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Perfectly delicious meatless meals

With the onset of Lent on the path to Easter, I've decided to offer some recipes this week for those of you who are refraining from eating meat on Friday. We so take eating meat for granted on almost a daily basis, that when we are required to prepare something without it, we can sometimes be at a loss, when actually there are countless choices out there.

Personally, there's nothing better than a piping hot bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. My sister-in-law from Portland, Oregon, shared this 'Old-Fashioned Cream of Tomato Soup' recipe with me, a favorite at one of their local restaurants. She said it is wonderful. I have not yet tried it, but will be one of these very next Friday's. With the cream it is obviously a little rich, but I never said these recipes would be low fat. The original recipe also calls for chicken broth, but to make it truly meatless substitute vegetable broth instead.

Tuna, salmon and other seafood varieties are also excellent staples to have on hand to whip up a fast, hearty, satisfying meal. To this day a good old tuna noodle casserole topped with a generous amount of Velveeta cheese melted down is still one of the best.

Another wonderful easy meal is using the prepackaged frozen cheese ravioli you can purchase in the grocery store, and topping it with the scrumptious Alfredo sauce featured below. Or if you like, another easy option, heat meatless store-bought spaghetti sauce and pour over the cooked ravioli and top with Parmesan cheese. The Alfredo recipe is delicious and extremely easy and one that I've prepared dozens of times. It is also wonderful over other cooked pasta noodles, in particular, fettuccini or linguini. For a little more substance you can also toss in some shrimp sautéed in butter and garlic powder. In some circles it's known as the Olive Garden recipe, but I have used the same recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks for years under another name. Just be sure you don't substitute anything else for the cream, as it might curdle.

To me, Lent is also synonymous with Salmon patties. I have a basic homemade version I throw together using the canned salmon. Serve them with mashed potatoes and cream peas or cream style corn and you have the perfect meal in a flash.

Until next time, from my kitchen to yours, happy cooking.

Alfredo Sauce

1 stick butter

1 pint heavy cream

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 or 2 tsp. Garlic powder

2 Tbsp. cream cheese, softened

Melt butter in heavy saucepan. Stir in cream, Parmesan cheese and garlic powder. Cook over low heat until Parmesan is melted, stirring occasionally. Add cream cheese and continue cooking until melted and the mixture is creamy and smooth. (I sometimes help this process along by taking my gravy whisk and stirring it briskly to get it nice and smooth.)

Old-Fashioned Tomato Soup

32 ounces canned diced tomatoes

9 ozs. Vegetable broth (undiluted)

1 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. chopped onion

A pinch of baking soda

2 cups cream

Mix tomatoes, broth, butter, sugar, onions and soda. Simmer one hour covered. Heat cream in double boiler. Add cream to hot tomato mixture. Ready to serve and enjoy. It's delicious.

Salmon Patties

1 can salmon (cleaned well)

2 eggs, beaten

3 slices bread, cubed

¼ to ½ cup milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Clean canned salmon well, removing bones. Break up into chunks and add the cubed bread, beaten eggs, salt and pepper. Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter or margarine in a frying pan. Place about three tablespoons of the mix into a pan at medium high heat and smooth out like patty (similar to a pancake). Fry on each side until golden brown.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

8 ozs. wide noodles cooked

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can water packed tuna

¾ cup half and half

Velveeta Cheese or any other kind of cheese you prefer

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix noodles, soup, tuna and half and half together well in a greased 9x13 inch casserole pan (or cake pan). Place slices of Velveeta cheese or any other kind of cheese you prefer on top. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes until heated through and cheese is melted and bubbly. If you are not using Velveeta, you might want to wait and add the cheese the last 10 minutes.

Shrimp Noodle Supreme

1 package (8 ounces) spinach noodles, cooked and drained

1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, cubed and softened

1 ½ pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

½ cup butter, softened

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 cup sour cream

½ cup half and half

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tbsp. snipped chives

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

½ tsp. Dijon mustard

¾ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine noodles and cream cheese in medium bowl. Spread noodle mixture in bottom of greased 9x13 inch glass casserole. Cook shrimp in butter in large skillet over medium-high heat until pink and tender, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread shrimp over noodles. Combine soup, sour cream, half and half, mayonnaise, chives, parsley and mustard in another medium bowl. Spread over shrimp. Sprinkle Cheddar cheese over top. Bake 25 minutes or until hot and cheese is melted.