Vegetarian Chili Cheese Hot Dogs

Many of us have given up eating meat for Lent. But for some, it's easier said than done. A friend of ours who's been doing very well with sticking to seafood and soy products recently developed a ridiculously strong craving for chili cheese hot dogs. So we offered to try something creative: vegetarian chili cheese dogs. The concept sounded absurd, we'll admit, but after whipping up this crazy concoction at home, we found that it wasn't that farfetched.

The first issue was obviously the hot dog itself. After taste-testing several varieties, we found we were most fond of Light Life Smart Dogs, which are sold in the produce section. We boiled these dogs in a saucepan just until warm so that they would retain their moisture.

Since we were on a somewhat healthy hot dog kick, we ended up going with a whole grain wheat bun from the Central Market Bakery. The bun was huge - we probably could fit two dogs in it. Next came a smattering of mustard. We tried both the standard yellow kind as well as a whole grain organic Dijon. The tangy yellow American variety was by far favored.

Next came the chili. We weren't too familiar with veggie chili brands, so we took a chance and went with Fantastic Foods Vegetarian Chili, which billed itself as "hearty meatless chili mix made with soy, onions, and red peppers." It was pretty good stuff, once we added some fresh-ground pepper, Sriracha, and a sprinkle of salt. We topped off each dog with a few spoonfuls of chili, diced white onion, and freshly shredded Tillamook cheddar.

These dogs were so hearty and filling, we could barely get through one. Our friend raved that it hit the spot. These puppies are definitely going to become a "junk food" staple around our house.

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Geri Maria Harris