Cook of the Week: Retiree pleases neighbors with block party beans
By Joan Broz
Daily Herald Correspondent
When the folks on Lisle's Hawthorne Lane get together for their annual summer block party, Sue Waskelis shares some tried-and-true fare.
In an area that once was a community picnic grove, neighbors visit in a common area over a table laden with food in the shade of towering trees.
"It is nice to get together with neighbors," Sue said. "Life can be so busy, but our block party gives everyone a chance to visit."
With a menu that begins with each family's own meat to grill, Sue looks to add a side dish that is not too complicated to prepare, does not require refrigeration and is easy to transport.
Sue often peruses her collection of back issues of Cook's Illustrated magazine for ideas. As a former owner of the popular Book Nook in downtown Lisle, Sue had access to a number of cooking magazines during the years she and her husband, Jerry, operated the store.
The clear, descriptive writing in Cook's Illustrated proved to be Sue's favorite. She now keeps past issues organized in magazine holders in her kitchen for easy reference.
"I like to encourage people to try new recipes," Sue said. "I gained my confidence from watching Julia Child and reading her cookbooks."
Sue is the kind of cook who likes to bake bread at least once a month simply because she enjoys its flexibility and the sense of satisfaction she gains. To enjoy vegetables at the peak of perfection, Sue and Jerry maintain a park district garden plot where they enjoy the camaraderie of trading cooking and growing tips with other gardeners.
"Cooking was always important to my parents, so I knew how good food tasted," Sue said. "I was always interested in cooking and even took a couple years of home economics in high school."
Her Easy Baked Beans, a block party staple, have been a favorite since those bygone high school days.
"The recipe for the Easy Baked Beans is from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook I used for my 10th grade home economics class," Sue said. "Everybody likes these beans."
The hearty beans are a perfect summer side dish for novice cooks, but its rich flavor will have cooking enthusiasts singing its praises, too. No matter where your cooking skills register, everyone will appreciate that the beans do not need to soak overnight.
For a dessert at a potluck dinner, Sue's choice is Apple Bundt Cake. The ingredients blend to taste like you've spent hours in preparation and keeps fresh for several days. Leaving on the apple skins does not distract from the appearance or taste of the finished product. Plus, even the children will never know they've consumed extra nutrients and fiber.
Whether you need to bring a side dish, a dessert or both to your own neighborhood block party, Sue's classic recipes offer old-fashioned flavors that will have your neighbors standing in line for more.
• To suggest someone to be profiled here, send the cook's name, address and phone number to Deborah Pankey c/o Cook of the Week, Daily Herald Food section, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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