Turn your ‘dirty water dog’ into a healthy and wholesome meal!
This dish is my answer to another little food challenge on Instagram. This #MakeThisTasty challenge was all about making a popular unhealthy dish healthy. It’s a competition that is really close to my heart as I know from personal experience that healthy food can have an enormous impact on someone’s life. When I started cooking I was really overweight and by making healthier choices I was able to drop 70 pounds.
Here are a few easy things that I learned along my personal weight-loss journey:
- Avoid all lemonade, sodas, ice-tea, fruit juices and smoothies! No matter what the can or package tells you – it’s all liquid sugar! There’s no fiber to digest, meaning you are basically injecting calories in the most efficient way possible into your body. Drink more water.
- Never go for ‘light’ stuff, ever! Artificial sweeteners in drinks mess with your brain, leaving your body craving even more for real sugar. ‘Light’ foods often simply swap fat for more sugar in order to still taste somewhat good. This leaves you with food that is at least just as bad as the real stuff. Better go for the originals and just take less! Portion control is key.
- Reduce your intake of red meat like pork or beef – eat more chicken and sea food. Just as tasty and less impact on your waist.
- Tofu is not a meat-substitute! “But it tasted just like real [bacon/ sausage/ steak/ minced meat]” – no it does not, and you know it! Use tofu as a special ingredient in Asian dishes. It’s really tasty when prepared well, but it has nothing at all to do with meat. No matter how often soy-advocates try to convince you of the opposite.
- Go slow on carbs! Reduce your overall intake of white bread, pasta, white rice and potatoes. Go for wholegrain or substitute by more veggies all-together.
- Amp up your veggies! Just add two more handfuls of greens into your dinner to compensate for less meat and less carbs. Filling and healthy.
- Don’t avoid fat!!! This may sound counter-intuitive, but your body needs fat to process nutrients and vitamins. Fat boosts the flavor of your food to another level! Without it, everything just tastes bland, which leaves you unsatisfied and craving for fatty foods afterwards.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself! Have a cheat-day now and then. We all have cravings and at some point your cravings inevitably will become stronger than your will power. So, if you slip-up, that’s not the end of the world. Just continue next day as if nothing happened. Life is all about balance!
- Optional: Hard liquor gives you more bang for your buck/calories, especially when compared to beer – purely from a calorie-intake perspective! Let me be blunt: I don’t recommend this, please drink in moderation! When I shed my pounds I was about 19. You know how 19 year olds are…
But back to the challenge! A few days ago I saw a program about all different varieties of hot dogs in the US. One true American diner classic is the Coney Island chili-dog – a hot-dog that is topped with an extra big spoonful of meat sauce. Yes! That’s some serious red-meat-on-meat action! Though I never had a real Coney Island chili-dog, this was something I wanted to recreate and make healthy along the way.
I was not willing to settle for tofu-dogs, low-fat sausages or any light-food. In my opinion a healthy dish has to have real flavors, needs to be made-from-scratch and has no artificial flavor enhancers. Instead of going for a store-bought ‘dirty-water-dog’ made from some kind of mystery-meat-paste, I wanted to make the sausages myself! Well, if you have ever seen someone making sausage, stuffing it into a casing, etc. – that’s quite a challenge in itself… In the Balkan region you can get Ćevapčići (or Chevapi) everywhere! Cevapcici is a kind of skinless sausage made from minced meat which is usually grilled. It’s an easy alternative when making sausage at home! As I wanted to cut calories in the sausage, I used chicken instead of red meat. To make sure the cevapcici stays succulent and moist, I added a bit of bacon to the mix.
“Bacon?! I thought this was going to be healthy??”
A tasty homemade meal beats junkfood any time and you know EXACTLY what goes into your dish. Most fat of the bacon will melt and stay in your pan anyway. So why would you ever feel bad about this? That one strip of bacon will keep the sausage moist, give you BIG flavor and will leave you satisfied instead of craving for more. So be proud and add (a little) bacon!
As we have meat in our cevapcici-dog already, I wanted to go slow on the meat in the sauce. However, I was not willing to compromise on flavor! For me personally the two main go-to meat sauces are Italian Bolognese or Mexican chili con carne. In order to get in a substantial amount of greens in there, chili seemed to be the best choice. Mushrooms are a great alternative to meat as they have a really nice chewiness to them and can taste somewhat meaty when prepared right. There is a reason why Portobello-burgers have become so popular in recent years… The sauce therefore would basically be a chili con carne made with mushrooms instead of meat. That would be called ‘chili con hongos’ then, I suppose?
To give the meat sauce some OOMPH I wanted to add an extra boosts of umami in there! Miso-paste is an umami-BOMB and gives an incredible depth to your dish! It not only adds a nice saltiness but also that deep savory flavor you usually only get from meat. Perfect for our meaty-meatless sauce!
When it comes to hot-dog rolls, I just went for hot-dog rolls. Why? A hot-dog without a soft bread roll is just a sausage. You could go for a pita-bread, a wrap or some lettuce-leafs. But come one – not a single one of those can be really considered a hot-dog. We swapped the dirty-water-dog with a handcrafted piece of Balkan sausage-glory. Therefore, we have earned our RIGHT to a soft white bread roll!
Serve these chili-dogs with a nice salad. If you really need some fries with the dogs (I know I do…), bake some sweet-potato-fries in the oven! (Some people claim sweet potatoes don’t count as starch, but as vegetables – so you don’t even need to feel bad!!). Dig in care-free!
Create some succulent chicken cevapcici! (6 sausages)
- 300g minced chicken
- 1 strip of bacon, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon onion powder, cumin, dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
Mix ingredients well, give a generous seasoning with salt and pepper, and let stand for 15 minutes in the fridge. This will let the flavours infuse and make the mixture firm up.
Divide the mixture into 6 portions (about 50g each). Wet your hands, get one portion of the meat and wrap in around a skewer. Using your hands squeeze the mixture into the form of a sausage around the skewer. Set aside and repeat for the other portions.
Griddle the skewers on high heat for 3 minutes per side. Turn down the heat and allow to cook-through turning occasionally for another 4-6 minutes until no longer pink.
Make a messy meatless-meat sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon of each onion powder, smoked paprika powder, dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 60g tomato paste
- 200g of mixed mushrooms, chopped (like button mushrooms, shiitake, oyster mushroom, etc.)
- 2 tablespoons of worchestershire sauce
- 1 sachet of instant miso paste (18g)
- 200g chopped tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 can of beans (kidney or cannelloni beans; drained, about 125g)
- Optional: 1 handful of sweet corn (about 50g)
- Optional: Half of a green bell pepper, chopped
Put a large skillet on medium high heat. Fry the diced onion in the olive oil until soft.
Add garlic, onion powder, smoked paprika powder, oregano, cumin and the tomato paste. Stir for about a minute.
Put heat to high, insert chopped mushrooms and mix well. Stir-fry for about 4 minutes and sweat down the mushrooms.
Splash in worchestershire sauce and miso paste. Stir until the liquid evaporates.
Add chopped tomatoes, honey and beans. (Optionally: Add also sweet corn and chopped bell pepper). Simmer for another 4 minutes to heat through.
Proudly assemble your healthy creation!
Lightly toast your bread rolls. Slather a big spoonful of sauce onto each toasted bread roll, add the griddled cevapcici, top with more sauce and garnish with a sprinkle of spring onion
Serve your healthy chili-dog with oven-baked sweet potato fries or a nice salad and enjoy care-free!
Want to join us?
If you would like to participate in these challenges drop me a line and we’ll make sure to keep you posted!
The team of challengers participating grew quite substantially since last time! Check out all the creations of Fiya (FeedingTheFiya), Jordan (JZEats), Jen (NemecekKitchen), Kasim (KasimKooks), Tom (TomToTable) and Cheryl (UpYourFork). Make sure to follow us on Instagram #MakeThisTasty