Island Teriyaki Pork Chops

Island Teriyaki Pork Chops

Pork chop topped with mango salsa and cilantro

Looking for a quick and healthy recipe with a twist? I’ve got one for you! The folks at Sam’s Salsa are hosting a recipe contest and sent me some of their amazing mango salsa for the challenge! I was so impressed with the taste and freshness of this salsa and immediately had so many recipe ideas floating in my head! However, as a working mom with busy kids, I am always on the lookout for simple, delicious, and healthy meals. This pork chop recipe checks all those boxes! I baked my pork chops in the oven, but they’d taste just as delicious cooked on the grill.

Island Teriyaki Pork Chops

This recipe is equally fast and delicious baked in the oven or cooked on the grill!
Course: Main Course
Keyword: mango pineapple salsa, mango salsa, pork chops, salsa, sams fresh salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 12 oz. container Sam's Fresh Mango salsa 1/4 cup reserved for garnish
  • 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 boneless pork chops
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Set aside 1/4 c. of the salsa and pour the rest into a food processor. Pulse several times until salsa becomes smooth. Add teriyaki sauce and brown sugar and pulse again to combine.
  • Place pork chops into a baking dish. Season with salt & pepper. Cover with the salsa mixture and let marinade for at least 2 hours.
  • Preheat over to 350 degrees. Transfer pork chops to a baking sheet and discard the remaining marinade. Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145°.
  • Garnish with reserved salsa and cilantro.

I served my chops with a simple slaw on the side. You could also serve rice, black beans, or roasted potatoes. I hope you’ll give this recipe a try!

Want to learn more? Check out Sam’s Fresh Salsa online, on Facebook, and on Instagram. You can purchase Sam’s Fresh Salsa at: ShopRite, Acme, and Safeway. If they are not in your local store, ask them to carry Sam’s Fresh Salsa products!

Red Lentil Soup with Sweet Potato

It’s soup season! Here in the Hudson Valley fall has definitely landed and I have been craving hearty, comforting soups.

Last winter, one of my patrons at the library shared this soup recipe with me the day before a winter storm. I love a good lentil soup, and I was intrigued by the sweet potato in this recipe. I had all of the ingredients on hand, and more than enough time to make it (thank you snow day!). Although cinnamon was not an ingredient in the original recipe, she suggested it to me and I think it really adds a nice flavor to the soup. You can omit it if you like, but it is barely noticeable as cinnamon… it’s more like a secret ingredient! 

Red Lentil Soup with Sweet Potato

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1-2 carrots chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1" knob of ginger shredded (or equivalent ginger paste)
  • 1 medium sweet potato chopped
  • 3-4 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • dash cinnamon optional
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 lemon
  • plain yogurt, garam masala optional, for garnish

Instructions

  •  In a large pot, heat oil on medium-high. Add chopped onion, carrots, celery, and sweet potato. Sauté until onion is translucent.
  • Add garlic and ginger, sauté and stir for another minute.
  • Add spices and tomato paste, sauté and stir for another minute.
  • Add broth and lentils, stirring up any stuck bits, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, until lentils are very soft. Add water or more broth if it seems too thick. Taste and add more salt, if needed.
  • Puree soup in blender or with immersion blender. This soup can be made very smooth or left a bit chunky.
  • Squeeze half of the lemon into the soup and stir well.
  • Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt and a sprinkling of garam masala, if desired.

Spinach & Bacon Quiche

Bacon, spinach & caramelized onion quiche

Need a delicious recipe for a brunch or a light dinner? Quiche is one of my go-to options because it can be made ahead of time and is delicious with a side salad in the summer or a cup of soup in the cooler months. This is a recipe I worked on with my son when he was in middle school. It actually won him a prize at a “Top Chef” contest that was judged by chefs from local restaurants! I hope you enjoy it

Bacon & Spinach Quiche

Ingredients

  • 9-in refrigerate pie crust
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream (half-and-half may be subsituted)
  • 4-5 pieces cooked bacon
  • 3 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 small onion thily sliced
  • 1/2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 Roma tomato dliced

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 350°F. Fit pie crust into 9-inch pie plate.
  • Heat butter in small skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the thyme. Set aside.
  • In medium bowl, mix heavy cream, eggs, nutmeg, salt and pepper; set aside.
  • Layer Swiss cheese slices, crumbled bacon, bacon, onion, and spinach over the pie crust. Pour egg mixture over top. Sprinkle shredded cheddar over the top. Arrange tomato slices over the top.
  • Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for at least 20 min. Cut into wedges.

Notes

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe | Holiday Cheese Ball

Is it ever too early to start thinking about holiday menus? I think not! As soon as fall comes around my thoughts immediately turn to Thanksgiving, and this cheese ball is always a hit. I’m not 100% sure of this recipe’s origin, but I’m going to bet it was my aunt’s because I have it down in my recipe book as “Aunt Susan’s Cheese Ball.” The Christmas when I was pregnant with my oldest, even though my mom had a huge spread of delicious Polish food (including kielbasa and pierogis), this was the only thing I could bare to eat.

Granted, if you’re a health nut, you will likely turn up you nose. That’s okay because it means there is just more for the rest of us! I usually make this at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas, but it makes a great cheese spread all year long.

Holiday Cheeseball

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. dehydrated onion flakes
  • 12 shakes garlic powder
  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 1 jar Kraft Roka Blue Cheese
  • 1 jar Kraft Old English Cheese
  • chopped walnuts or fresh herbs

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix well and let stand overnight in refrigerator.
  • Roll into a ball or log.
  • Cover with chopped walnuts or parsley. Serve with a variety of crackers.

Instant Pot Loaded Baked Potato Soup

It’s been cold here in the Hudson Valley. Like, not just regular winter-cold, but chills-you-to-the-bones cold. The weather has me craving comfort food, and in particular potato soup. I have a great Crock Pot potato soup recipe that I love, but I didn’t want to wait for hours. I decided to make this version in my Instant Pot, and I was ladling up lunch in about half an hour — you can’t beat that!

Instant Pot Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Hearty, comforting, and ready in under 30 minutes!

Ingredients

  • 4 pieces bacon, diced (save for garnish)
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 Tbsp dried minced onion
  • 4-5 medium russet potatoes, diced
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 12 oz. can of evaporated milk
  • 1/2 c. sour cream (optional: additional for garnish)
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese (optional: additional for garnish)
  • dried potato flakes (optional: for thickening if desired)
  • sliced green onion (optional: for garnish)

Instructions

  • Turn your Instant Pot on saute. Add the bacon pieces and let them cook until crispy, about 5-8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain grease from bottom of pot, leaving just a light coating.
  • Add diced potatoes, chicken broth, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon or spatula to remove all the browned pieces off the bottom. Cook for a minute or two and then tur off Saute Mode.
  • Lock the lid and turn knob to SEALING. Set to pressure cook on high pressure for 3 minutes. When time is up, quickly release the pressure by turning the knob away from sealing
  • Open the lid and mash the potatoes until some chunks remain. Add can of evaporated milk, sour cream, and cheddar cheese. Stir well. If the soup is too liquidy, add dried instant potato flakes a few Tablespoons at a time until you reach the desired thickness.
  • Top bowls with reserved bacon and sour cream, cheddar, scallions, and/or chives before serving.

Blogging Like it’s 1999

Well, it’s been a while. Again. The other morning I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw this image and it reminded me of my poor, neglected, little blog here.

Rhonda’s comment reads,
“Listening to Prince and reading all your heartwarming comments yesterday gave me an unexpected but fun idea. If any of you are keen to join me and return to blogging the way we used to when it all first started, then please use this awesome Prince-inspired hashtag, #letsbloglikeits1999, so that we can all follow along! Who knows—maybe this is how we get the movement started? 🙂

Friends, let’s blog like it’s 1999!


Who’s in?”

The funny thing is… I actually started blogging in 1999. Back then we were calling them “online journals” but… yeah. I’ve been at this for quite a while and I definitely support Rhonda’s sentiment of blogging like it’s 1999. I love that other bloggers are embracing this, and I know I keep saying I want to write more, I want to get things down. And then… well… life kind of gets in the way. Work, family, chores, a freaking pandemic. It all just snowballs, doesn’t it? But I think I’m going to print out this Instagram pic and keep it in my planner where I’ll see it every day and it will hopefully remind me to get on here more often.

Happy Twin Peaks Day

For those who don’t know, I’m a Twin Peaks superfan. I was absolutely obsessed with the show when it came out. I own 5 or 6 different Twin Peaks books. I even wrote an extensive research paper on it for a media studies class back in college. So yes, I like to celebrate this silly little “holiday” annually.

Last year during quarantine, we watched the show with Jake and Noah, who also really loved it. Since Jake is away at school, Noah and I still decided to do something special! The last few years I’ve been on top of things and had cherry pie ready, but this year donuts and (of course) a damn fine cup of coffee did nicely.

coffee & doughnuts

Today I also decided to take the advice of Agent Dale Cooper. This is one of my (many) favorites quotes from the show:

With that in mind, and remembering writing about my February Funk yesterday, I decided to treat myself to some beautiful tulips.

tulips in tote

tulips

tulips

Can’t you just feel the warm air and catch the scent of rain and grass? Ah, spring is coming, it really is! In the meantime, I’ll enjoy fresh flowers as a reminder!

Crochet-iversary

When I checked my Facebook memories this morning, I saw the following post from 12 years ago:

I still remember it! I was pregnant with Laura and after several failed attempts, I had decided that I was finally going to learn. I thought it would be fun to look back on my journey!

 

learning to crochet
First stitches! February 2009
just fold up the sides
My first dishcloth! Completed February 4, 2009
crochet baby sweater
Baby sweater – March 12, 2009
ripple afghan
My first completed blanket – May 3, 2009
attic24 bag flower detail
My Attic24 bag – May 2009
baby hat with oversized rose
Baby hat – April 2011
Country Christmas Crochet Garland
Christmas Tree Garland – November 5, 2012
Crochet jellyfish
Octopi Amigurumi – May 2016
C2C Blanket with Caron Cakes Yarn
C2C (Corner to Corner) Blanket – November 2016
Atlanticus CAL through part 4
Atlanticus blanket in progress – July 2017
Triangle scarf
Triangle Scarf – December 2017
River Rock Blanket
River Rock Blanket – January 2019

It’s so fun to look back on all of the projects I’ve completed over the years (this is just a small selection)! Last year I honestly didn’t do much crochet, save for some dishcloths. Seems I lost my cro-jo a bit. But I feel like it’s so worth it to make time for the things that make you feel good, and I am definitely in need of a creative outlet.

So maybe this weekend I’ll actually pick up my hook (or knitting needles — I haven’t knit in ages, either) and see what inspires me!

Old-Fashioned Blueberry Pie

Oh my, how long has it been since I posted a recipe here? Ages, I’m sure. I’m afraid to even look back to see how long ago it was. Anyway, it’s blueberry season here, and blueberries are one of my favorite fruits! I’ve been meaning to head out to one of the local Pick-Your-Own farms, but with the heat… yeah. This lazy girl just didn’t get around to it. However, they have been on sale at the supermarket and last weekend I decided that I had to have blueberry pie.

This has been my go-to recipe for just about 20 years. Simple. Reliable. It’s the kind of pie your grandma would have made. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Old-Fashioned Blueberry Pie

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: blueberries, easy, pot pie

Ingredients

  • Pie dough for 2-crust pie
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 4 cups blueberries
  • butter
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice

Instructions

  • Carefully place bottom crust in a standard-sized pie plate. Spread a mixture of 1/4 c. sugar and 2 Tbsp. flour over the bottom crust. Toss the blueberries with the remaining sugar and flour to evenly coat. Dot with butter and sprinkle the lime juice over the berries. Cover with the top crust, and use a fork to poke several holes. Turn edges under the bottom crust and crimp to seal. Sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake for an additional 30 minutes. To prevent over-browning of the edges, cover them with foil when you turn the oven down.

Notes

Top with whipped cream or ice cream and enjoy!

July Books I’m Excited About

This post contains affiliate links.

As you may know, I work as a library director, though I don’t talk about it too much here on my blog. One of the primary aspects of my job (and by far my favorite) is collection development. I love, love, love ordering books and I love, love, love getting all the new ones in. With that in mind (and with the suggestion from a friend!), I thought I’d start a monthly feature about what is being released and what looks especially interesting to me.

Typically I read non-fiction, horror, and suspense, but really I find all genres have books that I enjoy. I’ll include info on releases I think other people might be excited about too, or those that are getting a buzz that I would recommend to library patrons. These are all books I have ordered for my library and I’m excited to share my picks with you. And by all means, if you’re looking for suggestions for anything in particular feel free to contact me! So on with it, right?

Cover of The Only Good Indians

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones | July 14th, 2020

Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.

Why I ordered it: This has got to be one of the most anticipated books of the year. I started hearing about it several months ago, and I’m eagerly awaiting its arrival. I don’t love bloody, slasher horror. I love horror that is haunting, that makes you examine your world. From what I hear, this book fits the bill.

Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay | July 7th, 2020

In a matter of weeks, Massachusetts has been overrun by an insidious rabies-like virus that is spread by saliva. But unlike rabies, the disease has a terrifyingly short incubation period of an hour or less. Those infected quickly lose their minds and are driven to bite and infect as many others as they can before they inevitably succumb. Hospitals are inundated with the sick and dying, and hysteria has taken hold. To try to limit its spread, the commonwealth is under quarantine and curfew. But society is breaking down and the government’s emergency protocols are faltering.

Dr. Ramola “Rams” Sherman, a soft-spoken pediatrician in her mid-thirties, receives a frantic phone call from Natalie, a friend who is eight months pregnant. Natalie’s husband has been killed—viciously attacked by an infected neighbor—and in a failed attempt to save him, Natalie, too, was bitten. Natalie’s only chance of survival is to get to a hospital as quickly as possible to receive a rabies vaccine. The clock is ticking for her and for her unborn child.

Natalie’s fight for life becomes a desperate odyssey as she and Rams make their way through a hostile landscape filled with dangers beyond their worst nightmares—terrifying, strange, and sometimes deadly challenges that push them to the brink. 

Why I ordered it: I am a huge fan of Paul Tremblay. I devoured his last book, Cabin at the End of the World, in a weekend. (And typically I’m a slow reader.) So honestly, I added this to my July purchases just because he’s an author I like. Reading the description, it seems like the plot sounds a little familiar, right? Quarantine… crazy world… I know there will be twists and I can’t wait for this one, too!

The Bright Lands by John Fram | July 7th, 2020

The town of Bentley holds two things dear: its football, and its secrets. But when star quarterback Dylan Whitley goes missing, an unremitting fear grips this remote corner of Texas.

Joel Whitley was shamed out of conservative Bentley ten years ago, and while he’s finally made a life for himself as a gay man in New York, his younger brother’s disappearance soon brings him back to a place he thought he’d escaped for good. Meanwhile, Sheriff’s Deputy Starsha Clark stayed in Bentley; Joel’s return brings back painful memories—not to mention questions—about her own missing brother. And in the high school hallways, Dylan’s friends begin to suspect that their classmates know far more than they’re telling the police. Together, these unlikely allies will stir up secrets their town has long tried to ignore, drawing the attention of dangerous men who will stop at nothing to see that their crimes stay buried.

But no one is quite prepared to face the darkness that’s begun to haunt their nightmares, whispering about a place long thought to be nothing but an urban legend: an empty night, a flicker of light on the horizon—The Bright Lands.

Why I ordered it: This debut novel from John Fram is a supernatural thriller, and the premise sounded intriguing. I don’t really understand “high school football” culture because it’s not something I grew up with, but I feel like it could be an interesting backdrop to this story. I will warn you that the book does have strong language and some explicit content if that is a concern.

The Lost & Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs | July 7th, 2020

In the wake of a shocking tragedy, Natalie Harper inherits her mother’s charming but financially strapped bookshop in San Francisco. She also becomes caretaker for her ailing grandfather Andrew, her only living relative—not counting her scoundrel father.

But the gruff, deeply kind Andrew has begun displaying signs of decline. Natalie thinks it’s best to move him to an assisted living facility to ensure the care he needs. To pay for it, she plans to close the bookstore and sell the derelict but valuable building on historic Perdita Street, which is in need of constant fixing. There’s only one problem–Grandpa Andrew owns the building and refuses to sell. Natalie adores her grandfather; she’ll do whatever it takes to make his final years happy. Besides, she loves the store and its books provide welcome solace for her overwhelming grief.

After she moves into the small studio apartment above the shop, Natalie carries out her grandfather’s request and hires contractor Peach Gallagher to do the necessary and ongoing repairs. His young daughter, Dorothy, also becomes a regular at the store, and she and Natalie begin reading together while Peach works.

To Natalie’s surprise, her sorrow begins to dissipate as her life becomes an unexpected journey of new connections, discoveries and revelations, from unearthing artifacts hidden in the bookshop’s walls, to discovering the truth about her family, her future, and her own heart.

Why I ordered it: Susan Wiggs is a popular author, so I know many people who will check out this book. But beside from that, I think the story sounds heartwarming and positive.

A Walk Along the Beach by Debbie Macomber | July 14th, 2020

The Lakey sisters are perfect opposites. After their mother died and their father was lost in grief, Willa had no choice but to raise her sister, Harper, and their brother, Lucas. Then, as an adult, she put her own life on hold to nurse Harper through a terrifying illness. Now that Harper is better and the sisters are living as roommates, Willa has realized her dream of running her own bakery and coffee shop, bringing her special brand of caretaking to the whole Oceanside community.

Harper, on the other hand, is always on the go. Overcoming a terrible illness has given her a new lease on life, and she does not intend to waste it. When Harper announces her plan to summit Mount Rainier, Willa fears she may be pushing herself too far. Harper, for her part, urges Willa to stop worrying and do something outside of her comfort zone—like taking a chance on love with a handsome new customer.  

Sean O’Malley is as charming as he is intriguing—a freelance photographer whose assignments take him to the ends of the earth. Soon Willa’s falling for him in a way that is both exciting and terrifying. But life has taught Willa to hedge her bets, and she wonders whether the potential heartache is worth the risk.  

Life has more challenges in store for them all. But both sisters will discover that even in the darkest moments, family is everything.

Why I ordered it: It’s Debbie Macomber! Enough said.

Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby | July 14th, 2020

Beauregard “Bug” Montage is an honest mechanic, a loving husband, and a hard-working dad. Bug knows there’s no future in the man he used to be: known from the hills of North Carolina to the beaches of Florida as the best wheelman on the East Coast.

He thought he’d left all that behind him, but as his carefully built new life begins to crumble, he finds himself drawn inexorably back into a world of blood and bullets. When a smooth-talking former associate comes calling with a can’t-miss jewelry store heist, Bug feels he has no choice but to get back in the driver’s seat. And Bug is at his best where the scent of gasoline mixes with the smell of fear.

Haunted by the ghost of who he used to be and the father who disappeared when he needed him most, Bug must find a way to navigate this blacktop wasteland…or die trying.

Why I ordered it: Lots of buzz. Lots of great reviews. I enjoy crime fiction, and flawed characters who have the best intentions and I think there’s going to be a lot of excitement around this book.

The Cold Vanish: Seeking the Missing in North America’s Wildlands by Jon Billman | July 7th, 2020

These are the stories that defy conventional logic. The proverbial vanished without a trace incidences, which happen a lot more (and a lot closer to your backyard) than almost anyone thinks. These are the missing whose situations are the hardest on loved ones left behind. The cases that are an embarrassment for park superintendents, rangers and law enforcement charged with Search & Rescue. The ones that baffle the volunteers who comb the mountains, woods and badlands. The stories that should give you pause every time you venture outdoors.

It’s a tricky thing to write about missing persons because the story is the absence of someone. A void. The person at the heart of the story is thinner than a smoke ring, invisible as someone else’s memory. The bones you dig up are most often metaphorical. While much of the book will embrace memory and faulty memory — history — The Cold Vanish is at its core a story of now and tomorrow. Someone will vanish in the wild tomorrow. These are the people who will go looking.

Why I ordered it: I am obsessed with stories of disappearances, and I have been as long as I can remember (thanks, Unsolved Mysteries). But this book doesn’t focus as much on those who have disappeared, as those who go looking for them. It’s a fresh perspective and I just know that some of these stories will tug at my heart.

The Poetry of Strangers: What I Learned Traveling America with a Typewriter by Brian Sonia-Wallace | June 30th, 2020

Before he became an award-winning writer and poet, Brian Sonia-Wallace set up a typewriter on the street with a sign that said “Poetry Store” and discovered something surprising: all over America, people want poems. An amateur busker at first, Brian asked countless strangers, “What do you need a poem about?” To his surprise, passersby opened up to share their deepest yearnings, loves, and heartbreaks. Hundreds of them. Then thousands. Around the nation, Brian’s poetry crusade drew countless converts from all walks of life.

In The Poetry of Strangers, Brian tells the story of his cross-country journey in a series of heartfelt and insightful essays. From Minnesota to Tennessee, California to North Dakota, Brian discovered that people aren’t so afraid of poetry when it’s telling their stories. In “dying” towns flourish vibrant artistic spirits and fascinating American characters who often pass under the radar, from the Mall of America’s mall walkers to retirees on Amtrak to self-proclaimed witches in Salem.

In a time of unprecedented loneliness and isolation, Brian’s journey shows how art can be a vital bridge to community in surprising places. Conventional wisdom says Americans don’t want to talk to each other, but according to this poet-for-hire, everyone is just dying to be heard.

Thought-provoking, moving, and eye-opening, The Poetry of Strangers is an unforgettable portrait of America told through the hidden longings of one person at a time, by one of our most important voices today. The fault lines and conflicts which divide us fall away when we remember to look, in every stranger, for poetry. 

Why I ordered it: I love poetry and feel that it does not get the attention it deserves. Poetry channels so much feeling and emotion and humanity, and yet over the years it’s been elevated to some kind of unreachable literary form that “normal” people can’t enjoy, which is not true at all. Poetry is for everyone, and I think this book sets out to show that’s true! I’m excited for this one to arrive.

So there you have it… just a few of the July releases that seemed to pop out at me. I feel like this month there was a good variety. I’ll be sure to pass on anything I missed and I’ll try to do this again for August if anyone’s interested!