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Learning from the best

By Staff | Jan 2, 2015

-Farm News photos by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby BRANDI MURLEY, of Rockwell City, said she enjoys preparing spaghetti casserole when she’s home from college and when she’s on campus at her apartment at South Dakota State University, where she’s majoring in ag leadership.


ROCKWELL CITY-The family that cooks together, stays together. Just ask Brandi Murley, of Rockwell City, who credits her parents and grandmothers with giving her the recipes – and the confidence – to explore new culinary adventures.

“I like experimenting in the kitchen,” said Murley, 21, a senior majoring in ag leadership at South Dakota State University. “I also like to travel and learn about food in other cultures.”

She is indulging this passion in early 2015 through a 12-day South American study trip to Argentina and Uruguay with her fellow SDSU ag majors.

This isn’t her first time abroad. Following her 2011 graduation from Rockwell City-Lytton High School, she traveled in France for two weeks with her high school French class.

THE MURLEY FAMILY makes these sweet, coconut-coated date balls (also called skillet cookies) for the holidays. Crisped rice cereal adds extra texture to these treats.

Closer to home, Murley has learned about cooking from her grandmother Shirly Murley, from Sac City, who taught her the basics of salads, coffee cakes and more.

Murley said she enjoyed learning the fine points of traditional Midwest cooking from her other grandmother, Loretta Miller, of Rockwell City.

Early on, Murley began to understand the farm-to-fork connection, thanks to her involvement in the Center Willing Workers 4-H Club, her blue-ribbon baking entries at the Calhoun County Exposition and her leadership roles in the Rockwell City-Lytton FFA chapter.

She has also learned the importance of agriculture and food production from her father, Duane, a well-known farm broadcaster who works at the radio station in Fort Dodge. “Dad taught me how to grill,” said Murley, who also enjoys gardening and raises the heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes that her father loves.

Cooking with spices creates new opportunities for Murley to explore savory flavor combinations in her recipes.

-Farm News photos by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby THIS FRESH , zesty radish dip is quick to prepare and makes a great snack or addition to a meal.

Whether she’s cooking for herself and her friends at college, or she’s preparing a meal with her dad and mother, Darcy, it’s hard to beat a taste of home.

“I like seeing the final product come together and sharing it with others,” Murley said.

Spaghetti casserole

(This casserole freezes well, said Brandi Murley, who credits her mother with this recipe.)

1 onion, chopped

1 1/2 pound ground beef

6 ounces spaghetti noodles

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 15-ounce can tomato sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

1 cup water (up to 1/2 cup more if too thick)

2 tablespoons sugar

Dash of garlic salt

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Brown and drain beef and onion. Cook noodles. Add all remaining ingredients, reserving half a cup of cheese. Place mixture in casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top of casserole.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Date balls

or skillet cookies

(Brandi Murley said she likes dried fruit and enjoys carrying on her mother’s tradition of making these treats at the holidays.)

1 1/2 cups dates, chopped

1 cup granulated sugar

Pinch of salt

2 eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup nutmeats

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups crisped rice cereal


Mix dates, sugar and salt together. Add 2 eggs, beaten, and mix in butter.

Cook in heavy skillet until mixture leaves the sides of the pan and looks foamy.

Add nuts and vanilla. Pour over crisped rice cereal. Mix. Cool.

Drop by teaspoon into a bowl of coconut and form into balls. Let dry on waxed paper.

Radish dip

1 cup radishes, chopped fine

1/4 cup celery, chopped fine

1/4 cup onion, chopped fine

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Mix all ingredients together. Chill. Serve with crackers.

Italian corn

(Don’t skip the green pepper, which adds the perfect flavor balance to this dish, Brandi Murley said, who credits her grandmother, Shirly Murley, with this family favorite.)

1 can creamed corn

1 can whole corn, drained

1 cup elbow macaroni, uncooked

1 cup cheese (Velveeta), diced

1/4 cup butter, diced

1/2 cup onion, diced

1/4 cup green pepper, diced

Combine all ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Stir occasionally.

Add milk if mixture is too dry.

Apricot salad

(Brandi Murley’s mother, Darcy, often makes this fruit-filled salad.)

1 3-ounce package orange gelatin

1 3-ounce package apricot gelatin

1 1/2 cups boiling water

1 can apricots (27 to 29 ounces), diced (drain, but reserve liquid)

1 medium can crushed pineapple (drain, but reserve liquid)

1 cup miniature marshmallows

1/2 cup apricot juice

1/ cup pineapple juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup whipped cream

Grated Cheddar cheese

Dissolve gelatins in boiling water. Add 1 cup of reserved liquid from drained, canned apricots and pineapple. Cool.

Add apricots, pineapple and marshmallows. Put in a 9-by-13-inch pan to set.

Mix remaining 1 cup of juices, sugar, flour and butter. Cook until thick. Cool. Fold this mixture into whipped cream, and spread over gelatin mixture.

Sprinkle with Cheddar cheese. Chill.

Cut into squares to serve.

Filled coffee cake

(While a variety of fruit fillings work well in this coffee cake, cherry is a perennial favorite for Brandi Murley, who got this recipe from her grandmother, Shirly Murley.)

1 cup sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 eggs

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 can fruit pie filling (cherry, blueberry, apricot, or the flavor of your choice)

Cinnamon and sugar

Mix sugar, oil and vanilla. Add eggs, flour and baking powder.

Pour half of the batter into a greased 9by-13-inch pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Spread pie filing over batter. Top with the rest of the batter; sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

Bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes.

Pie crust

(This flaky crust is easy to prepare, said Brandi Murley. This crust does not freeze well, however, so it’s best to use it right away.)

2 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup boiling water

Combine flour and salt in bowl. Pour water and oil into flour and stir with a fork.

Shape into two balls and roll between two pieces of waxed paper.

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