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Easy recipe for a busy mom

April 14, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Kathy Thomas likes to cook.

She especially likes to bake, because everybody enjoys the results. She's entered The Herald-Mail's Cookie Exchange the past three years and has done pretty well, baking the third-place cookie in 2000 and making it to the contest's Top 10 in 2001.

But Thomas, 36, does not live by cookies alone.

Her family includes husband Paul and four children - Nathan, 15, Cole, 4, Alexa, 3, and Noah, 18 months. Their home near Clear Spring is a busy place. Thomas is working on her bachelor's degree in sociology at Frostburg University Center in Hagerstown. She plans to continue and get a master's degree, and eventually would like to teach.

Facing a statistics test last Wednesday evening, Thomas had prepared and partially cooked Taco-Filled Pasta Shells. She can cook it early for all but the last 15 minutes. It's very easy for her husband to finish the dish, serve it with a salad and dessert.

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Thomas usually makes a double batch of the recipe. She can freeze half, and she's shared the casserole with friends from Moms"R"Us, an organization she says has grown from a dozen to 60 members since it started about a year ago. The group has lots of activities for mothers and children, as well as an occasional "mom's night out," Thomas says.

There's another reason Thomas likes Taco-Filled Pasta Shells. "It's one of the few dishes they'll all eat," she says of her family.

Thomas grew up in Hagerstown. Her mother worked outside their home and her father, who worked shifts in the Hagerstown Police Department, did most of the cooking.

She says she also does a lot of slow-cooker meals, also simple and convenient.

"I am very thrifty," Thomas says. "I use whatever is in season."

Her parents have a big garden and keep the Thomas family well-supplied with fresh produce.

Thomas won the cookie contest third prize with her grandmother's Oatmeal Raisin Frostbites recipe.

Baking is nostalgic, Thomas says. You put on an apron, and it's something you can do with your kids.

Grandmother also provided some cooking advice last summer - over the phone.

Thomas' parents had given her some grapes, and she didn't want to fool with making jelly. She borrowed her grandmother's canner and made grape juice. She called her grandmother, who talked her through the process. "It was easy," Thomas says.

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