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Thanks for joining us! We write about sports, food, life and anything else interesting here in Ashburn and Loudoun County, all while cramming as many features into the site as possible.

Our staff consists of one old man and a dog named Maggie The WonderBeagle. Want to know more? Click on the icon below:

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When Cheap, Quick and Filling Is What You Crave...

I will admit that the first time I heard about this dish, I openly mocked it.

I saw it in a commercial from Kentucky Fried Chicken, and they called it a “Famous Bowl.” Where I grew up, I told my wife, that was called “leftovers” and there was nothing famous about them. You just dumped everything left over from dinner the previous night, topped it with cheese and said “here.”

But then one Saturday afternoon when my wife and daughter were out shopping, they brought one home, and offered it to me with the qualifier “if you don’t like this we’ll go get you something else.”

Since I was at the time hungry, I ate it. It’s hard to admit, but it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t steak and lobster, but it was good old fashioned comfort food with a touch of salty, sweet, crunchy and creamy.

So the other night, I found myself looking at a few items on sale at the grocery store and realized you could duplicate the dish at home with arguably better ingredients, yet cook everything in under 10 minutes.

It started with a buy one, get one special on Simply Potatoes, which are pre-made mashed potatoes. I got the garlic mashed potatoes flavor, then enhanced them. You’re suppose to cook them in the microwave for 3 minutes, remove the top, then cook 3 more minutes. I do just that, but at halftime, I add sour cream, a little garlic powder and butter. That makes them smoother, creamier, more garlicky and much better tasting than the KFC ones which bear a strikingly similar taste to a glue stick you’d accidentally stuck in your mouth back in second grade.

Right next to the potatoes at the store were a refrigerated chicken nugget product Perdue makes that were also BOGO. I've had them before, and properly cooked in an air fryer, are as good or better than what you can get at fast food restaurants. I realized I could now buy the chicken and potato parts for around $4 and their cooking times are similar. The potatoes cook in about 8 minutes (3 minutes on high, 2 minutes to rest, 3 more minutes on high). The chicken nuggets also take 8 minutes in the air fryer at 390 degrees. They're breaded and crisp just like the KFC chicken strips, only I cut them in half to give it more of a bite size consistency to blend in with the other ingredients.

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Recent Comments
Dave Fulton

Oughta Be a Law

There really should be some social media law preventing dropping such an article in subscribers' mailboxes at 11 pm, AFTER they ha... Read More
Friday, 05 March 2021 23:23
Dave Scarangella

We're a full service website

We inform, teach how to cook AND get you in trouble
Saturday, 06 March 2021 07:48
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A Chicken Wing Recipe So Easy, Even YOU Can Do It :)

Yesterday I found myself in a waiting room, trying to kill time until it was my turn. In doing so, I looked at my Twitter account, which apparently has an analytics area that will tell you how many people looked at each of your tweets.

Much to my surprise, the top ten, which the exception of one, all involved the same subject: food. You may think you are dispensing wisdom when you type out that carefully worded and well thought-out tweet, but if you want numbers, slap a picture of a plate of BBQ wings next to it and your stats will double.

I’ve noticed the same on the occasional stories I’ve written about food on this site. There have been times I’ve worked hard at an analytical piece that I end up being quite proud of, only to see at the end of the week a story and picture about food (or Maggie The WonderBeagle) have drawn more eyes to them.

So I’m going to start a weekly feature on how to make some of these dishes I post pictures of. I’ve been cooking most of my life, and I’ve found once you can identify the ingredients and just how long you cook something for, the rest is easy. The two things that always foul up a dish in my experience are you overcook/undercook it and you don’t season it properly.

So I’m going to try over the next few months to show everyone how to cook 8 or 10 basic dishes most people enjoy. If you’re an accomplished chef and see better ways to do it, let me know and I’ll add it to the next story. If you’re not someone who cooks, try these.

I’m going to start with the wings I had a picture of up on Twitter earlier this week. They are about as simple as it gets, and the steps you take are roughly the same as you would use to make BBQ and any number of other comfort foods. The first thing you do is buy fresh chicken wings, never frozen ones.

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In Search Of The Perfect Flavor Of Popcorn

We all have our areas of expertise, and one of mine involves food.

I have talents related to eating it, cooking it, and talking about it. I was even once at a dinner with company executives, and the president turned to me and said “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen someone as talented with a knife and fork as you.”

I think that was a compliment.

Which Flavor Is Better?
Poll is expired!

But when it comes to the lowly popcorn kernel, I have to say I have not been a fan. Unless it’s drowning in butter or coated with some other flavor, the popcorn itself does little to nothing for me. It’s not as worthless as, say, a rice cake, but it’s in the same neighborhood.

My opinions are now changing thanks to Virginia Tech basketball coach Mike Young.

Young has made popcorn regal. Brain food. The poor man’s caviar of the New River Valley. The key ingredient that has allowed Young to be such a successful coach with the Hokies. Heck, as you can see from the picture above, he’s even got Doug Doughty eating it.

I’ve always been a peanut man, myself. Salted, in a shell, accompanied by a cold beverage and maybe a baseball game in front of me, on a warm night, and I’m good. Popcorn, I’ve always believed, breaks teeth. Peanuts build character.

But Young is causing me to change. I’ve written that I’d run through a brick wall for him because I’m so impressed with the job he’s done for the Hokies, so I guess I’m going to have to eat a bag of popcorn every time the team plays too.

At least there is variety I can consider. Plain old popcorn is the brussel sprouts of the snack world, and I don’t see that ever changing for me. But I did look up some other varieties, and some are appealing. Kettle Corn will do, with its sweet and salty flavor. Caramel Corn is another. There is a cheese popcorn, but I’m not sure about that. It looks like they took one of those dried packets of powder you see in the mac and cheese boxes at the grocery store they sell 3 for a dollar and just dusted it over regular popcorn.

Anything that sells 3 for a dollar in the grocery store can’t be but so good.

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Recent Comments
Dave Fulton

Popcorn Beverage?

Wonder what beverage Popcorn Sutton chases his exploded kernels with?🙄
Saturday, 20 February 2021 10:19
Jeremy Seltzer

Popcorn Flavors

Best storebought popcorn is Cretors Cheddar and Caramel Mix (we call it Chicago mix because that’s what it is ) can get a giant b... Read More
Saturday, 06 March 2021 09:54
Dave Scarangella

Learned two things from this, ...

1. Costco has Chicago Mix? I'll be making a trip there Monday to find some of this. 2. I've had an air fryer for a year and found... Read More
Saturday, 06 March 2021 10:16
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These Are What Make A Super Bowl Super....

Because the Super Bowl is tomorrow, I found myself in the grocery store Friday picking up a few supplies. I mentioned this to a friend, who said because of the pandemic it’s only going to be him and his wife watching, so he was really dialing down the number of snacks.

My first response was “what are you, crazy?”

I’m a football purist, so I have literally watched every play of every Super Bowl ever played, starting when I was 11. But the football alone isn’t what makes the Super Bowl special. It’s the pregame and halftime shows, it’s the party atmosphere, it’s the gathering of friends either in person or virtually, and yes, it’s the food.

As I’ve told many a friend over the years, it doesn't matter if you’re coming or not, but I’m putting on a spread. The food is part to enjoy the game and part to celebrate the end of the football season, so if they last another 3 days in the fridge, so be it.

You also don’t have to be much of a cook to put on a spread either, and there are sales everywhere this weekend at grocery stores. It doesn't need to be gourmet quality; in fact, the cheaper the better. You're looking for decent bar-food quality, a good variety, and foods that are great to grab during a timeout that don't require using a lot of utensils. Here, for example, are some of the foods I’ll be having:

  • RIBS: Giant has St. Louis Style ribs for only $1.77 a pound. For $7, there will be plenty of ribs for the two of us for the next two days. Never cooked them? First thing to remember is whatever directions are on the package, ignore them. I once bought a pack of these same St. Louis ribs and the instructions said 90 minutes of cooking. They were only off by about 7 hours. Pork tastes best when cooked low and slow, so this afternoon, make up a dry rub of stuff like brown sugar, chili powder, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. Coat both sides and let it sleep in the fridge until morning. Put them in at 215 and let them cook 7 hours. At that point, pull them out and coat with BBQ sauce. They should be falling off the bone. If not, throw them back in another hour. But that’s it. You need no cooking skill. Giant also has pork shoulders for 99 cents a pound if you want barbecue instead. Here's how you would cook that.
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One Man's Peasant Food Is Another Man's Comfort Food

If you live up in my neck of the woods, there’s snow on the ground. Yesterday there was too, and tomorrow and the day after there will probably be snow outside as well.

Since we’re all stuck inside with no place to go (that’s certainly not a new experience), one of the topics that usually pops up in these situations is comfort food. Specifically how people love to make it and eat it when it’s cold, icy and snowy outside.

I find the term comfort food to be one of the most misused and abused terms in the food world. By my count, everything ever cooked except steak, lobster and caviar is considered a comfort food. If you at some time in your life liked it and didn’t have to mortgage the house for the ingredients, it’s a comfort food.

About 90 percent of what’s described as comfort food in my experience is laughable, but then again, my experience is colored by a mother who cooked as well as Taco Bell makes…well, anything. My Dad was the cook (he passed that on to me) so comfort food was pretty much whatever he made.

As a result, when people wax on about chicken soup being comfort food, I think of something awful that came out of a red and white can. Meatloaf? Growing up, I’d rather take a bite out of the guy singing “Paradise By The Dashboard Lights.” Beef Stew? Ours was Dinty Moore’s cheapest variety of mushy ingredients, covered in a brown, motor-oil-like gravy.

You get the picture.

The old man had a philosophy of comfort food that I’m not sure isn’t a good way to look at it. He thought – probably because he was really good at cooking it – that Italian food was the ultimate comfort food. He also made a distinction between the kind of food his father grew up with in the Potenza region of Italy in a town called Melfi, and what people in this country have long viewed as Italian food.

The stuff he was raised on – and loved – he referred to as “peasant food.” Where his Dad grew up, there wasn’t much money, meaning there was virtually no meat in dishes, you grew your own tomatoes and spices like basil and oregano, and you got your best flavor from using the freshest of ingredients you could find. He said once Italians came to America, meat and other ingredients were much more available, and it changed how a lot of dishes were made.

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Recent Comments
Guest — Rebecca C.

Change bologna to salami

...And I’m right there with you. Absolutely the best. In my (Jewish) home, noodle kugel = comfort food. Has that same “thriftines... Read More
Monday, 01 February 2021 12:09
Dave Scarangella

That debate occurred in my hou...

My mother grew up in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, and a lot of her favorite foods were influenced by all the great Kosher De... Read More
Monday, 01 February 2021 12:41
Tammy

College comfort food

We had virtually no money and even less skill but frying up a can of spam sliced thin with sliced onions and sliced potatoes made ... Read More
Friday, 05 February 2021 10:41
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Now Here's A Great Reason To Visit Mississippi Or West Virginia...

Even though it’s the day after election day, here's something going on across the nation that I think is far more interesting.

It’s the rankings for fattest state in America, the battle to see who consumes the most sugar, pork fat, gravies and otherwise delicious foods at meal time. It was compiled by Wallet Hub and you can see the full rankings here.

The winner? Mississippi, come on down, as you have easily secured the top spot. The land of deep-fried catfish, barbecue, opossum and even more deep-fried catfish is No. 1. You're not fat, as they used to say, you're just big boned. You may be No. 1, but obesity doesn't run in your family. Nobody runs in your family.

West Virginia came in second, while Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee round out the top 5. Louisiana, Alabama and South Carolina were just a belt notch away from joining the XXXL club. Dead last? The state that thinks it's a good idea to eat sheep testicles and call them Rocky Mountain Oysters: Colorado at No. 51

You might look at that list of states at the top and notice a trend, and no, it’s not that they are all southern states (which they are). But I spent many decades as a sales and marketing road warrior travelling this great country, and while in those states I noticed a couple of similar situations.

For one, you won’t meet a lot of people in those states who eat kale or arugula. That’s not to say they don’t exist, but when you meet one, there’s usually a term for them: “Health nut” or “Yankee” top the list.

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Since It's Lunch Time...

A friend of mine sent me a story the other day, ranking the top 20 sandwiches across the world.

This one was not included. 

It' starts with several types of Italian lunchmeats, combined with swiss cheese and gently heated until the cheese has melted.

Those are then placed on two toasted pieces of Italian bread, then topped with thin slices of tomato, a few slices of fresh jalapeno, then mounds of freshly made cole slaw. The plate is then completed with a few handfuls of barbecue kettle chips.

To me, it's what every sandwich should have: the saltiness of the Italian meats, the creaminess of the slaw, a little heat and crunch from the jalapeno, and the savory taste of the tomato. 

I won't say it deserves to be in the top 5 of this list I just read. But it's at least a top 10.

Maybe one day when I open my own deli, you'll see :)

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Meet The Dennis Rodman of Canines In The Kitchen...

Rebounding in basketball isn't so much about jumping. It's about position. Knowing where the ball is going to end up landing. Being ready for the opportunity.

Based on those qualifications, if my dog Schnoodle had played basketball, the old girl would have made the hall of fame. No dog can read the kitchen, come up with a plan, and be where the odds are best that a mistake will be made. She doesn't look for food scraps. Food scraps fall in front of her. She is the Dennis Rodman of kitchen canines.

Today is a rainy day in Ashburn, and neither my wife nor daughter will eat leftovers (or even something twice in the same week). So since it is so dreary outside, I'm cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer of older foods coming up on an expiration date. I've turned three chicken breasts into chicken salad for sandwiches for the next few days; I have taken 1.5 pounds of ground beef and made it into a chili/taco meat mixture to go on hot dogs, baked potatoes or other assorted options over the weekend; yesterday I found this beautiful pork shoulder minding its own business in the back of the freezer. It has been appropriately bathed in a dry rub, had garlic inserted into it, and is peacefully resting until tomorrow.

Making these three dishes so there's plenty to warm up and eat on a moment's notice over the weekend involved doing a lot of chopping and mixing in various places in the kitchen. Schnoodle moved when I moved and always found the right spot. Making this more amazing is she lost her sight several years ago. But that does not hinder the pooch, as she has a nose with abilities the CIA would envy.

She's 15 years old and she unfortunately never got to play basketball. She could have been a contender. Instead, she roams the kitchen like a BOSS. And when it comes to kitchen scraps, she's the real MVP 😃

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At Least One Of Us Came Out A Winner Yesterday

­Yesterday had all the makings for a very peaceful day: Cold and gray outside, a 9-pound pork shoulder cooking in the oven, a few good books to be read. And for the most part, it was.

Well, until my oldest friend Doug decided he wanted his own Navy.

I was in the middle of reading two books: Was finishing up James Patterson’s Deadly Cross, and by mid-afternoon would finish that and then start James Grisham’s A Time For Mercy. Patterson’s book was good rather than great, and after a few hundred pages of Grisham’s book, it seems to be the superior story. Part of that is Patterson seems to write an Alex Cross book about every 3 weeks, so his stories start to feel like a formula. Figure out a fast-paced story line, then plug in the cast of familiar characters.

But this latest one had its moments, particularly if you live here in the DC/Northern Virginia area, as he name-drops a lot of places throughout the region. You can tell he wrote the book more than a year ago because he talks about watching a game between the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins, not calling them the Washington Football team. He even mentions the Washington Nationals.

What made it cozy finishing the book yesterday was I had a pork shoulder cooking all day for last night’s dinner of barbecue and cole slaw. It went in at 5:15 AM for a 10-hour slow roast, and by about 11 AM, there was an aroma throughout the house that had my detective WonderBeagle Maggie hot on the trail to discovering its origins. Patterson has a recurring character that is Alex Cross’s grandmother, and about every 50 pages she’s cooking something similar, with detailed descriptions of how good the house smells.

It is in the midst of this peaceful reading I get a text from my old friend Doug. Apparently, the amounts you can win for both Powerball and MegaMillions were over $400 million. He thought I should know, leading to this conversation:

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Whoever Sold This Idea Should Be In The Hall Of Fame

If you’ve spent any time in marketing – and I spent the better part of three decades doing so – you’ve probably been in a meeting like this.

It’s where an idea is being pitched and your own feelings of common-sense kick in and tells you it’s not that great of a proposal. But if you object, particularly if you’re an older executive – you will be shamed into not being “with it”, not looking at things in a new modern way, and are too focused on old school metrics like wondering if all this is going to result in your company actually selling more stuff.

Happens frequently, and if you sell hard enough, you’ll sometimes get approval for something that, in truth, isn’t that great a proposal.

Which brings me to the new Burger King rebrand.

Whoever sold that logo needs to be in the selling hall of fame. They somehow convinced Burger King to give them millions of dollars in return for the agency giving them their old logo back from the 60s. To complete the package, they even took the font you saw every Monday night at 8 PM on NBC’s Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, and are slapping it on burger and burrito wrappers.

I’m guessing Goldie Hawn will next be invited to be a company spokesman.

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Recent Comments
Doug Johnson

Dick Martin Wisdom

Apparently these new ad people learned the old adage of "Blow in my ear, and I will follow you anywhere." Say good night, Dick.... Read More
Friday, 08 January 2021 13:06
Dave Scarangella

For them to have seen that ske...

...so old that I don't want to talk about it
Friday, 08 January 2021 13:14
Tony Banks

Ah yes, the 60s...

Back when kids got burgered in by the king along Little Creek Rd all the way thru Turner St (alas, now a Zaxby's?), except for a b... Read More
Saturday, 09 January 2021 11:12
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Just Because You Can Combine Ingredients Doesn't Mean You Should

An old friend once called it culinary sky diving, and I’ve practiced it more this year than I ever have.

It’s the art of going through the refrigerator, seeing items that may end up going to waste, and figuring out what combinations you can put them in that the residents would enjoy.

As I was also reminded by this chef, just because you can put ingredients together doesn’t mean you should.

Today’s items were 3 strips of bacon in a Ziploc bag that were starting to get pushed to the back of the refrigerator (this is how stuff in my house dies; no one throws it out, but newer stuff gets bought, is put on the shelves, and the unwanted food ends up in the back corner of the middle shelf). There were two hots dogs that no one seemed to like, a tomato just on the verge of AARP membership, and some homemade cole slaw that was made last week.

With visions of big overstuffed sandwiches from the New Yorker deli in Roanoke, I fried the bacon, sliced the tomato, and chopped the hot dog into small slices. That would make it easier to both put it on a sandwich as well as dole out the proper renumeration for my sous chef, Maggie the WonderBeagle.

A bed of cole slaw was put on one side with the hot dog slices, everything else went on the other side.

Was it good? It was OK. The satisfaction came in knowing it was out of the refrigerator and that Maggie thought I was the best Dad ever after getting her fair share 😊

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They Finally Did It...

They Did It

After a long and bumpy road, The Washington Nationals finally won the World Series. And made an old man in Ashburn cry...

Never Grow Old...

Never Grow Old

A trip to Spring Training reminded me we're all still kids at heart, and no matter how old, you keep playing until they get you out.

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