TUPELO • Jennifer Love considers herself a pretty healthful cook. She and her husband are both runners and her kids are active, so you won’t find many creamy casseroles on her table.
A weeknight meal might be grilled pork tenderloin with roasted vegetables and a salad or fish tacos with corn avocado salsa.
“I don’t cook like my mother or my grandmother,” said Love, 45. “Theirs is more home cooking – rolls and biscuits. My grandmother was a wonderful cook who showed her love through cooking. Mother is a good cook, but she doesn’t like to cook, so my grandmother was probably my earliest influence.”
Love grew up in Amory, the youngest of three children born to Steve and Cynthia Greenhaw. Today, she and her husband, Drew, and their three children – Olivia, Emerson and Mallory – live in Belden.
“My mother always let my friends and me cook in her kitchen, so I make it a point to let my kids in the kitchen to cook,” she said. “I remember one time a friend of mine and I decided to make brownies. We were probably about 8. The instructions said to stir the batter by hand, so we stuck our hands in the bowl and stirred. We took those directions literally.”
Love, who works for Parkgate Pregnancy Clinic where she goes into schools and teaches sexual abstinence, calls herself a random cook.
“There are a couple of things I cook that are very familiar to people but other than those, I’m always trying new recipes,” she said. “I love to entertain and experiment with different foods, but I don’t worry about fixing up my house. We just like to have people in our home. A shared meal with people is a great way to live life with those you love. I try not to overthink it.”
If she’s having guests over, she might make a cheese tray as an appetizer; bacon-wrapped pork tenderloins, baked rice, roasted Brussels sprouts and a salad for the main meal; and a chocolate pie or pound cake for dessert.
“I do simple desserts – I’m not a fancy dessert maker,” Love said. “I don’t think of myself as a baker even though my kids say I bake a lot.”
When the Loves lived in Birmingham, she created a cooking club, and after moving to Tupelo, she’s joined one that tries a new cookbook every year.
“I’m not a big online recipe person, although there is one food blog I follow regularly called creme de la crumb,” she said. “But I’d really rather just sit and read cookbooks.”
BACON-WRAPPED PORK TENDERLOIN
2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins
6 slices bacon
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously coat tenderloins in lemon pepper, seasoning salt and garlic salt. Line a baking pan with foil and lay out slices of bacon. Place tenderloins side by side on top of the bacon, and spread the peppers and onions between the tenderloins. Bring bacon around both tenderloins and secure on top with toothpicks.
Melt butter in a saucepan. Add sugar and Worcestershire and stir to combine. Reserve 1/2 cup of sauce for serving.
Cook tenderloins at 350 degrees for 1 hour, basting every 20 minutes with remaining sauce. Let tenderloins rest for 10 minutes, then slice and serve. Drizzle reserved sauce over the top.
ROASTED CORN GUACAMOLE
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 large avocados, peeled, pitted and chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 teaspoon minced jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
Toss the corn kernels with 1 tablespoon oil in a bowl. Spread on a baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees for 7 to 8 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Cool to room temperature. Combine corn with avocados, tomato, cilantro, onion, jalapeño and garlic in a bowl and mix well. Stir in lime juice, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, vinegar, cumin and sea salt. Serve immediately or can chill up to 4 hours. Serve with tortilla chips.
2 1/2 (9-ounce) cans roasted whole cashews (1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread cashews in a single layer on a lightly greased baking sheet and heat for 5 minutes. Melt butter and brown sugar in a large pot over medium heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in rosemary, salt and cayenne pepper. Add warmed cashews to pot and toss to coat. Spread cashews in single layer on baking sheet and roast for another 5 to 10 minutes or until light brown, stirring occasionally.
HOT FUDGE PIE
1 stick butter
3 squares of Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 unbaked (9-inch) pie crust
In a microwave-safe bowl, melt butter and chocolate in 30-second increments, stirring until melted. In a medium bowl, beat eggs until light. Add corn syrup, sugar, salt and vanilla, then add chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Pour into pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until firm. Serve with mint chocolate chip ice cream.
CRISPY ROASTED CHICKEN
1 (4- to 5-pound) whole chicken
1 rosemary sprig
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 handful of chopped rosemary
3 tablespoons melted butter
Pat chicken dry and rub garlic inside cavity of chicken. Place sprig of rosemary inside cavity. Sprinkle sea salt all over chicken and add pepper to taste. Place in large cast iron skillet and bake at 425 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Do not baste while cooking (this keeps skin crisp). Remove from oven. Combine chopped rosemary and melted butter and baste. Let rest for 15 minutes, then carve and serve.
PERFECT PUMPKIN MUFFINS
3 cups sugar
1 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Combine sugar, oil and vanilla. Add eggs and pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling). Add flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices and mix well to combine. Grease muffin tins with Baker’s Joy and fill 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Makes 2 1/2 dozen muffins.