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Super Bowl

Sweetbriar Nature Center volunteer Dan Defeo with Hoover the Goat. Photo by Janine Bendicksen

By Tara Mae 

Hoover the Goat has foreseen the future…of football. Located in Smithtown, Sweetbriar Nature Center’s resident sports seer has predicted that the Philadelphia Eagles will beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl this Sunday.

Sweetbriar Nature Center volunteer Dan Defeo with Hoover the Goat. Photo by Janine Bendicksen

In a video posted to Sweetbriar’s social media accounts on Feb. 5, Hoover, who normally prefers hay, vegetables, and goat food, can be seen rather emphatically eating up the idea that the Eagles will take home the Vince Lombardi Trophy. 

If there is a method to his magic  (Hoover has correctly predicted the Super Bowl winner for the past five years) he has selected not to share it. When pressed for comment about his decisive digestives, Hoover declined to spill the oats. 

Since he is not one to reveal trade secrets, the origin of Hoover’s psychic prowess remains a mystery. Nonetheless, he is adamant in how he articulates his chosen team. 

“We make up pictures of the two teams, and whichever one he eats is the winner. Hoover is very precise: he thinks about it and then takes a chomp,” said Wildlife Rehabilitation Director Janine Bendicksen. As a rule, Hoover does not deign to get emotionally involved in the team he tastes, but Bendicksen does wonder if they would otherwise cheer for the same one. 

“I am just curious to see if he goes for the underdog or the sure win. I always go for the underdog,” she added.

Rooting for the underdog is a common experience for the staff and volunteers of Sweetbriar, a wildlife education, preservation, and rehabilitation center; they may see and treat hundreds of injured animals in a year. Many come for a recuperative stay and are rereleased when rehabilitated, but others live out their days in structures located on the preserve’s property, tended to and supported by a dedicated group of caregivers.

A Sweetbriar rescue who has lived at his forever home for 13 years, Hoover is one of approximately 100 permanent residents. He is, thus far, the only creature that has exhibited such clairvoyance at the sanctuary.  

“We were looking to figure out an animal that might be able to predict the Super Bowl as a spoof, and Hoover has never been wrong,” Bendicksen said.   

Although Hoover does not perform his talent for a live audience, opting to make his selection with only a couple of his opposable-thumbed friends in attendance, Sweetbriar does offer many other many programs and events that allow patrons to interact with the organization’s ambassador animals. 

Hoover the Goat chomps down on a piece of paper depicting his pick for the winning team.
Photo courtesy of Sweetbriar Nature Center

“Hoover prefers not to participate in our events and we always honor the animal’s feelings,” said Program Coordinator Veronica Sayers.

Still, the impact of Hoover’s social media presence is an asset to Sweetbriar’s efforts to educate and inform the public while protecting and preserving wildlife and its natural habitat. As a nonprofit that relies heavily on donations, Sweetbriar Nature Center utilizes all the tools it has available including social media and community outreach. 

“We mainly use this to educate the public. The more people know about wildlife, the easier our jobs get,” Sayers said. “Social media is a way to get to a lot of people and educate them. For example, in the last five years, possums have gone from being viewed as pests to being appreciated. Social media helped fix that perception.”

To witness Hoover make his prediction, visit Sweetbriar Nature Center on its Facebook page or on Instagram @sweetbriarnaturecenter. 

Sweetbriar Nature Center is located at 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown. The nature center and preserve are open daily, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To learn more about Sweetbriar’s upcoming activities and programs, including a day camp for children ages 6-11, during the February public school break, visit www.sweetbriarnc.org or call 631-979-6344.  

Every year Hoover the Goat at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown picks the winner of the Super Bowl and for the last 4 years he has predicted correctly! This year Hoover chose the  Los Angeles Rams — Lets see if he gets it right again! Place your bets!

See video here.

*This video has been reposted with permission from Sweetbriar Nature Center.

Long Island based nonprofit’s service dog In training to play on Team Fluff In Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl XVIII

America’s VetDogs, a Long Island based national non-profit that trains and places guide and service dogs with veterans and first responders with disabilities, is thrilled to announce future service dog in training “Kirby” will be competing in this year’s Puppy Bowl XVIII on Animal Planet on Super Bowl Sunday, February 13th at 2 p.m. Kirby will be one of more than 100 adoptable puppies running around and scoring touchdowns for a chance to win the “Lombarky” Trophy. The Puppy Bowl pre-game show begins at 1 p.m. with the game to follow at 2 p.m. They will air on Animal Planet and stream on Discovery+.

On Saturday, February 12, Kirby will be taking over Animal Planet’s Instagram for a “day in the life” feature of what it’s like to be puppy co-raised by NFL team Houston Texans and what training goes into raising a future service dog for a disabled veteran or first responder.

Kirby, a male Labrador retriever, joined the Houston Texans last July at 10 weeks old and was named by Texans fans through a voting contest. He is currently training to be a service dog in a partnership with America’s Vet Dogs. Once his training is complete, Kirby will be placed with a veteran or a first responder with disabilities. You can follow Kirby’s puppy raising journey but visiting his Instagram page at @Texanspup or @americasvetdogs.

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

By Barbara Beltrami

Think about it. There’s hardly a Super Bowl menu that doesn’t have at least one snack made from ground meat. Everything from chili to sliders, from meatballs to lasagna and beyond calls upon ground meat as a main ingredient. I have some of my own ideas for such recipes for the big day. There are buffalo chicken meatballs, beef sliders and football meatloaf, for instance. Fans will love these dishes and you’ll score big time! Just be sure to have similarly flavored veggie burgers on hand for the vegetarians and vegans and lots of chips and dips and crudités to accompany the ground meat dish.

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings.


Nonstick cooking spray

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

2/3 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs

1 large egg

1 carrot 

1 celery rib with leaves

½ pound ground chicken breast

½ pound ground chicken thighs

4 scallions, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 garlic clove, finely minced

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup chicken broth

2/3 cup Buffalo hot sauce

½ cup ketchup


Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. In small bowl combine yogurt, breadcrumbs and egg. Let sit 5 minutes. Grate one carrot and one celery rib, chop celery leaves and add all three plus the chicken, half the scallions, the parsley, garlic, cayenne and salt and pepper to the yogurt mixture. Mix thoroughly and shape into tiny meatballs about the size of an olive or a grape. 

Place on baking sheet and bake, turning once, until browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. In a large pot over medium to high heat, melt butter, add remaining scallions, chicken broth, hot sauce and ketchup; stir, bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until sauce thickens a little, about 8 minutes; add meatballs and simmer another 8 minutes. Serve hot or warm with celery and carrot sticks and blue cheese dip.

Beef Sliders with Blue Cheese and Celery

YIELD: Makes 12 sliders.


Nonstick cooking spray

1½ pounds ground chuck or sirloin

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 oz blue cheese, divided into 12 equal portions

3 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 tablespoon minced onion

 12 slider buns

1 celery rib , minced

12 pickle slices


Spray grill with nonstick cooking spray, then preheat to hot. Divide ground meat into 12 equal portions; season with salt and pepper and press into ½-inch-thick patties. Grill on one side 2 to 2½ minutes, flip, place blue cheese on top and cook another 2 to 2½ minutes, until cheese is melted. In a small bowl, combine ketchup, mustard and onion. Spread 12 bun halves on platter, spread with ketchup mixture, then add slider, celery and a pickle slice. Top with remaining bun halves and serve immediately with cole slaw and french fries.

Football Meatloaf

YIELD: Makes 8 to 12 servings.


3 onions, finely chopped and sauteed until transparent

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

½ cup beef broth

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 pounds ground chuck

2 large eggs, beaten

1 cup tomato sauce

1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch strips


Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl combine onions, parsley, salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce, broth, tomato paste, meat and eggs and mix well. Place mixture in a mound in shallow roasting pan and pat into a football shape. Bake until top is brown, about 20 to 30 minutes, then pour tomato sauce over it and bake till sauce is bubbly, about 20 to 30 minutes more. Remove from oven, smear any extra sauce over meatloaf and let sit 10 minutes. Arrange carrot pieces on top with one long piece vertically down the middle and 6 or 8 short pieces going horizontally to resemble lacing on a football. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with mustard, ketchup and potato rolls.


Super Bacon-Cheeseburger Sliders

By Barbara Beltrami

Research on the internet informs me that sliders date back to the old White Castle hamburgers as well as to the Navy moniker for greasy burgers that slid onto the bun or plate. Their reincarnation has, like many resurrected concepts, produced a whole new phenomenon, most often a beef patty but also a mini-sandwich that can be anything from a turkey Reuben to eggplant parmigiana. Whatever their provenance, sliders are wonderful for large gatherings like Super Bowl parties. Along with the wings and the guacamole and the nachos and chips and dips, the pizzas and heroes and chili, sliders offer super football fare that can be easily grabbed, bitten into, chewed and swallowed in enough time to cheer or curse the latest play.

Super Bacon-Cheeseburger Sliders

Super Bacon-Cheeseburger Sliders

YIELD: Makes 12 servings


2½ to 3 pounds ground beef

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 slices cheddar cheese, halved

12 slider rolls

6 cooked bacon slices, halved

12 tomato slices

12 red onion slices

12 pickle slices


Preheat grill or broiler. Separate and pat meat into 3-inch discs, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 3 minutes per side, more or less depending on desired doneness. One to 2 minutes before they are done, carefully lay cheese on top and continue cooking until cheese is melted. Arrange bottom halves of rolls on a platter, slide meat patties onto rolls. Add bacon, tomato, onion and pickles and serve immediately with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and lots of napkins.

Super Turkey Reuben Sliders

YIELD: Makes 12 servings


12 slider rolls

6 tablespoons prepared mustard

12 slices deli turkey breast, halved

One 14-ounce can sauerkraut, heated and well-drained

6 slices Swiss cheese, halved

¾ cup Russian dressing 


Preheat broiler. Arrange bottoms of slider rolls on rack of large broiler pan. Spread half a tablespoon mustard on each one; add turkey breast. Next mound the sauerkraut evenly over turkey and top with Swiss cheese slices. Broil 1 or 2 minutes, just until cheese is melted. With a spatula, slide each bottom half with its toppings onto a platter, evenly spread top halves with Russian dressing and serve hot with potato salad and a pickle.

Super Eggplant Parmigiana Sliders

YIELD: Makes 12 servings


1 egg

1 to 1½ cups bread crumbs

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 half-inch-thick round slices eggplant

One 14-ounce can petite diced tomatoes

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or one teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or one teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or one teaspoon dried

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

¼ cup olive oil

24 half-inch-thick round slices narrow crusty Italian bread

1 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced into 12 rounds


In a shallow bowl beat egg with 1 or 2 tablespoons water; in another shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs with the salt and pepper. Dip the eggplant slices first in the egg, then in the bread crumbs and then transfer to a plate. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, garlic, the 2 tablespoons olive oil, the herbs and salt and pepper in a medium skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened. Set aside to keep warm.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add eggplant and cook, turning once, until brown on both sides. Remove from skillet and blot with paper towels. Arrange 12 slices bread on rack of broiler pan, top each with an eggplant slice, then a slice of mozzarella. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Meanwhile, reheat sauce and remove eggplant from oven. Spoon sauce evenly over melted cheese, top with remaining bread slices, slide onto platter and serve hot or warm with marinated artichoke hearts, peppers and mushrooms.

Donates food to St. James' nonprofit after servicemen and women were displaced from Northport VA home

St. James residents William Mountzouros, Robert Cornicelli and Allan Fajardo, members of nonprofit Veterans for a More Responsive Government, deliver donated food to residents on the day of Super Bowl LII. Photo from Robert Cornicelli

On the day of the big game, Tommy O’Grady was the real patriot.

The owner of Miller Place’s Tuscany Gourmet Market donated food for 107 local veterans to make sure the servicemen and women could enjoy Super Bowl LII. Original plans had been to prepare a feast for 40 veterans at the VA Northport Beacon House Homeless Shelter through Veterans for a More Responsive Government, a nonprofit working to increase the public’s awareness of harassment and mistreatment of disabled U.S. veterans. Pipes burst at the Beacon House, and the veterans were split up and moved to nine different homes after making plans to watch the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots duke it out. When O’Grady was approached with the change of plans, he didn’t hesitate to alter his.

Tommy O’Grady, owner of Tuscany Gourmet Market in Miller Place, donated feasts for local veterans in need. File photo

“I have a gifted life, I’m doing well right now, and to see people who put their lives on the line and did their time in need, it’s not right,” O’Grady said. “For me, to give this to them, it’s the only way to say, ‘Thank you.’”

O’Grady had been connected with Robert Cornicelli, founder of Veterans for a More Responsive Government, through his childhood friend and Suffolk County Republican Committee Chairman John Jay LaValle. The two grew up in Centereach together, and when LaValle was approached by Cornicelli asking first for help stretching his $540 into food for 40, he knew who to call.

“Tommy is the type of guy I’m almost afraid to talk in front of because God forbid you mention somebody is in need, he jumps right on it in two seconds,” the chairman said. “I was so embarrassed to call him back and tell him there’d been a change of plans, but when Robert went in to sit with him after the vet relocations he still said ‘I’ve got everything.’ They were stunned — they literally had tears in their eyes. They couldn’t believe how generous he was going to be. That’s a hell of a donation.”

Cornicelli, who served in the United States Army from 1986 to 1994 and retuned as a captain until his retirement in November 2017, has provided meals for veterans around the holidays for some time, but officially founded his nonprofit this year. A disabled veteran himself, he’s undergone four back surgeries, knee surgery and foot surgery, and said while his mission this time around was to make the party happen despite the setback, he said he hopes a mindfulness for the needs of veterans emerges.

“If everyone did what Tommy did, there’d be a lot fewer problems in this world, that’s for sure — certainly there wouldn’t be any world hunger.”

— John Jay LaValle

“The conditions at the Beacon House are horrible,” he said. “I took photos of moldy walls, ceilings, it’s disguising.”

O’Grady said he wanted to donate the not-so-standard London broil and balsamic chicken heroes, wings, salads and cookie trays so that the money Cornicelli had raised, matched with a donation from LaValle’s Republican National Committee funds, could go toward repairs.

“Robert is passionate about this, and I’m just backing him,” the Tuscany Market owner said. “We’re making it all happen for him. We want to raise awareness, so people can come together to get this home fixed.”

Cornicelli teamed up with fellow St. James residents William Mountzouros, a volunteer, and Allan Fajardo, a veteran, to drop off the food at the various veteran homes. Fajardo said he has been directly affected by Cornicelli. The Honduras native served in the Army from 1994 to 2016, and enlisted Cornicelli. He returned to the states a homeless veteran, and his friend opened his home to him, providing food and shelter. With the help of LaValle and former Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio, Fajardo earned part-time jobs within Smithtown and Brookhaven towns, eventually becoming an investigator for the Town of Islip.

“It’s thanks to those guys that I’m here,” Fajardo said. “When I saw the work [Cornicelli] was doing I immediately hopped on board. It’s a great feeling helping out brothers and sisters in need.”

Forty veterans were displaced after pipes burst at the VA Northport Beacon House Homeless Shelter. File photo

LaValle said seeing the groups of “good guys” come together has been mental therapy for him.

“It’s a tough world right now,” he said. “It’s a very hostile world at times. This is something that’s been really rewarding because you learn you may think you have it bad, and you may be whining about something, but it’s very true that there’s always someone out there who has it worse. Now I want to do more to help out.”

He pointed to Cornicelli and O’Grady as prime examples of model citizens.

“If everyone did what Tommy did, there’d be a lot fewer problems in this world, that’s for sure — certainly there wouldn’t be any world hunger,” he said, laughing. “And what Robert is doing is absolutely wonderful, he deserves a lot of credit.”

But on the day of the Super Bowl, Cornicelli called O’Grady the real hero, who donated much more than just heroes.

“I never met the guy in my life, and he tells me he’s taking care of the whole thing. It’s unbelievable,” Cornicelli said. “He broke everything down to the exact amount needed to feed the veterans at each location, and it’s an amazing feeling when these guys’ eyes are wide open, saying, “This is what we’re getting?” rather than bagged lunches. It’s refreshing to see guys helping out. Tommy, he’s one of the greatest patriots I’ve ever met.”

Caviar Dip

By Barbara Beltrami

Lots of crunchy chips accompanied by bowls of chunky or velvety dips are as necessary for the big game this coming Sunday as the buffalo wings, the salsa and guacamole and maybe even the football itself.

Who can sit there with an adrenaline rush watching the big game without one hand wrapped around a beer and the other hand in perpetual motion between those chips and dips? And the good news is that whipping up a bunch of those dips is only marginally more difficult than opening that bag of chips and emptying it into a bowl (actually probably easier given how hard it is to pry those bags open).

With basic ingredients like sour cream, mayonnaise and cream cheese, the addition of savory and intense seasonings and ingredients is limited only by your imagination and what you have on hand. If you want to take the edible dippers beyond chips, try crackers, veggie crudités, toast strips, fried calamari, fried chicken nuggets or clams, cooked crabmeat or shrimp or chucks of interesting bread such as pumpernickel, rye or multigrain.

Just to jump start you, here are a few usual and unusual dips that will have the resident referees tooting their whistles and the resident cheerleaders shaking their pom-poms.

Veggie-Herb Dip

Veggie-Herb Dip

YIELD: Makes approximately 3 to 3½ cups


2 cups sour cream

¼ cup finely chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives

½ cup finely chopped radishes

1⁄3 cup finely chopped peeled and seeded cucumber

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


In a medium bowl combine all ingredients. With a rubber spatula, scrape the contents into an appropriate serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with chips, broccoli and cauliflower florets, baby carrots or chicken nuggets, fried calamari or cooked shrimp.

Caviar Dip

Caviar Dip

YIELD: Makes approximately 1½ cups


3/4 cup freshly whipped heavy cream

3 to 4 tablespoons caviar

3 tablespoons minced red onion

1 to 2 hard-cooked eggs, finely chopped

Freshly ground white pepper, to taste


In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. If mixture is too salty, add more whipped cream. With a clean paper towel wipe upper part of inside of bowl and rim. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with cucumber, toasted pita bread, cooked shrimp or crabmeat or water crackers.

Asian Dip

Asian Dip

YIELD: Makes approximately 1½ cups


1 cup sour cream

½ cup finely chopped scallions

1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons finely chopped canned water chestnuts

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger

1 tablespoon soy sauce


In a small bowl combine all the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with fresh mushrooms, fresh broccoli, rice crackers, cooked crabmeat, lobster or shrimp.

Retro Clam Dip

Retro Clam Dip

YIELD: Makes approximately 3½ cups.


2 cups shucked and cooked fresh clams, finely chopped

6 ounces soft cream cheese

½ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1⁄₈ teaspoon mustard

1½ tablespoons minced onions

½ cup traditional cocktail sauce (made with ketchup, horseradish and lemon juice)


In a medium bowl combine all ingredients except cocktail sauce. With rubber spatula turn mixture into appropriate serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Before serving cover top of dip with cocktail sauce. Serve with crackers.

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By Bob Lipinski

The Super Bowl, the final battle between the best football teams in the AFC and NFC will take place this year on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016.

Typically, a Super Bowl party consists of beer, dips, chips, salsa, hot dogs and more beer. I have some suggestions for a great Super Bowl party, but first let’s go back in history to the first Super Bowl game. On Jan. 15, 1967, the first Super Bowl was played. The Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs by the score of 35 to 10. The game was played at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the attendance was 61,946. The MVP of the game was quarterback Bart Starr. Now on to the party.

My suggestion for a “super” Super Bowl begins with setting up the television room. Grab a roll of masking or duct tape and place a length on the rug separating the room in half (one for each team) so guests can choose which side of the room they will sit and root for their team. No co­ mingling is allowed!

The food is next; one six-foot (or two three-feet) “super” heroes puts the work, care and decision making on your local deli. If a hero is not in the cards, consider making a six- to eight-pound pork shoulder in a slow cooker, creating “pulled pork” sandwiches with plenty of barbecue sauce. Another food option is a steeping hot pot of chili, made with beef cubes, red kidney beans and plenty of hot sauce. Although lasagna is not necessarily thought of for Super Bowl, it’s hearty, can be enjoyed warm or even cool, fairly easy to make, most people love it and it “goes a long way.” The last food item entails taking out your old fondue pot and making a cheese fondue, with plenty of crusty bread (and perhaps vegetables) for dipping. You can even melt chocolate instead of cheese for the sweet lovers.

Beer, an integral part of Super Bowl can be purchased from your local brewpub, beer distributor or brewery in large growlers, beer balls or even a half-­keg, which has a capacity of 7.75 gallons or about 82 (12­-ounce) drinks.

Although there’s nothing like a “cold frosty one” while watching football, I enjoy wine before, during and even after the game. Because it’s a Super Bowl and everything is large, why not shop for large-format wine bottles, ones that contain three ­liters (also known as a double magnum or Jeroboam), 101 ounces or the equivalent of four bottles, or perhaps a five ­liter, containing 169 ounces or about 6.5 bottles. Virtually every wine shop (or liquor store) sells them, and most will have an assortment of both reds and whites, priced accordingly. Before purchasing large bottles of white wine, be certain you have a container or location large enough to chill it.

There you have it … now let’s hope your team wins!

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know about Vodka, Gin, Rum & Tequila.” He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com or [email protected].