Last weekend I went to our family home on Lake Cowichan for a relaxing weekend with my mom. Cowichan holds many fond memories for me, as I’ve been going up during summers with my family for the past 10 years. During that time, my dad has almost single-handedly built our home on the lake. This entire process has made my summers as a youth even more special for me, as I’ve gotten to witness my dad’s hard work and dedication turn into something absolutely stunning. I remember when we first starting building all those summers ago we were staying on our lot in a little camper with no running water or sewage system – bathroom trips were a 5 minute walk into the woods to the good ol’ outhouse. Back then I didn’t appreciate what a privilege it was to be building a home in one of the most beautiful places on Vancouver Island. Luckily as I matured, I began to cherish the lake and our way of life up there, inconvenient as it may have been starting out.
As the years went by, our little camper gained some amenities; we got running water and a satellite (for those surprisingly pleasant lake days when it pours rain and makes cozying up to Camp Rock and High School Musical inevitable). For the last couple of summers our family has been able to live in the house while it is still under construction. I adore the sweet smell of lumber that fills the house, as well as the stunning view of the lake from the front windows. We also purchased a boat! I tell you, there is NOTHING better than an evening boat ride on Lake Cowichan to watch the sun set. Nothing. Maybe chocolate.
And of course, the smell of a campfire with roasting hotdogs certainly contributes to the nostaligia of the lake. Food has always been a major characteristic of lake life for my family; I’d go so far as to say it’s always been one of my favourite parts of being at Cowichan. Fresh fruit, meat cooked over an open flame, chips and dip, smores – everything just tastes better at the lake. Now that I have forsaken animal products and aim to live a plant-based diet, eating up at the house has only gotten better. I vowed when I started this diet that I would never allow myself to feel restricted – I can have the same delicious, sentimental food that I love, just amped up a notch. I think hotdogs were probably my favourite food to cook over a campfire growing up, and there’s no way I am going to lose that experience or taste. Like all my food, this does involve a fair deal of creativity. I adapted a vegan hotdog recipe that I tried for the first time last weekend. Paired with my own homemade bun and cashew cheeze sauce, it was absolutely delicious! They have the perfect umami flavour that is derived from the plethora of spices in the recipe, as well as a authentic hotdog texture (ask Quintan – he said it first). Remember, if you’re thinking of going vegetarian or vegan, or just want to live a healthier lifestyle, you NEVER have to sacrifice flavour. I always say that building good flavour is a combination of experimentation and the internet. Choose spices that you like and combine them – just see what happens! It won’t always turn out; I’ve come up with a whole series of disappointing flops that I would like to forget. But when you get it right the satisfaction is so worth it.
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Sriracha
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp tumeric
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 cup vital wheat gluten
- 1/3 cup rolled oats
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp flax seeds
- Chop onion and garlic finely and saute for 3 minutes.
- Transfer mixture to a food processor or blender and add chickpeas, water, soy sauce, sriracha, and seasonings. Blend until the mixture has combined to form a paste.
- Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add paste and knead for approximately 5 minutes, until a dough has formed.
- Set up a vegetable steamer on the stovetop and get the water boiling. Divide the dough into 7 or 8 even balls. Form each ball into the shape of a hotdog and wrap it tightly in parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- Place each wrapped hotdog in a single layer in the steamer and steam, covered, for 45 minutes. At this point the dogs are cooked and ready to eat, but you can freeze them and warm them up over a grill another day!
I loved these hotdogs not only for their taste, but also because there are no artificial preservatives in them. Many soy veggie dogs that you can purchase at the store are filled with chemicals that just aren’t good for you. Bread is the same way. When you make your own food, you know what you’ve put in it and can feel good knowing that you’re satisfying your body with wholesome ingredients while still catering to your tastebuds. Happy eating!