Think Outside the Bun: 3 New Ways to Love Hot Dogs

Think outside the bun and cook up these three new hot dog recipes for your kids or your next cookout.

This Labor Day weekend, enjoy 3 delicious ways to think outside the bun, without sacrificing the simple essence of the hot dog – not fancy, just awesome. Whether you’re feeding your own kids or hosting a neighborhood cookout, you’ll want to give these a try. Summer is short. You might as well do it up right.

All recipes make eight hot dogs, and all work with beef, turkey, or tofu dogs!

Pretzel Dogs

These are so good I’m seriously considering starting up a neighborhood food cart to sell them full time. Bonus: using store ­bought pizza dough makes the process easy and reasonably quick.

Because no one wants to wait for hot dogs.

Salt well and serve with mustard, obviously.

  • 1 lb store bought white pizza dough
  • 8 hot dogs
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Coarse salt for sprinkling
  • Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375.

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat.

Lay the pizza dough on a lighlty floured surface so it doesn’t stick. Using a sharp knife,cut the dough into eight strips. Starting at one end, wrap each strip of dough around a hot dog in a spiral. Secure the ends by pinching them back into the dough. Lay wrapped dogs on the parchment-lined sheet.

When the hot dogs are all wrapped with dough, add the baking soda to the boiling water. It will foam up quickly. Add the dogs to the boiling water two or three at a time, and leave them for 30 seconds. Remove from the water using a large slotted spoon or spatula and place back on the baking sheet. When they’ve all been boiled, brush the tops with beaten egg and sprinkle generously with salt. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes or until the tops are deep golden brown. Let cool briefly before digging in.

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Homemade Corn Dogs

As far as I’m concerned corn dogs are the only reason to go to fairs. Oh, and cotton candy. And funnel cake. Ok, the only reason to go to fairs is all of the food. But corn dogs are in a class by themselves, kind of the original fair food. Now I just need to convince my kids that these are super difficult to make so they don’t start requesting them every week. Because I’ll probably cave.

This is the easy and tasty recipe I used. It calls for grilling the hot dogs before coating and frying them. I skipped this step and the results were still amazing. Just don’t forget to dust them with flour before dipping them into the batter!

Tip: after frying, drain on a double layer of paper towels placed on top of a baking rack.

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Hawaiian Dogs

These are inspired by a recipe in an issue of “Curbside Cuisine” magazine my kids gave me for Mother’s Day last year. The original used a row of three still-­connected King’s Hawaiian dinner rolls in lieu of a bun. I recommend going that route if you can find them. Sadly, I couldn’t, so I opted for the potato rolls. I also garnished with sweet barbecue sauce instead of teriyaki, and I used crushed salted peanuts instead of toasted macadamia nuts just to eliminate an extra step. I used my own dressing recipe for the cabbage slaw, because I think it’s the best. I put all the toppings out separately so the kids could pick and choose, but these look so cool and taste so great I would totally make a whole tray and serve them up at a backyard party.

  • 8 hot dogs
  • 8 potato hot dog buns or 24 King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, in rows of three
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple cup into 1 inch chunks
  • 2/3 cup chopped or crushed salted peanuts
  • 1/3 cup barbecue or teriyaki sauce

For the cabbage slaw:

  • 3 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tsp honey
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste

Combine all slaw ingredients in a large bowl and toss well to combine. Grill or pan fry hot dogs until brown on all sides but not charred. Pop into a bun and top with slaw, pineapple, peanuts, and a drizzle of sauce.

Got a favorite hot dog topping? Tell us in the comments. We need to know.

Kid Made Recipe: Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Tacos

Make the best homemade tacos you’ve ever had without touching your stove Taco Night, I didn’t think I could love you more.

Slow Cookers are kitchen bosses.

I absolutely love mine, though I’m not one of the fanatics who think you can and should make everything in them. If I want lasagna, or say, brownies, I still think the regular old oven is the way to go. But there are some things slow cookers do better than anything else.

Mine used to get the most action in the winter, naturally.  I could never figure out a way to use it in the warmer months, even though I rarely want to turn on the oven in the summer. Then I discovered a way to make the most delicious spicy shredded chicken – with literally almost no work.

It may be a bold claim, but I believe that with this recipe, you will make the best homemade tacos you’ve ever had without touching your stove. Plus the leftovers can make even more oven-free meals – sandwiches, salads, burritos! Taco Night, I didn’t think I could love you more.

Make these for your family on Cinco De Mayo, and it may just become your new favorite holiday.

Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Tacos

Serves 4-6 (with leftover chicken!) You need a 4 qt or larger slow cooker

For the chicken

  • 3-4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1  4.5 oz can of Chipotle peppers in Adobo (found in the salsa section)
  • 1 tsp of salt

Put the chicken in the slow cooker and sprinkle with the salt. Add the chipotles with their sauce.

My family loves the spice, so I use the whole can. If you want your chicken more on the mild (but still delicious) side, use half the contents of the can and save the rest.

Close it up and set it for as long as you can. I find the longer you can leave it in there the better. I like to try to get it going before the kids leave for school and set it for 8 hours, but in a pinch 4 hours will get the job done.

When  the time is up, open carefully to let the steam escape.

Using tongs or a fork, remove the peppers and discard.

Use a ladle or large spoon to remove about a cup of the liquid from the cooker.

Then use two forks to shred the chicken. It should be very very tender and practially fall apart. Keep warm in the slow cooker until you’re ready to serve.

For the red cabbage slaw

  • 4 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup green or savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup kale leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 small bunch scallions, thinly sliced horizontally (divide in half and use half for garnishing the finished tacos)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon or 1 small lime
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • generous sprinkling of black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Let it sit for 10 minutes or so if you can before serving to let the flavors really come together.

For garnish (use any or all of these, in any combination)

  • crumbled goat cheese
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • salsa or hot sauce
  • sliced scallions
  • Roughly chopped cilantro leaves

To serve

Use small flour or corn tortillas – as many as you think you’ll need. My family members eat an average of 3 tacos each, but admittedly we have big appetites. Do your own math. I usually buy a 10 count package of each so we’ve got tortillas for leftovers the next day.

Warm the tortillas slightly in a low oven for a few minutes before serving. Set everything out on the table and have at it.

Have a go-to taco night recipe at your house? We’d love to hear about it!

Got Leftover Easter Ham? Try This Recipe.

Skip the ham sandwiches and make this mouthwatering, warm and crusty take on the classic diner Monte Cristo sandwich.

You could make scalloped potatoes or mac and cheese with leftover ham. Or even plain old ham sandwiches. Or you could try this mouthwatering, warm and crusty, crunchy on the outside, melty on the inside version of the classic Monte Cristo sandwich.

Monte Cristo Calzone

You need:

  • 1 lb whole wheat pizza dough (make it yourself or buy it packaged, usually in the freezer or deli section of the grocery store)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing pan
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 lb (7 or 8 thin slices) cooked ham
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • Preheat your oven to 400

Generously brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil, or line with parchment paper.

Roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface until you have a rectangle roughly the size of your baking sheet. Drizzle the Tbsp of olive oil over the dough, then spread the dijon mustard evenly over the top. Arrange the ham slices over the mustard, then cover  with the cheese.  Sprinkle liberally with black pepper.

With a long side of the dough rectangle facing you, fold the dough over gently once to about the halfway point of the rectangle, then fold the other long side up and over that edge, like you would fold a letter to put in an envelope. Press down on the seam in the dough to seal it. Use a sharp knife to cut the long roll in half crosswise, so you have two approximately 7 inch-long rolls. Transfer them to the baking sheet, side by side. Brush the tops with the beaten egg, and sprinkle with the salt.

Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, seam side up, until the top begins to brown. Using a spatula, carefully flip the rolls over so the seam side is down, and bake for another 10  minutes, or until both sides are nicely brown and crispy in spots.

Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes before slicing. Serve with a green salad.

 

The fail-safe dinner solution your whole family will love

Totally customizable, the Rice Bowl is a fail-safe dinner solution that will please the pickiest of eaters.

At our house, dinner is my deal.  I feel pretty lucky that my kids and my husband will eat nearly anything I serve. (I don’t say this to brag: we fight plenty of battles—often big ones—just on other fields.)

But many of my friends have kids with more discriminating tastes, or partners with eating styles that just don’t align with their own. For them, I have two words: Rice Bowls.

Totally customizable, the Rice Bowl is a fail-safe dinner solution that will please the pickiest of eaters.

It accommodates visiting vegans and gluten-free friends. Think: taco bar with much, much more flexibility. Every ingredient is basically 100% interchangeable with whatever you have on hand. Which means that rice bowls are incredibly easy to pull off, any day of the week. And that’s why they have secured the #1 spot in our rotation of go-to weeknight dinners.

Sold? Here’s a general formula to follow:

Start with rice (or “rice”).

Whatever type you choose—brown, wild, jasmine, black (our favorite of late)—rice is essential because the bowl needs a base. Then again, rice really isn’t essential because quinoa, farro, couscous or bulgur also work great. (These, then, are “rice” bowls.)

Present a couple of proteins.

Protein is what will give this meal some substantial staying power. Typically, I’ll quick-cook (sort of poach) some chicken and set out a bowl of beans (e.g., black, kidney, garbanzo—usually from a can, rinsed).

Sometimes, I’ll offer tofu I baked the previous night. I keep meaning to add fried eggs to the options (mmm…) but keep forgetting. Pork, beef, meatball: all great ideas. Basically go with what your family likes to eat.

Include lots of colorful vegetables.

The key is to offer the kinds your people like best but also to include some enticing other stuff too. Our spread often includes broccoli (roasted), green beans (sometimes roasted; sometimes raw and chopped small), carrots (sometimes shredded, sometimes diced, always raw), red peppers, shredded cabbage. Don’t be afraid to make things super easy on yourself. My kids love frozen mixed vegetables—the kind with the carrots forced into unnaturally shaped squares—so sometimes I’ll just nuke the contents of a bag of these mixed veggies and serve it up. 

Offer many accoutrements.

These final-touch toppers usually come in the form of fat (nuts, seeds, avocados, shredded cheese, sliced olives) and, generally are the easiest ingredients of all to prepare. Save for avocadoes, all you need to do is dump these babies into bowls. (I do like to the toast the nuts and seeds, particularly pepitas and sunflower seeds: three minutes or so in a dry skillet adds a big boost of flavor.)

Set out flavorful sauces.

Salsa, soy sauce (low-sodium, or liquid aminos), sriracha. Those are the main players at our place.

Let your fam go wild.

Once the bowls—and so many spoons—are on the the table, invite each of your unique eaters to custom-curate their perfect plates. Try not to care if they’re grabbing only peppers and pork, or reaching just for orange foods. We do usually need to remind our boys that it’s not polite to consume allllll the avocado.

At the end of the dinner, you’ll probably have a bunch of leftovers. Save them for made-to-order omelets or wraps and you’re already half-way done with another night’s dinner. Score!

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5 of My Fastest, Favorite Go-To Family Dinners

Dinner prep—more precisely, how to get food everyone will eat on the table before someone calls for take-out—has been a popular topic of texting for a bunch of my favorite lady friends. Two of them love to cook—we’re talking company-worthy stuff, often from recipes. Two of them don’t.

I fall somewhere in the middle. I have loads of cookbooks and a degree in nutrition. I have made a career of writing about food and I love to try new recipes when I have time and energy. More and more, it’s not often that I have both these resources at the same time. But I do make a (healthy) dinner every night. Mostly because I rely on rotation of trusty non-recipe recipes (and lots of eggs, canned beans and tomatoes and pre-chopped veggies). Of this, I am not ashamed.

I want to empower people to grab easy ingredients and simply mix them together to get dinner done.

To that end, here are five of my favorite fastest dinners I serve most often in winter. (If I mention amounts of ingredients, they’re for a family of four—or rather my family of four, which includes two little kids, one of whom eats like an adult.) I almost always serve all of these with a big green salad—which usually only the adults eat.

Dinner #1: Omelets + Roasted Broccoli + Whole-Grain Toast

I crack 7 eggs and pour the mixture out in three rounds. The kids share one made with full-fat cheddar. Olin (my husband) and I get our own, made with reduced-fat cheddar (you might think that’s gross but I don’t notice the difference; all cheese is pre-shredded) and spinach (I don’t even sauté it first).

I buy broccoli florets in a bag from Trader Joe’s, drizzle on olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast at 375 or 400 degrees (depending on how hungry we are) until it looks sufficiently delicious (~15 to 20 min).

Toast bread and put out butter and avocado as topping options. Serve with ketchup and sriracha, sometimes salsa.

Dinner #2: Salmon + Rice (usually brown or black)/Quinoa/Couscous + Roasted Broccoli/Green Beans/Cauliflower

Sometimes I substitute the salmon (purchased at Trader Joe’s or at Costco, where they sell bags of 6-oz single portions in the freezer section) with chicken or tofu made like this (thanks, Elisa!). Clearly the whole grain (sometimes it’s not even whole) is whatever we feel like making (and hunger level dictates – HANGRY people require couscous) and the vege is whatever we have. Chopped cucumbers (I delegate the cutting to Kai, age almost-five, who loves doing it) and rinsed grape tomatoes work great.

Dinner #3: Pasta e fagioli

OK, this one is sort of a recipe but almost everything comes from cans. Take a pan, pour in a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Saute a ton of garlic (or less if you’re not Italian like we are), dump in a 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes and spice it up with a little dried oregano and basil, maybe some thyme; bring it to a boil, then simmer it to it it looks kinda thick. At this same time, cook pasta (of a small shape; I buy Ditalini Rigati at—surprise!—Trader Joe’s). Drain cooked pasta and mix it with a can of white bans (rinsed, drained) into the tomatoes. Salt to taste. Add generous amounts of shredded Parm.

Dinner #4: “Penne a la Vodka”

If I were speaking this to you in person, I’d be making air quotes because I often use whole-wheat spirals and never add the vodka. But this family stand-by was inspired by a Kris Carr (love her!) recipe, so I just keep calling it what she did. My simplified version goes like this: throw a handful of cashews in a high-speed blender (or you could use a food processor) with about twice the volume of water until it looks like cream. Heat your favorite jarred marinara in a small pot; pour the cashew cream into the sauce until it’s the color of your standard vodka sauce. Or until it’s a taste you like. Kris Carr stirs in frozen peas and capers. So do I, sometimes, but often, for a little extra protein, I’ll add in frozen edamame (shelled, obviously) instead.

Dinner #5: Rice or “Rice” Bowls

Make any sort of grain, put out some sort of chopped up protein (see Dinner #2), chop whatever vegetables you have handy, dump some shredded cheese and/or slivered almonds, sunflower seeds into small bowls and let your family members fix their own dinners.

Enjoy many more smart ideas about food and family at NicciMicco.com