• All a-flutter

    I’m a bundle of nerves. I have jewelry orders to fill (!), an accepted article (!) to touch up, and a runway strut (!) to perfect.

    Pivoting and oh-so casually placing a hand on a cocked hip is a lot harder than it looks. That I’m doing it in front of a couple hundred people at a hoppin’ joint on a Friday night is, is, is…well, it’s CRAZY, that’s what. I try not to think about it too much.

    I am not cooking. I am not blogging. I am not reading. I am not sleeping.

    I am buzz-buzz-buzzing.

    And I am calling up all my girlfriends to see if any of them have a pair of size 9 black heels (the higher the better) that I might borrow.

    That’s it for now, sweeties. Gotta fly!

  • Open for business

    Yo-Yo’s etsy shop, Smashing for Pretty, is now open for business!

    Over the past week we’ve been smashing, drilling, crafting, photographing, and posting up a blue streak. Jump rings and lobster clasps are en route to our front door. Broken drill bits and miss-smashed coins (yes, it’s possible) litter the basement floor.

    We’re on a steep learning curve but most (I hope?) of the kinks are worked out (to the best of our novice abilities) and we’re ready to roll. Er, sell.

    Check it out and give us feedback, suggestions, inspiration. We’re all ears.

    And bandaged fingers. ‘Cause certain brilliant mamas decide to hold the stinkin’ coin with one hand while hammer-whacking it with the other.

    An Improbable Jeweler

  • Thanksgiving of 2010

    I can’t do it! I just spent too much mucho tiempo (welcome to my world of mutilated Espanglish) trying to put my Thanksgiving pictures into a collage—either I’m super picky or Picasa is way too limited. Or else I’m just clueless about Picasa’s superpowers. In any case, nothing suited my fancy, so instead of slapping a couple pictures up and being done with it, now I have to go and write something. Which is fine, I guess, seeing as I’ve gotten out of the habit over the past few days and need to get back in.

    Thanksgiving of 2010 will go down in history as the Thanksgiving where we ate pulled pork instead of turkey, Yo-Yo shot and ate a squirrel, the Baby Nickel knocked the bathroom sink off the wall, we had a desert-only evening meal (except for a few conscientious souls who ate a bit of salad first—I was not one of them), and I documented everything with what my aunt Dr. P refers to as my “phallic camera.”


    We did a lot of it. Mr. Handsome read a book about Hiroshima. I finished Cherry. Yo-Yo started Watership Down. My dad finished Life of Pi. Etc. (And the kids tried to watch a TV that wasn’t in the house.)

    Washing Dishes….

    It happened, many times over.

    Cozy all over the place…

    Votives, red globe lights, hot tea, and toasty fires galore.


    They twanged and tuned.

    They wailed and crooned.

    There were songs about stinky feet and cleaning the toilets of Grand Central Station. (We are not a pious family.)

    The squirrel…

    The silly thing sat on a branch for fifteen minutes waiting for everyone to move on out so it could eat its Thanksgiving nut in peace and quiet.

    But instead it ended up in the frying pan.

    You can’t tell from the photo, but it was consumed with much gusto and clashing of forks.

    Its hide now resides in my parents’ freezer. I hope it stays there.

    The sun came out…

    and the kids (finally) took their energy outside.

    The woodpile…

    got some stackage.

    Target practice…

    and nobody got a lead foot. Yay!

    No pictures of food. Can you believe it? Words will have to suffice: besides the pulled pork, there was a kick-butt cabbage salad (recipe coming once Mom gets it to me—Mom? Mom? Puh-le-e-e-ase?), spectacular oven fries, hearty whole wheat bread, beet and fresh greens salad, shrimp, corn, skillet sweet potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes, squid, chocolate cake, black raspberry pie, cheesecake with sour cherry sauce, two glorious red raspberry pies, and sky-high pizzas. Among other things.

    This same time, years previous: apple chutney and pumpkin pie

  • No two ways about it

    Apple cake is coming.

    But first:

    My kids have been fighting constantly.

    I’m up to my eyeballs in chains and smashed coins. An etsy shop is happening.

    Tried twice to start the fire. It wouldn’t.

    Not really into Thanksgiving so it’s good we’re going to my parents. I think there will be pulled pork and … squid. I’m making a cheesecake.

    My room is trashed. The terrain is hilly, thanks to socks, gloves, the kids’ too-small clothes, random shoes, and magazines.

    My oldest daughter is staging a Class A revolt against the lowly legume.

    My daughters have declared World War III … against each other. I’m ready to put them both in the state penitentiary. Or at least their rooms. Oh wait. They already are in their rooms.

    I Love Lucy is my saving grace.

    I took a picture of the full moon.

    Taking pictures is hard. I want lessons.

    I cleaned out my bathroom cupboards.

    It’s amazing how a cleaned out cupboard frees up my brain space.

    Wish it would rain already.

    I need a bigger blanket to cover the giant hole in my leather sofa. Or else a seamstress who wants to indebt herself to me.

    There is a bushel of broccoli on my kitchen table.

    And now, for cake. I discovered a new apple cake and made it three times.

    I think this was the apple cake I was looking for when I embarked on last year’s apple cake quest. Next year there will be no searching for I have found the perfect apple cake.

    What is a perfect apple cake? It’s an apple cake that uses lots of apples, not just a wimpy cup or two. The cake must taste of apple, lots and lots of apple. There must be no doubt that you are indeed eating a cake made out of apples.

    Apples apples apples apples.

    Have I made myself clear?

    This cake is an apple cake all right. With 4 cups of apple to a 3/4 cup of flour, there ain’t no two ways around it.

    Apple Rum Cake
    Adapted from David Lebovitz’s blog

    I changed the title from “French Apple Cake” to “Apple Rum Cake” since the boozy flavor is deliciously distinct. But not so distinct that the kids fussed. To the contrary, they acted like it was the best cake I’d ever served them.

    They (“they” being Frenchified foodies, I presume) say that using a variety of apples is key. I used Golden Delicious, Fuji, York, and Stayman.

    One time I added fresh cranberries and some chopped nuts. The cranberries were nice; the nuts were not. Another time I used ½ cup maple sugar plus 1/4 cup regular white sugar. It had a nice flavor, but wasn’t noticeable enough to warrant using up my precious maple sugar.

    2 eggs
    3/4 cup sugar
    3 tablespoons rum
    ½ teaspoon vanilla
    3/4 cup flour
    3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    pinch of salt
    ½ cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
    4 apples, a variety, peeled and chopped (about four cups)

    Beat the eggs till frothy. Add the sugar and beat till well combined. Beat in the rum and vanilla.

    Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stirring gently, add the dry ingredients alternately with the melted butter. Fold in the apples.

    Pour the batter into a heavily greased 9-inch springform pan, using a spatula to smooth out the top. Bake the cake for 45-55 minutes at 350 degrees, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

    Cool the cake for 5 minutes before running a knife around the edge of the pan and removing the sides. (I was dumping my cake upside down every single time—and having mighty problems, too—and just now re-read Lebovitz’s instructions and realized that was not a part of them.)

    Serve slices of cake warm, or at room temperature, with whipped cream. Cover leftovers with plastic and store at room temperature.

    This same time, years previous: feminism, part II

  • Wising up

    Friday night I got another migraine. I was cooking supper, feeling all sorts of splendid because it was Friday and I was making a kick-butt supper and Mr. Handsome had taken all the kids with him to run some errand because I couldn’t stand to have them under foot for one more cotton-pickin’ minute, when I suddenly noticed that my kitchen was peppered with bright lights and black spots. This time I knew exactly what was happening and I didn’t waste a second. I popped a double dose of painkillers and then called up a friend to pick her brain for more preventative measures. She recommended natural peppermint oil in water, which I did. And then, even though I knew intense nausea was in my near future, I ate.

    I really couldn’t help myself. I was so excited to eat. (Picture an impatient puppy dog bouncing about on the balls of his feet while he waits for you to scoop out his portion of Puppy Chow. I’m like that puppy. I get all tail-waggy when food is around.) Plus, I was hungry and I still felt fine.

    So I scooped and forked, scooped and forked, and then when I figured I had eaten more than my share, I took to hovering around the stove top, taking my “just one more” tastes straight from the cooking pot.

    My stomach stuck out to China and I didn’t care.

    The headache pain did come then, but it was dulled, thanks to the pills and peppermint, and there was no sign of nausea, glory be. I took a leisurely soak in a hot, epsom salt-infused bath. (Though thanks to childbirth, tub soaks always bring back sharp memories of sore bottoms—the mere act of easing myself into warm water makes me feel All Ouch. My children have ruined me. They should be arrested.) And then I crept between the covers and slept for 10 blissful hours. A low-grade headache persisted the next day, but it was nothing compared to the last miserable round. Nothing. I may be wising up.

    There’s something else I’m wising up about: pumpkin pasta. Or rather, a creamy pumpkin sauce over pasta. That the sauce, the one I was making when I lost my vision, coincided with my victory over a migraine is just that, purely coincidental. But it feels providential. I mean, really, there were fireworks. I saw them!

    I’ve seen recipes for creamy pumpkin sauces all over the place, and I’ve even tried one or two, but I was never very impressed. The pumpkin sauce was always too bland and/or watery and/or pumpkiny. (The one that I already have on this site has sausage in it—not the straight-up pumpkin sauce I’ve been looking for.)

    But then I made this sauce and, well, you’ve already read about the pot-swiping and repeat-dishing. It’s nothing short of stupendous, richly flavored with Parmesan and rosemary and bolstered beautifully by the addition of a little vinegar. I know! Vinegar! I never would’ve thunk it, but it dost sparkle up the dish considerably.

    Pasta with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce
    Adapted from the November 2007 issue of Everyday Food

    I used butternut squash for this recipe (directions for roasting are here), but I think a combo of carrots and sweet potatoes could be blended up along with the pumpkin.

    1 pound short tubular pasta, like ziti or penne
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
    2 cups pureed squash or pumpkin (or 1 15-ounce can)
    1 garlic clove, minced
    ½ cup half-and-half
    1 tablespoon white vinegar
    1 cup grated fresh Parmesan
    1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
    1 teaspoon salt

    Cook the pasta, drain, and set aside. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water.

    In a heavy-bottomed pan, fry the rosemary in the olive oil, but do not let it brown. Scoop the rosemary out of the oil and set it on a napkin to drain. Carefully (the oil is hot!), stir the remaining ingredients into the oil. Stir in a cup of pasta water, adding more only if you want a thinner sauce. Taste to correct seasonings before tossing the sauce with the pasta. Garnish with the fried rosemary and extra red-pepper flakes.

    This same time, years previous: steel-cut oatmeal

  • Smashing for pretty

    I’ve been on the lookout for a pendant necklace, something simple, classy, and earth-toned. I even spent valuable shopping time perusing the discount jewelry at Kohl’s. I found nothing, not even when, in desperation, I searched the regular priced racks.

    Not even a week later, Mr. Handsome pulled a smashed penny out of his jean’s pocket and passed it around the dinner table. He had been working on a house that was located smack-dab beside some railroad tracks and, on a whim, had sacrificed a coin to the chugging choo-choo.

    Before the dishes were even cleared from the table, the kids were out in the barn, bashing their money senseless. I thought nothing of their new game until Yo-Yo walked into the kitchen and handed me a smashed gold dollar. Immediately, I seized upon it. “This is exactly what I’ ve been looking for! It would make a perfect necklace. Can you punch a hole in it for me?”

    “Sure,” he said, all nonchalant-like, and he did.

    I stuffed two coins—the smashed gold dollar and a smashed quarter—in my purse and next time I was out shopping I swung by Michaels to look at their chain selection. Totally overwhelmed and confused by the endless options, I gave up almost immediately, deciding instead to take the coins to the next belly dance class to show Rose, the instructor. She makes chainmail, among other things, in her spare time, so I figured if anyone would know how to make a necklace, it’d be her.

    “Wow! These are so neat!” she exclaimed, fingering the coins. “Tell me again how he did it? With just a hammer? No kidding! But how did he get the design? What did he pound it on? Is it very hard? Do you think he’d make some smashed coins for me? I wonder if these would work for a coin belt…”

    And so it came to be that a couple days and a phone call later, Yo-Yo had an order for twenty smashed pennies.

    I headed to town yet again, this time armed with Rose’s jewelry-making directions, as well as the Penny Smasher himself (and the two littles who did an excellent job keeping their grubby little paws stuffed in their pockets). Our first stop was the bank for two rolls of pennies, and then on to a little shop downtown where Yo-Yo and I poured over chains and jump rings. The shop owner listened intently to Yo-Yo’s plans, and then drew pictures and made lists for him. Yo-Yo asked questions and stated preferences, nodding sagely (our shaggy-headed-and-sweatpant-clad little businessman) at all the advice. Several hours later, after a visit to Michaels for more chains and clasps, a stop for some bagels, and some fancy maneuvering of a needle-nosed pliers back at our kitchen table, I had my new pretty fastened round my neck, and boy oh boy, was I ever tickled.

    Yo-Yo’s shop has been upgraded from barn to basement, and the new space is all decked out with a workbench (a board atop two logs), space heater, and radio. Mr. Handsome set him up with a drill (nail-punched coins crack and split too easily), and just yesterday he brought home a piece of angle iron for a new and improved pounding space.

    Now Yo-Yo spends most of his free time below ground, pounding and drilling to his heart’s content. Through my kitchen floor, over the ring of metal on metal and the twang of the country singers, I hear Yo-Yo’s happy whistle. Every now and then he trots his creations up to the kitchen for me to inspect, and then together we arrange and fashion the jewelry.

    I’m not yet sure what the point of this venture is (etsy anyone?), or even if there needs to be a point. Just having fun together, making something new, savoring our creative genius (the term “genius” being used quite loosely here)—perhaps that’s the point for now. It’s more than enough.

    (That the jewelry just happens to be dandy-nifty is a pretty sweet bonus.)

    This same time, years previous: chocolate pots de crème

  • Bread for the cranberry buying queen machine

    Remember last January how I kvetched right and left about not being able to find cranberries anywhere? I had a hankering to make cranberry sauce post holiday season but it was impossible. There were no cranberries to be found, not even in the freezer sections of the grocery stores. Which is ridiculous because cranberries freeze beautifully. In a fit of ill-temper brought on by thwarted cranberry hopes and dreams, I scrawled on the little square that stood for November 15 in my 2009-2010 pocket calendar: BUY SCADS OF CRANBERRIES.

    Myself Of Ten Months Ago would be please to know I have been doing just that. Whenever I walk into a grocery store I pick up several bags of cranberries and, upon returning home, promptly plunk them into a larger bag and ship them down cellar to the freezer. I’m a cranberry buying queen machine.

    Which is good because cranberry sauce and cranberry white chocolate cookies and cranberry juice and cranberry bread are delicious all year round, not just in November and December, so if you feel even one wink of partiality to the cranberry, I suggest you get thyself to the nearest grocery and start stashing.

    This bread was another reason, besides the relish, I was itching for cranberries. My mother had served it to me one long distant time ago and I strongly recall (all my memories are of super-strength quality—most of the time—when they involve food) thinking it was the best cranberry bread ever.

    So this fall, once I got me some cranberries, I rang my mama right up to ask for the recipe. “Mom,” I said, says I, “Could you give me the recipe for that cranberry bread?”

    “Oh, sure,” she said. “It comes from Rhona, you know.”

    No, I didn’t know, but as soon as I did know, I experienced a Happy Jive Moment. See, Mom and Dad and their friends Dave and Rhona were planning on having a sleepover at our place that very Friday night. When I thought “cranberry bread,” I was thinking of Rhona without even knowing I was thinking of her! Cool, no?

    I’m (way too, I’ve been told) (fondly) easily excitable.

    The happy foursome were first going to go to a granola-grunge restaurant to listen to my brother and sis-in-law’s band perform and then they were going to head over to our place to crash. After all those years of my parents hosting my friends and shindigs, the tables were turning. My parents were bringing their friends and pillows to my place. I felt so….grown up.

    But then they didn’t. Mom got sick, just a little fever, but yucky enough want to skip out on loud music and strange beds (or sofas).

    So, with a suddenly free weekend in front of us, we quick made other plans: Mr. Handsome headed up to PA with the girls to help his brother-in-law install a kitchen that they (a family of seven) had been without for 73 days. The Baby Nickel was already in WV nursing his sick grandmommy, and I quick made arrangements for Yo-Yo to go stay at a friend’s. As for me? I went shopping for clothes (saved a hundred, spent eighty), saw a movie with a friend, and then slept on said friend’s sofa because I was too chicken to go home in the dark of midnight. True, it was pitch black when I drove home at five in the morning, but pitch black at midnight and pitch black at five are two very different things. (Try saying “pitch black” three times fast.)

    The movie we saw? Eat Pray Love, and the only good thing I have to say is, thank goodness I only spent two and a half bucks to see it. I hated it so much that when I got home I looked up reviews so I could get some validation, and boy, did I ever get some. Consider yourself warned.

    Anyhow, the next morning I had peaceful alone time before collecting my boys. Late that afternoon Mr. Handsome called to say be was going to spend another night. (Even though he had declared upwards, backwards, and sideways that he’d only stay the one night, I wasn’t the surprised. It’s how the man does.) So I hung up the phone, turned to the boys and said, “How about we go out for pizza?” A sillier question there never was.

    At Cici’s, I ate my pizza and stared at my boys staring at the TV, wishing all the while that I’d brought a magazine. After sufficiently dulling the senses with pixels and pizza, I suggested we head over to Barnes and Noble. We set up shop in the children’s section. Yo-Yo grabbed a much-loved book and was promptly lost to the world, The Baby Nickel lolled on the floor and played leap frog games, and I researched, read, and sipped my decaf caramel macchiato with whip, making forays to other sections as needed and marveling all the while that I was in a bookstore with my babies and I was relaxed. Kids really do grow up!

    The next morning the three of us headed to church. I was all excited to listen to a whole entire service without the normal circus that is our family trying to mind our manners in public, only to have a friend walk by and ask if I had a free lap. I nodded and held out my arms even before the whole question got asked and suddenly there was a downy-headed, giggling, drooling little muffin staring up at me. It felt amazingly natural and right, and my boys totally dug it. And then I had that interview followed by a phone conversation with a friend and now I’m thinking that turning our home into a safe house for babies is a perfectly viable option.


    And I was supposed to be writing about cranberry bread. Though maybe you’ve forgotten that by now?

    Orange-Cranberry Bread
    Recipe from my mom’s friend Rhona, via my mom (and some phone wires)

    I must admit, the idea of raisins in a cranberry bread seemed inherently wrong, but Mom assured me their chewy sweetness was a necessity. Of course she was right. And keep ‘em golden—aesthetics, you know.

    1/3 cup oil
    1 egg, beaten
    1 cup sugar, minus 2 tablespoons
    zest from two oranges (1-2 tablespoons zest)
    2 cups flour
    1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
    ½ teaspoon baking soda
    ½ teaspoon salt
    3/4 cup orange juice (juice the oranges, topping off the measuring cup with water as needed)
    1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
    ½ cup chopped walnuts
    1 cup golden raisins

    Whisk together the oil and egg, and then whisk in the sugar and zest. Add the dry ingredients (the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) and then the orange juice (alternate them, if you want to be fancy), stirring just until combined. Fold in the cranberries, nuts, and raisins.

    Divide the batter between 3 small, greased loaf pans and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. (Alternately, make one large loaf or 16 muffins. Adjust bake time accordingly.)

    Cool the loaves for 10 minutes before running a knife around the edges and removing from the pans to cool the rest of the way. To freeze, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then place the loaves in a plastic bag.

    This same time, years previously: feminism, part one

  • Three things

    Thing One: a dog

    One afternoon last week Yo-Yo burst into the kitchen and tearfully choked out that Francie was down in the field acting really weird and to please come right away. When I finally got to her, Francie was lying in the grass, trembling violently, drooling and rigid, the whites of her eyes showing. I had no idea what was going on. A snake bite? A kick from a horse? Though there was no sign of an injury, she appeared to be in extreme pain. I ordered Miss Beccaboo to fetch a blanket and Yo-Yo to call Papa.

    All somber and sad, we gathered around, stroking her head and murmuring kind words. The end was clearly near. I didn’t want the kids to see this, but then again, I reasoned, it was good they could be close to her. Death was a part of life, so we might as well face it head on.

    Suddenly, Francie sat up and sneezed. Then she wobbled to her feet, shook herself, looked at us rather inquisitively, and then took off at a trot for the house. Her tail end looked weak, but aside from that, she acted fine.

    Well, humph, I thought. So much for dying.

    When Mr. Handsome arrived a few minutes later, Yo-Yo again described what had happened, how Francie had started flopping about, crashing blindly into a bush, stumbling and falling, legs pinwheeling. Mr. Handsome-turned-James Herriot felt Francie’s joints, looked in her eyes and mouth, and then pronounced his diagnosis: a seizure.

    Ever since then Francie has acted fine so I’m inclined to think Mr. Handsome was right. Still, we’re keeping an eye on her, watching out for weird behaviors. Hopefully, there won’t be any.

    Thing Two: a blog
    My cousin Zoë (my aunt Val’s daughter, for those of you concerned with these sorts of connections) has started a blog!

    Zoë, thinking pensive, weighty thoughts about all things healthy and wholesome. Or perhaps she’s just ruminating about that watermelon seed she swallowed eight months earlier.

    Though she also has an etsy shop, the blog (so far) is all things food. Being the wholesome person she is, there’s a good bit of whole wheat (that she grinds herself) tossed in amongst the sugar and butter. Go check it out and give her a bit of good, old-fashioned blog loving. She’s a sweetie.

    Thing Three: an interview
    Today I’m posting over at Thy Hand Hath Provided. She’s doing a series on “giving of ourselves” and interviewed me on our experience as foster care parents. So, if you’ve been considering becoming a foster parent, or you’re just curious about how it all goes down (hint: it’s not all peaches and cream), head over there to read my tirade, er, words of wisdom.

    This same time, years previous: Swiss chard and sweet potato gratin, SSR (sustained silent reading), and brownies

  • A salad worth remembering

    When I sat down to write about this chicken salad, I planned to start out by telling you about the first time I had it.

    Which was, of course, when Miss Beccaboo was a baby and me and my mom and my grandma and my aunt and my cousin (etc.) went to visit my (new-to-me) mother’s cousins. The three talkative, boisterous sisters rustled us up a fancy luncheon that included three times as many plates as needed (you know, a plate to hold the plate to hold the plate that holds the food) and this chicken salad. That’s the first time I ate this salad. I remember begging the recipe.

    But come to think of it, wasn’t the chicken salad at my college graduation, too? That afternoon (Mr. Handsome and I had only seven months of marriage under our belts and no little babies in sight) my parents arrived with a boatload of food to serve the gazillion guests crammed into our three-room apartment. There were baked beans and potato salad and fruit, and—yes, I’m sure of it—that chicken salad.

    So from which of the two occasions does this salad originate? Clearly, I’m all a-muddle. Could it be that I so love chicken salad that I’ve inserted it into any and all of my party memories?

    It was at my dad’s surprise 50th birthday party. I know this because I helped serve the food, some of which we hid in the washing machine because we didn’t want Dad to look in the fridge and wonder why we needed five heads of lettuce and all those grapes. (Not that he would’ve ever noticed because he’s clueless like that, but we played it safe anyway.) I have a clear memory of a huge platter mounded high with chicken salad, the bowl of crunchy almonds sitting pretty alongside. There was also a song that my brothers sang, a song about an old man’s request for his remains to get used to fertilize the tomatoes, but when I emailed my brother to ask him for the words, he hadn’t a clue what I was talking about.

    Give me a break. As if I could make something like that up?

    There was chicken salad, though. Of that I am positive.

    Last weekend there was chicken salad in my house and it wasn’t even party time. Unless you count getting well enough to boil two chickens and chop grapes party-worthy. Which, considering how miserable I had been, I do.

    It was just me in my kitchen with a wicked hankering for chicken salad, slicing and stirring to beat the setting sun (for pictures, you know), and then standing at the counter, fork in hand, scarfing down the deliciousness as fast as I could, groaning and moaning and uttering squeaky squealy exclamations of joy. It was a regular old weekend evening, but I sure whooped it up good.

    Thus proving my point. Which is that chicken salad makes any occasion a party.

    And that, my dears, is a fact worth remembering.

    Chicken Salad

    From Whoknowswhere.

    This salad is meant to stand on its own and not as the filling for a sandwich. We sometimes eat it with crackers and cheese even though they’re totally unnecessary and usually end up detracting from the simple chickeny joy.

    Any old chutney will do. Usually I buy a standard mango chutney, but this time I used a pear ginger chutney that a friend gave me. The ginger was STRONG—I worried that it would overpower the other ingredients, but it didn’t. Bottom line? It really is true that any chutney will do.

    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    ½ cup mayo
    ½ cup sour cream
    1/4 cup chutney
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    ½ teaspoon salt
    4 cups cubed chicken
    2 cups red grape halves
    ½ cup toasted almonds

    Combine the first six ingredients (down through the salt). Add the chicken and grapes and toss to coat. Add the almonds last minute (or let people do it themselves) as they lose their lovely crunch if allowed to mingle with the sauce for any length of time.

    Yield: about 6 main dish servings or 12 little side servings (though no one ever takes just a little serving of this salad)

    This same time, years previous: Chinese cabbage and apple salad, why I homeschool