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Cooking up Carrot Hot Dogs

Carrot hot dogs are simple, inexpensive and cruelty-free vegan option. thinkstock.com

What's orange, helps you see at night and tastes great on a bun with mustard and ketchup? A carrot hot dog!

Yes, a lightly cooked carrot, marinated with savory seasonings and served with hot dog fixings looks and tastes amazingly like a hot dog.

"Why?" you may ask. Here are three reasons to add carrot hot dogs to your summer menu:

• Avoid what's bad for you. The World Health Organization and International Agency for Research on Cancer made headlines in 2015 when they publicly announced that processed meats, including conventional hot dogs, are carcinogenic. With carrot dogs, you also skip the cholesterol and saturated fat.

• Eat more of what's good for you. A 2015 USDA report on diet found that most Americans actually eat more than the recommended amount of meat and eggs, but fall far short when it comes to vegetables. NBC News confirmed that fewer than 14 percent of Americans eat the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables each day. Carrots are a gold mine of beta-carotene and other antioxidants, including lutein, which reduce free radical damage in the body and promote better vision. According to whfoods.com, a recent study also found that as little as one serving of beta-carotene-rich vegetables per day results in greater bone mass.

• Food should be fun. Carrot hot dogs are simple, inexpensive, cruelty-free and amusing. What's not to love? Here's my version.

Carrot Hot Dogs

4 medium carrots, scrubbed or peeled, ends cut off

Marinade ingredients:

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons liquid smoke

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

4 hot dog buns

Condiments to taste: ketchup, mustard, pickle relish, sauerkraut

Simmer carrots in a pan of water until just fork tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the carrots. Combine marinade ingredients in a baking dish that will hold the carrots in a single layer. Add the drained carrots and turn to coat all sides. Allow carrots to marinate covered in the refrigerator for at least two hours, or up to three days, turning the carrots occasionally.

To prepare: Remove carrots from marinade and heat them in a frying pan on the stovetop for about 3 minutes, turning them halfway through; or put the carrots on the grill. Serve in hot dog buns with your choice of condiments.

Kitchen-tested, protein-rich variation: Spread the bun with nut butter before adding the carrot hot dog. Omit other condiments.

Bonus: I like the marinated carrots straight from the fridge as a snack or sliced into a salad.

Did you know: According to Bustle.com, vegan celebrities include Alicia Silverstone, Ellen DeGeneres, Woody Harrelson, Joaquin Phoenix, Liam Hemsworth, Joan Jett, Stevie Wonder, RZA, Peter Dinklage, Kate and Rooney Mara, and Al Gore, plus many more.

Sources: cancer.org, nbcnews.com, ers.usda.gov, whfoods.com

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