Like many people, I learned most of my early cooking skills and menus from my mom. As I mentioned in last year’s Mother’s Day post on her Bran Muffins, she was a pretty classic 70′s mom in her cooking style, with lots of potatoes, lots of rice, quite a few casseroles, and a heavy reliance on Campbell’s Condensed Soups and Franco-American Gravies (now owned by Campbell’s) as an ingredient. Some of that wasn’t really my mom’s fault, as my dad and my brother were far from adventurous eaters (my brother got better with age, my dad really hasn’t). I think the first meal I learned from her was my Mom’s Super Easy Crock Pot Roast, which featured both a Campbell’s Soup and a Franco-American Gravy–always a sure sign of a winner.
The other earliest recipe I recall learning by heart was her meatballs and rice with mushroom gravy. This was a favorite of my dad and I, and my brother tolerated it as long as there was no “touching” of the meatballs and the rice. I later would make it for my room-mates and quasi-roommates in college, and then for my family. It is probably Hunter’s favorite meal from my old pre-Colleen repertoire, and both kids still regularly request it when they actually get a say in the menu.
I did modify it a bit in the old days to make it a little quicker. My mom always used Pepperidge Farm Stuffing and added fresh diced onions and bell peppers to the mix, and I replaced all three ingredients with an equivalent measure of Stove Top Stuffing (yes, a major sell-out and shortcut). I then modified it again more recently to make it at least a little healthier, by using extra lean ground beef, the 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup (rather than traditional), Fat Free Beef Gravy (they don’t appear to make a fat free mushroom gravy), and (sometimes) brown rice. The kids haven’t complained about the recent modifications, so I guess they work!
- 1 lb Ground beef (historically used 85/15, recently using 93/7)–will make 15-18 1″ meatballs
- 1 Egg
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
- ½ Tbsp Seasoned Salt
- 1½ cup Stove Top Stuffing
- 1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup (98% Fat Free or Traditional)
- 1 Can Franco-American/Campbell’s Mushroom Gravy–or Beef Gravy (Fat Free only exists for the Beef Gravy)
- Rice (I like 2 cups uncooked white rice and 3 cups liquid to ensure enough for 4 people and possible leftovers)
- Start rice in rice cooker or covered pot
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine ground beef, egg, worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, and stuffing
- Mix. Add more stuffing if it is too wet, but don’t make it too dry to stick together, because there isn’t really a good way to re-moisten it.
- Loosely roll into approximately 1″ round meatballs and place into 12″ non-stick frying pan (I’ve never needed to use oil or Pam)
- Cover pan and heat on medium high
- When bottom of the meatballs are browned (3-5 minutes), turn them all over to an uncooked side, and continue to cook covered for another 3-5 minutes until that side is browned. Turn them to the least cooked side that remains for another 3-5 minutes (three sides altogether).
- Pour/scoop the can of mushroom soup and the can of mushroom (or beef) gravy into the pan. You can mix the gravies in a bit, but it won’t blend or really look like gravy until it heats up, so cover it again for another five minutes or so.
- Stir meatballs in gravy until it is evenly blended and distributed.
- Serve over (or adjacent to–as my brother would do) rice, with a suitable salad or veggie (we always did corn or peas).