Friday, May 9, 2008

Budget-stretching going to the dogs

Before the question is asked: Yes, I do know what hot dogs are made of. I did a story on a hot dog plant outside Cincinnati many moons ago. I still like a good hot dog.

So there.

The public disclosure is followed by some ideas from -- you saw it coming -- the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council that recommend using their products to stretch recipes.

(And if you didn't like hot dogs cut up in your mac and cheese when you were little, you might have been a Communist.)

With food prices rising at an unprecedented pace, the council unveiled two new recipes that are high in flavor and nutrition but low in cost. Both recipes cost approximately $11 and are easy to prepare.

"Cacciatore with Italian Sausage," which rings in at $11.25, combines two economical ingredients - sausage and pasta, which, when paired, together yield a hearty meal for a family of four.

"Grilled Taco Chili Dogs," yields eight whopping servings, and will only cost the chef approximately $10.50.

"American families are seeking value without sacrificing taste or nutrition," said National Hot Dog and Sausage Council President Janet M. Riley. Riley said that consumers may have seen meat and poultry prices rise due to the increasing diversion of corn into ethanol, among other factors.

Cacciatore with Italian Sausage
Yield: 4 servings

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound mild Italian sausage, cut on the diagonal into 1/4-inch pieces
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium bell pepper, seeded and julienned
2 cups baby bella mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed and quartered
1 teaspoon freshly minced garlic
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces whole wheat OR whole grain penne pasta
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add sausage and brown stirring frequently. Transfer, with a slotted spoon, to a paper towel lined bowl. Reserve 1/2 teaspoon pan drippings and discard other drippings.
Add onion, bell pepper and mushrooms to skillet. Sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables are soft. Add garlic and sauté only until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add tomatoes, wine, balsamic vinegar, herbs and pepper. Return sausage to pan. Cover pan and gently simmer mixture for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions, until tender but firm. Drain.
Toss ingredients together and serve immediately in shallow pasta bowls.

Grilled Taco Chili Dogs
Yield: 8 servings

1 pound (8 to 1 package) hot dogs
1 (15-ounce can) chili with meat but no beans
1/4 cup mild or medium taco sauce
8 taco shells
1 cup shredded taco flavored cheese
1 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely sliced crisp lettuce
Grill (or broil) hot dogs 6-8 minutes over medium heat. Turn often and continue to cook until hot throughout and internal temperature reaches 165ºF.
In a small saucepan, stir chili and taco sauce together. Cook over low heat until bubbly.
Place one hot dog in each taco shell. Top hot dogs with 2 tablespoons chili mixture. Sprinkle with cheese, tomato, onion and lettuce, packing ingredients down to ensure all ingredients fit into shell.