Keeping Our Minds and Bodies Healthy


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Susan Baldani

During this pandemic, the focus has been on keeping our bodies healthy, which is a priority. There are many guidelines to help us to do just that, including wearing masks, washing our hands, and maintaining social distancing. But, what about our mental health? Studies have shown that depression, anxiety and suicides are now at an all-time high.

Many factors contribute to these increases, including loneliness from self-isolation, loss of employment, fear for our families and our futures, and dismay at the economic impact to our country. The constant barrage of bad news in the media also heightens our sense of anxiety and sadness. For those who have battled COVID-19 or lost loved ones, and for the healthcare workers fighting on the front lines, these issues are compounded. Facing our own and others’ mortality can wear greatly on our mental health.

What’s been even more detrimental during this time is our inability to take part in activities that decrease stress, help us cope with anxiety, and bring us enjoyment. Playing sports, going to the gym or spa, getting together with friends, and being with our families often add to our sense of well-being. For many, these options are limited right now.

So, what can we safely do to maintain and improve our mental health? Here are some ideas:

  • Get outdoors. A change of scenery, along with some fresh air, keeps our minds active.
  • Walk, run, or bicycle around your neighborhood, or take a hike through some local parks.
  • Go to the beach. There is something about being near water that always makes us feel invigorated.
  • Connect with family and friends by phone or online. Just hearing loved ones’ voices provides an instant lift to our day, and if you can see their faces, even better.
  • Nothing gives us a better sense of accomplishment and joy than helping others who are less fortunate.
  • Reach out. If depression or anxiety become overwhelming, call your healthcare practitioner or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Help is always available; don’t hesitate to ask for it.

Contributing Author:  Susan Baldani, a life member of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad.

From Roles to Rolls


An actor and foodie who is garnering awards on and off the screen

By Sue Baldani

Mitchell Anderson is used to getting accolades for his acting ability. A student of Julliard who began his acting career in 1983, he has been featured in many popular television, film and theater productions. His most current role is in After Forever, a digital series on Amazon Prime, for which he has been pre-nominated for an Emmy award.

However, Anderson’s most recent award didn’t have anything to do with acting, but with food. As the owner of Metro Fresh, with two locations in Midtown, he is what he calls a food nerd.

“I’ve always been a good cook and always loved that food brings people together and fosters conversation,” said Anderson. “You can kind of tell the story of life through food. That’s what I feel my whole career in show business is about –  telling stories and communicating with people.”

In 2001, he moved to Atlanta to be with his partner (now husband,) Richie Arpino, and to cultivate his interest in the restaurant business. Fortunately for Anderson, he was introduced to Jenny Levison, the owner of Souper Jenny cafes in Atlanta and former actress; they had an immediate connection.

“She taught me this artistic improvisational approach to creating soups and salads. Metro Fresh is very much in the image of Souper Jenny, with my own spin on it.”

Metro Fresh offers breakfast, lunch and nighttime dining options at both locations, and the focus is on what’s fresh and in season.

“The whole idea is to give people a three-meal-a-day dining option that is super creative, really healthy, and fast. That’s what I think I’m most proud of –  that we offer this quick dining option that is also a culinary experience.”

The menu changes every day, but one item has stayed exactly the same for the last 15 years. And this is the one that has won him an award in his role as a foodie.

Called Mitchili, it’s been named Weight Watchers Reimagined Favorite during Oprah’s 2020 Vision Tour.

 Although he didn’t get to meet Oprah, he was given two complimentary tickets to the Vision Tour and was able to join her along with the other 15,000 attendees. He was also encouraged to  incorporate the Weight Watchers favorite branding into his menu, which he was honored to do.

Anderson also wrote a cookbook, called Food and Thought, which can be purchased on the Metro Fresh website at

“The cookbook is all about stories and the story of life. I wanted people to get to know me through the stories I write every day.”


(This recipe includes Hot Italian Turkey Sausage, so it will be a little spicier than the Metro Fresh version.)

– 2 Lbs. Ground Turkey
– 1 Lb. (About five links) Hot Italian Turkey Sausage – Casings removed
– 1 Large Red Onion Diced
– 1 each Red, Yellow, Green Pepper seeded and Diced
– 3 Large Cans Chopped Tomatoes
– 1 can each of Chili Beans, Great Northern White Beans, Kidney Beans and
Black Beans (Drain all except for Chili Beans)
– ¼ Cup Olive Oil
– ¼ Cup Chili Powder
– 2 TBS Ground Cumin
– 2 TBS Ground Coriander
– ½ Cup Dijon Mustard
– ¼ Cup Chopped Fresh Dill
– 1/2 Bunch chopped Cilantro
– Kosher Salt To Taste

In large stock pot heat olive oil and then toss in onions and peppers. Sauté until just tender, about five minutes over medium heat. Do not allow them to brown. Add Turkey Meat and Sausage and sauté until cooked through. Add dry spices and mustard. Continue to cook meat until it has turned the color of the chili powder. Add tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add beans and cook over low heat for about an hour. Stir every once and a while so the beans don’t burn to the bottom of the pot. Add fresh herbs before serving and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with Sour Cream and Cheddar Cheese if desired.

Serve it over white or yellow rice for an even heartier meal. This recipe of Mitchili will easily serve a nice crowd – perhaps 8-10 people.

Written for Midtown Lifestyle magazine in Atlanta,GA.

Shop local and keep our towns vibrant and strong

Shop local

By Susan Baldani

The Coronavirus has hit the country hard, and will unfortunately have lasting ramifications for quite some time. The economy has taken a severe hit, and many stores, especially those that are small and independently owned,  have either gone out of business or are struggling to survive. So, once this crisis is over, what can we do to help?

Next time you’re out, take a stroll around your downtown. Look closely at the local businesses to be found there. We often drive by without giving them a second thought. In addition to the stores you may already patronize, focus on those you may never have taken the time to visit. Speak to the owners and salespeople and find out what they have to offer. You never know what you might find. If you see something you like, buy it, and then tell other people about it.  Spread the word about these fine establishments –  word of mouth is an effective form of advertising and doesn’t cost anything. I’ve often visited places because someone told me how wonderful the products and service were in those particular shops.

Pay careful attention to the advertisements in this and other local publications to find out what they actually have to offer. If some shops don’t exactly fit what you’re interested in or are selling things you don’t usually buy, try to support them anyway. For example, if you’re not a knitter but know someone who is, buy special yarn and needles as gifts from those shops that sell them. If you have never gone antiquing, but love the look of old and solid furniture, browse what these types of stores have in stock. If you’re a novice, you can also get all  your questions answered about particular pieces or styles you’re interested in. The owners and salespeople in these small stores are usually very knowledgeable about their businesses.

Many of these local mom-and-pop stores have been fixtures in their communities for ages. The proprietors, some going back generations, have worked hard for countless years to build up their businesses and develop loyal customer bases.  Small towns just wouldn’t be the same without them.

So, let’s show our support for these neighborhood treasures that can be found all across the country, in small towns and large, by buying locally and encouraging others to do the same. You’ll not only be doing a great service, but also have fun finding some unique and quality items to enjoy for years to come.

Written for The Country Register published throughout the U.S. and Canada.