Monday, May 10, 2010

We've Moved!

The NJL Health + Beauty blogs have moved. Visit us at our new home at

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tech-ing It Too Far

By Brianne Harrison

Don’t get me wrong—I like technology. I appreciate all the things techy gadgets allow us to do now, like help find a missing dog quickly—but there are limits to my tech love, and in some pet-related areas, I think I’m starting to reach it.

On the good side, there’s this story of a man who used an iPhone app to find his 8-year-old lab Maise, who had escaped from the owner’s yard and disappeared, managing to rip off her collar in the process. Her owner, William Coxe, started by putting up flyers, and then a friend told him about a website called, which helps recover lost pets. Coxe accessed the site using an iPhone app, which, for a fee, also contacted 2,500 of his neighbors and left them a message with the dog’s description and Coxe’s contact info. The call finally reached the person who had Maise, and she was back home in under 2 hours. Now, that’s the power of technology!

But of course, as with anything, it can be taken a little too far. By fall, we should see not one but two gadgets out on the market that allow your dog to send tweets on Twitter. Yes, that’s right, soon your dog can spend its day tweeting away about all the fascinating things it’s doing, like sleeping and scratching behind its ear.

The first product due to be released is an iPhone app called Bowlingual. The app, which has already been released in Japan, claims to translate your dog’s barks using a special algorithm, essentially allowing your dog to “speak”. That translation can then be posted to Twitter so everyone knows your dog really wants its dinner. NOW.

The second product, which will be released by Mattel in the fall, is a tweeting dog collar known as Puppy Tweet. Put the collar on your dog and every time he or she moves, barks, or growls, it sends out a pre-programmed tweet (example: I bark because I miss you—there, now hurry home), allowing you to obsessively follow your dog’s every move throughout the day. Oh, and just in case we weren’t sure yet that dogs have become the new babies, the collar is available in two colors only: pink and blue.

Now, I love my dogs, but I don’t really feel the need to know what they’re doing every moment of the day. I know what they’re doing—sleeping, snoring loudly, and occasionally getting up to get some water to drink. Although at one point, for our own amusement, my fiancé and I dreamed up a rich fantasy life for our dogs that had them building a biplane while we were out of the house, I’m fairly sure that their lives are much duller than that. But hey, maybe my feelings just mean I don’t love them quite enough.

What do you think?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Baby Green

By Jennifer Chaky

It seems the best green products are those that take a good, old-fashioned, pre-plastic, pre-industrial-era practice and make it fresh for the modern day. One shining example of this is Lifefactory Glass bottles for babies and adults. Lifefactory took good ol' glass bottles and covered them in colorful silicone netting to protect against breakage.

Glass bottles are naturally BPA, phthalate, PVC, and polycarbonate free and the silicone sleeve is free of plastics and 100% non-toxic. The adult bottles come in one size, 22 oz. and six different colors and the baby bottles come in two sizes, 4 oz. and 9 oz. and six colors.

So simple, yet so forward-thinking too. Gotta love it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Great Legs!

By Gerard Bochese

When people think of training their legs in the gym they always look for the leg extension machine, the leg curl machine, and the leg press machine. The reason “in the gym” is such an appropriate line in the preceding sentence is because only on these machines in a gym would your lower body ever perform these types of movement patterns.

In real life your legs do not function as they do on these machines. These machines all isolate a body part and were designed with a body-building mentality. They are, therefore, only really good for building bigger muscles (hypertrophy) and can actually set us up for injury if they’re the only equipment we use to train the legs.

Having said that, it’s fine to mix in these machines with a lower body regimen that includes much more functional exercises such as squats, lunges, and step-ups. Remember, the nervous system stores movement patterns and therefore we do not want to store incorrect or non-functional movement patterns that will be useless to us in our everyday activities.

Let’s examine how the legs function in a real-life setting and compare it to the leg extension, leg curl, and leg press machines (we will call them the “gym 3”)

When we use our legs in real life (standing, climbing stairs, skiing, playing basketball, going for a run) our feet are in contact with the ground. On the gym 3 the feet are either dangling in space or on a platform above your head or directly in front of you. These exercises do not allow you to use ground reaction forces that you encounter everyday.

In real life we must deal with gravity at all times. This means that the direction of force and weight on your legs goes from your head down toward the ground. When you are carrying things (groceries, children, heavy lumber, backpacks, etc) the force is that much greater. On the gym 3 the weight is located at the bottom at your feet. Therefore, the normal forces of gravity and the body mechanics and postures needed for a downward force are not being taken into consideration.

When we use our legs in real life our hips and knees almost always flex and extend (bend) together. We don’t isolate bending only the knee or only the hips. Think of squatting down to pick something up, getting into a car, climbing stairs, walking, and running. On the leg extension and leg curl (not the leg press) we isolate the knee joint from the hip joint. Once again, we are not training proper movement patterns that we will need to call on in everyday activities. This could potentially set us up for injury because we train the muscle in a way that they will not be used and thus, even though the muscles look strong, they will be functionally weak.

One of the most important functions of our lower body is locomotion. When we walk, run, or go down stairs, we are forced to decelerate our body weight at some point then accelerate our body weight forward. Basically, the function of the lower body during locomotion is to stop the ankle, knee and hip from bending during foot contact so that we don’t fall to the ground. Once the foot is placed on the ground the next action of the lower body is to extend the ankle, knee, and hip to create forward movement. Machine training does not train this necessary stabilization and deceleration component, nor does it train the acceleration component in a functional way (ground contact) or with correct movement patterns.

It is, therefore, essential to train the lower body with functional movements such as squats and lunges. These exercises will not only create a more efficient and dynamically strong lower body but will certainly create the great looking muscles most people are going for.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wine, Chocolate, and Fundraising

By Brianne Harrison

Delicious wines, hors d’oevres, music, and fundraising for foster kids—sound good? You’ll find it all at Hudson County CASA’s 4th Annual Wine Tasting Fundraiser this Friday. The Wine Library of Springfield will be on hand with a tasting of more than 80 different wines, and there’ll also be a silent auction and raffle, as well as food and music. Cap off the evening with a chocolate tasting—a delicious way to end the night!

The Wine Tasting Fundraiser will be held at the Atrium at Harborside Financial Center in Jersey City. Tickets are $65 in advance and all proceeds support CASA and its mission to advocate on behalf of Hudson County’s 700+ foster children. To learn more or purchase tickets, visit

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Soup

By Brianne Harrison

The 70 degree days were glorious and made it easy to forget that we’re just barely into spring, which means the occasional shower and cooler weather. For me, there’s nothing better on a chilly, wet day than a nice hot bowl of soup. The recipe below is my take on kale and white bean soup. I ran out of kale and substituted a zucchini I found in the fridge, and tossed in some sausage I had in the freezer. The results were warming and delicious:

Spring Sausage Soup
½ lb turkey or chicken sausage, casings removed
1 zucchini, diced
Clove of garlic, minced
1 can white (navy) beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken stock
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Put a medium sized soup pot over medium heat and add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom. When heated, crumble the sausage into the pot and cook, stirring, until the sausage is browned evenly. Remove sausage to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

2. Pour off any excess grease from the sausage and replace the pot over the heat. Add the zucchini and garlic and sauté briefly, for about 2 minutes, just until the zucchini starts to brown slightly.

3. Return the sausage to the pot and add the chicken stock. Bring the soup to a boil. Add the beans, and cook for about three minutes. Season to taste. Spoon into bowls and serve with crusty whole-grain bread.

Cook’s note: This is a highly adaptable recipe. You can replace the zucchini with chopped spinach or kale (just omit the sautéing step if you use these greens), or make this vegetarian by removing the sausage, adding more beans, and replacing the chicken stock with vegetable. Let your imagination run wild!

Healthy Roundup:
Turkey or chicken sausage has far fewer calories and less fat than pork sausage, but the same amount of protein. It’s now available at most grocery stores.

Beans, as most of us know, are high in protein and cholesterol-lowering fiber and low in fat. The high fiber content helps keep your blood sugar stable after the meal, so you feel fuller longer. They’re also a good source of folate, manganese, vitamin B1, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, and iron.

Zucchini is noted as an excellent source of manganese and vitamin C, and a very good source of magnesium, vitamin A, fiber, potassium, folate, copper riboflavin, and phosphorus. Many of these nutrients have been shown to help prevent atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease, and the magnesium can help reduce high blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Friday, March 19, 2010


By Brianne Harrison

The weather’s gotten warmer (at last!) but my skin hasn’t quite caught up yet. I’ve still got winter-dry hands and probably will at least until mid-April. Luckily, I’ve found a great remedy in Bliss’ Lemon + Sage Body Butter Lite. Unlike most of the moisturizers I’ve tried, this soaks into the skin quickly, without leaving me with greasy hands that can’t grip the knob on the bathroom door. It moisturizes beautifully, and has a nice clean, fresh scent rather than the cloying scents of so many other moisturizers on the market today. If you need some serious skin therapy, Bliss also has a Lemon + Sage Body Butter, apparently their best-selling body product for 10 years. Try it out, and you’ll see why!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

We're Not Buying it!

By Jennifer Chaky

The Tap Water Movement is gaining steam as more and more people become aware of the nightmare of commercially-bottled water--where natural ecosystems are destroyed, one liter of water for every liter bottled is wasted, and millions of plastic bottles are put into the waste stream- 80% of which do not get recycled. And that doesn't even address the massive amounts of energy being consumed throughout this whole ordeal- from collection to transport. And don't get me started on the chemicals being leached from the plastic bottles into the water that we drink...ugh!

Beverage companies had us convinced for a while that we needed to depend on them to have healthy drinking water. But consider this: brands like Aquafina and Dasani are reprocessed tap water from sources like the Detroit River and other municipal water supplies. Yes, companies like Coca Cola and Nestle buy plain old tap water from municipalities for the same price that citizens pay, then they sell it back to those citizens at 500 times the cost. And this to me is the greatest injustice. Water is a right for every being on Earth, not a commodity to be bought and sold. It should not ever be controlled by corporations, but we dangerously give corporations this control when we pay them for our water.

By simply drinking filtered water from your tap you take back control while doing something great for your health and the health of the natural environment. Now, all filters are not created equal. Brands like Brita and Pur are two popular ones that remove chlorine and will make your water taste better, but if you want one that removes a wide range of contaminants you need a carbon filter system like Multi-Pure water filters that come in a variety of systems and price ranges to fit your needs and budget.

So hit that tap and know what a good thing you are doing!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Core Training

By Gerard Bochese

The big buzz in fitness is core training. The problem is, most people don’t know what the core truly is. Technically it is the pelvis, abdominal wall, spine, hip complex, and rib cage and all of the 29 muscles that attach to this complex. In other words, the core is your body minus your arms, legs and head – your trunk. The core’s purpose is to work as an integrated functional unit that accelerates, decelerates, and dynamically stabilizes the body during movement.

What is interesting about exercise is that all movement must pass through the core, so technically all exercises involve some kind of core involvement. This is why training the core correctly and knowing which muscles need to be trained as core muscles is so important.

From the above definition the core is much more than the “6 pack” and only doing crunches is a far cry from core training.

There are two systems to the core:
1) Stabilization system
2) Movement system

These two systems must work together. We must work from the inside (stabilization system) out (movement system) because the stabilization system, based on its location within the body, provides direct stabilization to our spine, pelvis, and hips and the movement system does not. Therefore, training the muscles of the movement system prior to the muscles of the stabilization system (which most people do by performing crunches, bicycles, etc.) does not make structural, biomechanical or logical sense. It’s like building a house—you must have a strong foundation (core) before you can put up the frame or the house will collapse.

The four (4) key core muscles in need of stability training are:
• Deep abdominals – transverse abdominus, internal obliques – these muscles act as an internal weight belt and connect the upper and lower body.
• Hip abductors and rotators – these muscles are the foundation for leg training
• Spine stabilizers – these muscles are directly opposite the deep abdominals and also connect the upper and lower body
• Scapula stabilizers – muscles between our shoulder blades that act as the foundation for arm training.

By training these muscles to be structurally strong and have a strong endurance capacity, one is creating a stable base or platform to perform everyday tasks as well as recreational and fitness activities. When we are pushing and pulling, carrying and lifting things in the gym or the real world with our arms and legs, we need our core to be the base of support that these extremities can work off of. If the core is weak there will be compensations, postural deviations and potential injury while performing these tasks.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Color for a Cause

By Brianne Harrison

Pancreatic cancer is a particularly dire form of the disease. Diagnosis often comes too late—in more than 80% of cases, the tumor has already spread and cannot be completely removed. A staggering 95% of those diagnosed die within five years. This is an area of medicine greatly in need of more research into treatments, but, like anything, research takes money. Quite a lot of it.

In an effort to raise those necessary funds, Entertain Me For a Cause is hosting their first annual Color for a Cause fundraising benefit on March 25 at The Manor in West Orange. The evening offers something for everyone: Swayde Boutique will host a fashion show, and there will be entertainment, dancing, raffles, a four-course gourmet dinner, and an open bar. There’ll be plenty of prizes, giveaways, and gift baskets, and all attendees will leave with a goodie bag.

Tickets are $100 per person and can be purchased by contacting Robyn at Twenty percent of the ticket sales will be donated to the Pancreatic Research Unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD.

Come out and help those suffering this terrible disease. Remember that each patient is someone’s child, spouse, parent, or friend, and only by joining together to help can we make this cancer a thing of the past.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Black Garlic: The Ingredient that Wouldn’t Go Away

By Pat Tanner

I first encountered black garlic at last summer’s Fancy Food Show, where I refused to take even a nibble. (This from someone who once voluntarily ate toasted mealy worms.) My thinking went something like this: “Garlic that is turned jet black and described as sweet? No thank you!” But when restaurant chefs all over the country started singing its praises, I warily ordered some from (It is also available at Wegmans and some other upscale markets.)

Long story short: I am smitten.

Black garlic does taste sweet, but not sugary sweet. More like molasses sweet, although others have detected balsamic vinegar, chocolate, licorice, and fennel. It was developed in South Korea as a health product and is purported to contain twice as many antioxidants as regular garlic. The black, sticky cloves are made by taking regular, run-of-the-mill garlic, fermenting it for three weeks in an environment of controlled heat and humidity, and then ageing it for another week. In the process, the acrid bite normally associated with garlic is completely mellowed out.

New recipes using this black gold are popping up online every week. Among the first I tried was Scallops with Black Garlic at Fabulous. I also made black garlic puree from a recipe by Jeremy Fox, who just left the highly regarded vegetarian restaurant Ubuntu in Napa, California. It’s as simple as pureeing cloves from two heads of black garlic in a blender or mini-food processor and adding as little water as needed to make the mixture pourable. Like the vinaigrette below, it is terrific drizzled over chunks of warm, cooked potatoes and hard cooked eggs.

For additional recipes - as well as the full story behind the development of this welcome new ingredient - visit

Adapted from Caron Golden, San Diego Network News

5 cloves black garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor or blender. Process until the black garlic is completely incorporated. With the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil. (Good over greens as well as warm, cooked potatoes.)

Makes about 1 cup.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Helping Hounds

By Brianne Harrison

Greyhounds are amazing creatures—majestic, elegant, and from what I hear, incredible family pets. But the breed has a storied (and often tragic) history, with many of these dogs ending up on racetracks, where they’re frequently subjected to strenuous races and cruel treatment. Too often, their careers are short, and dogs are disposed of once they’re no longer bringing in money.

Thankfully, there are a number of rescues devoted to saving these dogs and finding them good homes. One, Greyhound Friends of New Jersey, Inc., is having a fundraiser March 27. The evening will feature prizes, a buffet dinner, cash bar, and a tricky tray, all for a $25 donation. Space is limited, so if you’re interested in spending a fun evening helping animals in need, e-mail

In other news…
Nature’s Variety has issued a voluntary recall of its Chicken Formula Raw Frozen Diets for dogs and cats with an expiration date of 10/29/10 or 11/9/10 and Chicken Formula and Organic Chicken Formula Raw Frozen Diets with an expiration date on or before 2/5/11 due to possible salmonella contamination. If you’ve purchased any of these items, return them to your retailer for a full refund or replacement.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Books for a Better World

By Jennifer Chaky

I frequently have customers ask me what they can do with their used books. Here at the store, I started a book swap-shelf where locals can pop in and browse the books that have been left by others and drop off books that they are finished with. Books are just one of those things that should be passed on. It keeps books out of landfills/incinerators and spreads knowledge. What can be better than that?

Well, here is a website that took that idea to a world-wide level and is going beyond just sharing books: it is also supporting world literacy. At Better World Books individuals can actually sell their unwanted books using the buyback program. Simply type in the ISBN of each book you want to sell, and Better World Books will give you a price for each book and even pay for shipping to them (using carbon-offset shipping no less!). They then sell the books, with proceeds going to five major nonprofit literacy partners and over 80 literacy-based non-profits.

Jennifer Chaky is the owner of Go Lightly, Montclair New Jersey's green-living store. She lives in Montclair with her daughter and menagerie of rescued animals.

And if you are shopping for books, you can browse the huge selection that will either come from Better World Books new or used, or from an independent bookseller partnering with BWB. They even have a database of local libraries that offer "online sidewalk sales" of discarded library books.

So when you're doing your Spring cleaning, or next time you're in the market for books, check out Better World Books and be a part of making the world better!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It’s Cold (Season) Out There!

By Lauren Johnson

The weather's been warming up a bit lately, but it’s still cold season, which means thinking twice about touching doors and grocery carts with bare hands. And with the cold air sucking the moisture out of every crevice of your body, like me, you may find yourself in moisturizer overdrive. My biggest winter issue is dry lips, but with colds coming and going, I’m always wary about germs collecting on my chapstick.

Fortunately, I found a product that kills two birds with one stone. Honey House Propolis Salve (.85 oz.) shares a dual purpose in that is can be used as a skin salve as well as a lip balm. The bonus is that propolis (which bees make by combining the resins of poplar and conifer trees, beeswax, and pollen) has an acidic pH, which causes it to possess anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties.

Not only does this product soothe the driest skin and lips, it has a delicious warm honey aroma that will make you want to put on the kettle for a cup of tea.

Honey House Propolis Salve
Ingredients: Olive oil, calendula*, plantain, comfrey root, raw honey, beeswax, propolis, and vitamin E *organic, to order, or for store locations

Starting Point

By Gerard Bochese

With the myriad exercise equipment lined up in the gym and the plethora of exercises to choose from, where does one begin when designing an effective workout program?

Though designing an exercise program may seem complex and confusing, it can be broken down to fairly simple movement patterns. The human body has moved and performed the same way since its inception. The apparatus we use today may be very high tech but the movements are based on what we call Primal Movement Patterns:

1) We push
2) We pull
3) We level change
4) We flex and extend
5) We twist and rotate
6) We ambulate

If we include these movements in our exercise routine we will cover all aspects of our training and see positive results both aesthetically and functionally.

Each category holds a multitude of exercises and by simply choosing several from each category you can build a solid and complete routine that will both strengthen the individual muscle groups and, more importantly, balance the body so it will be equally strong in all movements and directions.

Balancing the body is extremely important in achieving optimal fitness and staying injury free. So often people only train the muscles they can see in the mirror or the muscles that are their favorite on the beach – chest, abs biceps. However, by overtraining certain muscle groups at the expense of other groups we create muscular imbalances in our bodies that will result in postural problems, chronic pain, and potential injury. Furthermore, if the body is not well balanced and certain muscles are noticeably weaker, this will affect your ability to strengthen and develop those muscles you really like – the body works as one unit and a weakness in one area will affect another area. Therefore, it becomes critical that you do an equal amount of exercises in each category (ex. If you do 5 push exercises you must do 5 pull exercises).

Here are some examples of exercises from each category:
1) Push – chest press, tricep extension
2) Pull – seated row, bicep curl
3) Level change – these make up our leg exercises – squats, lunges
4) Flex and extend – shortening and lengthening our core – crunches (shorten), hyperextensions (lengthen)
5) Twist and rotate – using cables, resistance bands or medicine balls we perform rotating motions through our core
6) Ambulate – jogging, sprinting, jumping forward

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Learn to Live Holistically

By Brianne Harrison

You hear a lot about holistic health and alternative health practices these days, but as with anything that starts to get very popular, there’s a lot of information out there to sort through. How do you know which treatments are best for you and your family? How do you go about choosing the right practitioner? What can be treated, and how do they do it?

The annual Mindful Living Holistic Health and Wellness Fair, which will take place March 21, aims to answer many of these questions—and any others you may have—by giving attendees the chance to meet vendors who specialize in a wide array of complementary health and wellness disciplines. Now in its third year, the Holistic Health and Wellness Fair has highlighted yoga studios, fitness instructors, massage therapists, Reiki practitioners, green architects, chiropractors, acupuncturists, wellness centers, homeopaths and naturopaths, to name just a few. This year promises even more for both adults and children. Parents can chat with practitioners and sample a wide variety of products while the younger members of the crowd are treated to a musical performance by Sister Sing Sister String and demonstrations by Wholesome Kids Cook, Jen Slaw Juggler, and Step2gether.

The event is free and open to the public, so stop by, have your questions answered, and find new ways to live a healthier life.

The 3rd Annual Mindful Living Community Holistic Health and Wellness Fair will be held March 21 from 12 noon to 4 p.m. at the Maplewood Woman’s Club, 60 Woodland Rd., Maplewood. For more information, visit

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mussel Power

By Brianne Harrison

When I need to do a quick, lean, satisfying meal at any time of the year, I find myself grabbing a bag of mussels. Mussels are rather brilliant creatures. They’re inexpensive, cook in minutes, and practically create their own sauce. They can be eaten on their own, in a white wine sauce, or with chopped tomatoes and herbs. Like chicken, the possibilities are nearly endless, but this is my favorite preparation:

Steamed Mussels
1 lb mussels, cleaned and debearded
½ yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup dry white wine
a few sprigs of thyme

Pick over the mussels and discard any that are open and don’t close when lightly tapped.

In a large pot with a lid, heat just enough olive oil to cover the bottom over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and sauté for a minute, until the onion starts to take on a creamy color.

Add the mussels, white wine, and thyme. Cover the pot and let steam for about 5-7 minutes, shaking the pot occasionally. Check the mussels; if they’re open, they’re done.

I usually serve this over whole-wheat spaghetti, with some garlic bread to sop up the juices. If you want a slightly more robust sauce, remove the mussels from the pot after they’re done and whisk a knob of butter into the juices.

Healthy Roundup
Mussels are fairly low fat and are good sources of protein, vitamin C, Thiamin, riboflavin, folate, potassium, zinc, vitamin B12, iron, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium.

Garlic has been said to reduce cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. It’s also an excellent source of vitamins B6 and c and a good source of selenium

Friday, March 5, 2010

2 Dogs, 2000 Miles, 1 Goal

By Brianne Harrison

Just about every animal lover has lost a pet at some point. Most of us grieve when this happens, and remember the good times as we begin to move on with our lives. But others, like Luke Robinson, decide to do more.

Robinson lost his beloved dog, Malcolm, to bone cancer in 2006. Malcolm’s death inspired Robinson to set out on an epic 2,000-mile journey on foot from Austin, TX to Boston, MA, accompanied by his two remaining dogs, Hudson and Murphy. Their goal is to raise awareness of cancer and the vital importance of further research into the disease. Researching canine cancer could help develop treatments for human cancers as well, since the malignant cells in both species are similar.

Robinson’s journey, which began in 2008, has made him a celebrity—he’s appeared on CBS, ABC, Fox, and the Today Show—and has brought plenty of attention to his cause. He’s talked to pet owners, scientists, and oncologists all over the country. He and his “boys” are now in New York, just 250 miles short of their goal, which they expect to reach in mid-June. You can follow their progress at There, you can also make donations, and those who have lost a pet to bone cancer can have their name added to the Memorial Shirt Robinson’s wearing on his walk. You can also nominate your pet for inclusion on the 2011 “Cancer Can’t Keep a Good Dog Down” calendar (submissions will be taken starting in mid-May.)

Now, as these things often do, this mammoth journey has inspired a new cause: 2 Million Dogs. The goal is to get 2 million dogs nationwide to walk 2 miles for cancer. Although the campaign is still in its infancy, anyone interested can visit to learn more and submitting their dog(s) and themselves for the walk.

In the meantime, see what Luke’s up to, and maybe plan a trip to Boston in June—there’ll be plenty going on for animal lovers!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Homemade Beauty, Part I: Sugar, Sugar

By Brianne Harrison

Many of us are in full-on recessionista mode, trying to trim spending wherever we can. Since I, like so many others, spend quite a bit of money supporting the multi-billion dollar cosmetics industry, I started to think that that might be an area I could save a little by rolling up my sleeves and making my own. As it turns out, I was right: you can make a startling number of beauty products yourself; in many cases, using ingredients you already have in your home!

I started simple with a sugar scrub that turned out to be luscious and quite effective. You can easily adapt this recipe to suit your tastes—take out the cocoa for a straight-up sugar scrub, add some lemon or orange zest, or the essential oil of your choice—the possibilities are endless!

Chocolate Sugar Scrub
1 c natural sugar (you can substitute white or brown as well, particularly if you have some brown sugar that’s dried up and can’t really be used for baking anymore)
3 T unsweetened cocoa powder
A few drops of the essential oil of your choice (I recommend lavender, vanilla, orange, or peppermint)
Enough light olive oil or grapeseed oil to make a paste (about 4 T)

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly to combine. Store in a jar or Tupperware container (this doesn’t need to be refrigerated). Use liberally in the shower to slough off dead skin, especially on rough areas like elbows and knees.

Since this is made with all natural ingredients, you can also use it as a (delicious!) lip scrub.

Green Overload? Take it One Day at a Time.

By Jennifer Chaky

Green Green Green. That’s all you hear these days. From chemical companies touting “natural” cleaners to car companies saying their car is the greenest- you need a PhD in Greenology to sort through it all. I hear ya, it’s overwhelming.

As a green retailer, it is my job to decide what is truly good for the planet and what is “greenwashed” - and it does get confusing. But my reputation depends on making the right choice…and more importantly, so does the planet. The things we buy do have the greatest impact –good or bad- on our future. Every single time we buy something we are casting a vote for what kind of world we want. Do we want a healthy, fair, abundant world or a toxic, unjust, scarce world? It really is up to us. Every dollar we spend tells companies what we want. What we demand.

But where to start? It is hard to think of revamping all of your consumption and changing over all the products you use. So I recommend taking it one day at a time. Next time you are out of coffee, choose a fair trade brand. Out of toothpaste? Choose a truly natural brand made by a small organic company. Need a wedding gift? Choose a bowl made from recycled glass. Going to a baby shower? Start the newborn off right with a set of glass baby bottles. Do you need new boots? How about checking out a thrift store? Next time you buy beer or wine, ask your retailer for a local organic option. You get the idea.

Once you get going, before you know it you will have transformed your lifestyle- where the goods you buy truly back-up your principles. At first you may have to do some leg work to read labels and research the companies but after your initial efforts, you will become acquainted with some really great products and companies, and you will gain an intuition for what is greenwashed and what is truly green.

Here are some tips on what to look for when shopping:

• Keep it simple. Products with a simple list of ingredients tend to be better than those with long list of unearthly chemical names.

• Look for these Third Party Verification Seals: Energy Star; Certified Organic; Leaping Bunny; Fair Trade Certified; Green Seal; and Green E.

• Words like “natural,” “pure,” “nontoxic,” “cruelty-free,” and “biodegradable,” do not necessarily mean anything. There is no regulation regarding the use of these terms, so be wary.

• Truly green companies do not over-package their goods.

I also highly recommend reading Diane MacEachern’s book Big Green Purse to learn everything you need to know to become a lifelong lean, clean, and green consumer.

Jennifer Chaky is the owner of Go Lightly, Montclair New Jersey's green-living store. She lives in Montclair with her daughter and menagerie of rescued animals.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Exercise

By Gerard Bochese

If you’re interested in losing weight and have been doing a lot of cardio exercise to achieve your goals but have found you’re not achieving the results you want or have hit a plateau, then it’s time to switch from aerobic exercise to anaerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is slow, steady state exercise that requires oxygen and can be done for long periods of time. Anaerobic exercise is short bursts of strength and power (weight training, plyometrics, high intensity running intervals) that last only 30-45 seconds and require a chemical in our body (ATP) to perform.

Why the switch? Aerobic exercise is designed to improve your heart and lungs (which is extremely important) but it is not efficient for fat loss. Aerobic exercise decreases the amount of muscle you have. The only tissue in your body that can burn fat is muscle; therefore, we want to have more of it in order to burn fat and increase our metabolism.

Aerobic exercises train your muscles to use fat more efficiently, which causes them to burn less of it. The more you train, the easier the exercises get, and your body burns even less fat.

Anaerobic training is more effective and efficient for weight loss. It’s still cardiovascular, but you’re working at a greater intensity than aerobic training. Your heart and lungs get a workout because of the demand from the muscular system, rather than the reverse—your muscles moving because of cardiovascular demand. Anaerobic training requires greater muscular demand than aerobic training, thus elevating your heart rate and building fat-burning lean muscle. A bout of high intensity anaerobic training will also allow you to burn more calories for a longer time following your workout—a definite bonus!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Health and Fitness Challenge

By Brianne Harrison

March has arrived, which means spring is right around the corner—and bathing suit season comes right after that. Time to start thinking about getting fit and finally shedding those winter hibernation pounds, but where do you start? The sheer amount of information available can be overwhelming—what’s right and what isn’t? What should you be eating? What exercises are most effective?

The answers to these and many, many other questions can be found at the 2010 Asbury Park Boardwalk Health and Fitness Challenge, a 12-week program of free introductory fitness, nutrition, and health classes. Participants can learn more about how to get healthy from local professionals, and be entered to win a slew of great prizes! This weekend, you can learn how to decipher the labels on your food and discover new exercises with kettlebells, presented by Jamie Pigman. Next weekend, discover the best ways to keep the weight off and burn some calories on a waterfront bike ride. The whole program culminates with a Boardwalk Body Fair on May 15—a day-long event that spotlights the latest and greatest health, wellness, and art for the body.

The Health and Fitness Challenge takes place every Sunday through mid-May. Nutrition classes start at 2 p.m. and fitness classes start at 3 p.m. For more information and videos of the sessions, visit

Monday, March 1, 2010

“The Conscious Cook”

By Pat Tanner

Tal Ronnen is a chef who started out, as he writes in his cookbook “The Conscious Cook” (William Morrow 2009), loving “steak, hollandaise sauce, and rich wine reductions.” In his teens he turned to vegetarianism and eventually to veganism, all the while refusing to give up beautiful, flavorful, rich, and filling foods. He has become renowned for his sophisticated, fine-dining vegan cuisine.

I put the cookbook’s recipes to the test first with his Caesar salad. It’s hard to imagine a good one without eggs, anchovies, and Parmesan, isn’t it? Ronnen manages to capture the flavors and textures masterfully. His recipe introduced me to Veganaise, a surprisingly good vegan mayo. I also prepared a main dish of cornmeal-crusted tempeh with smoked tomato sauce, green chile relish, black bean puree, and braised kale. Also delicious.

Although the recipes deliver excellent results, the book itself is flawed. The index is practically useless, and instructions can at times be sloppy. The tempeh recipe, for example, instructs the cook to reserve the broth (which is superb) that the tempeh braises in. Yet it never says what to do with it. Another recipe is for Asian Tacos with Kinpira. Kinpira is never defined. (According to Wikipedia, it’s sauteed root vegetables).

These shortcomings are frustrating because this could have been the first vegan cookbook to make an impact in the vegan-hostile world - as you’ll discover if you give the following recipe a twirl. Note: the brackets are mine.

[Vegan] Caesar Salad with Focaccia Croutons

1/4 loaf plain focaccia, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 cup vegan mayonnaise (such as Veganaise)
1 tablespoon white [or yellow] miso paste
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tablespoon light agave nectar
1 cup olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 small heads romaine lettuce, shredded
Caperberries [optional]

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the focaccia cubes on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted.

2. In a food processor, mince the garlic and capers. Add the mayonnaise, miso paste, nutritional yeast, agave nectar, and 1/2 cup water and pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly add the oil in a thin stream. Continue to blend until emulsified, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Place the lettuce and croutons in a large bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the top and toss well to coat. Garnish with caperberries and serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings [with plenty of dressing left over].

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Cure for Stir Craziness

By Brianne Harrison

Going stir crazy? If you’re starting to, chances are, it’s even worse for your dog., which makes this the perfect time to consider joining the Possibility Pursuit Dog Walk this weekend.

Possibility Pursuit is an annual event hosted by Enable, which provides services, support, and living arrangements to those living with disabilities and their families throughout Central New Jersey. Last year, a group of people who rescue dogs asked if a dog walk could be included in the Possibility Pursuit. Some of the dogs that participated were themselves disabled due to injury or illness.

This year, the Dog Walk is being organized by Lynne Przychodzki, one of last year’s participants. Animal rescue groups will be in attendance, offering adoptions. Dogs who walk will be eligible for prizes for Best Trick, Best Bark, Best Outdoor Costume, Owner/Dog Look Alike, and Top Dog prize for the dog and owner who raise the highest amount of pledges. Dogs participating will receive a scarf, and owners will get t-shirts while supplies last.

Even those who don’t have pets can participate—Possibility Pursuit also includes a 5k run, which starts at 2 p.m., and an indoor fitness walk that starts at 2:05.

The Dog Walk begins at 2:30 p.m. Come out, get some exercise, and beat those winter blues!

Possibility Pursuit, Feb. 28, PEAC Health & Fitness, Ewing. For more information, e-mail or call Kirsten Yard at 609.987.5003 ex. 124.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mistakes that Work

By Brianne Harrison

Over the years, I’ve found that mistakes can frequently lead to interesting culinary discoveries and creations, both good and bad. Luckily, this time it was a good one. The mistake was: I forgot to take the salmon out of the freezer to defrost, which meant I had to completely reassess my dinner plans. I reached into the fridge and came out with a few leaves of kale that desperately needed to be used, a cup of pre-made potato gnocchi, and a couple of strips of bacon. The resulting dish was a surprising play of textures and flavors: the smoky bacon worked nicely off the slightly bitter kale, adding a hint of sweetness to the dish, and the soft gnocchi offset the crispy bacon.

Potato Gnocchi with Kale and Crispy Bacon
1 cup potato gnocchi
A few leaves of kale, chopped (you can also substitute spinach or broccoli rabe)
3 slices of bacon, chopped
Fresh-ground pepper

Cook the gnocchi according to package directions and drain when done.

Meanwhile, heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and fry until crisp. Remove to a paper towel-covered plate to drain. Drain excess bacon grease from the pan, reserving about 1/2T in the pan.

Return the pan to the heat and add the kale. Saute until wilted. Add the gnocchi and toss until the gnocchi colors slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the bacon, remove from the heat, add ground black pepper to taste, and serve.

You can easily replace the gnocchi with pasta in this recipe, and you can also use pancetta if you don’t have any bacon.

How about you, readers? Do you have any kitchen mistakes that worked?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The New Wild West

By Maureen C. Petrosky

If you’ve ever taken a yoga class you’ll know at the beginning of class the instructor usually asks if there are any injuries. Yesterday, I was surprised to hear the guy next to me say, “I got laid off”. I had never really thought of unemployment as an injury. But, I guess it’s the ultimate blow to the ego. Endless numbers of people graduate from college, maybe even grad school, take a job and then ten or twenty years later find themselves holding a pink slip. The economy is depressing but the way I see it, the playing field has blown wide open.

Did you ever hear the saying, “It’s hard to look for a new job when you’re so busy with the one you’ve got”? Well now’s the time, people. Here’s your chance to reinvent yourself. That job that just gave you the boot is a pittance compared to the opportunities that await you. Remember Silicone Valley and the dot com start-ups? Well, this time it’s far more intense. The economic downturn is not just spanning coast to coast; now it’s global.

Which brings me to a quick tidbit on wine history in America—the pioneers of the industry blossomed out of the Great Depression and then had to live through an infestation of vine-eating bugs (a.k.a. Phyloxera). But today, California wines can take on any of the globe’s greatest, sip for sip. There’s a lesson to be learned here—while some of you are wallowing, others are like cowboys on an open prairie, blazing new trails. This is the new Wild West and it’s worldwide. Beauty is in the eye of the optimist. Take your skills, your bruised ego, and go do something that makes you happy. Somewhere in the 9 to 5 you may have lost sight of the American Dream—the one about being anything you want to be when you grow up.

Why am I yammering on about this? Well, many of you know New Jersey Life Magazine has reinvented itself and moved into the world of Health and Beauty. Which leaves me to say farewell to our beloved By the Glass. No worries, you can still read me on the internet. But for now we must make room for something new. Here’s to what’s new in your life!

A Wine Pioneer—While California wine is rich in a history of hardships, here’s just one to taste for inspiration. The legacy of Charles Krug is still carried on by Pete Mondavi. so pick up a bottle and you can sip and swirl while reinventing yourself.

Charles Krug, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, $21 Even unemployed, this intense red will make you feel like a rich man. It’s got great body, luscious fruit, and a finish far from subtle.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Endless Possibilities

By Brianne Harrison

One of the wonderful things about the arts is that they frequently provide a means of expression for those who struggle or are unable to express themselves in other ways. Those with severe physical disabilities may fall into this group, but a New Jersey nonprofit called A.R.T. (Artistic Realization Technologies) helps them realize their full (and impressive) creative potential by providing them with the tools and technology they need to paint, take photographs, and sculpt. A.R.T has helped many artists create beautiful works that have been shown in galleries in New Jersey and Manhattan.

From February 25-28, A.R.T. will come to the Princeton University Art Museum with a new show entitled “A New Way of Seeing.” Stop by for the opening reception, from 6-8 p.m. on February 25, or check the show out over the weekend—admission to the museum is free, and the works will astonish you.

If you’re feeling more active this weekend, you might want to take part in the Enable Possibility Pursuit on Sunday. Possibility Pursuit includes a 5K run, indoor and outdoor fitness walks, and a dog walk. The event is geared towards persons with disabilities, their families, and friends. Pledges and funds raised will go towards supporting the services Enable provides to the disabled and their families. For more information, visit

Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter Farmers’ Market is Not an Oxymoron

By Pat Tanner

Even though this season marks the fifth year that the Central Jersey Slow Food chapter has mounted monthly indoor farmers markets in December, January, and February, many people still wonder what the heck is available when snow hugs the ground and temperatures struggle to rise into the thirties.

I attended the January market and below is a list of what I purchased. Think of it as a guide to the next market, coming up this Sunday.

1. A hunk of my favorite cheese from Valley Shepherd Creamery: Nettlesome. (Yes, it contains real stinging nettles. No, they do not sting.)
2. Packages of Simply Nic’s shortbread bars in two new flavors: winter spice and espresso with cacao nibs.
3. Empire apples from Terhune Orchards. (I managed to bypass the cider donuts and the cider.)
4. From the table of Princeton’s Whole Earth Center market, a can of Jersey Fresh tomatoes and a Colby cheese wrap. (The latter became my lunch.)
5. A hunk of the newest cheese from Cherry Grove Farm: Maidenhead, a semi soft, creamy, flavor-packed cheese washed with beer from Cherry Hill’s Flying Fish.
6. A bag of six assorted dinner rolls from Village Bakery.
7. A jar of ghee made from grassfed cow butter from Pure Indian Organic Ghee.
8. From Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms of Kennett Square, a box of shiitakes and a box of cremini. (Which I used to make an excellent mushroom goulash.)
9. Beeswax pillar candles from Woods Edge Wool Farms. (Next time: honey.)

At that point, I had run through my funds, so I bypassed the wines of Hopewell Valley Vineyards, Catherine’s Vegan Treats, Ducky Life Teas, and a perfect antidote to winter doldrums: Stony Brook Orchids.

This week’s market will also feature live jazz and lunch offerings by Tre Piani’s Tre Bar tapas café.

Slow Food Central New Jersey’s Winter Farmers’ Market
Sunday, February 28
11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tre Piani Restaurant
Princeton Forrestal Village
Restaurant phone number: 609.452.1515
For information on the farmers market phone 609.577.5113

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fun in the Sun

By Brianne Harrison

It’s about this time of year that our winter-weary minds start to conjure up images of warm, sandy beaches and drinks with umbrellas in them. Many of us, unable to help ourselves, head to Expedia to start researching flights south and eagerly begin planning a tropical vacation in the months to come.

New Jersey animal lovers have a unique opportunity to kill two birds with one stone—plan a fabulous Caribbean vacation while also helping animals in need, thanks to the Jersey Shore Animal Center’s annual benefit cruise.

For seven nights from November 6-13, Norwegian’s brand new ship Epic will hop from Miami to St. Marten, St. Thomas, and Nassau in the Bahamas. Passengers can relax, enjoy the good food and shipboard fun, soak up some sun, and know the whole time they’re helping to support JSAC’s homeless animals. What could be better?

Prices are $762-$1072 per person, double occupancy. Airfare and transfers in Miami are not included. A $25 deposit per person is required to reserve an inside or balcony cabin, and a $300 deposit per person is required to reserve outside cabins. Deposits are due March 15, so start making your plans! Final payments are due July 31. For more information and booking, call Barbara at 732.262.8636 or Jaime at 732.920.1600 ext. 208.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Toy Story

By Judith Garfield

I’ve never understood the allure of the boy toy. Me, personally, I’ll just take the toy. Unopened, sitting on a shelf, appreciating in value so that someday my children, or their children, can cash in.

Don’t you wish your mother had been psychic and known that Barbie, who by the way is turning fifty this month, would become such an iconic doll? Mom would have told you to take extra special care with her and keep everything together in the Barbie suitcase. Better yet, she would have bought two of everything. One for you to play with and one to keep in pristine condition so it would be worth a boatload of money today.

Toys and dolls that can be described as NRFB (never removed from box) are highly sought after and can be quite valuable. That is why I went on a buying spree in the eighties of pop culture dolls and left them untouched in their original boxes. I have Pee Wee Herman, the gang from 90210, and Blossom and Joey from the TV sitcom. I also delved into pop music and bought the Spice Girls, but neglected to buy Posh. Who knew she was gonna be the most famous one?

My sister-in-law bestowed her Barbie collection from the fifties on my daughters. Ken has not held up well. Lost an arm and going bald. Barbie came with two wigs but her head has fallen off. Midge definitely looks the best, but she is the least in demand in the vintage market. Just to let you know, Barbie cost $3.00 when she was introduced. Today, in mint condition (removed from box but hardly played with and has all original accessories) a Barbie can fetch a couple thousand dollars.

If you are lucky enough to have saved your childhood dolls and kept them in good condition, go to to to check their value. Last week I bought the limited edition Bye Bye Bad Hair Barbie along with some shares of Mattel (parent company of Barbie and many other toy favorites). I plan not to look at either of these investments for a while. One of them should appreciate. I bet on Barbie.

P.S. This will be my last Loveless blog. I want to thank all my readers and especially my faithful commenters. Your clever and amusing responses to my loveless opinions were most appreciated. I will keep trying to get away with as little cooking as possible, and whatever your pleasure, I hope you find a delicious and simple recipe for the good life.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mardi Gras Comes with a Hurricane!

By Maureen C. Petrosky

I’m relishing every minute of our snow- covered Norman Rockwell setting. Ice skating, building snowmen, and hanging out by the fire and sipping hot cocoa are the best parts of winter in the northeast. However, considering the endless forest of broken trees, day-long power outages, the fact that navigating a driveway safely is an Olympic sport on it’s own, and that the kids haven’t had school in over a week, I understand that all this snow might be getting to you. So how about a hurricane instead of another blizzard?

I’m talking about the famed New Orleans cocktail sure to warm up even Old Man Winter. While you warily watched the latest batch of flurries yesterday, it’s likely you forgot one of the nation’s biggest soirees was in full swing- Mardi Gras! The fact that it fell on a Tuesday didn’t help the hype either, yet this flashy celebration from N’awlins may be just the thing to kick your winter up a notch.

Both of Mardi Gras’ famed cocktails, the Sazerac and the Hurricane, are surefire party starters; not mention major warmers, as both are serious sips. The Sazerac dates back to the 1830’s. Based on rye whiskey, this cocktail is layered with flavors of honey and spice. While it has a hint of sweetness it’s nothing compared to the sugary rum-based Hurricane. Say what you will about the Mardi Gras debauchery, they’ve found a way to have fun in the middle of winter, and you should too. So whip up a King Cake and a big batch of Jambalaya. Invite your snowed-in neighbors and celebrate this winter wonderland.

An Authentic Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane
(recipe courtesy of
In a 26 oz. Hurricane glass, mix
4 oz. of Pat O'Brien's Hurricane Rum or a good dark rum
4 oz. of Pat O'Brien's Hurricane Mix
Fill with crushed ice
Garnish with an orange and cherry

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

No Gloom in the Gallery

del la Serna, Open Bowl, 2009
courtesy of

By Brianne Harrison

There’s no denying, it’s cold outside. And not terribly colorful, unless you’re a fan of slush grey. So, why not thaw out and brighten up the weekend by ducking into an art exhibit (or two?)

Saturday and Sunday are the annual Artists’ Days at Sickles Market in Little Silver. Local artists will be on hand to show their work and give demonstrations from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. And while you’re there, you can grab a few gourmet goodies to enjoy later!

Also displaying the work of New Jersey artists is the Noyes Museum of Art in Oceanville. The current exhibition features handcrafted pieces in metal, wood, textiles, ceramics, and other, more unusual materials. The show only runs through February 28, so head over soon if you want to see it!

Over at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, visitors can enjoy free admission for the rest of February. Current exhibitions include Albert Paley: Dialogue with Steel—elaborate, impressive sculptural works by a former jeweler—and Jacobo del la Serna’s Reflections on Tradition, which highlights the artist’s beautiful, delicate pottery. You can also see the unusual, whimsical hand-blown glasswork of Flo Perkins.

In New Brunswick, the Zimmerli Museum is showing an exhibition of children’s book illustrations from 1960 through today, focusing on how they highlight social themes and subjects of contemporary culture. Artists’ whose work is on display include Catherine Stock, Roger Duvoisin, and E.B. Lewis.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The [Brrrr] ‘R’ Months

By Pat Tanner

The debate continues as to whether the old saw still holds that you should eat oysters only in months containing the letter ‘r’ in their names. Since I glom on to any excuse to devour the tasty mollusks, I’m sticking with the ‘r’ theory, which allows eight months of indulgence.

Here are my current favorite preparations, both of which require minimum effort (other than the shucking) but yield maximum results.

Oysters with Bloody Mary Mignonette
“The Ferry House Cookbook,” by Bobby Trigg (2006)
1-1/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (or less to taste)
1/4 cup vodka, preferably Absolut
1/2 cup tomato juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
36 oysters in the shell, scrubbed
Vodka for splashing

In a small bowl, stir together the horseradish, shallot, and pepper. Whisk in the vodka, then the tomato juice, then the lime juice. Garnish with the chives. Cover and refrigerate.
Shuck each oyster and smell to make sure it is fresh. Remove any broken shell or debris. Cut through the muscle holding the oyster to the shell and serve the oysters in their larger bottom shells in a bowl set on ice. Splash each oyster with vodka and then top with a dollop of mignonette.

Serves 6.

Pancetta-Wrapped Oysters and Arugula Salad
2 dozen fresh oysters, in their shells
4 ounces sliced pancetta
2 large lemons, each cut lengthwise into 4 wedges
8 ounces baby arugula, washed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Grilled lemon halves, for garnish
1 tablespoon snipped chives, for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Thoroughly scrub and carefully open oysters. Discard top shell. Cut under the oyster meat to release it from the bottom shell. Cut pancetta into 2-inch-long strips; wrap oysters with pancetta strips and return to the half shell. Place pancetta-wrapped oysters and lemon wedges on a large broiling pan. Roast 10 minutes or until pancetta is crisp.

To serve, in a large bowl toss arugula with olive oil and salt; place salad on a large platter. Arrange oysters (in shells) on arugula. Garnish with grilled lemons and chives.
Makes 6 first-course servings.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Dog’s Life

By Brianne Harrison

It’s a dog’s life—or, at least, it should be, according to the author/photographer team behind Dogplay: The Canine Guide to Being Happy, a charming little gift book that urges people to approach life the way our canine companions do (example: “Explore new backyards, but know your way home.”) The platitudes, while cute, aren’t exactly groundbreaking; the photography, by Little Silver-based pet portraitist Kim Levin, is the real winner here. Levin’s black and white pics catch man’s best friend at its cutest, happiest, and sweetest. It’s impossible not to have your heart warmed at least a little by this quick read.

The book is coming out in March (but can be preordered here), and Levin will be signing copies from 1-3 p.m. at the following locations:

Barnes & Noble, Holmdel, March 6
River Road Books, Fair Haven, March 13
Barnes & Noble—Monmouth Mall, Eatontown, March 20

Meanwhile: St. Hubert’s has taken its pet adoption campaign to the streets—literally, by posting digital billboards on some of the state’s major highways, touting the benefits of pet ownership and adoption. The new billboards, which were created by Branchburg-based Mint Advertising, can be seen on Routes 80, 287, 78, 280, and the New Jersey Turnpike.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Stew for a Storm

By Brianne Harrison

This time of year, I’m a big fan of comfort foods, and there are few foods I find more comforting than stew. Which is why, this past weekend, as the first snowstorm of the week raged, I found myself gathering spices, chicken, and stock and wondering just what I should do with them. The spices and sweet potatoes in the resulting recipe add a kick and take this stew beyond the usual chicken and dumplings combo:

Spiced Chicken Stew
1 lb chicken thighs, cut into 1” pieces
1 rib celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled & diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
¼ c. flour
¼ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. cayenne
¼ tsp chili powder
3 c. chicken stock
4-5 leaves kale, chopped

1. Mix the flour and spices in a medium bowl. Toss the chicken pieces in the flour/spice mixture until evenly coated. Shake off excess flour.

2. Heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Brown the chicken in batches on all sides, and remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

3. Add more olive oil to the pot if necessary. Saute the celery, carrot, garlic, and onion until fragrant and the onion turns a creamy white color, about 3-5 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot and stir to combine with the vegetables. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Uncover, add the potatoes, recover, and simmer another 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the kale, recover, and cook a further 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
One of the greatest things about stews is that they tend to improve over time, making this a perfect dish to cook up over the weekend and set aside for a mid-week dinner.

Healthy Roundup:
Sweet potatoes and the spices used in this recipe are very high in antioxidants. Sweet potatoes are also high in dietary fiber and are an excellent source of several vitamins and minerals.

Kale is exceptionally high in vitamins A, C, and K and has been credited with helping to fight cancer and other diseases. Like sweet potatoes, it’s a great source of antioxidants and dietary fiber

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Heart Wine

By Maureen C. Petrosky

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, there’s nothing I heart more than a thoughtfully chosen pour. You may think a wine writer would want anything but more wine, yet here it’s really the thought that counts. I’d happily skip the scentless roses in lieu of intoxicating perfumes from a special bottle of wine. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive sip you see in the store or the one with a love-laced label. It could be something that conjures up a wonderful memory, or maybe from a vintage that meant something to your and your honey. Think about why you love the one you’re with and then celebrate that with wine.

It doesn’t have to be a brainteaser. As far as vintage goes, here are a few ideas to inspire you: the year you first met, the year your baby was born, that year you spent finding yourself and your loved one still stuck by your side. If it’s a memory you would like to relive it could be as easy as a bottle that reminds you of a favorite vacation, or maybe just something that you shared on a great date.

If you’re a planner and want to really wow your Valentine, set up a flight of wine and walk down memory lane. Flights are simply smaller pours of several different wines, usually progressing from light to heavy or dry to sweet. You could pair each with a small morsel that matches the wine and end with a new sip to add to the memory making. For me a V-day isn’t complete without a little Brachetto D’Aqui from Banfi. I’ve spoken of these raspberry-infused bubbles before, yet I never tire of their alluring aromas spilling from the sexy silhouette of a champagne flute on Valentine’s Day.

Banfi Rosa Regale, Brachetto d’ Aqui, $21- If this were a dress I would definitely wear it on date night. It’s sexy, fun, and finishes with a sweet kiss. It’s ideal alone after dinner and is smashing when presented alongside a box of chocolates (artisanal of course-after all it is Valentine’s Day!)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Healthier, Happy Valentine’s Day

By Brianne Harrison

It’s Valentine’s Day this weekend, and yes, there are lots of lovey-dovey events going on across the state. But as important as it is to show your honey you care, it’s also important to show yourself a little love every now and then. So, this weekend, why not check out one (or all!) of these events, which should get your heart pumping, bring a blush to your cheeks, and help you get a little healthier?

First up, on Saturday, is Fit for Cancer at the Hunterdon Health & Wellness Centers at Clinton and Whitehouse Station. What started as a grassroots event with a few spinners has exploded over the years, raising over $200,000 for Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center. Participants pledge to raise $250 and in return they get an intense three-hour workout. Choose from one of five programs, including Spin for Cancer—a high-energy, indoor cycling program that allows you to go on a virtual outdoor road race; a boot camp combining cardio and strength training; a biathlon swimming and running workout; a Zumba dance and fitness workout; or a senior water & walk class. For more information, visit

If you’re looking for a workout you can do with that special someone, take a trip to Unionville Vineyards, which is hosting Taste and Tango Lessons with Cliff Marino on Sunday the 14. Marino has been teaching all styles of ballroom and Latin dance for the past 20 years, and he trained with some of the best dance coaches both here and abroad. He’ll be teaching the Argentine Tango for starters to intermediates in the vineyard’s historic cave room. Afterwards, take a tour of the winery or treat yourself to a tasting of some of Unionville’s wines—remember reds have heart-health benefits! Visit for more information.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Uproot Yourself

By Pat Tanner

When I learned that Anthony Bucco, longtime chef at Stage Left in New Brunswick, is the executive chef at Uproot, a new restaurant in Warren, I wanted to check it out pronto. This meant not waiting to dine there in my official capacity as restaurant critic, but rather as a civilian – one of a group of six friends out for an evening on the town. What follows is a report on my experience, which differs from the norm because the folks there knew I was coming, there was no need for me to don the disguise I have used in the past, and I dined there on my own dime.

The name of the restaurant has both symbolic and literal meaning. Uprooting himself is exactly what Bucco has done. And the exciting design of the restaurant includes a whimsical take on an inverted tree suspended overhead. Believe it or not, the tree isn’t the most dramatic element in this sleek, sophisticated space that manages to be inviting and comfortable as well as ultramodern.

Service is pretty sleek, too. I sometimes forget what it feels like to have your every want and need anticipated, but was reminded of that here. As, too, when a restaurant pays attention to every last detail, including good, crusty rolls, an intelligent cheese plate, and excellent coffee.

Other pluses here: adult cocktails and an interesting wine list. Sommelier/general manager Jonathan Ross (formerly of Anthos in New York) found some impressive vintages within our $60 cap, including a 2000 Chateauneuf du Pape and a 2002 Alsace Riesling.

Every dish on the dinner menu piqued my interest. Even the complimentary amuse bouche provided excitement: crostini topped with elk tartare. Chef Bucco has a very special way with fish, so I ordered the special appetizer of local fluke with onion marmalade followed by black cod poached in grapefruit-accented broth and, in between, my tablemates and I shared a portion of lightly seared tuna. I smiled contently through all three courses while the meat-lovers in my group extolled the venison with rutabaga gratin and huckleberries.

Other dishes, while still good, didn't quite match the 'wow' factor of the above. Pear and bitter greens salad, gnocchi with Surryano ham, and roast chicken with root vegetables, for example.

These days, it is heartening to see a restaurant open that doesn’t stint on style or dumb down its menu in deference to today’s economic conditions. With seven out of ten entrees under $30, the folks at Uproot ‘get’ the economy while providing a welcome respite from the currently ubiquitous “upscale” comfort food.

9 Mt. Bethel Road

Friday, February 5, 2010

Puppy Bowl VI: The Big Game With a Side of “Awwwww”

image courtesy of

By Brianne Harrison

For some people, Super Bowl Sunday is the highlight of the year. For others…not so much. Fortunately, for pet lovers who aren’t big fans of the big game, there’s an alternative with a huge Awwww factor: the Puppy Bowl.

That’s right: instead of watching 250+ pound men crashing into each other, you can watch 60 of the cutest creatures in the world (all rescue dogs, by the way) wrestle over toy footballs, with occasional cutaways to action shots from the underneath water bowl camera. There’s also a kitten halftime show. And this year, New Jerseyans can cheer on some of their own: two puppies on the team, Duncan (left) and Jake (below), were adopted from All Star Pet Rescue right here in the Garden State.

Puppy Bowl VI airs on Animal Planet from 3-5 p.m. February 7. Set your TiVo and start planning that “tail”-gate party!

Join the Cause
Most of us are looking for ways to help out after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and animal lovers have a unique opportunity to do so. A group of organizations and individuals have joined forces to raise funds for the American Rescue Dog Association, which has deployed several canine teams to aid in the recovery of victims. How can you help? If you have a Twitter account, post the message:

“We're donating to ARDA to support their work in #Haiti. Please help and RT @BRACpet @NorthStarVETS @WedgewoodPetRx”.

The campaign, which started January 25, will continue through the next few weeks. You can also donate to ARDA by visiting

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Go Figure

By Judith Garfield

It all started in 2nd grade.

I remember listening to Mrs. Dennis explaining about quarters and dimes and how much did you need to buy that loaf of bread and suddenly there was vomit everywhere. I’ll never forget the horrified yet perplexed look on her face as she gazed down and saw the mess beneath her feet. After that I don’t remember anything. The diagnosis: Math anxiety, pure and simple, and it has only gotten worse since that day.

According to the experts, math anxiety is an emotional reaction to mathematics based on a past unpleasant experience which harms future learning. I’m a textbook case.
That rising feeling of panic that precipitated the incident is fairly common, because what we don’t understand frightens us. And boy, was I frightened. My brain just did not compute what Mrs. Dennis was so patiently trying to explain. I was forever doomed to be overcome with panic, helplessness, and paralysis whenever I was required to solve a math problem. Problem solving is not one of my strengths.

And that of course leads us to the computer, where problem solving is forever coming up. The computer that sits there daring me to find the correct button to push when directed by commands on the screen. With a computer there is always the fear that if I press the wrong button I could cause the breakdown of cyber space. Or worse, I could lose every piece of information that S. has ever stored. We share a computer, so I try to be somewhat cautious with my indiscriminate button pushing. Usually, I commit to the key, strike it, then hold my breath and pray nothing terrible will happen. So far I’ve escaped disaster.

I suppose it all comes down to not wanting to look like a moron. Honestly, there are times when I am utterly humiliated by my inability to navigate simple machines. Even cash machines cause me anxiety. I like to say it’s because I’m right brained. A creative type. That may be partly true. But it just doesn’t explain why I can’t even put the cordless phone back the proper way until someone takes pity and shows me.

In my next life I plan on being a left brain math whiz and computer genius. Until then, I’ll just try to push the right buttons.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Secret to Savoring Winter

By Maureen C. Petrosky

Oh, you groundhog! Yes, PA’s famed Punxsutawny Phil says six more weeks of winter. While many of you are groaning through another grey day, I’ve decided to grab some wine--red of course--and get back into the kitchen. You see there is so much more to wine than just drinking it. That’s why last night I poured my heart into a pot of Coq au Vin.

Cooking with wine can be just as sensual as sipping it. Yet, the aromas that filled my home from this simple one-pot French fare are those I only associate with winter. You don’t get to spoil yourself with beef stew in summertime, and it’s unusual you’d be slurping butternut squash soup in spring. Both of the aforementioned winter wonders are made only richer and more comforting with addition of wine. Wine is fabulous for deglazing a pan and keeping all the deliciousness of the fond (a chef’s word for the yummy brown parts that stick to the bottom) intact. Also when speaking soup, adding a ¼ cup of wine after you sweat your onions or mirepoix adds depth to the flavor and a richness you just can’t find in other liquids. While you’re used to sipping it, next time the chill is getting to you try stirring it too.

Maybe you’re gearing up for Super Bowl weekend, but it’s easy to ready yourself for something simply divine like coq au vin (a.k.a. chicken and wine). Now grocery stores, like the glorious Wegman’s, make it uber easy to pick up your wine without a second trip to a specialty store. Great bargain buys end the aisles like exclamation points, offering you a chance to add a new ingredient to your typical repertoire. Maybe not on game night but one night soon, indulge in seasonal cooking. Comfort foods like Coq au Vin don’t require a culinary whiz; in fact, most one-pot wonders are suitable for even the kitchen rookie. For under $10 you can find yummy, belly warming red wines to sip and stir into your next dish. So instead of whining over the cold, enjoy the chance to warm up in the kitchen.

My Wine Find-
Vina Zaco, Tempranillo, 2006, Rioja, $9.99- A bottle for the coq au vin and a bottle to drink alongside are equally enjoyed. While Coq au Vin usually calls for Burgundy, this robust, fruity red did the trick and saved me some money. It’s true, you should only cook with what you would drink, just try to save some for the cooking!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Night of Hope

By Brianne Harrison

I’ll admit—I’m girly, and I like pretty, sparkly things. And I really like having a chance to save a bit of money on those sparkly things while also contributing to a good cause, but how often do you get the chance to do that? Well, on February 11, Yanina & Co. in Cedar Grove is giving you just that chance at its Night of Hope Event.

From 6 to 8 p.m., attendees can enjoy exclusive discounts on all Yanina & Co. jewelry, as well as delicious hors d’oeuvres by Lu Nello Restaurant and chances to win fabulous prizes, including art deco-inspired diamond earrings, Oved diamond studs, a Swiss-made Louis Erard men’s watch, and a one-year membership to the Park Avenue Club. All proceeds from the night will benefit the Valerie Fund of Saint Barnabas Hospital, which offers comprehensive health services for children with cancer and blood disorders.

Need an extra incentive? The first 25 women who walk through the door will receive a free pair of the pearl and diamond earrings pictured above, valued at $350. That’s right—free jewelry! What’s not to love?

RSVP by calling 973.857.5544.