Making a Run for the Border

21 Jun

Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the US on vacation and day trips, and then later working over the summer. Because of how much time I spent there in my formative years, I get a bit nostalgic for foods that you can only get on that side of the border.

Because of that (and because of the great deals that can be had – I’ll talk about that in another post) I try to make the short trek to Northern New York at least a couple of times a year.

On this trip, I spotted something in particular that brought the memories flooding back – an orange sherbet push-up pop. Even though I had indulged in the bacon sundae earlier in the day, for .75 cents I had to have one.

I vividly remember riding my bike to the camp store at the State Park with my mom and having her fish one of these out of the freezer as a treat. It tasted just as good as it did then and to this day, remains one of the few orange flavoured things I actually enjoy.

However, my usual American grocery list goes well beyond ice cream in a tube. Here’s a list of things that just aren’t available north of the 49th parallel that I invariably wind up throwing into my basket:

  • Jiffy cornbread mix – Cornbread is a great side with chili, tortilla soup and anything with a BBQ sauce. Jiffy’s mix is DIRT cheap and makes throwing together a batch so easy. I’ve been meaning to try adding half a box of yellow cake mix to it based on a tip from The Sister’s Dish on Pinterest. There are a lot of great recipes as well that call for a box of the mix so it’s handy to have around.
  • Cherry Pepsi – The one thing American grocery stores have us beat on, is sheer variety and they have it in spades when it comes to pop – there’s vanilla, lemon, lime, raspberry, black cherry with vanilla and that’s just cola. (Cherry Pepsi happens to be my favourite – tastes great with a shot of rye!) There are also several flavours of Sprite, Mountain Dew and let’s not forget Faygo
  • Rotel – For the uninitiated, Rotel is a handy mix of diced canned tomatoes and chilis. Many Mexican and southwestern recipes out of the US call for a can or two. I like to throw some boneless skinless chicken thighs into a pot to simmer with a can of Rotel and a packet of taco seasoning for a quick chicken taco filling.
  • Natural casing hot dogs – While in Michigan, I fell in love with natural casing hot dogs from Koegel’s. The natural casing gives a nice snap and keeps the great flavour inside. Once you’ve had one, Shopsy’s will taste like No-Name brand. In Michigan, Kogel’s dogs are the foundation for most of the Coney dogs served in the Flint and Detroit areas. There, Coney dog shops are like Tim Horton’s here – EVERYWHERE. Alas, meat regulations prevent me from having Koegel’s ship me a crate of hot dogs, so I picked up some Nathan’s Orignal famous beef franks. They don’t quite have the depth of flavour of the Kogel’s (which are beef and pork) but they do have that lovely snappy texture and are a pretty good substitute for a DIY Coney dog. If you’re in Michigan, Koegel’s are available in many local supermarkets.

DIY Coney Dog Recipe

1 package of natural casing hot dogs
1 package soft hot dog buns – I prefer the ‘toast’ style that are cut along the top
1 can Hormel chili with no beans (another US only product) – It’s not quite what you’ll get in Michigan, but it does in a pinch. If you want try to make your own, try this recipe.
1 vidalia onion, finely chopped
grated cheddar or marble cheese
ballpark yellow mustard – optional

Heat the hot dogs in a frying pan with a small amount of oil. A couple sprays of Pam will do. While they’re cooking, throw the can of chili in the microwave and heat until warm, dice your onion and grate your cheese. Pop the buns into the microwave to steam for 30-40 seconds before placing the hot dogs in. The dogs should be golden and heated through. Top generously with sauce, a thin line of mustard (optional), cheese and then onions. Don’t even attempt to pick it up unless you want to hose yourself down after dinner. This is a fork and knife type meal.


Apologies for my terrible food photography.

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