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No repeats! In 9 years, a North Carolina mom says she’s never cooked the same meal twice

This story idea grabbed my attention: A husband claimed his wife hadn’t cooked the same meal twice in nine years.

Goodness knows, I needed this cooking dynamo’s advice. In the last month, I’ve “cooked” smoked sausage, Kraft mac-and-cheese and whatever vegetable was in the freezer at least three times.

So, I finagled an invitation for dinner at the Raleigh, N.C., home of Ned and Robin Mangum. Ned, a district court judge, sent me a note after a Facebook post about his wife’s culinary record generated two dozen comments, such as: “Seriously?” “How is that even possible?” and “She has to stop making the rest of us look so bad!”

On the night I went for dinner, Robin said she wasn’t aware of her tendency to avoid repetition until her husband pointed it out.

Robin, 38, develops programs at Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh. The couple has three boys: Robert, 8; Gus, 4; and Hugh, 18 months.

These days Robin said she no longer has time for painting, crafts or Martha Stewart-like projects. As a result, she said, “I was putting all my creativity into dinner.”

At most, she cooks four nights a week. The family eats leftovers or dines out on the other evenings. When she does get to cook, it’s relaxing. Ned takes the boys outside to play so she can get dinner ready. Or Gus, who is known as her “sous chef,” will help in the kitchen.

On this recent Monday night meal, she has already made a vegetable stir-fry, which is being kept warm in the oven. She’s chopping chives and red peppers for a pork filling for pot stickers, which she had never made before.

“It’s been on the list to try,” she said.

Robin keeps a list on her smartphone of dishes she wants to tackle. She also looks for inspiration from her favorite Food Network stars Ina Garten and Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman.

In the summer, the family receives a box of vegetables each week from a CISA. Those ingredients lead Robin to search for something new to fix.

Robin also has had the family eating their way through the British Isles, from shepherd’s pie to bangers and mash. With seafood, she turns to the Greeks for inspiration.

There are sandwich nights, a run of slow-cooker recipes, or a series of chowders and soups.

Homemade “McRib”

Serves 6-8

Mangum uses Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce. She urges others to get creative with the toppings. She has topped them with roasted kale chips.

2-3 racks of baby back ribs, cut into slabs of 3 or 4 ribs each

3 cups barbecue sauce

Sandwich buns

Pickle slices

White onion, thinly sliced

Place the ribs in a slow cooker and cover them with barbecue sauce.

Set the slow cooker on low and cook for 8 to 10 hours, basting every so often. The meat should be tender and falling off bone when it’s done.

Pull the rib bones out. Shred the meat with two forks right in the slow cooker.

If planning to eat this the next day, place the meat in the refrigerator to reheat later in the slow cooker. (After it’s chilled, fat will harden on the top, making it easier to scrape it off the meat.) Or serve immediately.

Serve the meat on toasted sandwich buns with pickles and onions.

Recipe from Robin Mangum of Raleigh, N.C.

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