Porcupine Balls have been my daughter Margaux's favorite food for about as long as I can remember. It's a recipe she makes often for her own children now, and one I will frequently make if she and her family are coming to visit.

It's a recipe I also made a lot when Margaux was in Girl Scouts, as every time there was some type of dinner meeting or pot luck supper, she would volunteer me to make Porcupine Balls.

With a toddler at home and a baby on the way, I eventually became exasperated and complained that why couldn't I, just this once, be the mom who brings the paper plates or a can of juice? Why did I always have to be the one to supply the main course, which was a lot more work than grabbing a can off a shelf? And meat! Meat was expensive, didn't she understand that?

While my rants to my children and husband typically fell on deaf ears, this time they didn't. I found that out when I got a call one evening from her troop leader, informing me that not only had the troop held a food drive for us, but the local church would be providing us with a food basket of items from the grocery store, including meat, since we could no longer afford to buy any. She wanted to know if they could deliver it all the next day.

For the first time ever, at least for a moment, I was speechless.

The more I insisted we didn't need groceries, that we were just fine, the more it sounded like I was covering up our poverty.

To prove it, I eventually ended up insisting that they please, please, let me make Porcupine Balls for next week's Bridging ceremony, and it would not be any trouble at all! I promised!

And therefore, from that time on, I was always the first to volunteer the main course at every Girl Scout, school and church event until Margaux was well into high school.

Now when I make Porcupine Balls, it's because I really want to, not because of some misguided guilt.

This recipe, which includes ground beef and rice -- not real porcupine -- comes from a very old spiral-bound church cookbook (my favorite kind of cookbook.) The covers are missing and the recipe has been adapted so much over the years, it's far from the version printed in my stained and battered copy.

Regardless, it's still a family favorite that comes with a fun story to share.

Porcupine Balls

For meatballs:

2 pounds ground beef

1 cup uncooked rice

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1 can tomato soup

1 teaspoon salt

For sauce:

2 tablespoons butter

Half cup onion, chopped fine

Half cup celery, chopped fine

Half cup green pepper, chopped

2 cans tomato soup

1 cup water

One-quarter cup lemon juice

4 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Combine beef, rice, eggs, onion, 1 can of tomato soup and salt. Mix well and shape into balls about 1 and a half to 2 inches in size. Place into two 9-inch by 13-inch greased casserole dishes and place into a 350 degree oven.

Make the sauce. Melt the butter in a deep pan and add onion, celery and green pepper. Cook and stir frequently until celery is soft. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered for about five minutes, stirring frequently.

Split the sauce between the two pans of meatballs and continue cooking in the oven for 1-1 and a half hours or until finished.

Serve with mashed potatoes to enjoy the extra sauce.

Makes about 24 meatballs.

For more recipes, check out Comfort & Joy each Wednesday in the TIMES NEWS. To find previous recipes, go to http://www.tnonline.com/lifestyle/comfort-and-joy.