I’ve never been to Rhode Island. I now have a reason to go.

Mrs. Crappy has a subscription to Cook’s Country magazine and we received a new issue last week. The magazine publishes an index of sorts on back cover, and as soon as I looked at the new one, I saw something I knew I had to make right away: a big batch of Rhode Island Dynamites.

FullSizeRender (4)

The magazine explained that the sandwiches are a staple of Woonsocket; they’re a bit like Sloppy Joes, but spicier and with a turn towards an Italian flavor profile — in other words, right smack in my wheelhouse.

I can’t link to the Cook’s Country recipe, because they require a subscription; instead, I’ll take you through the modified version I made yesterday.

What you need:

  • 2 pounds ground beef (the magazine suggests 85/15)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon jarred hot cherry peppers, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon brine from the jarred cherry peppers
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • A bag of deli rolls (6-inch sub rolls are the traditional thing)

What you do:

1) Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven, medium-high heat. Add the beef and water (which will help keep the meat tender). Season with salt and pepper (about a 1/4 teaspoon each). Break up beef with a spatula and brown until most of the liquid has cooked off and meat starts to sizzle.

FullSizeRender (2)

2) Add onions and bell peppers, along with another 1/4 teaspoon shot of salt and pepper. Stir frequently until veggies are soft.

3) Add cherry peppers, brine, tomato paste, garlic, Italian seasoning, pepper flakes. Stir until paste is fully mixed with the rest of the stuff.


4) Stir in tomato sauce. Turn down the heat to a slow simmer. Stir occasionally. When it thickens to your taste, season with salt and pepper to taste, scoop into the rolls and serve.

FullSizeRender (3)

What I could have done:

The original recipe calls for a 1/4 cup of the diced cherry peppers, 2 tablespoons of the brine and a full teaspoon of red pepper flakes, but Mrs. Crappy requested a less spicy version, so I toned it down to the measurements in the recipe above. I think I went too far in the safe direction and next time, I’ll go more towards the what the original recipe calls for. Another variation I’ll try: using sweet cherry peppers instead of hot.

Even with my overly-cautious modifications, the sandwiches are delicious — layers of flavor and, as I said before, nearly perfect for my comfort-food sensibilities. I will eat these again and again, even if I never actually make it to Rhode Island.



I should know better than to stroll through the produce section of Whole Foods A) while I’m hungry and B) just two days after I get paid. But in our most recent trip, it worked out well.

Because there it was, a display of good-sized, bright green artichokes. Three chokes for five bucks. And after a quick consultation with Mrs. Crappy, three good ones made it into our cart. And because it had been years since I’d had one — I think just once since our honeymoon — I was pretty excited.

Artichokes are difficult. They’re pointy and tough, and preparing them takes a while, even if the process isn’t especially difficult. Even eating them isn’t intuitive (“Whaddaya mean I scrape them with my teeth?”).

I can’t make them appear any less mysterious, but I can tell you what I did when we cooked and ate all three on Saturday … and I hope that will help.


Get a pot big enough to hold all the artichokes you’re cooking. Fill it about halfway with water. Into the water, you’ll add:

  • A couple bay leaves.
  • Four cloves of garlic, roughly chopped.
  • A couple of lemons, quartered.
  • Some white wine (something between a quarter cup and a half cup).
  • Some parsley (we didn’t have fresh parsley at home, so I put in a handful of dried).
  • A drizzle of olive oil.
  • Towards the end of cooking, melt a stick or two of butter in a separate pan, and have some extra lemon wedges handy.
They look delicious, even in the pot.

They look delicious, even in the pot.

Trim the tops and the stems of the chokes and add them to the simmering pot tops down. Let them bubble for about 30 minutes before you start checking to see if they’re finished. When a knife runs through the stems without resistance, they’re ready to eat. Make sure they’re well drained before you serve.


I misspoke earlier. Eating artichokes isn’t difficult, but it is different. Remove a couple outer layers of leaves before you serve the chokes — they’re generally too tough to be enjoyable. Then you remove a leaf at a time, dip it into a bowl of melted butter (I like it with a squeeze of lemon juice too) and scrape the bottom two-thirds of the leaf across your top teeth.

Yes. Really.

The scraping removes the meat from the leaf — that delicious, butter-soaked meat that’s been stewing in garlic, lemons, wine and parsley for 30 to 45 minutes. And that’s How You Eat An Artichoke (Part One).

Part Two? That happens when you get down to the really flimsy leaves in the middle of the artichoke. You can eat those, sure; you can also ditch them and dig down to the artichoke’s heart. To get there, remove any remaining leaves and then dig out the the thistle-y part that’s covering the heart. Once the heart is exposed, dig out a bite with a spoon — you could eat the whole thing, but I think it tastes better to leave some of the artichoke’s outer layer behind — dip it in the butter and go to town. The flavor is unlike anything else you’ll ever encounter. It is also amazing.

choke dinner

Artichokes were a special treat when I was growing up, and I think they’ll remain that way now that we’ve kind of broken the seal.

But there’s nothing that says we can treat ourselves a little more often than usual.

making a point.

No stinkin' Badgers. Unless I've picked them to win.

No stinkin’ Badgers. Unless I’ve picked them to win.

We have a Final Four — and that means we also have the first set of official standings in the Tenth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought to you by Bocktown).

At this point, those of us who have made correct Final Four picks get two points per team, and that’s most of what’s behind the initial standings. But I’ve also taken the liberty to look ahead, because some of us are in much better shape than others.

Six points:

With full championship game in play:

  • Bluzdude
  • Jaci
  • Kewyson (Of this group, Kewyson was the only one to pick Duke. If they Blue Devils win, Kewyson cannot be touched.
  • Scooter

With champion pick in play:

  • Jim Hollenbeck
  • Jenny Lee
  • Neilson

Four points:

With full championship game in play:

  • Father Spoon
  • Curl Girl Michelle
  • SportsChump

With champion pick in play:

  • Uncle Crappy
  • Adam
  • AAA
  • Joe Cernelli
  • Michael Fulk
  • Jason Cercone
  • Jenn Strang

No further points possible:

  • Birdshit

Two points:

With champion pick in play:

  • Work Kelly
  • Casey
  • Hoyle13
  • Burgh Baby
  • Matt Noonan
  • Tom Bickert
  • Enzo82
  • Otimemore
  • Daria
  • Saylor
  • Carla

No further points possible:

  • Fred
  • Hellohahanarf
  • Dana Bee
  • Starts with Dish
  • PghRugbyRef
  • Calipanthergrl
  • AJ

There is one more group of contestants, mercifully small this year. I’ve been a member of this group more than once, and I think you can look at inclusion in one of two ways: 1) your performance was so pathetic that it deserves to be singled out, or 2) you get to relax and enjoy the last three games without worrying about contests or brackets.

We are, of course, talking about our annual Blutarsky Award winners. And in the immortal words of Faber College Dean Vernon Wormer:

  • Ethel
  • Abby
  • Juan

Enjoy the final weekend, boys and girls.

taucnffc (btybb) tipoff.

Another year, more happy Dayton people.

Another year, more happy Dayton people.

On or about this date every March I post what is inevitably the longest post of the year. And that is this one: the one where we go through each and every entry in the Tenth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought to you by Bocktown).

(Except for the ones that I miss. But we’ll get to that in a little bit.)

So. Let’s start with me:

Generally, I don’t need no stinkin’ Badgers, but in this case, I think the B1G champs are one of a select few that has a reasonable shot at beating Kentucky. Thusly:

Wisconsin beats Kentucky, Gonzaga beats Virginia. And Wisky downs the Dogs in the final, 68-65.

My immediate family members are sitting out TAUCNFFC, but Fred and Ethel are like family, so they’re up next.


Butler v. UNC, Louisville v. Iowa State

Final: UNC v. Louisville

Winner: UNC

Total points: 137

(Banking on UNC winning it all in honor/memory of Dean Smith)


Final Four: UK v. Arizona, UVA v. Iowa St.

Final: Arizona v. UVA

Winner: Arizona

Total Points: 96

And now, the rest of yinz guys, in no particular order.


Kentucky beats Arizona, Iowa State beats Northern Iowa, and the Cyclones beat Kentucky in the final; tiebreaker is 142.

Dana Bee:

ok, let’s do this

Final Four:
Iowa State



Tiebreaker: 143


Final Four: Butler vs. Wisconsin, Michigan State vs. Gonzaga
Championship game: Wisconsin vs. Gonzaga
Champion: Wisconsin
Tiebreaker: 123 (64-59)


Final four: Kentucky, Duke, Arkansas and Louisville. Final two? Kentucky and Louisville. Winner KY. Points? 134.

Father Spoon:

Final Four – Kentucky, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Robert Morr… I mean Duke
Championship Game – Kentucky vs Duke
Champion – Kentucky
Tie Breaker – 132

While I still have a broken heart over Ashley Judd not taking me up on my offer to stay at my place for the NIT a few years back, I still have to pull for her team.

Work Kelly:

Wisconsin beats Notre Dame, Iowa State beats Louisville.

Wisconsin beats Iowa State, 72-65.

Starts with Dish:

Final Four: Arizona over Kentucky, Virginia over Utah
Championship: Arizona over Virginia
Tiebreaker: 121

The traditional annual Duke upset will be Utah over Duke, with America united in support for a thrilling Utah squad defending America’s honor against those evil blue devils. U-S-A!!!


Kentucky (Midwest)
Arizona (West)
Virginia (East)
Iowa State (South)

Kentucky over Virginia
139 Total Score

Bonus upset pick for everyone: #14 Eastern Washington over #4 Georgetown and #14 Georgia State over #4 Baylor

Curl Girl Michelle:

Final Four: Kentucky, Arizona, Villanova, Duke

Finals: Kentucky vs. Duke

Winner: Kentucky

Tiebreaker: 132

Chris Humpherys, AKA SportsChump:

Kentucky over Arizona, Duke over Virginia, Kentucky over the Dukies. Combined final score in the big game = 149

Newcomer Jim Hollenbeck (welcome!), who should know that $50 would get him a lot of excellent food at Bocktown even without a single beer (but the choice is his, of course).

OK Unc. Here some picks as good as a teacher’s key…
Final Four: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Villanova, Duke
Semi: Kentucky vs Villanova
Wiener: Kentucky
I’m a recovering alcoholic… So I won’t be going to Bocktown…send me a PB&J sandwich instead.

Fellow former Ohioan Bluzdude:

Here’s my buzzer-beater…
Final Four: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Louisville, Duke
Semi: Kentucky , Duke
Winner Kentucky
game = 124

Fellow Pittsburgh Buckeye Jaci Dean:

Here’s mine:
Final four: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Villanova, Duke
Finals: Kentucky, Duke
Champ: Kentucky
Score: 145

Joe Cernelli:

Final Four: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Virginia, Gonzaga
Championship Game: Kentucky, Virginia
Champion: Kentucky
Tiebreaker: 125

Michael Fulk:

Final Four: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Virginia, Gonzaga
Championship Game: Kentucky, Virginia
Champion: Kentucky
Tiebreaker: 125

Jenny Lee:

Final Four: Kentucky vs. Wisconsin; Duke vs. Villanova

Championship game: Wisconsin vs. Villanova

Champion: Wisconsin

Tiebreaker: 147


Iowa St.

Iowa St


Tiebreaker: 130 points


Final Four: Kentucky vs Arizona, Villanova vs. Gonzaga
Then it’s Kentucky vs Gonzaga
Champs: Kentucky
Tiebreaker: 136

Matt Noonan, whose East Coast, anti-college-athletics bias is showing:

Final Four: Kentucky vs. Arizona, Iowa State vs. Villanova
Championship game: Kentucky vs. Iowa State
Champion: Kentucky
Tiebreaker: 142

A team of NBA prospects beats a team with an NBA style offense to prove the uselessness of the college basketball.


short on time – no commentary –
Kentucky / Wisconsin w the Badgers prevailing
Duke / Villanova w the Blue Devils winning
Duke over Wisconsin 162

A confident Tom Bickert:

I’m going to go with Kentucky vs. Arizona (sort of Yinzer coaching competition) on the left side of the bracket, and Villanova vs. Gonzanga on the right side (because Gonzanga is the only school I see in the tourney with a Z in the name.) From there, I look for Kentucky to take on Gonzanga in the finals. Kentucky will win with a combined final score of 141. I think that covers everything. Let me know when I can pick up the gift card.


So I had a bracket all set and then you post the link to fivethirtyeight and I fell down that rabbit hole. At least I was at home and didn’t waste any company time. (And I didn’t change my original choices)

Final Four: Maryland, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Gonzaga

Final: Wisconsin, Gonzaga

Champ: Gonzaga, 176 points.

Thanks again to you and Bocktown!


this is the first I’ve reviewed a bracket and I gave it 2 min of consideration, but here we go: KY, AZ, OK and Gonzaga. AZ vs OK in final. AZ wins. 122 final combined.

I think Abby has created a new verb:

ok, I’m gonna sports now: Indiana, N Carolina, Oklahoma, Gonzaga … OK over NC. 73-64.


Kansas, Duke, UVA, Baylor. Kansas and UVA championship. UVA champion. 135 tiebreaker.


I need in on this. Kentucky, Arizona, N Iowa, Iowa St. Kentucky, Iowa St. Kentucky. 127



Jason Cercone:

UK, Wisc, VA, Gonzaga / UK, VA / UK. 151. Chalk me up on the big board, Mr. Costanza!


Kentucky Ariz Okla Iowa St.
Kentucky Okla


Butler/Baylor/Villanova/Duke, Duke over Butler 78-77


Figured i’ll throw my hat in the TAUCNFFC ring. Kentucky, Arizona, Louisville, Gonzaga. Kentucky over Louisville 89-84

Carla, whose picks might possibly include an unwritten upset of Dook by Robert Morris:

I’m in.

Kentucky-Arizona, Virginia-Iowa State
Kentucky-Iowa State


Let’s go chalk….

Kentucky v. Wisconsin, UVA-Duke




Jenn Strang:

Final Four: Wisconsin vs. Kentucky, Gonzaga e vs. Virginia

Championship game: Kentucky vs. Virginia

Champion: Kentucky

Tiebreaker: 131

Will, aka Lunchbox, aka Birdshit:

Final Four: Kentucky vs. Arkansas and Michigan St vs Gonzaga
Championship game: Arkansas vs Gonzaga
Champion: Gonzaga
Tiebreaker: 107

This information is based on almost nothing aside from the fact I like the name Gonzaga. I had the cast of Mamas Family in the Final Four before I realized what basketball was.

And as we always do, we close with Juan, oh he of very little basketball knowledge. I was able to track down the picks of Phil’s Mom this year … and they don’t completely suck:

Providence beats Gonzaga, Xavier beats Butler, and Providence beats Xavier in the final.

(No, there’s no tie-breaker. Juan will lose big or win big, and no one else will be close in either case.)

And that’s everyone’s picks, yinz guys. Standard caveat: I almost always overlook someone’s picks in the rush to get this posted; if you have suffered this indignity, let me know and I’ll correct the problem right away.

Thanks to Chris and Bocktown for their participation once again – it’s always nice to be able to offer fabulous prizes that are actually fabulous. And most of all, thanks to you guys, for entering, for reading and for enabling me to continue this thing (AUCNFFC) for 10 years and this other thing (Uncle Crappy the blog) for even longer. Good luck to all – especially me.

ten years of wasted time.


Sometimes, the direct ledes are the best ones. Like, say, this: It’s time for the Tenth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought to you by Bocktown).

Ten. TEN. TEN YEARS. I can barely remember to put on underwear these days, so I’m going to assume that you, like me, can use a refresher as to how these Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenges work, EVEN THOUGH WE’VE BEEN DOING THEM FOR TEN YEARS NOW. Here we go:

  • Find yourself a copy of the bracket. If you can’t manage that, I should probably disqualify you from the TAUCNFFC (BTYBB) right now. But I’m feeling generous, so here’s one, provided by the nice folks who employ me. Print it and fill it out.
  • After consulting your bracket, pick the four teams — one from each region — that you think will win the regional championships and travel to the Final Four in Indy.
  • After consulting your bracket again, pick the two teams you think will win the national semi-final games on April 5.
  • Consult your bracket once more, and pick the team from your semi-finalists who will win the title game April 7.
  • How do I figure out who wins? You get two points for picking a correct Final Four team, four points for a correct semi-finalist and six points for a correct national championship pick. Assuming I can add correctly (and there is no guarantee of that, boys and girls), the entry with the highest point total is our winner.
  • Yes, there is a tie-breaker and, yes, as we’ve seen several times, tiebreakers are important. When you submit your pick, please also include your projected score for the championship game. If it’s necessary, the entry whose total score is closest to the real thing will be our winner (EDIT, March 18: We do NOT follow the Price Is Right rule; the closest total, over or under, wins).

Still confused? Given that I’m writing this in a hurry I’m mostly copying and pasting from past AUCNFFC intros, that’s entirely possible. Here’s a purely hypothetical example of what an entry from this year’s bracket could look like (Note 1: This is NOT my entry. Note 2: These are the lowest seeds in the tournament; if you want to make this your entry, feel free, but do so understanding the risk of being Blutarskied):

Final Four: Hampton vs. Coastal Carolina, Lafayette vs. Robert Morris

Championship game: Coastal Carolina vs. Robert Morris

Champion: Robert Morris

Tiebreaker: 135

Simple, right? As you begin to mull your picks, here are a couple of other things to keep in mind:

  • One thing to make sure you don’t do: Send me money to enter. As has always been the case, TAUCNFFC (BTYBB) is free.
  • In the first four years of the contest, we were competing for cheesy trinkets and I usually included a disclaimer that our FABULOUS PRIZES weren’t actually fabulous. And then Chris at Bocktown Beer and Grill blew that out of the water by putting up a $30 gift card to the contest’s winner. Given that this is kind of special edition of the AUCNFFC, we’re going to up the ante a bit: a $50 Bocktown gift card for the winner.
  • Note: If you’re an out-of-town contestant, you may opt for the equivalent cash value of the gift card, which is, uh, approximately $50.
  • The tournament’s real games (the ones that used to be called the first-round games) get underway around 12:15 p.m. Eastern Thursday; I’m not a huge stickler, but I’ll need to have your entries by noonish that day for you to be eligible (see the Melo Rule below).
  • How do you enter? Comment. Email. Twitter. DM. Text. Facebook. Smoke signal. Please feel free adding whatever commentary you wish regarding how you arrived at your picks; each entry will be listed in a comprehensive post that’ll show up at some point Thursday.

And finally, the fine-printy things:

The Juan Rule: As is tradition, Juan, oh he of very little basketball knowledge, will once again be entered against his will, using either the Phil’s Mom Method or, if Phil’s mom isn’t picking this year, the Penny-Flipping Method.

The Melo Rule: Should an unforeseen thing happen with a player, a coach or a booster that might, in your opinion, have an impact on your already-completed entry, fear not. You may tinker as much as you like until I close the entries at noon on the tournament’s opening day.

The Crappy Rule: If I were to come out on top of my own contest (and believe me, boys and girls, there is very little chance of that happening), the Bocktown gift card would be awarded to the next runner up (although I retain full bragging rights, which I would exercise almost daily until next year’s contest). Mrs. Crappy, should she remember to get her entry in on time, does her own work and is therefore eligible to win the card (as long as she uses it to take me to dinner).

To summarize:

  • Free.
  • Easy.
  • Deadline is noon Thursday.
  • Bocktown gift card for the winner.

Have any questions? Let me know. Otherwise, good luck to everyone — especially me Mrs. Crappy.


 I’m accustomed to writing posts about the smoking carnage that is the brackets of my AUCNFFC contestants at this point of the tournament. And the brackets of those entered in the Ninth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Bocktown) are no different.

Well, actually, they are. If it wasn’t for the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed, Florida, advancing to the Final Four, I would be writing about what would likely be the worst set of initial AUCNFFC standings ever. And even with the Gators advancing, as so many of you predicted, our anticipated dancing partners failed to join them.

Because we now have a Final Four, we now have standings. And they’re not especially pretty. In fact, none of us — none of the 40 of us — managed to correctly pick more than two of the Final Four teams. There is a huge knot of people with two points and the possibility of gaining more — but because nearly all of those folks picked Florida, they have no hope of catching the few who picked the Gators and another of the Final Four teams correctly. We have a couple people whose picks could make things interesting — and yes, we have a healthy number Blutarskys (we’ll get to them in a little bit).

Your standings:

Four points (two correct Final Four picks):

  • Aunt Annoyed Angel
  • Sports Chump
  • Hellpellet
  • Jenny

These guys are in the driver’s seat. If Florida wins the tournament, it’ll come down to the tiebreakers these guys submitted when they entered. And no, there are no matching tiebreakers this year. And if Florida loses and UConn wins, these guys still have a lead that should be tough to overcome.

Two points (the outliers):

  • Barb
  • Bill

There are a ton of contestants that earned two points and have the possibility of more, but Barb and Bill are in a group of their own. Barb is the only one of us to pick Wisconsin to win the title and Bill was the only one to pick Kentucky. I haven’t done the math, but I’d guess that if either the Badgers or the Wildcats wins the title, there isn’t anything the rest of us could do to catch them.

Two points (with the possibility of more):

  • My mom
  • Casey
  • Terry Coyne
  • Bluzdude
  • Dish
  • Foodcollage
  • Tim
  • J.D.
  • Megan
  • Shane
  • Eric
  • Patrick
  • Scooter
  • Neilson
  • Otimemore

With the exception of Otimemore, you guys all have something in common — you all picked Florida to win, and the Gators were your only correct Final Four pick. But even if you’re right, you’re not going to catch AAA, Sports Chump, Hellpellet or Jenny. And while Otimemore picked Florida to advance to the title game (thus giving him the possibility for more points) he had them losing in the title game to Arizona.

Two (and done):

  • Crappydad
  • Dana Bee
  • Curl Girl Michelle
  • Father Spoon
  • Kristen
  • Tom
  • Doctor Lunchbox

Thanks for playing, guys. Hope to see you back here next year.

And that leaves us with the special members of the group, the ones who couldn’t muster a single correct pick in this year’s tournament. If you’re a new AUCNFFC player, you may not be familiar with the term “Blutarsky.” But it’s likely you do recall the scene in Animal House when members of the Delta house visit the office of Dean Wormer to discuss the mid-term grades of the fraternity’s members. And it’s probably likely that you remember what the dean says to John Belushi’s character — because the words, at this point, are immortal.

“MISTER Blutarsky…”

This year’s Blutarsky Award recipients:

  • Uncle Crappy
  • Mrs. Crappy
  • Gina
  • Chachi
  • Pghrugbyref
  • Trailion (and Evan)
  • RPM
  • Kewyson
  • Carla
  • Grandpa Caldwell
  • Juan

Thanks for your participation, my fellow Blutarskys. I have two suggestions: 1) Next year, go with the chalk, and 2) Be nice to this year’s winner — maybe they’ll invite you to dinner at Bocktown. That’s my plan, anyway.