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The four F's: Food, fun, fellowship and football for the Holtz family

By Jane Welborn Hudson, The Daily Reflector
Monday, August 29, 2005

Everybody loves Jennifer Holtz's Hanky Pankies.

Folks also crave her Pirate Treasure Munch and hanker for her Half-time BBQ Baked Beans.

Jennifer, the wife of first-year East Carolina University head football coach Skip Holtz, is an award-winning tailgater who says she looks forward to joining in the local pregame-meal traditions. She'll get her chance Saturday, when the Pirates host Duke for the first home football game of the season.

Jennifer says tailgating provides the four F's: food, fun, fellowship and football.

She says she loves to entertain, both at her Star Hill Farms home and before games.

And football, in addition to being her husband's job, also brought the couple together. They've been married for 13 years.

"Skip and I met at Florida State," Jennifer says. "I was a recruiting hostess and he had graduated from Notre Dame and his first job was at Florida State. We met in (Florida State head coach) Bobby Bowden's football office."

Jennifer says she missed out on the collegiate tailgating experience.

"I never got to tailgate when I was in college, since I was a recruiting hostess," she says. "All my girlfriends in the sorority got to tailgate. They would get up and start getting ready to tailgate, and I would put on my garnet-and-gold outfit and leave to meet recruits and give (campus) tours.

"But then I married a coach and got to be on the other side, and the gift of tailgating was there for me to open."

Wherever Skip has coached, Jennifer has tailgated.

"We've tailgated in the South (at South Carolina), in the Midwest (at Notre Dame), in the West (Colorado State) and in the Northeast (Connecticut)," Jennifer says.

Each school has different tailgating traditions and different regional foods, from Low Country shrimp boils in South Carolina to warm, hearty chowders in Connecticut.

When it comes to tailgating, "I'm all about the color and what it looks like," Jennifer says.

"I remember at Notre Dame, my sister-in-law and I got flower pots and filled them with chocolate pudding and gummy worms and added blue and gold flowers. The whole thing was edible."

In support of the Connecticut football program, Jennifer and her family and friends entered a tailgating contest – and won first prize.

"The night before, my guests constructed goal posts out of wrapping-paper tubes and we hung a football from it with fishing line and put the posts in pots of chips. The prize was two round-trip airline tickets. We gave the tickets to my Mom and Dad, because they had worked so hard getting it ready."

She says the tailgating fare in Connecticut included "chowders and chillis, and hot chocolate to keep you warm." She recalls shaping frozen prepared bread dough like footballs, then hollowing them out and serving chilli inside.

Jennifer remembers visiting New Haven, Conn., for a Connecticut road game with Yale and being impressed by the Ivy League school's tailgating style. "They used sterling silver and crystal and candelabra and served lobster and shrimp," Jennifer says. "String quartets played music. It was really upscale. There were thousands of people tailgating.

"We were walking around and looking at everything when we realized it was 15 minutes before kick-off. We hurried into the game and the Connecticut side was filled, but there were probably only about 500 people on the Yale side. Nobody even bothered to go into the game," she says, with a laugh. "They stayed outside and tailgated."

When the Holtz family moved to South Carolina in 1999, one of Skip's first friends was part of a group called the Ultimate Tailgaters. "He asked us to stop by after the first game," Jennifer recalls. "We lost the game, but Skip said we should still stop by where they were tailgating. There were about 80 people there, and they had their own smoker and portable microwave. They did lobster and steak.

"These people tailgated at home and away, every game. And they even developed their own cookbook for every game.

"They take their tailgating seriously."

When Skip was an assistant coach at South Carolina, Jennifer says the coaches' wives got together and auctioned off a "tailgating with the coaches' wives" package to raise funds for the football program. "It was really popular. The wives came up with a theme and brought all the food. I hope we can do that for the Pirate Club.

"Tailgating is a great way of supporting the team. It's where the fun is."

When her children were younger, Jennifer says, she had plenty of time to plan and execute her elaborate tailgating meals. "Every week it was, 'How can I outdo last week?'" she says.

Now that Trey and Chad are involved in Pop Warner football and soccer and Hailey is involved in cheering, Jennifer says her tailgating time is limited.

But she hopes that she and her family and friends will be able to tailgate before ECU's home opener with Duke Saturday.

Jennifer says she loves entertaining and, especially during football season, the Holtz home is brimming with family and friends from around the country. She's expecting 47 guests this weekend, coming from such locales as Florida, South Carolina, Ohio and Arizona.

"The house will be filled to the gills and people will be sleeping on sofas and in sleeping bags," she says. "A lot of the stuff I do for tailgating will have to be done the day before. I look for things that are quick and simple, or things that I can refrigerate or freeze and then pull out and heat up that morning.

"That's how I have to prepare for a tailgate – in advance. You learn the way to do it."

So, she says, those Hanky Pankies are perfect. The appetizers – a mixture of sausage, hamburger and Velveeta cheese scooped atop cocktail bread – can be frozen, Jennifer says, then popped under the broiler just before serving them.

"I don't know whether (people) love the way they taste, or whether they like to say ‘Hanky Panky,' but they always disappear quickly."

She says she'll use purple-and-gold M&Ms in her Pirate Treasure Munch snack mix. "I'll wrap it in cellophane and tie on purple-and-gold ribbons," she says.

Jennifer says she knows she has a tailgating tradition to live up to here in Greenville.

"Not only have I heard about East Carolina and their tailgating, but I remember getting up early and riding down Greenville Boulevard and Charles the day of the spring (football) game, and looking over at 8 a.m. and wondering what all those people were doing over there so early. They were getting ready to tailgate.

"And Skip is going to cook a pig next year (at the Great Purple/Gold Pigskin Pig-out Party, held in conjunction with the spring game), he was so impressed with their dedication.

"I really do hope the fans understand how inspiring their tailgating is to the team and the coaches," Jennifer says. "That's such a symbol of support to see the folks out there early setting up their tailgating."

Jane Hudson can be contacted at 329-9577 or


Hanky Pankies

"One of my college roommates at Florida State would make these to tailgate every home game," Jennifer Holtz says. "Because I was a recruiting hostess and had to host player parents all day, I never got to enjoy her recipe. I have certainly made up for those missed Hanky Pankies since I became a coach's wife."

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground sausage

1 pound Velveeta cheese, cubed

1 mini loaf cocktail bread (rye and sourdough are my faves)

Fry beef and sausage. Drain fat and return pan to stove. Place cubed Velveeta on top of meat mixture. Stir until cheese is completely melted. Remove from heat. Spoon mixture onto individual slices of cocktail bread. Lay slices on foil on counter top to set. Once mixture has cooled and set, serve immediately, or freeze for later use. Place frozen Hanky Pankies on a cookie sheet and broil in the oven until cheese is bubbly.

Makes approximately 6 dozen.

Pirate Treasure Munch

"This recipe was given to me by my sister-in-law, Liz Messaglia," Jennifer Holtz says. "She made this for our tailgating at the Indy 500 this year. I will be making individual baggies for our Duke game company and tying the top with purple and gold ribbon."

1 (24-ounce) package white almond bark

2 cups thin pretzel sticks

3 cups Cheerios cereal

3 cups Corn/Rice Chex cereal

3 cups Wheat Chex cereal

11/2 cups unsalted dry-roasted peanuts

1 pound purple and gold M&M chocolate candies

Lay several long pieces of wax paper on counter top. Place all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside. In a saucepan, over low heat, melt almond bark until smooth. Pour melted almond bark over dry ingredients and toss with wooden spoons until everything is coated. Pour mixture onto wax paper and spread into think clusters. Allow plenty of time for mixture to set and harden. Break into clusters of desired size.

Holtz' Half-Time BBQ Baked Beans

"This recipe is one of the football players' favorites," says Jennifer Holtz. "Lots of protein. It is a recipe that was given to me by a friend in Columbia, S.C., whose husband spent some time in professional baseball, so you know it has to go well with hot dogs! I prefer ribs."

1/4 pound bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 pound hamburger

1 white onion, diced

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup dark molasses

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1 (40-ounce) can baked beans

1/2 cup barbecue sauce

* Lightly fry bacon. Drain fat and set aside. Fry ground beef and onion. Drain fat and set aside.

In saucepan, over medium heat, combine sugar, molasses, mustard and spices. Stir until thickened. Combine all ingredients and cook over low heat or in crock pot on low for 1-2 hours.