Get Physically and Financially Healthy the John Hancock | Vitality Way

Its finally SPRING!! YIPPIE!!

Now is the time to get moving and even small steps will help you not only get fit, but lead a healthier and longer life. John Hancock teamed up with Chris O’Donnell, star of NCIS: Los Angeles to help us all recognize that getting healthy means physically, emotionally and financially. Even small steps are better than no steps right? Working in partnership with Vitality, John Hancock is offering an entirely new kind of life insurance that rewards you for living a healthier lifestyle.  What would you do with #5MoreNow?Infographic_LiveHealthier_915x6731-copy

The John Hancock | Vitality exclusive partnership is offering a new kind of life insurance that integrates wellness benefits with life insurance products. This means you will really save on your premiums. The more you save, the more you are rewarded. So how does it work? After you complete your life insurance process you take an online Vitality Health Review to help determine your “Vitality Age” (it just means your overall health). Then you receive a personalized goals assessment to help you on your way to a healthier lifestyle. To help you along, John Hancock will give you a free Fitbit to track your progress. SCORE!! As you gain in your “Vitality Status” you can earn even more savings and rewards. For example, Policyholders can earn travel, shopping, and entertainment-related rewards and discounts, including half-price Hyatt hotel nights, 20-50% off major brand cruise packages, and gift cards from leading retailers like Whole Foods, REI, iTunes, Starbucks, Fandango, and more.5More_small

This is a wonderful opportunity and truly important for you as a new couple. Life insurance isn’t something that one thinks about immediately or at all…until it’s too late. Honestly, it should be one of the first things you do together as a couple. Protect each other. Get healthy together and in the end you will save a lot of money on medical expenses.

You can find out much more by going to the John Hancock website This is the best investment you can make for yourself and each other.




Best Buy Welcomes Cyber Monday

Best Buy


Best Buy is one store that has just about everything on my shopping list.  Being the authority and most complete destination for all your technology and appliance product gifting needs this holiday season, they feature more than 100 products that you can only find at Best Buy. Technology is evolving so quickly and becoming increasingly complex, seriously, who can keep up?  Best Buy can and is here to help make it easy for you to choose the products and services that work best for you.

Are these on your list?

Phones and Tablets: At Best Buy you can see and try all the phones, tablets, carriers, plans and accessories under one roof with industry-leading trade-in options.

Gaming: Best Buy is THE destination for gaming this holiday. Not only do they have the latest Xbox and PlayStation consoles, but the hottest game releases and everything else you need for a great gaming experience.

BBY_VERTICAL_BLOG3_0Computing: Best Buy features the best selection, advise, services and support in computing. They help set the market by working with the industry’s tech leaders to develop a highly specialized and innovative assortment of laptops, many of which are only available at Best Buy.

Mobile Accessories: Best Buy has one of the largest selections of accessories and wearables this holiday. Bluetooth speakers, smart watches, health & fitness gear and headphones will truly rule holiday.

Started your shopping and still haven’t found the perfect gift, why not look at what Best Buy has to offer?  Starting today, how about a 15% off Health & Fitness, Fisher Price and Mattel games and toys (click here for instant savings). If mobile accessories is more your thing, stock up on the latest headphones and portable speakers (excludes Beats, Bose and Sony) with this instant 10% off coupon?

bb2Still not sure, why not choose a Best Buy gift card?  It’s the perfect gift that keeps on giving.  Did you also know that Best Buy offers Free in-store Pick-up? Just buy it online, and pick it up at your convenience at your local store.  Personally, I love seeing those Blue Shirts because I know they are experts and will help me make the right choice. So no matter if you use or visit anyone of their 1,400 stores you’ll be able to finish your holiday shopping in a tech store with an extensive choice of tech-gifts.


Disclaimer: The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

EcoDesigns holiday spirit times two

Echo Design, the leading fashion and home accessories brand announces Share The Warmth, a charitable promotion on  The promotion will benefit Fashion Delivers, a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing apparel and other products donated by manufacturers and retailers to community charities across the country.

Share the Warmth – Buy One, We Give Two. NOW through December 1, 2013 Echo Design invites consumers to purchase cold weather items, such as gloves, hats or mufflers from and for each unit sold, the company will donate two comparable items to those in need through Fashion Delivers.  All the items donated will go to those in the northeast still impacted by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, one year later.  Echo Design wants to help ensure people keep warm this winter.

“Giving back has always been part of our 90 year heritage and this holiday season, we are proud to partner with Fashion Delivers. There is a need to continue to support communities affected by Hurricane Sandy and we hope to provide warmth in the cold months ahead by donating scarfs, hats and gloves to those in need.” Says Lynn Roberts, Vice President of Communications, Echo Design.

“Recovering from a natural disaster is a long, challenging road, which is why we are still working with New York and New Jersey charities to help people affected by Hurricane Sandy,” said Fashion Delivers Chairman Allan Ellinger. “This program is a great way for consumers to help people in need while also getting beautiful products. We’re counting on the generosity of companies like Echo Design, as well as their customers, to help keep people warm this winter.”

About Echo Design and The Echo Design Group

Established in 1923, Echo Design is a leader in creating innovative and beautifully designed accessories and home products.  The brand includes scarfs, handbags, cold weather items, gloves, outerwear, beachwear and tech accessories. Echo Design home collections consist of bedding, bath products, decorative fabric and trim, wallcoverings, rugs, and tabletop. These products are distributed globally. With each new line, Echo Design brings the same timeless values of quality, craftsmanship and integrity.

The Echo Design Group designs extensive collections through private label for major brands and retailers, prominent museums such as MoMA and Art Institute of Chicago, and through its longstanding licensing relationship with the Ralph Lauren family of brands.

About Fashion Delivers

Fashion Delivers Charitable Foundation, Inc. battles the effects of poverty and natural disasters by supporting hundreds of community-based social service agencies throughout the U.S. and around the world. Fashion Delivers was formed in 2005 to mobilize the fashion community and reach out to those most in need, providing donations of new women’s, men’s and home fashions distributed through a network of local agencies. Fashion Delivers has secured and distributed nearly $200 million in product since its inception. For more information, please visit

Holiday Shopping in Brooklyn (NY that is)

Yesterday we explored the holiday shops in Manhattan. Today we’re taking a walk over the bridge to Brooklyn and enjoying all they have to offer.  Recently Brooklyn has become the hot neighborhood (well, this Brooklyn Girl always knew it was the best, but I digress…) and now many more people will realize it too.


These markets are highly etsy but there are some amazing artisans and craftspeople in these markets.   You’ll find something for everyone on your holiday or wedding list.  While you’re there, check out some of the neighboring restaurants. After all, more than a tree grows here.




Nov. 23 and 24, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
1 Hanson Place, Brooklyn


The Renegade Craft Fair will surely take your craft browsing experience to a new level with their free photo booth, free music and workshops to make the fair feel more like a party. You can learn and purchase organic soaps, kids clothes, leather items, letterpress cards, earrings, and a lot more.  They have over 200 vendors, so you won’t leave empty handed.


80 N. 5th Street
Nov.30 – March, Sat. and Sun. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.


While I’m sad they moved this from their location in Ft. Green (my neighborhood) The Brooklyn Flea’s new location means it is much larger, meaning more vendors, and more options.  Even if you don’t go, they have some of the best foot around.  Called the Smorgasburg, there will be 75 food booths alongside the 125 gift vendors. They will have packaged food and gifting items (I saw some this weekend and OMG!!). Bring lots of money because there will be lots of options. They will have an ATM just in case.


69 9th Street, Brooklyn
Dec. 7, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Dec. 8, 10 a.m. to 5p.m.


Free Beer??!?  Did someone say FREE??  According to the website, along with a slew of handmade gifts for sale, there will be free beer for all (of legal drinking age) Friday, thanks should go to Brooklyn Brewery and Brooklyn Home Brew. DJ WE CAN GOT IT will get the party started at the Friday kickoff as well. 


501 Union Street, Brooklyn
Dec. 8, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.


A collection of 30 artists with their handmade gifts, and workshops available.


The Space, 50 North 3rd Street, Brooklyn
Dec. 14 and 15, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. 


The fair has more than 40 Etsy New York vendors selling “goods ranging from handmade clothing, jewelry, accessories and paper goods to bath and body products, toys and housewares.  Best yet…the first 100 entrants get a goodie bag


Wine Wednesday: B-B-Q Pulled Chicken


Sometimes you just want something that you can put on and leave it cooking all day while you do what ever you need to do, yet have something delicious for your family and friends for dinner.  I think that this is a great dish anytime, but

Shredded meat — beef, pork, or chicken — is one of the most versatile dinner elements you can imagine!  Today, I’m going to share this simple, inexpensive, and relatively quick, chicken dish that has some advantages over the heavier beef and pork. Here’s how to make a batch of tender and delicious pulled chicken in the oven — or your slow cooker!

Pulled chicken is just as easy as its beef and pork counterparts, but it takes less time and is lighter in fat and calories (if you pay attention to that sort of thing!).

I feel, though, that there is one really key element to making good barbecue sauce chicken, whether it’s in the oven or the slow cooker: Use dark meat. Chicken breasts don’t have enough fat or tenderness to get soft while braising; they just aren’t going to fall apart into soft threads the way a slightly fattier meat will. Personally, I like to use mostly boneless skinless chicken thighs, which aren’t as dark as legs, but offer a light yet succulent texture. I do mix in a breast or too as well, but I would never use them for more than 25% to 30% of the total meat.

You can also opt to use bone-in chicken, but for me the extra work of skinning the chicken or working with the bones isn’t worth it.  As for drink of choice, a Chardonnay 2011 would be great or a Belgium beer. Hope you enjoy!

Barbecue Shredded Chicken
8 to 10 servings

3 to 4 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, or a mix of thighs and breasts
Olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 (or more) cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
12 (1 1/2 cups) ounces barbecue sauce, store-bought or homemade, plus more for serving

Heat the oven to 325°F. Remove the chicken from its packaging and pat it dry.

In a Dutch oven or heavy pot (with a lid) heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic for 5 minutes or until quite soft. Add the smoked paprka and stir. Add the chicken piece by piece, stirring to mix well with the onion. Stir in the salt and a few generous grinds of black pepper. Pour in the barbecue sauce and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat.

Cover the pot with a heavy lid and put in the oven. Bake, covered, for 90 minutes, or until the chicken is extremely tender. Remove from the oven and use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken to a large bowl. Use two forks to shred the chicken finely.

Meanwhile, while you’re shredding the chicken, put the sauce, uncovered, back on the stove over high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid in the pan to about half of its volume. Pour this thickened sauce over the chicken and stir.

Serve with buns, slaw, avocado, and extra barbecue sauce on the side.

Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Slow Cooker Instructions:
Follow the recipe as written above, but instead of putting the chicken and sauce in the oven, pour it all into a slow cooker. Cook for 5 to 7 hours on LOW. If desired, you can lift out the chicken and reduce the sauce in a separate pan on the stovetop, but this may not be necessary; it simply depends on your preference.

Wine Wednesday: Prepare your Cinco de Mayo celebration

There’s no better way to celebrate Mexico’s proud culinary heritage than with intensely flavored, authentic recipes. Here, we’re featuring our favorite Mexican dishes and drinks that turn any gathering into a delicious fiesta.  Of course great Tequilla and or a cold cerveza is perfect to serve your guests.  While we celebrate “Mexican Independence”…is it really??

This dessert, excerpted from the cookbook My Sweet Mexico by Fany Gerson, gets its name from a magical thing that occurs in the oven. You fill a caramel-lined cake pan with chocolate cake batter, pour a layer of flan on top, and bake. When it comes out of the oven, you find that the flan has disappeared, and all you see is chocolate cake. You wait for it to cool, unmold it, and there is the flan! This is a sticky, rich, sweet dessert that is not for the faint of heart.

Spicy Pork Kebabscincodemayo

For the marinade:
1 dried hot red chile, stemmed and seeded
1 Tbs. grated lime zest
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. light brown sugar
1 Tbs. chopped canned chipotle in adobo (I like Herdez brand)
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil

For the kebabs:
2 pork tenderloins (1 to 1-1/4 lb. each), trimmed, halved lengthwise, and sliced into 1-1/2-inch-thick half-rounds
1 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 fresh poblano chiles, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch squares
16 medium radishes, trimmed
16 scallions, root ends trimmed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the marinade:

Soak the red chile in very hot water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes. Drain the chile and put it in a blender, along with all the remaining marinade ingredients. Blend until smooth. Set aside 1/2 cup of the marinade for basting. Put the remaining marinade and the pork in a large zip-top bag, seal, and massage the contents to coat. Marinate for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator. Remove the pork; discard the marinade.

Make the kebabs:

Thread the meat onto skewers, alternating with the onion, the poblano pieces, and the whole radishes.

Build a medium-hot charcoal fire or heat a gas grill to medium high and oil the grill grate. Grill the kebabs (uncovered for charcoal; covered for gas), turning every 2 to 3 min. Once the pork loses its raw look, baste with the reserved marinade each time you turn the skewers. Grill until the pork is firm to the touch and the edges have begun to brown and the vegetables have begun to color and soften, about 15 min. Mound the skewers on a warm platter; tent with foil to keep warm. Brush the scallions with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until they begin to brown and soften, turning frequently, 3 to 5 min.

To serve:

Remove the meat and vegetables from their skewers, mound them on the platter and arrange the scallions around the edges.

Grilled Corn on the Cob with Lime-Cayenne Butter

4 oz. (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne
8 to 10 ears of corn

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the lime juice, salt, and cayenne. Keep warm.

Peel off all but one or two layers of the corn husks. Pull the remaining husks down, but not off, and remove the bulk of the silks (the rest will come off easily after they char). Pull up the husks; it’s okay if some kernels peek through.

Prepare a hot charcoal fire or heat a gas grill to high. Put the corn on the grate while the coals are still red-hot. (Cover a gas grill.)

Grill the corn, turning often, until the outer layer of husk is completely charred. Depending on your fire, this could take from around 5 to 10 minutes. You can push the corn to a cooler spot if you’re grilling other things for your meal, or transfer the grilled corn to a platter and keep it warm in the charred husks.

Just before serving, peel off the husk and brush away any remaining silks. Brown the kernels on the grill briefly, turning the corn frequently to develop a roasty color and a little additional smoke flavor, about 1 minute. (If the corn spends too long on the grill without the protection of the husk, the kernels will become dry and a bit chewy.)

Brush the warm cayenne butter on the hot grilled corn and serve immediately.

Flan Impossible (Impossible Chocolate Flan)

1 cup cajeta, store-bought (see tip, below) 

For the cake:
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch processed
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 egg, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

For the flan:
1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk
1 (14-oz.) can condensed milk
4 eggs
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup coarsely chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts, for garnish

Tip: Cajeta, or Mexican milk caramel, is usually made with goat’s milk, and available at Latin markets. If you can’t find it, substitute dulce de leche.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch cake pan.

Pour the cajeta over the bottom and sides of the cake pan using a brush or the back of a spoon (you can heat the cajeta very slightly in the microwave so that it is easier to spread).

Make the Cake:

Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture, whisking until thoroughly combined. Pour the cake batter into the pan and set aside.

Make the Flan:

Combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt in a blender and blend until there are no visible lumps. Pour gently over the cake batter.

Cover loosely with foil, place in a large baking dish, and fill the baking dish with hot water so that it comes halfway up the sides. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Remove the cake pan from the baking dish and allow to cool for at least 4 hours or refrigerate overnight. To unmold, lightly pass a warm knife around the edge, place a plate or dish on top, and carefully but rapidly flip over. Garnish with the toasted nuts. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Wine Wednesday: Cookies and Milk are for adults only

It was 12:02am on a Friday night (yea, I have a great social life) and I was looking through magazines hoping for inspiration.  As the night-clouds parted, I happened upon the most amazing cookie recipe.  Now, what makes these so great – they are from my favorite Sesame Street character himself, Cookie-Monster.  The fact that my nickname was Cooki has no real bearing on why I’m obsessed with my little blue friend…ok, maybe a little.

Cookie Monster’s famous cookie dough recipe first appeared in Big Bird’s Busy Book, from the 1970’s and I wonder if Kermit, Miss Piggy or Big Bird have their own version…hmmm.

As we begin to feel those first tastes of fall, how about making these great treats. Besides the fact your house will smell divine, who doesn’t like a good sugar cookie?

Cookie Monster’ Famous Sugar Cookie


3/4 cup unsalted butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking flour
1 teaspoon salt


Medium-sized mixing bowl
Measuring cup and spoons
A fork


1. Put 3/4 cup of butter or margarine (that’s a stick and a half) into your mixing bowl.

2. Measure 1 cup of sugar.

3. Pour sugar over butter.

4. With fork, squash butter and sugar together until they are blended.

5. Crack shells of two eggs and pour eggs over mixture in bowl.

6. Measure 1 teaspoon vanilla and pour over mixture.

7. With fork, blend everything in the bowl together.

8. Measure 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and pour over mixture in bowl.

9. Measure 1 teaspoon baking powder and sprinkle over flour.

10. Measure 1 teaspoon of salt and sprinkle over flour and baking powder.

11. Mix everything together either with the fork or with your hands.

12. Put dough in icebox to chill (at least one hour)

There are no instructions for baking from this print, but a quick search for others’ experiences with the recipe and recommendations say to roll out cookies 1/4 inch thick, sprinkle with sugar, and bake at 400 degrees.

These Milkshakes are for adults only!

Making an adult milkshake is pretty simple, requiring only a blender, ice cream, milk, spirits and any other ingredients you’d like to add. The general ratio to use for adult milkshakes is two to one ice cream to milk, with around 1 oz of alcohol per cup of ice cream. Adding a little extra ice cream or reducing the milk a bit can be helpful though, since the alcohol tends to make the ice cream melt slightly faster. You can also play with the ratios to make the shake as thick or thin as you prefer. If you do it right, you’ve got a spectacular summer treat. Mess it up, and it’s still pretty tasty. It is ice cream, after all.

Feel free to experiment with your favorite flavors, but here are a few recipes to get you started off right. They’re all sized to share, so invite some friends!

The Monkey Business

Inspired by the booze-filled ice cream concoction of the same name at the Town Talk Diner in Minneapolis, the Monkey Business combines chocolate, peanut butter and banana with bourbon. It’s just sweet enough, the addition of bourbon bringing warmth to the cold drink, along with some hints of caramel and spice that shine through the other heavy flavors.

• 4 cups chocolate ice cream

• 1.5 cups milk

• 1 banana

• 2 oz Castries Peanut Cream liquor (optional, but if left out add an additional 2 tbsp peanut butter)

• 2 tbsp peanut butter

• 3 oz bourbon (Jim Beam Black is a solid choice here – high quality, without being so expensive that you feel like an idiot for putting it in the blender)

Pour all the ingredients in the blender and pulse till smooth.

The Peaches & Cream

Peaches are about as summery as you can get. They’re even better when they’re combined with ice cream and amaretto for a fresh-tasting adult milkshake. Even better, since it has fruit in it you can pretend it’s good for you, right?

• 4 cups vanilla ice cream

• 2 ripe peaches, peeled and chopped

• 1.5 cups milk

• 4 oz. amaretto liqueur

• 2 oz. peach schnapps

Toss the whole mess into a blender and blend on puree for about 20-30 seconds until the mixture is smooth and there’s minimal sign of peach chunks, which don’t flow up bendy straws particularly well.

The Brandy Alexander

A classic cocktail that comes in a wide range of forms, including an adult milkshake, the Brandy Alexander was allegedly created in London around 1922. Normally made with cream or half & half, using vanilla ice cream makes it even more luxurious and summer appropriate.

• 4 cups vanilla ice cream

• 3 oz. crème de cacao (Marie Brizard makes a particularly tasty version)

• 3 oz. brandy (Macieira is a Portuguese brandy with enough spice and oak to tone down the sweetness of the drink and add some much needed complexity)

• 1.25 cups milk

• 2 tsp. Vanilla extract (or split open 1 vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds and put them in the mix)

Drop all of the ingredients in the blender and give it a few pulses. Pour into wine glasses and toast the mad genius who thought ice cream and booze would be a perfect match.