Libertyville's Julie Finley makes french apple pie
She savors her 'field trips in cooking'
A full-time nurse, wife and mother of five, Julie Finley is a bundle of energy and common sense.
Feeding a big family is no different from a small one, she contends, "it's just more of the same thing."
Doubling or tripling a recipe is nothing. Adding a friend or relative to the already crowded table? Not a problem.
Her family knows there is always plenty of food and warm hospitality.
The oldest of nine children, whose mother was a nurse and loved to cook, Julie is the apple that didn't fall far from the tree.
Director of the quality department for a Mundelein medical supply company, she handles quality control at her Libertyville home as well, cooking dinner most nights after returning from work between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.
On the plates: Cajun pasta with chicken, shrimp and smoked sausage, spaghetti with meat sauce, crabmeat pasta with mozzarella or the baked chicken and linguine she shares today.
Julie likens the satisfaction of cooking to hanging wallpaper. Honestly.
"You have immediate gratification," she says. "You put it up, and oh wow!"
Her philosophy on nutrition is down to earth, too.
"Don't worry about it," says Julie, who grew up on well-balanced meals. "Just use good common sense. Too much of anything is not good."
Though she cooks most weeknights, Sundays are Julie's days to stretch and shine.
"I can be more extravagant," she says. While a weeknight meal might be chicken Parmesan and oven-browned potatoes, Sunday supper might feature pork roast with peppercorn crust and apple jack brandy gravy with potatoes. She might add a salad or vegetable, like asparagus with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and garlic or creamed corn with cheddar cheese.
Dessert could be a French Apple Pie with pat-in-the-pan crust or a cake.
"Those are my field trips in cooking," she says. "I may be in the kitchen all afternoon."
Her father, "our private farmer," often joins the clan for these Sunday spreads and if the season is right, contributes fresh produce from his garden in Deerfield.
Though only three of the five kids, ages 15 to 25, live at home now, Julie's cooking volume has not changed a habit she blames on her Italian heritage.
"My kids tease me, 'you don't know how to make small amounts of food,'" she laughs.
For shots of inspiration she occasionally signs on for a day of cooking in a restaurant kitchen, like Carlos' in Highland Park or Gabriel's in Highwood. She's taken classes through the College of Lake County and one with Rick Tramonto, executive chef at Chicago's top-rated Tru. "I'd like to do more of that," she says. "I don't want to become stagnant."