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Meatless, oil- and dairy-free meals can be wonderful. Lenten foods can be delicious and several of my friends have shared with me their favorite recipes. From Wednesday, March 1, to Thursday, April 13, many of our readers will be observing Lent. I know giving up eggs, oil, meat, dairy, alcohol and other foods makes for hard meal planning. I’m going to help you with that today with some easy and tasty vegetarian dishes, including one using jackfruit. Jackfruit is a giant, prickly oval fruit grown in India, Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America. It’s the largest tree-borne fruit in the world. Ripe jackfruit (I found it at Kroger Marketplace) is sweet and eaten as a dessert. Our granddaughters say it tastes like ice cream. 

Recently I was on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina where I enjoyed several vegetarian dishes at a great restaurant just a bike ride away from our house. The restaurant, PURE Natural Market, was recently transformed from the island’s only organic smoothie bar into a Jamaican-inspired vegan/pescatarian restaurant that also offers smoothies. The owner, Tracy Owens, is committed to providing customers with a healthy place to eat at a reasonable price. Her cheeseburgers, spicy chili, better-than-chicken-salad sandwich and Jackfruit BBQ sandwich are my favorites, but I will be back for her assorted salads and smoothies. Please “Join My Table” as we enjoy these tasty meatless dishes.

My Mock Meat Chili

1 12-ounce package Smart Ground Original (lightlife.com/products/smart-ground-original; I found  it at Randalls and Kroger)
3 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic,  finely minced
2-3 tablespoons chili powder 
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
2 tablespoons cumin
1 and 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes 
2 minced garlic cloves
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon smoked Hungarian paprika
2 bell peppers, 1 red or yellow and 1 green 
2 carrots, shredded
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 14-ounce can of whole  tomatoes, do not drain juices (use your hands to mash the tomatoes)
2 14-ounce cans stewed tomatoes, do not drain juices
Tomato paste (1/2 of  a 6-ounce can)
2 chipotle peppers chopped (optional)
2 14-ounce cans of beans, undrained (I use New Orleans style)
2 cups frozen corn 
Salt and pepper to taste 

Toppings: mock sour cream, shredded mock cheddar cheese, cilantro, diced avocados and chopped green onion.

DIRECTIONS: Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and Smart Ground Original crumbles and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute more. Add spices, brown sugar and cocoa, stirring for about 30 seconds.

Add peppers, carrots and celery and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they just start to soften. Add tomatoes, beans and their juices; bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low. Cook chili, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add corn and let chili return to a simmer. Cook for 5 more minutes or until the corn is heated through. Salt to taste.

Mock Pulled Pork BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich 

(Makes 4-6 sandwiches)

2 20-ounce cans young  green jackfruit in brine
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon chipotle  pepper powder 
1 cup plus extra barbecue  sauce, bottled or homemade (I use Texas Q Original Barbeque Sauce found at H-E-B)
Hamburger buns

DIRECTIONS: Drain and wash the jackfruit in several changes of water to remove all the brine juice. After washing, squeeze out as much water as you can. In a pan, heat oil and sauté garlic. Add jackfruit, chipotle pepper powder and salt to taste. Cook for 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Place jackfruit in a slow cooker, add the barbecue sauce and mix well. Set the cooker for 1 hour on high, occasionally stirring and adding more sauce or water as needed. The jackfruit should be fork tender and come apart easily. Take the jackfruit out of the cooker and shred with a fork. Refrigerate it overnight to develop the flavor. Remove from the fridge and reheat it in a pan. (Sometimes I place it on a baking sheet and pop it under the broiler for a minute to give it a slight crunch). I serve it on toasted buns with more barbecue sauce, sliced onions, vinegar-based coleslaw and sweet pickles.

*Canned jackfruit in brine is unripe. It’s used as a vegetable and as a “vegetable meat.” I found it on Amazon.com