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Lenten options for Friday night suppers

Broccoli-tuna casserole is a tasty, easy-to-make alternative to the Friday night fish fry during the Lenten season. Submitted Photo

Quick! What are your plans for supper Friday night?

If you answered fish, you're probably not alone.

That's because today is the start of Lent, which for Catholics means no meat on the fifth day of the week for the next 40 days.

But it's not just "mackerel snappers" -- as my Lutheran and Presbyterian friends used to call me back in my youth -- who will be going meatless.

Perhaps, the biggest reason is the popularity of fish fries that are held in the area during Lent. Just about every parish has such an event weekly or bi-weekly.

And I can tell you from experience that there are nearly as many non-Catholics and as Catholics at those fish fries.

That's because I've been the guest server at Sacred Heart's first fish fry each Lenten season for the past several years, and a lot of those attendees probably recognize a Hail Mary only as a desperation pass in football.

While the fish fries can be fairly affordable and they offer a night off for family cooks, they're not for everyone.

For those people, there are a lot of options for a meatless meal other than deep-fried fish. Some might not include fish all.

It might be the comfort food macaroni and cheese or tomato soup, another old favorite. Al dente vegetable casseroles are becoming quite popular, too.

When it comes to Lenten casseroles, the kind made with tuna is my favorite. But recently, I came up with a recipe that combines the affordable canned seafood with a vegetable.

After reading an article in Reader's Digest that said frozen broccoli has 35 percent more beta-carotene by weight than fresh broccoli, I went out and bought some.

When I got home, the thought of combining the broccoli with tuna in a hotdish came to me. It was then I decided to concoct a casserole featuring the two.

I figured broccoli would be a good addition, since it is loaded with vitamins and minerals, including beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A once inside the body, becoming an antioxidant. Antioxidants eliminate cell-damaging oxygen molecules as well as lowering the risk of cataracts, other cancers and heart attacks. Broccoli also has generous amounts of vitamin C, which boosts the immune system and fights off cancers and heart disease, and calcium, which promotes strong bones and prevents osteoporosis.

As it turned out, the broccoli-tuna casserole couldn't have turned out better. In addition to being very easy to make, it was mighty tasty and a good solution for the busy family who still enjoy flavor. In other words, it's a great Lenten catch.

I can only think of one drawback when comparing it to the weekly fish fry: You have dirty dishes to wash.

(Tiedeman is the food editor at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald.)