Need a go-to recipe as the weather warms up for a picnic or potluck?

Bonnie Woods’ Bean Salad is sure to be a hit – and many of the ingredients may already be in the pantry.

“It has just really simple ingredients, and that’s the beauty of it all,” Woods said. “And it’s easy to change any of the ingredient with the season, the availability, the nutritional qualities and the color.”

The recipe calls for four cans of beans. Choose from green beans, wax beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans or black-eyed peas.

As a former educator, Woods said she just couldn’t help writing down some thoughts she had to prepare for this interview.

She originally found the recipe in a 1971 church cookbook, and she thinks it’s perfect for picnics, potlucks and parties.

“The best part is it’s so simple and you almost always have all the ingredients in your house.”

The original recipe only called for three beans, but Woods found there was too much dressing so she added a fourth can.

She also changed the recipe from apple vinegar to white vinegar because it makes the colors of the beans brighter. Woods also switched to canola oil, instead of salad oil, to make it healthier. She reduced the amount of sugar and added both green and red peppers.

Woods picks the color of peppers to go with the beans in the dish for the best color and the best contrast.

She rattled off the health benefits of the salad, including vitamin B6, B9 and C, as well as copper, potassium, iron and magnesium.

The dish also is high in fat and rich in protein, and sodium varies depending on the variety of beans as well as the brand.

“As a consumer, you look at the milligrams of sodium and that tells you how much you should rinse the beans,” Woods said.

The dish gets a lot better the longer it sits; allow at least 24 hours to allow the marinade to soak in.

She stores the salad in a bowl with a lid, and simply lifts and shakes to stir the dish before serving.

Whenever Woods asks what she should bring to the annual potluck hosted by friend Flo Klopfenstein, “she always says, bring your bean salad.”

Woods said she also makes a really good baked brisket and potato salad. She enjoys baking over cooking “because I like sweets.”

She said she has become a lot better at making bread – no machine required – since the start of the pandemic and has learned to knead the dough on parchment paper to make cleanup easier.

Woods said she was a farm girl and had to cook growing up.

“My mother taught me because we all had our chores we had to do all the time and since I was a girl, most of my chores were inside.”

Woods recalled she had to cook meals on her own while her mom took a group of high school students on their senior trip. She thinks she was 8 years old. She had to fix meals for her siblings and dad for five days.

“Somethings were ones you’d want to repeat. Others, Dad would say ‘I don’t think we ought to do that one again.’”

Her cookie go-to is sugar and she ices them, sometimes with a coffee frosting for a grandchild and sometimes with an orange-juice blend for herself.

Every Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter morning she makes cinnamon rolls from scratch for her five grandchildren, who now live in Texas. Her two children live 45 minutes apart and she must split her visits 50/50 so she stays about eight days.

Woods taught at Bowling Green State University for 28 years, first textiles then interior design. She is a former home economics teacher, having started in the Olentangy district near Columbus and then spent two years at Anthony Wayne.

“I couldn’t have chosen a better degree than home economics,” she said. “There are so many things you can do.”

Woods, now 84 years old, earned the degree from Ohio State University.

“I knew early on I wanted to be a home economics teacher. I just knew I wanted to do that.”

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