Jennifer Lolley enjoys outdoor life working at Kreher Preserve, living at lake

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The outreach administrator at Kreher Preserve and Nature Center, Jennifer Lolley, enjoys the outdoors whether she is working or at home at Lake Martin. Jennifer is sharing a variety of recipes she will be serving her family over Memorial weekend, including her BLT Chicken Salad that is good for savoring a picnic at the Preserve.

By Ann Cipperly

With a love of the outdoors, Jennifer Lolley is living her dream being the outreach administrator at the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center in Auburn. When she is not working, Jennifer savors time with her family at Lake Martin and enjoys cooking and growing vegetables, flowers and herbs in her garden.

Jennifer and her husband, Mark, have a love for entertaining and feeding a crowd. They both have lots of family who enjoy visiting them at the lake. Mark has four siblings with each of them having families. When the weather is nice, they dine outdoors in the evening at a long table with clusters of flickering candles providing a soft glow.

Mark will cook on the grill, while Jennifer prepares salads, fresh vegetables from the garden and desserts. On weekends, they will make homemade ice cream and serve with fresh blueberries from bushes they planted in 1988, a year after they were married and purchased the lake house. When their children finished college, they moved to the lake house full time.

They have three children and three grandchildren. Kaitlin and her husband, Will McWayne, have two children, Brooks, 4, and Anna, 2, and live in Mountain Brook. Chelsea and her husband, Kevin Hood, reside in Power Springs, Georgia, and have a son, Adam, who is 6 months old. Jordan is a CPA with a firm in Atlanta and currently works remotely at his parents’ home.

On Memorial weekend, all of their children and families will come to the lake. They will enjoy swimming, boating and plenty of good food. They will start the day with a large breakfast. Jennifer will serve Ham and Egg Casserole and Blueberry Muffins and the Patriotic Breakfast Parfaits on Memorial Day. 

Along with grilled burgers, Jennifer will also serve her Enchiladas over the weekend, which are a family favorite. Desserts will feature Blueberry Yum Yum and Kahlua Heath Bar Trifle. 

Jennifer received her love of cooking and entertaining from her mother. When she was growing up, Jennifer and her family lived in different areas across the country, as her father was a civilian with the military.

Jennifer and Mark met when she was 16 years old, and they are both Auburn University graduates. Mark has a consulting business, while Jennifer has been working at the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center since June 2007.

The Lolleys moved to Auburn in 2006 for Mark’s job and to be 40 minutes from their lake house, of course. Jennifer, who graduated from Auburn with a degree in biology, had been working at Landmark Park in Dothan.

After chairing the construction of The Barnyard Playground at Landmark, she knew a playground would be a great addition to the Kreher Preserve for families. The Nature Playground is built from natural materials, including boulders and logs. The playground was constructed among three large trees to provide shade.

The picnic area and other areas throughout the Preserve are great sites for families to enjoy a picnic over Memorial weekend. One of Jennifer’s favorite spots is at an area overlooking the waterfall.

If you go to the Preserve for a picnic, Jennifer reminds everyone to be sure to carry trash out with you when you leave. 

The Kreher Preserve offers hiking trails, numerous sites to visit and a wide range of events and programs. It is ideal for families to enjoy year-round, but especially during the summer months.

Louise Kreher Turner, who was co-founder of the Preserve with her husband, Frank, was still living when Jennifer started to work, and she enjoyed spending time with her. Louise lived to be 98 years old.

The Turners felt that Auburn was losing too much of its green space. Since they didn’t have any children, in 1993 they decided to donate their 120-acre property to the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University. The Turners had purchased the cotton farmland in the 1940s and turned it into a cattle ranch.

The land became the Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve, which was later renamed the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center. The Preserve was established as an outreach program for people of all ages to enjoy with a strong focus on families and children.

There are many beautiful sites to explore at the Preserve. Popular sites include a learning station to view and learn about birds, a beaver lodge, the bald eagle nest, Turtle Pond, Kreher Creek waterfall, butterfly garden, Nature Playground, Homestead organic garden, alligator enclosure, Boulder Ridge bench, Turner Amphitheater, bird watching kiosk and displays, fernview, reptile rest, sensory garden, Honeybee Observation Center, Longleaf Demonstration Forest and soils demonstration area.

Six outdoor classrooms built by Eagle Scouts include the Homestead, Longleaf Forest, Green and Big Oak Outdoor, Skunk Hollow Preschool Outdoor Classroom and Mud Kitchen and Four Eagles Pond Outdoor Classroom.

The Woodland Wonders Nature Preschool is Auburn’s first nature preschool, and the second in Alabama. There are 10 part-time teachers presenting programs to about 6,000 children a year.

The Kreher Pond Education Pavilion is under construction by Auburn Building Science students. This large pavilion near the pond will have a bathroom and storeroom and be supplied with solar energy. It will allow programs to continue rain or shine.

When Jennifer started at the preserve, visitation was under 3,000. They now have 30,000 a year. Jennifer thinks because of COVID, there were 40,000 visitors in 2020 since being outdoors has been safe.

The Preserve is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Dogs are not allowed since it is a wildlife preserve. Bikes are also not allowed.

Parking on North College is near the playground and picnic areas and the Nature Center. Parking on the Farmville Road entrance is closer to the pond, butterfly garden and vegetable garden.

For information on upcoming events and programs, go to auburn.edu/preserve.

Following are Jennifer’s favorite recipes to serve family and friends. While enjoying the weekend with your family and friends, remember Memorial Day was set aside as a time to remember the men and women who have given their lives serving our country.

Ann Cipperly can be reached at recipes@cipperly.com.

Photo by Ann Cipperly

Patriotic Breakfast Parfaits

Family size container Greek vanilla yogurt

Bag of granola (I like to use Bear Naked granola – Honey Almond)

Washed and sliced strawberries

Washed blueberries

Use clear glasses or clear plastic cups. Place scoop of yogurt in the bottom of cup, add some strawberries and blueberries, another scoop of yogurt, more fruit and a sprinkle of granola on top.

This is great when you have a crowd and can just leave out a platter of these.

Fruit Salad with Surprise Dressing

Seasonal fruit

1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

¼ cup brown sugar or more

Mix seasonal fruit to create a beautiful salad.

Mix 1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt with ¼ cup brown sugar or more to your taste. Mix till smooth and creamy. Fantastic way to dress up a fruit salad!

Blueberry Yum Yum

Can of 8 biscuits or cinnamon rolls

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ cup sugar

2 cups fresh blueberries

2 Tbsp. butter

Serve with vanilla ice cream

Quarter each biscuit or cinnamon roll. Combine cinnamon and sugar; roll each quarter biscuit or cinnamon roll into cinnamon sugar.

Place in greased casserole dish. Pour blueberries over the top. Dab little bits of butter over the top.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with vanilla ice cream. This super simple dish is a summertime favorite in our family!

BLT Chicken Salad

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup barbecue sauce

2 Tbsp. grated onion

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

½ tsp. pepper

3 chicken breasts

Greek seasoning

2 large tomatoes, chopped

8 cups torn lettuce

3 grilled chicken breasts

8 slices bacon, cooked

2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

Combine mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, onion, lemon juice and pepper in a bowl. Cover and chill.

Sprinkle surfaces of chicken with a Greek seasoning and grill. Cool for few minutes and slice.

Remove excess liquid from tomatoes by wrapping them in paper towels. Arrange lettuce on plate. Top with tomatoes and chicken. Spoon dressing over salad, top with crumbled bacon and egg slices. Serves four.

Blueberry Muffins

½ stick butter, softened

1 stick margarine, softened

2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

3 cup flour

2 ½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 ¼ cups milk

1 ½ tsp. vanilla

Pint of blueberries rolled in 2 Tbsp. flour mixed with ½ tsp. cinnamon

Cinnamon Sugar:

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ cup sugar

Combine cinnamon and sugar; set aside for topping.

Cream butter and margarine. Add sugar and eggs, mix well. Add remaining ingredients except blueberries and cinnamon sugar. Mix well.

Wash and drain blueberries. Roll blueberries in 2 Tbsp flour mixed with ½ tsp. cinnamon. Grease muffin pan. Place one scoop of batter in bottom. Add 4 to 5 blueberries on top, then cover with batter.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar on top before baking. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or longer until golden brown. Cool few minutes before serving.

Kahlua Heath Bar Trifle

Angel food cake, chopped bite size pieces

½ cup Kahlua liqueur

2 cups chocolate pudding

Large tub Cool Whip

Bag of Heath bar bits

This recipe is a light version of a trifle so you can use low fat pudding and Cool Whip to go along with the lighter angel food cake. This dessert is all about presentation.

Use a tall glass trifle bowl. Layer the bottom of the bowl with angel food cake that has been sprinkled with Kahlua. Now add a layer of pudding, then a layer of Cool Whip and heath bar bits. Repeat 2 more times ending with Cool Whip and heath bar bits sprinkled on top.

Ham and Egg Casserole

Crust and Topping:

1 ½ cups flour

1 ½ tsp. salt

½ cup vegetable oil

2 Tbsp. milk

Sauce:

2 Tbsp. butter

3 Tbsp. flour

2 cups milk

Filling:

2 cups bite-size ham chunks

6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

For the topping and crust, combine flour and salt in a greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Beat oil and 2 Tbsp. milk together with fork, then mix into flour mixture until evenly dampened. Press with fingers in even layer, then fork over the bottom of pan.

Bake crust at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove half for the topping using a thin spatula. Leave the other half on the bottom of pan.

Make a white sauce in microwave in a large measuring cup. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter, then whisk in 3 Tbsp. flour. Next add 2 cup milk. Wisk until smooth. Cook 2 minutes, stir. Cook 2 more minutes. Should be thicker.

Place ham chunks and eggs over bottom half of crust. Pour the white sauce over the top. Sprinkle remaining crust over the top. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

This used to be a dish we would make to use up Easter leftovers, but it is such a family favorite that we do not wait for Easter any more to enjoy often!

Jenny’s Enchiladas

4 chicken breasts

1 medium onion

1 cup medium picante sauce

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese

2 cups Mexican cheese, divided

1 bag large flour tortillas

1 jar mild enchilada sauce (red or green

Boil chicken breasts. Chop or shred meat.

Chop onion and sauté. Add chicken and picante sauce to onion. On low heat, mix in cream cheese and 1 cup Mexican cheese. Stir u until melted evenly.

Place large spoonful in a tortilla and roll. Place in greased 9 x 13-inch pan. Once all tortillas filled and rolled, pour enchilada sauce over the top and remaining cup of cheese over the sauce.

Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes till hot and bubbly. Serves four to six.

Black Bean and Cilantro Lime Rice

1 cup brown rice

2 tsp. olive oil

2 cups water

2 scallions, finely chopped

1 tsp. minced garlic

½ cup picante sauce

1 can black beans, drained

½ cup finely chopped cilantro

Juice of 1 fresh lime

Sour cream, optional

Bring rice, olive oil and water to a boil. Turn burner down to low and add scallions, garlic, picante sauce and beans. Cook on low until rice is cooked. Then add cilantro and lime juice. Mix well and serve. A dollop of sour cream on top adds extra flavor.

Italian Pepperoni Casserole

1 lb. ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Garlic salt to taste

Italian seasoning to taste

1 box shell pasta

1 jar or can spaghetti sauce

2 cups Italian cheese (mozzarella)

Pack of pepperoni, small, if can find

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Brown ground beef and chopped onion. Lightly season with salt, pepper, garlic salt and Italian seasoning. Cook shell pasta.

Mix browned meat and onion, cooked pasta, jar of spaghetti sauce, Italian cheese and most of pepperoni, save a few to put on the top of casserole. Add the pepperoni to top of casserole and sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve with a salad and good garlic bread. Always a crowd favorite!

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