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posted: 7/3/2012 5:00 AM

Country girl at heart and in the kitchen

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  • Cook of the Week Susan Zybko of Glen Ellyn.

      Cook of the Week Susan Zybko of Glen Ellyn.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Bev Horne/bhorne@dailyherald.comPlum kuchen by Cook of the Week Susan Zybko of Glen Ellyn.

    Bev Horne/bhorne@dailyherald.comPlum kuchen by Cook of the Week Susan Zybko of Glen Ellyn.

By Sally Eyre

The old saying may be true: you can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl.

For Susan Zybko getting off the farm and into the city was a major goal when she was growing up. Susan bucked tradition when, instead of getting married, she went off to college, and then chose to major in marketing instead of the more acceptable teaching and nursing.

Once she graduated, she left the farm life well and truly behind, with one exception: she still loved to cook.

"I've been cooking ever since I can remember. When you grow up on a farm and do 4-H, you're always cooking for someone!"

Because her mom was more artsy than domestic, Susan learned to cook from her two grandmothers, one a Swedish farm wife with a gift for baking, and the other a Belgian with a flair for entertaining.

When she and her husband were newly married and in their "BK period" (before kids), cooking meant preparing themed dinners with other couples. Once they began to have their children (three boys, now teenagers) and moved to the suburbs, entertaining morphed into elaborate birthday parties or family gatherings.

Having daily family dinners together remains important to the Zybkos despite the fact that feeding three, always-hungry teenage boys and working around three baseball schedules is no small task.

"We have a family meal nearly everyday. It's a sharing expression of love and caring and nurturing."

Naturally, the boys have their favorites like hearty, homemade meatballs with marinara, meatloaf and mashed potatoes and parmesan chicken. But they are also willing to try almost anything.

"We travel a lot so the boys are forced to be adventurous. We like to eat like the locals do. I've started doing a lot of Greek dishes because when we were in Greece, they really enjoyed the food."

Susan's travels often inspire her to try new recipes yet she has trouble naming one favorite spot when it comes to food.

"It's hard to pass up the food and wine from Tuscany, or the seafood from Hawaii. The food in Costa Rica was a surprise. We loved the freshness and how (the dishes) were prepared!"

Susan also enjoys taking cooking classes.

"When my boys were little it was a nice way to get a break in the evening!" she laughs. One memorable birthday present from her husband was a trip to Napa Valley to attend cooking classes.

Susan does a lot of baking these days, not just for her family, but also for a variety of charity events. Susan will be baking for the annual Glen Ellyn Historical Society Bake sale held July 13 at the Glen Ellyn Farmer's Market.

"I love having an excuse to bake! The boys will come into the kitchen and ask, 'is that for us or are you volunteering?' I'll tell them, well I need this amount -- if there's anything left over that, it's yours!" she laughs.

Susan still loves entertaining and likes how it has morphed into a relaxed, casual thing that allows for the coming and going of family, friends and neighbors.

Now that its summer, most of the dining is done al fresco and Susan's favorite place to shop is, where else? The farmers market.

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