It is what it is: In defense of hot dogs

What do you want for dinner?

It’s a simple question, but it seems to have become the hardest one to answer in our household. Apparently, franks and beans is not a legitimate answer.

We’ve always counted as a blessing the fact that our kids are adventurous eaters. Sure, it usually means a bigger dinner bill when we go out to eat, but we’ve also never been somewhere that they can’t find something on the menu that they’d like to try.

We also like trying new recipes at home, and as the kids are now providing input with meal planning, I think that’s where we’re running into challenges. There’s so many great flavors to try, it’s hard to narrow it down on any given night.

Of course, we have some standbys — bacon-wrapped anything, for example. This week, it was bacon-wrapped steak, but bacon-wrapped shrimp are good, too. And we’ve been adding a gourmet touch to our burgers, which generally means bacon, along with some other toppings.

Even our mac ‘n’ cheese has taken a gourmet turn; just a couple weeks ago we made a version with fancy bowtie pasta and gruyere, gouda and fontina cheeses.

I think we’re putting too much pressure on ourselves to come up with fancy dinners. Don’t get me wrong, I love the days when we can spend a couple of hours preparing dinner, and it’s a great family experience when the kids can help. My son, with a year of high school foods class now under his belt, even sometimes directs the preparations (or at least criticizes when someone uses a cooking utensil for something other than its intended purpose).

But our lives are hectic, and there are plenty of days — most of them, in fact — when an elaborate meal just won’t fit in the schedule. I like to think that those are perfect nights for franks and beans, but whenever I make that suggestion, I always get shot down. Seriously, who doesn’t love franks and beans? I guess the perception is that they’re just not fancy enough for our sophisticated palates.

I, however, would like to make new pitch for franks and beans. It is entirely possible to put a gourmet spin on them, even if you’re just using plain old hot dogs and canned baked beans. In fact, a can of beans is the first thing I learned how to doctor, adding a little extra brown sugar, mustard, ketchup, barbecue or Worcestershire sauce, some onions — really, anything you can find in the fridge to kick things up a notch.

As for the hot dogs, if you don’t want to settle for the plain old Oscar Mayer wiener, there’s all kinds of fancier versions of “meat in tubular form,” and even some that are meat-free. Some would argue that plain old hot dogs are largely meat-free themselves, but I think they’re missing the point.

In any case, you can also dress up a hot dog with a wide array of condiments — there’s no rule that you have to stick with yellow mustard and pickle relish. Peppers, onions, sauer kraut, some of those doctored baked beans — all good on a hot dog.

Heck, you could even wrap it in bacon.

Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at will.morrow@peninsulaclarion.com.

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