This year, for the Lenten season, my wife and I decided to give up something a bit more serious, more challenging than my typical sacrifice of beer, hot wings or cigars. This year we opted to forgo the luxury of meat. This is a huge thing for me, as I am fairly carnivorous. I was not always, but for more than a decade now, I rarely consume a meal sans animal protein.
In the quest for variety and healthy meal ideas, and out of a profound desire to consume a delicious pork hot dog that bursts in your mouth with molten fatty deliciousness, I went to the market in search of veggie dogs. In the natural foods section, there were a number of offerings, including Smart Dogs by Lightlife.
I chose the Smart Dogs because they have 0 fats and 0 cholesterol. The sodium levels are a bit high, but since I planned on a plate of two wieners, I figured that was OK.
Per the package recommendation, I put the dogs into a pan of water and brought them, gently, to boil, thereby raising the internal temperature of the sausages at the same time as the water and reducing risk of combustive damage to the wieners. You cannot leave these weenies in the water too long or they will become waterlogged and lose structural integrity.
This brings me to my first criticism of Smart Dogs: They have a really weird texture. I was very careful not to overcook these puppies, but, nonetheless, they were disturbingly soft. You do not get the “bang” of a pork gut bursting in your mouth; it is more like a faintly savory pudding.
Second criticism: They are remarkably bland. I know, most of the Oscar Meyer generation is used to painfully bland hot dogs, but these are bland even compared to those. If you are looking for a Nathan’s Coney Island dog, you ain’t gonna’ find it here.
On the second attempt with the Smart Dogs, I cooked them on a well seasoned grill pan, getting a little char and cooking some of the moisture out, and they were much better. They are still bland as all-get-out, but you have the char working for you flavorwise, and you are cooking them in a way that will not waterlog them at all.On the plus side, these make adequate delivery agents for relish, mustard, onions and hot peppers. The more you dress them, the better they taste. Again, if you are hoping for a Yankees Stadium Dog or a Chicago Dog, you’re in the wrong neighborhood, but if you are avoiding meat and are looking for a healthy alternative to traditional hot dogs, Lightlife Smart Dogs are a fairly inoffensive option.