30 Minute Thursdays: (Grass Fed) Chili Dogs with Side Garden Salad

When I was little, my personal food pyramid was essentially three-tiered: chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and apple juice. Sure, there was some corn, pizza, fries, and cheese thrown in there - some deli turkey or bologna sandwiches - but, by and large, I remember eating enough of those three food "staples" to single-handedly drive stocks of my preferred brands up.

When I made the switch to grass-fed beef, I sacrificed many products that I hadn't really realized I would need to: roast beef sandwiches, veal (though I only ate this occasionally, anyway), and - most dishearteningly - hot dogs. Now, before the switch I didn't still eat the same quantity as I had as a kid. When I actually thought about what went into a hot dog, I had trouble viewing the meat product as appetizing; yet if I didn't think about it, I sure did love a good one from time to time. And I learned pretty quickly after realizing that I would likely never eat one again - surely no one health and eco conscious enough to raise grass fed cattle would turn them into 'dogs! - that knowing you've taken your last bite really makes that food a thousand times more intriguing. I found myself pining for hot dogs like I never thought I would.

Then, I found these guys: Applegate hot dogs, organic and grass fed and, what's more, sold at my local Whole Foods! I was so excited to pick up a pack, and I knew just what I would make for their debut: Rachael Ray's chili dogs for a new 30 Minute Thursday post!

So here I am, typing this update as an email draft on my phone, reliving that night last week that I tasted my first hot dog since The Switch. I feel good about the ingredients, they look appetizing, cook up like any other hot dog, and taste spectacular! They're plump and flavorful, and warmed between a whole wheat bun and buried beneath a modest serving of (equally grass fed) slightly spicy chili and cooling, melted cheese - they are nothing short of hot dog heaven. Everyone raved about them!

I rounded out the meal by cutting the suggested serving from 2 hot dogs down to 1 and adding a side salad with a mustard tarragon vinaigrette, which added color, nutrients and texture to our plates. It was a little hectic balancing all of the different burners that the meal required, but aside from my kitchen looking like a food bomb had gone off in it when I finished, it wasn't a taxing meal to make. The leftover salad also held up pretty well over night without the dressing, so you could probably get away with making that early on in the day to ease up the dinner time prep a bit.

One Year Ago: Peanut Butter & M&M S'Mores

Chili Dogs with Side Garden Salad, adapted from Rachael Ray's Classic 30 Minute Meals
Yield: 4 servings
(printable recipe)

The Ingredients
¾ pound (grass fed) ground beef
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 ½ teaspoons hot sauce, divided
¾ - 1 teaspoon barbeque sauce
¾ - 1 small onion, finely chopped
½ tablespoon minced garlic
2-3 teaspoons chili powder
6-8 ounces tomato sauce
4 (grass fed) hot dogs
1 teaspoon butter
4 (whole wheat) hot dog buns
½ cup shredded cheese

¼ pound fresh green beans, trimmed
¾ small yellow squash, julienned
¾ red bell pepper, julienned
2 scallions, thinly sliced on an angle
1 ½ cups baby spinach
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or parsley
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

The Method
Heat the ground beef, seasoned with pepper, in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, crumbling as it browns. Add in ½ teaspoon hot sauce, barbeque sauce, onion, garlic, and chili powder, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce and hold at a low temperature until ready to use.

Meanwhile, boil the hot dogs in a shallow skillet for approximately 5 minutes, just to warm through. Drain and score the casings before returning the pan to the stove over medium heat. Add in the butter and hot sauce, mixing as the butter melts and allowing the hot dogs to crisp up with the coating.

When ready, preheat the broiler and place each hot dog in a bun. Top with ¼ of the chili and about 2 tablespoons of cheese. Broil under high until the cheese melts, then serve immediately.

To make the salad, add 3 inches of water to a boil in a deep skillet or pot. Add the beans and squash and simmer for 2 minutes before adding the red peppers for one more minute, being sure that the vegetables remain bright in color and still crisp. Drain the vegetables and immediately run under very cold water to stop the cooking process. Let drain and cool in the colander. Toss the vegetables with the spinach and scallions, and serve alongside the dressing and hot dogs.

Whisk the mustard, vinegar, and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking all the while, to achieve an emulsion. Stir in the herbs and adjust with pepper to taste.* Set aside for serving.

*As usual, this recipe made more than enough dressing. Thankfully, I’ve learned my lesson and didn’t pour it all on right away. Instead, I kept it in a Tupperware container and used it to taste – generally 1-2 tablespoons is considered a serving of vinaigrette for 1 serving of salad, but I find that 2 teaspoons is often adequate.

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