Anything Plus Broccoli

There’s a formula we deploy, in our heads at least, whenever we feed our kids something that isn’t exactly homemade, DALS-approved, crafted by the kindly elves who affix those green-and-white organic labels to everything — or, more to the point, good for them. Think of it as the The Tranformative (and Self-Justifying) Law of Retroactive Nutritiousness.

____________ + Side of Broccoli = Healthy Enough.

Convenient, right? Go ahead, and fill in that blank. Mac and cheese. Panko-encased shrimp tempura from T Joe’s. Grilled (yellow American) cheese and bacon. Strawberry jam sandwich on soft white bread. See how good that feels? How strangely virtuous? Do you see how the broccoli, by some metaphysical trick, just erases guilt? As Abby would say, it’s very magic! I often hear laws of science described by smart people as “immutable” and I’m never sure what that means, exactly, but I’m pretty sure this broccoli law is immutable, too. There’s danger in it, of course, and it should be applied with moderation, but it does make us feel a little better — or maybe a little less guilty — about ourselves when we, say, fry up an entire package of hot dogs in butter and serve them on toast with ketchup.

Ah, the hot dog sandwich. Please don’t think less of us because we serve these, somewhat regularly, to our kids. The hot dog sandwich was one of the first things — along with Steak-Umms, Beefaroni, and Toll House cookies — that I learned to make for myself. Growing up, my parents both worked which, in those regrettable early eighties days, when mulleted, unsupervised tweens roamed the earth, made me a full-fledged latch-key kid. Get home from school, knock off the homework, make a hot dog sandwich, watch The Jeffersons. That was the routine. I’ve kept at least one part of that past alive and, I know this won’t come as a surprise, but the kids really seem to enjoy it, if clean plates are any indication. Try them on a Saturday afternoon, after soccer practice. Or  on vacation, after a long morning on the beach. Or — and I apologize for this, as I know this is a family website — at 1 am after a few beers. Am I proud of this? Not particularly. But the broccoli has set me free. Now, if I could only figure out how to get it to work its guilt-erasing magic in other parts of my life, because I still have nightmares about missing that ballet recital. — Andy

The Hot Dog Sandwich

I feel silly even doing a recipe for this, but there are a couple of key points I want to hit before you try this and blow your own minds. One, I use Hebrew National (two per sandwich) because I honestly don’t think you can do much better. (Cue emails from readers who make their own hot dogs from heritage pigs!) Two, you have to slice the hot dogs lengthwise and fry with a decent-size pat of butter, until the ends curl up slightly and the flat sides are beginning to brown. Three, the white bread or roll must be toasted and slathered with plenty of ketchup and a drizzle of mustard. I’m usually an only-mustard-with-my-hot-dog guy, but not when it comes to the hot dog sandwich. Not sure why this is, but it just is.

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i’m with you on the hebrew national! in chicago, we love our vienna beef, too! mmm…i think i might have to go to portillos for a chicago dog for lunch! (unfortunately, they don’t serve a side of broccoli, so let the guilt begin!)


I have fond memories of hot dog sandwiches from my own childhood, and still count them as comfort food.


my mom used to make something called Smiley Faced Hot Dogs, where the hot dog was served on–wait for the paradigm shift!–a hamburger bun, and some kind of face was created with condiments? cheese? something? now i have to email her and ask her how to make them.


In my hometown of Rochester, NY, the hot dog to eat is Zweigles (white or red). Alas, I would never eat them as a kid but ever since Rochester’s own Wegmans moved within driving distance of Philly, I’ve been known to buy and eat a few. However, my 5 year old non-meat-eater thinks she has won the lottery when dinner is a pbj with a side of veggies and fruit.


Hilarious concept–but so true!

Can you recommend the ideal white bread for this? Other than yummy challah from the local bakery, I never buy sliced bread other than Milton’s Multi Grain. In fact, I’m thinking I’ll try serving pbj on soft white to my pretty finicky daughter–I’m desperate for more lunch and dinner options that she’ll happily eat! She does love broccoli and orange cauliflower–so that’s a good place to start. Thanks for the chuckle!


In our house, adding peas to the kids’ plates makes any meal “nutritious” and “well-balanced.” I find this especially satisfying when serving Eggos for dinner. Amazingly, my kids now accept that peas go with pretty much anything…even breakfast foods.


This gave me a big smile. And it will give my husband an even bigger one. Last night he was in charge of dinner. He served the brussel sprouts first. And then sheepishly went around scooping out macncheese (we’re talking blue box) as if I wouldn’t notice…blinded by the nutrients in the brussel sprouts. He’s officially forgiven and I’m officially a tiny bit less rigid.


A staple in our house is the dogadilla–a cheese quesadilla wrapped around a hot dog. Not that my kids will eat one. We’ll have to try the hotdog sandwich.


We might live in a healthy-bike-mecca of the world small town out west now, but we’re both from Chicago, so my husband worked harder to get our sons to enjoy hot dogs than he did broccoli (they all love broccoli, but the hot dogs took longer to appreciate).

I’m here on cue to say we gave up our beloved Nationals in favor of any dogs that are nitrate free. We have ideals, that we’ll bend on often (organice dairy, no fake sugar), but nitrate- free bacon & hot dogs are a must. The bad fat–no problem.


Now this is pretty good. I’m not a big proponent of guilt with meals, but I don’t deny that hot dogs can use a little extra boost. Love it.


Wow, do I love the idea of a dogadilla. The name alone. That is 100% going to happen. And 654, I need the Smiley Face hot dog recipe. Jenny is going away for a couple days soon, and that could be on the menu…Laurie: WALTERS!!!!!!!!!!


I do the same thing when I feel guilty about the occasional chicken nuggets. I like to cut up a big bowl of fresh fruit and comfort myself by saying…”how many kids eat this much fresh fruit in a day?” Another one is avacado…which is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. A few slices on the side with salt goes a long way to amp up the nutrition of a meal.


LOVE the equation. It’s amazing how we can justify things in our heads, right? Hot dogs for dinner sound completely healthy and fine when paired with broccoli. Great post.

Karen @ My Pantry Shelf

Hilarious! I just returned from the store where I picked up a few bunches of broccoli. Apparently I have subconciously been following the same formula, busy week = quick meals + broccoli= good enough. As for me, I came home from school to Top Ramen and Cocacola, so the hotdog would probably win in the nutrition contest! (My kids have tried hot dogs, but I have yet to resort to Top Ramen for a dinner)


I, too, was a latch-key kid. It was the early 80s, and my mom worked nights at The Limited, and my dad at a car dealership selling Toyotas. I would come home from school, do homework and chores, and then heat up a Swanson’s Hungry Man salisbury steak meal in oven (you know, the ones with the chocolate cake dessert on the side).

I feel sad for my 6th grade self as I write this! Boy, do my kids ever have it good!


Our house rule… Anything + a smoothie equals a healthy meal! I make them with fresh and frozen fruit, juice or milk, ice, honey, and sometimes Greek yogurt and ground flax seed. What could be healthier than that?! 🙂 and I should mention they are super yummy too!


Love your website. Have I mentioned that lately?

Loved this post and completely agree with your broccoli equation. Wanna hear what’s worse, though? I am often a total hypocrite enforcing greater nutritional virtue on my kids than I impose on myself, so they seem to always get that side of veggies, and somehow don’t notice that mom sometimes is eating the “bad” part of the meal and skipping the nuked veggies. Oops! If I could ever stop doing that all together, I would feel like such a saint!


I don’t know if this would equate to a hotdog sandwich but I, also an 80’s latchkey kid would fry me up a few slices of genoa salami and my brother usually went for a good old fried bologna.

When the microwave came into our lives, we’d generally make a meal out of popcorn but occasionally would revisit salami and bologna—so fun how they become little cups in the microwave.

Feel free to use that as a start to an appetizer. Salami cups with manchego and quince jam perhaps?


1. Everything’s better with BACON.
2. Everything’s healthier with BROCCOLI.
3. The MOST important ingredient is LOVE.

The first three rules in our family cookbook.


Steak-umms!!!! OMG, I was dying when I saw you mention them. They too were one of the first things I learned to “cook” for myself, and once in a while I still like to indulge. My boyfriend makes fun of me, I worry that the clerks at the grocery store are judging me, but I just can’t help the love and nostalgia I feel when I eat them.


I love this. Whenever I don’t have dinner prepared for my kids on a work day I give them scrambled eggs with peas mixed through so that they “get some vegetables!” Makes me feel better! I’d better add broccoli as a side dish to the salmon pasta they’ll be having tonight.