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Juicy grilled hot dogs are America’s favorite summertime, fork-free meal. We love them in all their combinations from the classic ballpark frank dressed with simple mustard and relish to restaurants and foodie havens featuring designer dogs with toppings as exotic as fois gras and truffles. Not just for kids anymore, hot dogs are finally, really, haute.

Extravagant toppings aside, it’s no wonder the hallowed weiner is the king of the barbeque. Easy and inexpensive to serve, hot dogs and sausages are a delicious way to entertain guests and family over the summer months. And they cook up fast freeing up time for the host to do other fun things, like enjoy the party. Just add potato chips, baked beans, cole slaw or potato salad and ring the dinner bell. Now that’s simple summer entertaining.

By all means serve your wieners with mustard, relish, ketchup and diced onions but that’s just the tip of the dog’s nose when it comes to dressing up this classic sandwich. Sauerkraut, chili and Easy-Cheese are great additions to the condiment table but you haven’t lived until you've eaten a Rueben dog with, corned beef, sauerkraut and Thousand Island Dressing. Or how about a South of the Border dog with black beans, salsa, jalapeno, avocado  and Cotija cheese all wrapped up  in a flour tortilla?

Don’t forget the hot dog’s heartier cousin, sausages. Kielbasa, Italian sausage, and bratwurst satisfy large appetites and are the perfect palette on which to perfect your fantasy sandwich. High on the dreamy sandwich list is Cleveland’s own Polish Boy; a hoagie roll with kielbasa, cole slaw and  French fries  all slathered in barbecue sauce. It’s a complete meal on a bun. Or cook up that carnival favorite we all know and love, the Italian sausage sandwich, with sautéed peppers, onions and marinara sauce. But don’t forget to indulge in the simple pleasure of bratwurst, simmered in beer with bacon, onions, mustard and pickles at least once during the summer months.

Any way you choose, you can’t go wrong with the adaptable hot dog. Follow these tips for the best ways to put on the dog at your next cookout and check out these recipes for easy add-ons to make "the dog days of summer" truly delicious.

Carla has spent the past 30 years in the food world as a caterer, artisan baker, cooking school teacher, food writer and author of 6 cook books including the James Beard nominated Big Book of Appetizers. Her passion is sharing fresh, cooked-from-scratch weeknight meals that cut prep time and practically eliminate that nightly sinkful of dishes. Look for Carla on Facebook, Twitter (carlacooks), Pinterest and at ravenouskitchen.com where she blogs about everything from cooking for two to easy weekend entertaining for a crowd.

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HEINEN'S

We're Heinen's Grocery Stores, a Cleveland, OH based family-owned grocery store established in 1929. Focused on quality meats, fresh market produce and superior customer service, we make grocery shopping something to smile about.