The U.S. vs. Spain: Kitchen Tools Edition

After receiving a small pressure cooker from my mother-in-law (yeah, I got the hookup!), I started thinking about which kitchen gadgets seem to be more popular here in Spain as well as which don’t even seem to exist.

Tools Popular in Spain

Olla a presion

Pressure cooker. This is gaining popularity in the U.S. as well, but in Spain a kitchen is not a kitchen nor is a cook a cook without one of these. Pressure cooking makes cooking easier and faster! Who doesn’t want that. Have you made chickpeas from scratch? Then you’ll know that, even after being soaked all night, they take forever to cook. Other good things to make in a pressure cooker include whole grains, chicken stock, soups, cabbage, and many more.

Continue reading

How Being an Expatriate Can Improve Your Culinary Skills

I miss peanut butter. This is the most common food question for many Americans who come to Spain: Where can I get my hands on some good old American-style peanut butter? Luckily, if you’re in Madrid, the answer is easy. Actually, most towns that have a Carrefour or Mercadona will have peanut butter. (Now whether it’s any good is up to you to decide.)

But there are many other foods we crave. As good as Spanish food is, I know I have a list of things I like to eat when I get home. I crave spice, Ranch dressing, cottage cheese, and mainly anything from Trader Joe’s. (Someone please bring a bottle of their Champagne Pear salad dressing, stat. Oh—and some trail mix.)

So how have all these cravings made me a better cook? Easy—necessity is the mother of invention. Or so they say.

What can the American expat make in Spain instead of traipsing from Taste of America to Al Campo to El Corte Inglés?

Continue reading

11 Things I Would Never Buy and 8 Things I Would at Taste of America

Whenever I’m asked about my hobbies, I always say cooking (and reading). I love trying new recipes, cuisines, and tastes. Luckily for me, I have a husband who’s willing to try almost anything (except spicy—he’s not into that). There’s nothing better than mastering a dish, especially when your husband’s from another country and you have finally gotten your tortilla de patatas just right.

The problem about cooking (and eating!) in another country is that sometimes you can’t find what you want. There are certain ingredients that aren’t sold here, at least in your neighborhood supermarket. When I was living in smaller towns—Toledo (2008), Salamanca (2009–2010), or Zamora (2011, 2012)—I noticed this a lot.

I understand the desire for a store that’s just like back home. You know, Trader Joe’s would be nice sometimes. But sometimes I see the products advertised at Taste of America, and I have to admit I would never buy some of those things. Some I would, though. But which ones?

Things I Would Never Buy

Peanut butter in the jar

  1. Peanut butter. Okay, if you don’t have a food processor, I would buy this. However, I do have my nice little food processor, and making your own nut butter couldn’t be easier. The only downside is the clean up.
  2. Mixes. Make your own cake or brownies. Way cheaper, and healthier (not so many chemicals!).
  3. Frosting. Likewise, it’s way too easy to make your own frosting. I have my favorite frosting recipe, and it is amazing! You don’t have to use powdered sugar! Popcorn popped on a white background
  4. Popcorn. There is popcorn here; enough said.
  5. Vegetable dip mix. This is easy enough to do it yourself. I like this recipe, with Greek yogurt and a bunch of spices you already have in your cabinet.
  6. Baking soda and corn starch. Why buy these when they already exist over here, and for a much cheaper price? Look for bicarbonato (baking soda) and maizena (corn starch).
  7. Strawberry syrup. Because no. Because it’s gross? Because I once vomited after eating this.
  8. Guacamole mix. Guys, making great guacamole is not difficult. The only semi-difficult part might be finding cilantro, but I’ve seen it in nearby fruterías, so don’t despair. Pop-Tarts
  9. Pop Tarts. Who knew that one could actually purchase this for the low, low price of €5.60 ($7.28)? These breakfast delicacies bring me back to my middle-school days, when they were my dad’s daily breakfast.
  10. Marshmallows. I don’t have anything against them, and I get why you’d want to buy them, but marshmallows just aren’t my thing.
  11. Yeast. Yes, thank you I would like to pay 10x more yeast!

Things I Would Totally Buy

Pretzels

  1. Pretzels. Yeah, I’ve seen them here, but—to be frank—they suck. I would love to get my hands on some of these pretzels, most notably the Snyder’s Sourdough Hard Pretzels, although the nearly €4 ($5.20) price tag kind of puts me off.
  2. Cheez-Its. These sorts of tasty, cheesy crackers can’t really be found here. The cracker culture is really lacking. I have actually made my own before, and it’s not that difficult, just time consuming, but I think I’d rather do it myself than pay €6.35 for one box!
  3. Maple syrup. Worth it. I do think there are some specialty Spanish shops that will sell it, but the good stuff (a.k.a. not Aunt Jemima’s) is worth forking over some hard-earned cash.
  4. Some cereals. I am a little bit ashamed to admit that I saw this box of Cap’n Crunch and suddenly had the urge to grab a huge bowl of it. Peanut butter, regular … come back to me! Sriracha
  5. Sriracha. I would buy this amazing sauce. Mario might not touch it, but this sauce is so versatile. You can use it on shrimp, in a Bloody Mary, cornbread muffins, on popcorn, in dips … the list goes on and on. But I don’t see this listed at Taste of America. Too bad!
  6. Blow pops. I have this weird love for all things lollipop. Yeah, I’d buy ’em!
  7. Reese’s. There’s nothing like the combination of peanut butter and chocolate. Although I do make my own desserts that combine the two, Reese’s satisfies a childhood craving. Ranch Dressing
  8. Ranch dressing. Ranch dressing is a gift given to man; we must not waste it.

Which products would you buy?

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

I have blogged about my love of Pinterest before. I know my blog is supposed to be about Spain and stuff, but forgive me just this once? I love reading others’ blog entries about what they’re loving lately. Thus, my favorite pins from my favorite boards.

Yum. I love cooking. (Mario knows this well.) Asi que, I love sites like Tastespotting or Foodgawker. Pinterest is a good source of cooking inspiration, too. Here are some of my favorites lately:

  1. Crockpot Chile Lime Black Bean Soup. This sounds so good and so easy!
  2. Homemade Goldfish Crackers. I absolutely love the idea of the little fish cookie cutter.
  3. DIY Coffee Syrups. Who doesn’t love a good pumpkin spiced latte? (Don’t answer that.) I don’t love pumpkin as much as other flavors, but these recipes give you so many options.
  4. Strawberry Torte. This is a Martha Stewart recipe, so you know it’s fancy.
  5. Chile Lime Grilled Corn. It’s called elote in Mexico (according to the blog author) and is a Mexican street food. Street food is usually authentic and good, so I’m pretty sure I’d love this.
  6. Double Chocolate Espresso Sandwich Cookies with Peanut Butter Frosting. I think we could safely call these indulgences, don’t you agree?

DIY. I learned to knit and sew this summer. Crafty much? I don’t want to turn into a stereotype, but creating something is very satisfying. I knitted a scarf for Mario and while he hasn’t had a chance to use it yet, he does like it. Score one for me! Here are some more things I totally wish I could do.

  1. Grocery Bag Holder. I’m a sucker for tutorials. I made some pillowcases this summer based on a really awesome tutorial and they look great. This would be a fun thing to have, especially after having lived in Spain, where no one throws away their old grocery bags; they save them.
  2. Homemade Playdough. I’m pretty sure my elementary school teachers knew how to do this; however, I didn’t. One day, I’ll do this. Maybe I’ll even do it for any future children.
  3. Deep Purple Yarn Wreath with Lace and Felt Flowers. This is from an Etsy shop, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take inspiration from it, right?
  4. Basic Crochet Tutorial. I just bought some crochet hooks, so I probably better learn how to crochet.
  5. Herringbone Stitch. I wish I could knit this, but I have a feeling it won’t happen for a long (long) time.
  6. Old-Fashioned Soap. You make this in a crockpot. Soap in a crockpot? I admit, it does sound odd, but I’m okay with it.
Gifts. I love giving gifts. Now if I only had an infinite amount of money in order to buy all the fun stuff I see in Oprah’s favorite thing section of O magazine. Here are some things I wish I could buy others (or, cough cough, me).

  1. Wood Weather Station Clock. Mario’s parents have a clock that tells you the weather, barometric pressure, wind speed, etc. I like it a lot, but this one is prettier.
  2. Bon Voyage Duffel. Lululemon is one of those places where you wish you could buy everything, but you end up leaving with nothing because a pair of shorts costs $50. This is a cute bag. Buy me it? It’s only $108.
  3. Le Creuset Tea Kettle. I date a boy who, oddly enough, loves tea. Any kind, basically. Someday I’ll buy him this. It’s pretty and since it’s Le Creuset, I’m going to guess it works pretty dang well.
  4. Lemon Salt Scrub. I love bath and beauty products, but I’m over Bath & Body Works. It feels like I’m still in high school when I put it on. This, however, feels very much today.
  5. DIY Romantic Star Projector. I would love this. How fun would it be to light this up on a Saturday night, open a bottle of wine, and just lay back and observe?
  6. Listography. I love lists. I would love to buy this book to make lots and lots of lists – about me, about my life, about my goals and interests.

  1. Vera Wang Jeweled Flats. If I had $295, I’d be all over these.
  2. Portrait Collar Dress. Unfortunately, this dress seems to be sold out.
  3. A nice little work outfit. Yes, please.
  4. Green Kitten Heels. I love green and these small little heels are perfect for me.
  5. One Shoulder Dress + Rosettes. I admit, I love dresses; I have a weak spot.
  6. Wedding Ballet Flats. I like them, even if I didn’t have any weddings to attend.
I hate to end this with a cliché question, but what are you loving lately?