Jacquie Jenkins makes Savory Crouton-Apple Stuffing
Healthy eating a lifelong priority and a passion, too
For Jacquie Jenkins, Easter is bound with tradition.
From attending Sunday morning Mass in their Easter finery to preparing the holiday feast, Jacquie and her extended family celebrate all day.
"For Easter we're eating the whole day through," says Jacquie, whose sister will host the event this year.
Jacquie plans to bring bacon-wrapped water chestnuts for an appetizer while other relatives contribute cocktail meatballs and vegetables and dip - "the token greens" for those trying to be virtuous.
The feast for 15 to 20 will feature ham with Jacquie's rosemary roasted potatoes and fresh cranberry sauce. Other cooks will add sweet potato casserole laced with brown sugar, butter and pecans and cheesy broccoli and rice casserole. Dessert might include cupcakes with homemade frosting or cookies.
While the women work and chat in the kitchen, the men will gather in the family room or outside with the kids.
"Shockingly, everyone gets along," she says. "It's just a great, great situation."
Family and home have long been a priority for Jacquie, who calls herself "an old-fashioned, stay-at-home mom." She feels strongly about "providing delicious meals for my family," 16-year-old twins Erik and Krysten and husband Greg.
Married young, Jacquie was just old enough to drink at her wedding, and a neophyte in the kitchen.
"My husband lost 10 pounds the first year," she laughs. "I'm not proud of it, but I don't try to hide it either."
When her twins were born early at 27 weeks with a number of medical issues, healthy eating became a lifelong priority.
"It felt important for me to stay home and give them the best nutrition I could," she says.
Hamburger hockey pucks from her early marriage were replaced with chicken Dijon over spinach fettuccine, turkey breast with stuffing and cranberry sauce or roast pork and cabbage that became family favorites.
To keep her table current Jacquie delves into Cooking Light for ideas and pulls out her favorite serving platters for presentation.
"I've got pretty things; if you're not going to use them, why have them?" she says.
Once her children were well into their teens Jacquie felt the need for better balance in life - "it was more about the kids than me" - and turned to the food industry for employment.
She and her sister, Linda, started a Simply Homemade franchise in Crystal Lake where clients assemble entrees with prepped ingredients and take them home to cook.
Jacquie is the "foodie;" Linda, who ironically doesn't enjoy cooking, is the "idea person."
The job "puts things in perspective," says Jacquie, and gives her an outlet for creative energy and drive.
Today she channels that energy into several Easter side dishes for us: Rosemary and Garlic Potatoes, prepared a little differently than we're used to; Lemon and Garlic Pasta with bacon, parmesan and tangy grape tomatoes; and Savory Crouton-Apple Stuffing from her grandmother.
Maybe these recipes will start new traditions for your family.