On Sunday, I served as one of the judges for the 2015 Brookfield Zoo Halloween Costume Contest.
I was asked to select the winners for the "Best Animal" category, and it was a clever porcupine costume that caught my eye.
This quill-creation reminded me of a simple recipe with a long history I enjoyed last month while at dinner with my parents and other guests at the home of Mary Beth Schultz, of Valparaiso.
Mary Beth was a finalist in the 42nd annual Pillsbury Bake-Off in 2006 in Orlando, Fla. While Mary Beth, who is a registered nurse, is an experienced cook who has made recipes and varied menus a favorite hobby, her late mother, Peggy, who was also a nurse, never counted cooking and baking as favorite pastimes.
But one easy recipe Mary Beth recounts that her mother loved to make, once ranked as a retro favorite. "Porcupine Meatballs" were first popular in the 1950s and early 1960s, at the same time when casseroles were becoming all the rage and the cupboards and pantries in most households included stacks of canned soups as a convenient staple provision.
Mary Beth's dinner gathering last month also included her sister Joanne and husband Harry, who live in Hobart; Mary Beth and Joanne's brother, the Rev. Ted Nordquist, who serves as pastor at St. Edward's Catholic Church in Lowell; and Johan Castaneda, a first-year religion teacher at Bishop Noll High School in Hammond. One of the reasons Mary Beth decided to include her mom's recipe for Porcupine Meatballs on the menu is because they were especially a favorite of her brother "Teddy" while they were growing up in Hobart.
While Mary Beth recalled her mother used a pressure cooker when making her Porcupine Meatballs, everyone around the table agreed using the more conventional stove-top method seems to be a far safer alternative. Enjoy!
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 (14 ounce) can tomato soup
DIRECTIONS: In a bowl, combine meat, rice, seasonings and onion. Shape into small balls. In a large saucepan or cooking pot with a lid, combine tomato soup with 1 can of water. Drop meatballs in, cover and cook slowly for 1 hour. Serve warm. Makes 20 meatballs.