Happy Halloween

Donatello Meets Power Rangers

That’s me on the left with my big brother and little sister, circa 1991 or something like that. Can you believe my mom made those costumes? Halloween was so freaking amazing back then. This year I’ve been way too lazy and Scrooge-y to even bother to come up with a costume.

Today’s festivities at our house will be low-key. We are having some family over, eating food (themed, of course), and handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. We will also be strapping Murdock into a banana costume for a laugh. I swear he loves it as much as we do.

Have a Happy Halloween!

  1. Love it! The angry pumpkin on the left looks mischievous.

    Cody — October 31, 2011
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  2. What were you and Caroline supposed to be, besides awesomely adorable of course?

    Caitlin — October 31, 2011
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  3. They wanted to be space girls, Cait. Well, Courtney wanted to be a space girl, whatever that is, and Caroline wanted to be whatever Court wanted to be.

    Carrie — October 31, 2011
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Our little basil plant finally started to feel the effects of the fall weather, so on Sunday I decided to make one last batch of pesto.

I don’t really like to use a concrete recipe when I make pesto, (or anything for that matter) because it’s difficult to judge how much basil you will end up with once you’re finished picking the leaves from the stems and blanching it. I started out with a small colander full of basil, and after I blanched it and squeezed out the water, I was left with a bit less than a cup of basil.

To blanch the basil (and yes, you need to, unless you like your pesto brown) just give it a rinse, plunge it in a pot of boiling water, let it sit for about ten seconds, and use a spider or a slotted spoon to transfer it to a bowl of icy water. Then wring it out in a colander. BONUS: the pot and bowl you use for blanching don’t really get dirty, so rinse them out and put them away. Unless you like doing dishes. I’m not gross, you’re gross.

Pesto Preparations

Anyway, once you have your basil blanched and ready it’s time to gather the other components.

You’ll need:

-as much basil as you can get, picked from stems and blanched – Like I said, my small colander of fresh basil ended up being about 3/4 cup after blanching and wringing.

-some parmesan cheese – I used about a cup and a half grated with a microplane (which means it’s pretty fluffy). More is fine, less is also fine.

-some pecorino romano cheese – About half as much pecorino as parmesan.

-some olive oil – I used about 1/2 cup total. You’re looking for a consistency though, not a measurement. I used extra virgin and vegetable oil, because I thought the extra virgin alone might be too fruity. You can use regular olive oil, all extra virgin, or a mix of extra virgin and something more neutral. You do want it to taste like olive oil though.

-a few garlic cloves – I used 3 to start and added another one after tasting the finished product. That’s 4 total. Watch out for garlic that has sprouted or looks green in the center, because it will taste bitter. If it’s all you have, remove the green parts and you’ll be fine.

-some toasted nuts – I used about 1/3 cup. Traditionally, pesto uses pine nuts. I think pine nuts taste pretty “pine-y”, so I used a mix of pine nuts and almonds. Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) uses pine nuts and walnuts. Just steer clear of hazelnuts. That would probably be weird. Toast in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes, you just want them golden and smelly-good.

-kosher salt – To taste.

Pesto in the Food Processor

Start by putting your blanched basil, toasted nuts, garlic (I rough-chopped mine, but it’s not necessary) into the bowl of your food processor with some oil. The oil will help the ingredients stick together in the bottom of the bowl where the blades can do their job. Then give it a few pulses and see how it looks.

Mixing Pesto

The pesto on the left is dry and there are bits of garlic and almonds flinging around. I scraped down the sides and added more oil and things settled down. Once the mixture is the right consistency, add your cheese. The cheese may dry it out a bit more, so add more oil if necessary.

Pesto Consistency

This is the consistency you’re looking for. Spreadable without being super runny. Though, in honesty, if it ends up too runny it will still taste awesome. Pesto is forgiving. Then all you have left to do is taste it and salt it and taste it again until it’s just the way you like it.

Completed Pesto on the Cutting Board

Look how pretty and green it is! Seriously, if you’re used to eating pesto from a jar, this will blow your mind. I love pesto in and on everything. I put it in scrambled eggs, on toast, on pasta, in lasagna, on sandwiches and in salads. It’s pretty much a wonder-condiment.  It also freezes really well, so I could put some away to enjoy a bit later in the season. But I won’t.

I can feel some of you clenching over the fact that this isn’t exactly a recipe, but pesto (among other dishes) is more about proportions and personal tastes than measurement, especially when the basil, i.e. the core ingredient, is so variable. The important thing is to TASTE it! Your taste buds won’t lie to you. When you’re happy with the taste, you’re done.

  1. Thanks for the tip on the blanching! The color is beautiful. Did you take the pictures yourself?

    Caroline — October 22, 2011
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  2. I'm just full of tips. And no, Cody definitely took the pictures. He's the talented one.

    courtney — October 22, 2011
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  3. It really is beautiful! And you both have many talents!

    Carrie — October 22, 2011
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A Jaunt Gone Awry

In which Courtney discovers that she is, in fact, getting “too old for this $***”

Some of it anyway.

Last weekend Cody and I went with my parents and sisters to Maryland’s legendary Renaissance Festival. It was the first sunny weekend in what felt like months and the weather was perfect early-fall bliss. It was also the weekend of the Annapolis boat show. Long story short, literally every other person in Maryland got the same idea at the same time: LETS TAKE A DAY TRIP!  TO ANNAPOLIS!

After four hours of driving, and a reminder of what happens when massive crowds and portable toilets mix, none of us were in the mood for much merriment.

Courtney at the Renaissance Festival

This isn’t a critique of the Renaissance Festival, which delivered all it promised. We saw a sword swallowing performance and  a joust, ate fried foods, and discovered that LARPers make for excellent people-watching. I even got to eat chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick.

It should have been a perfectly nice day. There were just too many people. I’m only 25, but this admission makes me feel 65. Am I just out of practice? Or are my fellow 25 year olds turning into home-bodys too?

  1. The Maryland Renaissance Festival is officially crossed off of the bucket list. I am permanently scarred by the porta-potties.

    Carrie Lunt — October 17, 2011
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  2. I become more and more of a shut-in every day. I don't even want to drive to WalMart let alone a public festival that is 4 hours away. Make some bacon-wrapped turkey legs at home next time. Also, I can't do roller coasters. Or pirate ships. Or anything really. My future kids are doomed.

    Caroline — October 18, 2011
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  3. hmm... guess i'll be skipping out on that next year.

    hannah — October 19, 2011
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  4. I regularly think I am getting too old for shiz. My last attempt to go to Renn Fest resulted in us being too cheap to shell out the price of admission. $20 for magical atmosphere? ehhhhhh not so much.

    Caitlin — October 21, 2011
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My wildest suburban dreams have been realized. We have a Wegmans.

I know, what a bourgeois thing to get excited about – a grocery mega-mart.

You guys, it’s a dang good grocery mega-mart.

I went on a recon mission at the brand new Wegmans in my town so I could highlight some of the awesome and exotic things they carry and that I feel super spoiled to have ready access to. This took a lot of balls for a shy person like me. I had to stalk around the aisles looking like a creep taking photos of groceries. There were many witnesses to my discomfort, so let me rub it in your face for just a minute.

Ok, now tell me friends, do you have access to fermented chili paste and bonito flakes within a 10 minute drive from your house? I didn’t think so.

Shut up city snobs, we know you already have everything.

That’s the jealousy talking.


Wegmans Katsuobushi

What about giant BAGS of red and white miso? (Miso in a bag!? Must be authentic, right?) Or a friendly fishmonger who will tell you to get the mussels instead of the clams, because they were caught today, while he blithely filets a massive swordfish?

Wegmans Miso

Do they have black garlic at your grocery store? Do you even know what that is? Me either. But now I have it. (Jk, I do know, it’s fermented garlic, I just didn’t want to sound so patronizing. Did it work?)

I can also get fresh truffles whenever I want instead of schlepping to a specialty store many miles away.

Wegmans Black Garlic and Black Truffles

I’ve never even seen this many types of mushrooms in one place. Last week they had lobster mushrooms too (which have red skin and white insides, so they look like chunks of cooked lobster meat). All the produce is amazing and the selection is extensive. Those little gnocchi-sized potatoes were so cute! And delicious.

Wegmans Mushrooms

I’m mad that I didn’t get any shots of the cheese section or the deli, but at the time whipping out my phone for a picture in the face of  the four Wegmans employees in the cheese department felt like a bridge too far. I started to get paranoid that they thought I was working for their enemy or something, trying to steal their ideas. Right now that sounds like the stupidest thing to worry about, but at the time…well…you know. To sum up, the cheese section is beautimous and I have been eating triple cream brie and buffalo milk blue cheese like it’s my job since Wegmans opened.

Wegmans doesn’t need any help marketing, they are a big business, they are doing just fine. I just want to tell my interweb friends I’m happy they’re here. Come visit me and I’ll cook you something tasty. With ingredients from Wegmans, obviously.

These sycophantic words of endorsement have been brought to you by Courtney. Not Wegmans.

  1. i need to go to there!!

    Caitlin — October 7, 2011
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  2. I was fixin' to be annoyed and unimpressed with my little jaunt there, but then again, I didn't know what to look for! I will keep an open mind, now!

    Amy — October 7, 2011
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  3. Amy, bring me with you next time! I will change your mind :)

    courtney — October 9, 2011
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