A meal doesn't have to be "gourmet" to be good. In fact, many times a simple meal can be the most memorable.

At the Hilburn house, it was the Saturday night special … steak and gravy. Even today, if you ask one of our daughters about the menu for Saturday night when they were growing up, they will quickly tell you: steak and gravy served with fried tater tots and a simple salad of crisp lettuce, fresh tomatoes and mayonnaise. And don’t forget those brown-and-serve rolls and sweet tea — a real Southern delight.

I know you might be smiling as you read this, but to our family of six, this was special. From time to time, I will make this meal again for myself, substituting a baked potato for the tater tots. Good memories.

I also remember when I was growing up, my mother had to "cube" or tenderize the steak. It wasn't available already cubed at the grocery store. I can still see her as she pounded the slices of steak with the edge of a saucer. She must have done a good job, because the steak she made was usually so tender you could cut it with a fork.

The slow cooker is a popular small appliance that makes cooking in the summer more pleasant. After all, you can just put your ingredients in the slow cooker and forget it for a few hours.

Recently, I decided to use the slow cooker for steak and gravy — and it turned out delicious and tender. The addition of cream of mushroom soup with roasted garlic and mushroom steak sauce gave it special flavor.

I also like pepper steak, and was glad to see the following recipe in my friend Joan Ross' cookbook, "Recipes from the Parsonage.”


  • 1 pound cubed round steak, cut into serving size pieces
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Flour for coating steak
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) cream of mushroom soup with roasted garlic
  • 1 small can Dawn's mushroom steak sauce
  • 1/2 cup water

Lightly salt and pepper the steak pieces. (Don't use too much salt, because some of the other ingredients contain salt.) Dredge steak pieces in flour, and shake off excess. Heat the oil in a skillet and carefully drop coated steak into oil. Brown on both sides. Remove from skillet and place in slow cooker. Combine soup, mushroom steak sauce and water. Mix well and add to slow cooker. Cook on high for about 3 hours, or until steak is tender.


  • 2 pounds round steak, cut into diagonal strips ¼-by-2 inches
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 green peppers, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 4 medium tomatoes, quartered
  • 1-pound can bean sprouts, drained (reserve liquid)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

In a wok, stir fry 1/4 of the meat for 2 minutes. Push this meat off to the side of the wok and repeat with more meat, until all is browned. Add garlic, ginger, sugar and soy sauce. Stir. Cover and reduce to simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Increase heat. Add pepper and onion. Stir gently. Cover and steam 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and bean sprouts. Stir gently. Cover and steam 5 more minutes. In small bowl, make smooth paste of cornstarch and bean liquid. Add to hot mixture. Stir gently about 2 minutes. Serve over rice.