I have often written of my love for my pets. My husband, Steve, falls into the same category. About 10 years ago, he rescued a tiny black puppy and took her to our farm. We referred to her as Lucy, the farm dog. She loved to run and play in the woods. Every afternoon, Steve would ride out and feed her. Even on late nights after ballgames, he would ride out to feed her no matter how late it might be.

As soon as the truck entered the gate, she would run to meet us every single time. We have some hunters from the Jackson area who have a camp house on our property who would adopt her during hunting season. Lucy would hang out with them but would always come to greet us when we arrived.

Last week, we had to have her put to sleep due to kidney failure. I reminded Steve how lucky she was to have had the last 10 years of being loved and taken good care of by our family — and extended family. Everybody knew Lucy.

Our very kind and caring vet, Dr. Blane Cooper, sent us a sympathy card and an essay titled “The Rainbow Bridge.” This is for all you pet lovers out there who have ever lost a pet.

The Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called the Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to the Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly, he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet; so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together …

• • • 

I hope you will give this week’s recipes a try. Thanks for reading.

SAVORY HAM CHEESECAKE

3 cups oyster crackers, crushed

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup butter, melted

4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups finely chopped fully cooked ham

2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

1/3 cup minced chives

¼ cup minced fresh basil

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon white pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, Parmesan cheese and melted butter; set aside about ¼ cup for topping. Press remaining cracker crumb mixture onto the bottom and 2 inches up the sides of a greased 9-inch springform pan. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs one at a time until creamed together. Add the ham, Swiss cheese, chives, basil, salt and pepper, and mix until combined. Pour into the crust, and sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Place pan on baking sheet, and bake at 325 degrees for 60 to 75 minutes or until filling is almost set. Turn oven off, and leave cheesecake in oven with door ajar for 30 minutes. Cool and refrigerate. Serve with your favorite crackers or toast points.

CAJUN SAUSAGE CHICKEN & SPINACH PASTA

16 ounces smoked sausage, cut into ¼-inch rounds

2 cups chopped, cooked chicken

2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained

16 ounces Campanelle pasta

2 (8-ounce) tubs chive and onion cream cheese

1 (10-ounce) package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained well.

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

¾ cup heavy cream

2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

3 tablespoons Cajun/Creole seasoning

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside. In a skillet, cook smoked sausage in a little olive oil until lightly browned. In a bowl, combine the cooked pasta, drained spinach, sausage, chicken, tomatoes, cream cheese, Creole seasoning, Parmesan cheese, heavy cream and ½ cup Mozzarella cheese. Spoon into prepared baking dish, and sprinkle with remaining Mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes.

You can substitute plain cream cheese with chopped fresh chives and onion if you need to.

DUMP CAKE

1 (28-ounce) can cherry pie filling

1 (15-ounce) can crushed pineapple

1 box yellow cake mix

12 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour crushed pineapple into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Top with cherry pie filling. Dump the dry cake mix over the fruit. Then, slice the butter into thin pieces on top. You may top with chopped pecans if desired. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Top with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Keep these pantry items available for a quick and easy dessert.

Contact Lee Ann Flemming at lafkitchen@hughes.net.

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