What is this mystery meat? Would your child eat it? Mine did, but not because they liked the looks of it; they liked the taste.

I cook for a tough bunch. I ask you, when was the last time a person you cook for stomped her foot and said, “If it doesn’t look like a porcupine, I’m not going to eat it!”?

“It IS a porcupine!” I insisted. “Just a VERY BIG PORCUPINE instead of many very little porcupines.” This came after I goofed following Donna Weihofen’s recipe for Porcupine Meatballs. The recipe is extremely simple and is in her cookbook Mom’s Updated Recipe Box: 250 Family Favorites Made Quick And Healthy. Donna writes, just mix together with a wooden spoon:

  • 1 pound extra-lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 Tablespoon minced onion
  • 2 Tablespoons chili sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Shape into 12 meatballs and place in a 1 1/2-quart casserole. Pour over the meatballs:

  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 30 ounces (1 large can) of seasoned tomatoes, undrained. Canned tomato soup can be substituted for the canned tomatoes.

Bake covered at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until meatballs are thoroughly cooked. Check after 45 minutes and add water if it is too dry or uncover for a thick consistency. Serve with rice, noodles, or other pasta.

I grew up with a variation of this classic, American recipe. The reason we all call it porcupine meatballs is because as the rice cooks, it pokes up through the meat and looks like quills sticking out of a little round animal. I’ve made it dozens of times before.

But last night my mistake was in getting distracted. Typical kid mayhem diverted my steely-eyed, super-mom focus.

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