COOK OF THE WEEK: Young mother finds joy in cooking for her large family

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

NEW ALBANY – When Morgan Coombs was pregnant with her second set of twins in 2009, her doctor put her on strict bed rest. Rather than go stir-crazy, Coombs made good use of her down-time.
“I made my own little cookbook,” said Coombs, who shares six children with her husband, John. “The recipes aren’t in any order, but I can find everything. My husband went out and got the binder and the plastic sleeves and I got all my recipes and cut them out and glued them on paper. I’m just so glad I did it, because it makes my life a whole lot easier.”
Coombs, a labor and delivery nurse at Baptist Memorial Hospital in New Albany, can cook just about anything, but her favorite things to prepare are casseroles.
“I like to be able to put all the ingredients in one pan and have all those flavors in there,” she said. “I think when you put all those flavors together, they taste better.”
Coombs, 29, said she comes from a family of good cooks, including her mother, Mary Cox of New Albany, and some aunts.
“But I didn’t really start trying different things until I married and moved out,” she said.

Meals together a must
Coombs works the night shift several nights a week, so she gets home from work in the mornings in time to help get the kids ready for school. After catching some shut-eye, she’s up to get them home from school and the evening meal under way.
And dinner together is a must.
“I cook most nights of the week,” she said. “With a family this big, you can’t really eat out much because it costs too much. Plus I want my kids to eat well – not have McDonald’s every night.”
One night, they might have grilled chicken with green beans and carrots or her chicken and rice casserole with black-eyed peas and lima beans.
“Even if I make a casserole and everything is supposed to be inside it, I still like to have two side dishes,” she said.
Coombs said she tries a new recipe at least once a week and often finds new ones on the Internet or in one of her large selection of cookbooks.
“I’m always changing recipes, and that really gets on my husband’s nerves,” she said, laughing. “Most recipes I try the way they’re written and then I’ll change them. I just put whatever I think would be good in them.”
When the young mother isn’t working or cooking or taking care of children – five of the six live with her and John – she tries to carve out time to read fiction. But those opportunities are limited.
“One of these days when these kids are grown, I’m going to pick up some hobbies,” she said. “But for now, I just don’t have the time.”

Do you know a good cook? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can fax them to (662) 842-2233 or e-mail them to