Thursday October 18, 2007

     I have been hesitant to share this recipe.  It’s just such an easy thing, and really not at all anything special.  However, it is a family favorite, and a dish that has saved me on many a busy day.  The prep time is less than 10 minutes, moving slowly; and it bakes in the oven for about an hour, which gives you plenty of time to work on other things about your home, or to put your feet up and read for a bit.  It’s easily adaptable to any size family, by just increasing the ground beef and gravy ingredients for more servings.  I’ve always been embarrassed to share it because, to me, it almost seems like I’m cheating making this and calling it dinner.  Anyway, after many requests over the months, here it is.  But first….a story.

     Right after my mother-in-love retired, we began having her over for dinner every Monday evening.  I can’t tell you with any degree of certainty what year we began our Monday night dinners, but they continued for over a decade.  I would often try out a new recipe on the nights Lola came over.  As the girls grew older, they would help with more of the meal, and sometimes would prepare the whole thing.  Sometimes we’d have a big, fancy multi-course meal complete with dessert, and other times we’d just have a sandwich.  Once in awhile my husband would take us all out for our Monday evening meal.  Our joy, of course, was in having Memom spend an evening with us.

      During this time, we began planning our annual December tour of the local Christmas lights on Mondays so that Lola could join us.  Oh, the stories I could tell you of some of those outings!!  One Monday night in December, let’s see, it would have to have been December, 1997, Lola was coming over for dinner and we were going to go out afterwards for our annual tour of lights.  My husband was gone all day to A.O. (Advanced Officer) School, and was due home just before dinner.  I was planning a quick dinner of tomato soup and double decker cheese sandwiches.  Funny how the inconsequential details of an important day stick with you.  My girls were 17 and 14, and Aaron was 4. 

     In the late afternoon, it was probably 3:30 or 4:00, Dani asked if she could go for a walk with the girl that lived two doors away.  I said, “sure”.  We lived at the very base of a cul-de-sac, of a street that was about 4 normal blocks long.  It ended in a cul-de-sac at the opposite end, and the girls were in the habit of just walking the long loop together.  I could, if I looked out my window, see them the entire route.  But of course, they walked this route daily.  It was the middle of the afternoon.  Dani was 14!  There really was no need to watch out the window.

     Not long after they left, both girls came into my home, crying and out of breath.  As I was trying to figure out what had happened, I looked over to the other girl’s house and I could see her father using his cordless telephone in the driveway.  The girls were, as I said, quite upset, and I could see that Mr. Singh was quite agitated on the phone.   Mr. Singh was from the Fiji Islands and had a thick accent, but his English was, usually, quite good.  I was finally able to grab bits and pieces of what had happened from the two girls, and just in the nick of time, too, because as I watched out that front window, several police cars, from three different agencies, marked and unmarked, were pouring into our cul-de-sac. 

     (What had happened was that a van full of teenaged boys, all under the influence of alcohol and being driven by one of the boys’ sister, had followed the girls and tried to lure them into the van with them.  As the girls refused and continued walking, the boys persisted.  At one point, the van pulled alongside the girls and the sliding side door was opened.  These girls did the right thing and RAN, fast as they could, to a house on the street, and began banging on the door.  The house was a rental that Mr. Singh owned, and though the tenant spoke no English (we lived in an extremely multi-cultural neighborhood), they understood the girls saying “Mr. Singh” enough that a call was made to him and he came to the rescue.  The van fled, with Mr. Singh in pursuit.  The girls ran, as fast as ever they could, to my house.  Mr. Singh followed the van long enough to get the license number, and then raced home to call the police.  (Folks didn’t have cell phones then, as they do now!) ) 

     In his excitement, Mr. Singh’s English skills had plummeted, and all of the police pouring into my front yard were responding to a call of a kidnapping!  I quickly rushed out to tell the officers that the girls were safe and were both in my home, but that they had definitely had a scare.  The van was tracked down, but no charges were ever pressed.  That never set well with me.  Statements were taken.  Reports were written.  One by one the patrol cars left.  Once things had calmed down a bit, my girls finished up dinner in the kitchen.  Somewhere, in the midst of all of this, my mother-in-love drove up and, in her wonderful way, walked calmly into my house, went to the kitchen and did what she could to help the girls.

     Me?  I grabbed my broom and began sweeping my front walk way.  Furiously.  Repeatedly. Praying like a crazy woman all the while.  I do believe that I swept off the top layer of cement!  I know for a fact that I needed to buy a new broom when I was done.  I was still out sweeping when my husband came home….I think there was still one police car on the cul-de-sac finishing up taking a statement from Mr. Singh.  It was this incident that prompted my husband to say, that very night if I’m not mistaken, that it was time for us to “get out of Dodge”.  We found our current home in the country less than a month after that horrible evening.  

     We did go out and take our Christmas light tour that night, making an emergency potty stop with Aaron that we can all still laugh hysterically about!  Perhaps it was only as funny as it was because of the stress we’d all had earlier in the day.  I don’t know.  I’m not even sure why I shared all of this today.  I think, though,  that this is just a very good example of how varied our Monday evenings with Lola could be!!  Fancy dinner nights.  Simple dinner nights.  Doing nothing in particular nights.  VERY EXCITING nights.     

     When Lola was diagnosed with cancer, in August of 2004, we let her know that we had plenty of room for her anytime she needed it.  She decided, quite wisely, that she’d come stay overnight with us for a day or two following her first chemo treatment.  We were thrilled to have her!  She stayed two nights, felt great, and headed back home.  She called us the next day, following her second treatment, and she was very ill.  Too sick to even drive.  Dani drove to her home in the city to pick her up.  She stayed with us from that day until the Lord called her home in February, 2005. 

     Chemotherapy can be rough.  It was very rough for Lola.  She was horribly ill, and the anti-nausea meds only made her sleepy.  There were good days, though, mixed with the not-so-good.   I tried to fix meals that were appealing to Lola, and tried to avoid cooking foods that made her feel worse just to smell them cooking.  One evening, following a busy day of medical appointments with Lola, homeschooling my boys, etc., I quickly threw this dish together.  As we sat down to dinner that night, my dear mother-in-love, her face pale and tired, said, “You know, Cheryl, this has always been my favorite thing that you cook.”  Is it any wonder I loved that woman??  Everytime I make this dish for my family now, I remember her saying that to me.  And I miss her.

HAMBURGER PATTIES WITH MUSHROOM GRAVY

     1/4 lb. ground beef per person
     1 small can sliced mushrooms for every 4 – 6 servings
     1 can cream of mushroom soup for every 4 – 6 servings
     1/2 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet browning sauce for every 4-6 servings
     Garlic Salt & Pepper

     Pre-heat oven to 350°.  Form patties from ground beef, using approximately 1/4 lb. for each patty.  Place patties into 9 x 13 (or larger) baking pan.  Sprinkle the meat with garlic salt and pepper to taste.  Drain the sliced mushrooms, reserving the juice.  Top the patties with the sliced mushrooms. (I just put a small pile on top of each patty)  Combine the reserved juice from the canned mushrooms with the cream of mushroom soup and the Kitchen Bouquet.  Stir well.  Carefully pour the gravy over the patties so as to not disturb the sliced mushrooms on the tops.  Cover with foil and bake at 350° for 45 minutes to an hour.  (A really large pan might take just a bit longer.)  Use a spatula to lift each patty, with the mushrooms still on top, (some will have floated off during baking) to individual plates (or a serving platter).  Pour the gravy into a gravy boat for serving at the table.  Serve with white rice, brown rice, pasta or mashed potatoes.  

God bless you as you look well to the ways of your households!
Proverbs 31:27
  

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11 comments to Thursday October 18, 2007

  • I don’t know if I’ve ever commented on your blog, but I’ve been reading it for a while… Reading this post made me feel like I had come and sat down at your kitchen table and listened to this story while you made dinner… Thank you!

    Teri in CO

  • WOW!  I am glad the girls were okay! 

    Thank you for sharing your memories of your mother-in-love.  What a blessing that was to read.

    Ummm–I do have a question–what is Kitchen Bouquet browning sauce? That recipe sounds good! 

  • Awwwww. I am going to make that meal and think of Lola.

  • Thanks for the recipe, Cheryl, and especially for the stories to go along with it!  I enjoyed so much hearing about your mother-in-love and how she loved this the most of all your cooking.  Sometimes it’s the simplest things that people enjoy, isn’t it?!

  • I LOVE the stories behind recipes and the memories that go with them. I’ve been curious about this recipe and almost asked for it myself. It looks like one I must try, Christopher is a “meat and potato man”. 🙂

  • mhopeful – I’ve edited the recipe to include a link for the Kitchen Bouquet so that you can not only see what it is, but also see what it looks like so that you can find it on your grocer’s shelf.  It’s usually with the marinades, steak sauces, etc., but some stores keep it with the spices.   I use this in several recipes, and a bottle lasts a long time.

  • Thank you!  I’d never heard of it–I thought it was maybe something you made yourself. 🙂 I have not looked at the link yet, but I will in just a moment!

    Thanks again,

    Merechel 

  • Thanks for sharing that beautiful story and sharing the yummy recipe.  When I make it and I will, I will think of your mother-in-love too.  Blessings.

  • A family favorite recipe always has a story to go with it.  I am Digitally scrapbooking my recipes for my children for when they are older and have included stories to go with them as well.

  • I’m trying this tonight! I’ve run out of things to make out of ground beef! This sounds great!

    Thanks so much!!

    Blessings,
    Betty