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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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I Don't Believe Anyone Who Says They're Not Hungry

I was once asked if I followed any particular rules when it comes to cooking.

Yeah,” I replied. “I never believe anyone who says they’re not hungry in my house.”

Take for example what just transpired here. It was getting way past lunch time and my wife was working in her upstairs “work at home” office while our dog finished her third nap of the day nearby. I texted her to ask if she had an interest in some breakfast sandwiches I was going to make.

“No,” she said. “I had oatmeal earlier in the day.”

Sticking with oatmeal when you can have a fresh, hot breakfast sandwich is a topic for another day, but let’s just say I remembered rule number 1 and thought “I don’t believe you.”

So I went in the kitchen and started frying some sweet Italian sausage patties. I took out my mandolin and sliced a Vidalia onion and a sweet yellow pepper very thinly. The onions and peppers went into a saute pan, and I cooked them over medium heat until they got very soft and lightly browned.

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Tonight's Dinner: Ravioli With Marinara, Meatballs & 3 Cheeses

One of the more common refrains I heard when Maggie and I decided we didn't need to contribute to Twitter any more involved no longer being able to see pics of Maggie or the meals we eat around here.

You'll notice the rather lazy canine in the post below.

Here, is tonight's dinner. As I tend to make meals into two-day affairs, this is round 1. Each bowl has six large ravioli, and I had made a huge pot of sauce and meatballs weeks ago, with about a third of it put into the freezer for some day in the future. Today was the calendar equivalent of that player to be named later. 

The ravioli is covered in the sauce and meatballs, as well as mozzarella and pecorino romano. Combined with the riccota in the ravioli filling, that's a nice three cheese variety.

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It's Pizza Night In Ashburn. Decisions, Decisions...

Tonight is pizza night. So it’s time to share another of my lifehacks for being under house arrest.

Pineapple On A Pizza?
Poll is expired! Results

We’ve been doing pizza night every Friday since my daughter moved out to be on her own. Dad was convinced that if he offered an alternative that included free pizza and daughter’s social schedule didn’t have anything all that attractive on it, going to visit the parents, enjoy your favorite pizza and not have to spend a dime might win out.

Dad was right.

Alas these days, that doesn’t work, but the ritual lives on for my wife and I. The days of ordering two large pizzas so there’s plenty for everyone are gone too, so we started a new approach when the shutdown started.

It started by accident when LIDL had a sale on its self-rising frozen pizzas. Normally I don’t care for anything frozen, as it tastes to me like watered down ingredients on cardboard. Even if you enhance them with other fresh ingredients, that cardboard taste is still there.

But the LIDL self-rising pizza actually had a decent crust. It sells every day for $2.75, and it’s about the size of a medium pizza, meaning it’s more than enough for the two of us. And because it’s so cheap, I took the approach I was just buying the crust as a base to work with, and I’d add the rest of the ingredients we wanted.

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If You Try Sometimes, You Just Might Find...You Get What You Need

If there is a positive aspect to all this house arrest nonsense, it’s that it has probably changed my way of shopping for groceries forever.

The shutdown has taught me there’s a more efficient way to do it.

I realize for some, shopping for groceries is a tiresome chore, but I actually enjoy it because I’m the cook. I also am a bit of a control freak, so when I go shopping for things that aren’t a commodity like canned goods, I want to personally look at a tomato, chicken, etc. before purchasing.

This means that in the past, I went grocery shopping about every 2 or 3 days. With so many grocery stores within a 5-mile radius of my home, there was no reason not to enjoy fresh meats and vegetables. I bought what I needed for the next 4 or 5 meals, then went back for more as necessary. The freezer for the most part was used for ice cream, bags of ice and an occasional frozen pizza. Otherwise, I made meals out of fresh ingredients.

The current virus situation changed that. In mid-February, I signed up for Amazon Prime to get free shipping on any quantity I wanted, then did the same with Sam’s Club, going from their $45 basic membership to their $100 “Plus” tier. This includes free shipping with no minimum and 2 percent back.

The strategy was to use those two merchants for non-perishables, which in theory should mean my trips to the grocery store should be less frequent. As the supply of goods got tighter and tighter, I then added Walmart.Com, Target.Com and HomeDepot.com to the mix. They had minimums for free shipping, but if you planned properly, that was no issue either.

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This Breakfast Deal May Be A Habit Worth Keeping Around

They say if you do anything for 21 straight days, it will become a habit. So I’m guessing some of the things we’ve been doing while under house arrest are now permanent parts of our routine.

Well, until they make us all go back to work. That “not wearing pants” habit clearly is going to have to change.

One positive habit we have adopted during the in-home incarceration that might continue here on cellblock 43552 involves breakfast. I grew up in a house in Norfolk where if you asked about breakfast, you were directed to a big box of Tony The Tiger on a shelf in the pantry and a half gallon milk container in the refrigerator. Things like pancakes, eggs and hash browns were served, but never in the morning. Only for dinner.

And while we were living in the South, my Italian parents generally came up with menus more suitable for places like Northern New Jersey. Or Brooklyn. Or the Potenza region of Italy.

Thus it should be no surprise that I was not properly introduced to a real Southern biscuit until I was in college at Virginia Tech.

It should also be no surprise that for me, it was love at first sight. A sausage, egg and cheese biscuit become one of life’s great pleasures. The Hardee’s chain back in the 70s did a particularly good job with them in Southwest Virginia, and my soon-to-be wife used to bring me one several mornings every week when I was working the desk for the afternoon newspaper in Roanoke and had to come in before 6 AM.

There are several significant reasons I thought she was the one to spend the rest of my life with back in 1980. I’ve casually mentioned to her more than once that her bringing me those biscuits might have been key items on the list.

While I have always enjoyed them, getting a good biscuit up here in Yankeeland Northern Virginia hasn’t been all that easy. I once suggested to the good people at the Cracker Barrel they opened off Route 28 in Sterling when I was eating there one day that they should take a field trip to Georgia or Alabama and learn what a real biscuit tastes like. I’ve also suggested if they served down there what they’re passing off as a biscuit up here, they would probably get their backsides whipped.

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It's Time For Memorial Day BBQ. You Can Do This...

Every time about this year, I run into younger friends who say how much they love barbecue. Each time I hear it, I usually counter with “if you love it so much, why don’t you make it at home so you can have it more often.”

This is usually quickly followed by a look from my younger friends that suggest I’ve just asked him to go dig up some uranium in the back yard.

So let’s go over this. One. More. Time.

Making pulled pork barbecue is about as easy as it gets. It’s only about a quarter step up from boiling water. And when it’s on sale, you can make as much as you could probably eat in a month for 10 bucks.

The cut of meat you need to make barbecue from is called either a pork shoulder of a Boston Butt. It normally sells for between $1.79 to $1.99 pound and around holidays like Memorial Day, it’s usually on sale. Harris-Teeter, for example, is selling a Smithfield pork shoulder/Boston Butt for 99 cents a pound this week (what you should see at Harris Teeter should look exactly like the picture above), which means WE are having barbecue this weekend. For you folks who skipped math, that means a good sized 8-pound shoulder is going to cost under $8. Or about what you’ll pay for one barbecue sandwich at a Nationals game.

After you’ve purchased one, you need to allow two days before you plan to serve it. I bought one today, will follow this process, and we will have it for lunch on Sunday. Here’s what you do:

A shoulder tastes best when slow cooked with a dry rub applied, so you need to make one. There are a lot of ingredients you can use, but they usually fall into three categories: something sweet, something salty and something savory. The something sweet is easy: brown sugar. The something salty is pretty easy too: salt. The savory includes things like garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, paprika, maybe even cumin. Add equal parts of the sugar, salt and the savory ingredients you like and mix together.

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People May Say Milk, Bread & Toilet Paper, But None Top My List

The weather outside tomorrow is supposed to be frightening. Snow, ice, gloom of night….the whole deal.

You don’t need the weather channel to tell you this. Just go to a grocery store. For the 11 people in Ashburn who weren’t there around noon, well, we missed you. But everyone else was stopping by to pick up “just a few things” in case we’re snowed or iced in for a few days. You go in expecting to spend $25...but wheel out a cart filled with over $100.

Traditionally, we all make fun of people rushing to buy milk, bread and toilet paper, but that isn’t a need for us these days. Milk certainly is, but it’s not the No. 1 item. Bread is something we tend to buy in bulk when it’s on sale and stash extra loaves in our second freezer in the basement, so it’s doubtful that’s ever an emergency purchase. And toilet paper? Well, thanks to warehouse clubs or Amazon forcing you into a subscription to save another 5 percent, we’re usually closer to having 28 rolls on hand instead of one.

But if there’s bad weather, there are things you HAVE to have. These would be my top 5 products I would feel very bad running out of in the middle of a snowstorm:

  1. Coffee Creamer. Let’s face it, there are millions of people out there who fashion themselves as coffee connoisseurs because they waste hundreds of dollars going to Starbucks. Truth be told, coffee is just an excuse to have something in a cup they can pour some sweet creamy substance over. My vice is Coffee-Mate’s Sweet Italian Cream, and since they make a sugar free version of it, I can tell myself I’m not really doing anything unhealthy when I pour one-fourth of the bottle into a mug of fresh ground dark French roast coffee. I had three bottles in my refrigerator this morning, but with the threat of snow, upped my inventory position to 5 at noon time. Some things are not worth playing around with.
  2. Doughnuts. If the snow is going to create a holiday, then you need to make it feel like a holiday. Ever since I first got married, a snow day meant a trip to Krispy Kreme to reverently peer at the “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign and then go get a variety of two dozen doughnuts. Part of it was due to “because we can” as we bought a four-wheel drive soon after getting married, and there was a certain specialness to being on the road when you shouldn’t be, prevailing against the elements to get a heavily glazed fresh jelly doughnut. And if it got too bad, we always found quite a few local law enforcement folks at the doughnut shop, so it’s not like we were going to end up cold and alone. Sadly, Ashburn doesn’t have Krispy Kreme, so we have to settle for a wide variety of either Entenmann products, or whatever fresh doughnuts Harris-Teeter and Giant have in their cases.
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This Is The Year The Streak Comes To An End. No, Not THAT One...

This is the year, sadly, that the streak comes to an end.

No, not that one about Virginia Tech and Virginia in football. I’m talking about the streak I’ve held in our household for Thanksgiving dinners.

My wife and I are celebrating our 38th Thanksgiving dinner Thursday since getting married back when the dinosaurs roamed the planet. And every year, no matter where the dinner is, I’m the guy who carved the turkey. This is due to the fact that 99 percent of the time, the dinner has been in my own house, which has allowed me a tremendous home court advantage.

I even have a special carving knife that’s the size of your arm, and you can just hear Crocodile Dundee saying “now THAT’s a knife” as I pull it out of the kitchen drawer.

But not this year. My wife’s mother mentioned in passing late last week that her plans for Thanksgiving hadn’t really panned out, so she was just going to stay at home. Alone. On Thanksgiving.

This, of course, is roughly equal to driving a stake through my sentimental heart, so I suggested to my wife that we just drive to Roanoke for the day to address this. Because of everyone’s schedules, the only option was to drive down Thanksgiving morning and make it a day trip, which will allow us to spend the day there, but won’t allow time for cooking.

Or carving.

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Recent Comments
Guest — Wade K Johnson

Thanksgiving dinner

I am fortunate in that even though no member of my side of the family remains within 100 miles, Becky's family is large and they c... Read More
Thursday, 22 November 2018 07:49
Dave Scarangella

Happy Thanksgiving Wade!

Bring some Thanksgiving magic to Blacksburg Friday!
Thursday, 22 November 2018 07:56
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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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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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No, Brits, This Is Not What Americans Typically Eat At Football Games

I normally stay out of the whole "fake news" debate. If a story doesn't seem all that accurate, I just leave it alone and let others offer a counter opinion.

But I had to draw a line on this one. As you can see, Darren Rovell is reporting from London, where the NFL was playing its annual game this morning. He says the the above picture is what the British are being told is authentic football fare: A two-foot long Mac & Cheese dog at Wembley Stadium today.

This, of course, is patently untrue. I don't know ANYONE who would put ketchup on macaroni & cheese ????

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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.

Gone But Never Forgotten...

Doodle

My faithful dogs probably rode shotgun on hundreds of stories I've written since 2003. This one is for you, Doodle & Schnoodle.

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