have many of the physical characteristics common among Melungeons and our surname is listed as one of the “known” names.

    • Cyndi Tillery Hodges says

      Hi Sharon,
      A Melungeon character plays an important part in Whistling Woman. Our dad told us almost exactly the same thing about the Black Dutch as your dad told you. One of our many great-uncles mother (blanking on his name right now, dang it!) always told him she was Black Dutch which, of course, really meant Melungeon. They are a very interesting group of people with a lot of mystery behind their origins.

      • says

        Yup, you’ll learn a great deal about those terms in this book. Both were used to basically create a different race for those of mixed blood to maintain their freedom. Black dutch in particular was a very successful cover for having african ancestry. They were ways to be accepted in society and have more rights.

  33. Melinda Wood says

    This book sounds like a great read! I am 1/4 Cherokee on my daddy’s side. My grandmother and her family are from the Maggie Valley area of North Carolina. Through research, my daddy has discovered that her particular part of the Cherokee nation used to have the last name of Starr (think Belle Starr) and came from the Cherokee’s in Virginia. However, her family were sort of trouble makers. Before being caught by the law, they scurried to Maggie Valley and changed their last name to Dove. My mother’s side is also some German with Indian (think India) thrown in there. ;) I found it fascinating to hear you were Cherokee as well as German. As for the recipe, it sounds so simple and yummy! Every recipe I’ve tried of yours has always been a winner with my family. Thank you for giving of your time and talent.

  34. Candi B. says

    I always thought the term ‘black dutch’ was a joke my granny came up with! Never even thought about looking it up on the internet. I’m beginning to think we’re long, lost cousins!

  35. Cassie Wilkins says

    …this was delish with my home made dressing and hubby loved it! I used boneless organic chicken breasts and made extra.
    I just made a chicken salad with part of the leftover chicken and added nuts, grapes, apples, 2 diced green onion and half a sweet bell pepper in it for color. I forgot my chopped celery! lol We had it for lunch and hubby loved that also! Thanks for the great recipe. Oh, and we had the ‘gravy’ from the Catalina dressing in the crock over the chicken and cast iron skillet fried taters n onions! With fresh garden tomato slices.

  36. Sheryl Brumfield says

    I am 56 and my grandmother would quote this many times as “A whistling girl and a crowing hen always come to a no-good end!” (this was usually as an admonishment for those times when I waded in to do things that I was not “supposed” to do -men things like taking the lead and speaking up. I was just doing as I had seen her do. Lord I miss that old gal! She was my best friend ever. I’ve thought of this saying a lot lately. We are leaving on a mini vacation today so I am downloading it on my iPad to read as we travel. BTW I am still a whistling woman, I’ve raised two whistling women and I have a little grand-whistler in the making. Thanks…

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