RECIPES: Longtime cafeteria worker loves cooking for a crowd

For a sweet treat, Mary Murphy might bake a batch of her Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. “I just like oatmeal,” she said. | H-W Photo/Deborah Gertz Husar
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 14, 2018 12:01 am
Mary Murphy

QUINCY -- Mary Murphy doesn't mind cooking for a crowd.

"It doesn't take that much to throw a few more beans in the pot," the Quincy woman said.

By the time she was 13, Murphy could cook a meal for 50 people, and now she's going on her 26th year of working in the cafeteria at Quincy Junior High School helping to cook for some 1,400 students every day.

"You just have to love to cook to be a good cook," she said. "If you don't enjoy it, I don't think you can be a good cook."

Murphy has loved cooking her entire life, baking her first pie at the age of nine for her step-grandfather's birthday. "Chocolate was his favorite. Lemon's my favorite, and my (favorite) fruit pie is peach or blackberry," she said. "I really don't eat a lot of it anymore. I'm diabetic, but I bake for other people."

When baking, Murphy follows a recipe, but "if I'm just making meatloaf or anything else, I just fix it," she said. "I think it tastes better that way."

At QJHS, Murphy works on salads, dicing all the vegetables each morning then helping out where needed before working the sub line.

"I've got a long history of working. I've worked since I was 91/2. I've worked 701/2 years," she said, adding that she plans to retire someday in the future. "I play it year by year. It gives you something to get up and do during the day. I don't want to ever be a couch potato."

Even after a day of cooking at work, she'll head home to cook for herself, her niece and her nephew. "Anymore we eat a lot of soup," she said.

Bean Soup, made in the slow cooker with celery, carrot, onions and diced ham or bacon, is a favorite, and "during Lent, I make Potato Soup. I doctor it up with celery, onions and butter," she said.

Adding a can of cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup to her Dressing helps it stay moist. "I can't stand real dry dressing," Murphy said.

For a sweet treat, she might bake a batch of Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. "I just like oatmeal," she said. "Sometimes I put nuts in them."

Murphy learned the basics of cooking, and working, while growing up on a farm near Frankford, Mo. Her dad taught her mom to cook, and both passed down what they knew to Murphy.

"Sometimes I just come in, get something out of the refrigerator and just start cooking. Sometimes we plan, but a lot of times I make up my mind before I get home," she said.

Both cooking, and working, are fun for Murphy.

"I just enjoy people. I like working," Murphy said. "I enjoyed everything I've ever done. I always say work is what you make it. You can either make it hard or make it fun. I would rather make it fun."

Potato Soup

4 large potatoes, diced

1 large onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

Cook until done.

Add 1 quart milk, 1 stick butter and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a good boil.

Bean Soup

1 small bag soup beans

1 medium onion

1/2 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup diced celery

diced ham or bacon

Put in slow cooker. Cover with plenty of water. Cook on high for four to five hours or on low for eight hours.

Mary's Dressing

1 loaf bread

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 stick butter

1 large onion

4 stalks celery

chicken broth

sage and pepper to taste

Tear bread in pieces, and let dry. Cook onion and celery in chicken broth and butter.

Combine all ingredients together, and place in a greased pan. Bake at 400 degrees for one hour.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups oats

1 cup chocolate chips

Combine shortening, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in oats and chocolate chips. Drop dough by tablespoons onto cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes.