Monday, November 18, 2013

Recipe: Can-Free Pumpkin Puree

Thanksgiving season is one of the most difficult times for an American abroad. Traditional foods that are easy to find and inexpensive back home are non existent or very expensive abroad. I have been lucky enough to make Thanksgiving work all three years I’ve been in Spain (here is the story about my first year).

Pumpkin is one of my favorite foods to use during this time of the year. I love making pumpkin breads, sweets, soups and pies of course! The problem with this in Spain, is that canned pumpkin doesn’t exist. However, pumpkin puree is INCREDIBLY easy to make.

This year, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a real pumpkin! But, this recipe (and all recipes calling for pumpkin puree) can be made with butternut squash. In fact, most canned pumpkin brands are actually made from butternut squash!

My pumpkin


1 pie pumpkin* or butternut squash
*Normal carving pumpkins (the big ones) are not good for this, you should look for the small ones that come with a sticker saying pie pumpkin or sweet pumpkin.

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 200 degrees Celsius
  • Cut the pumpkin or squash in half
  • Clean out the seeds and pulp (Save the seeds to roast if you want!)
  • Put the Pumpkin or Squash skin side up on the baking sheet
  • Bake for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size. It is done with the meat can easily be smashed with a fork
  • Scoop out the meat and throw away the skins
The puree can be kept in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for a month.

All clean and ready for the oven

Now you are ready to use your homemade puree for whatever recipe you want! See, so much easier than using the can! Stay tuned for a Pumpkin Pie recipe!

All finished and smelling delicious!

Nice and squishy. Ready for any recipe!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Tourist in My Own City: Mercado Central

As many of you may know, one of my favorite things to do is go to the city food markets and window shop. Most Mondays and Wednesdays after my Arabic class, I will go to Valencia’s Mercado Central to wander around and get some inspiration for meals for the week.



This market is right in the center of the city, just a few minutes walk from the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. It is a huge building with a lot of space to walk around in. So, instead of fighting through huge crowds, like in Barcelona’s La Boqueria, you can actually take your time and enjoy looking at all the delicious food. The market is divided into two parts. The meat and vegetables are in the front and all the fish and seafood are in the back.



Right in the middle of the market is a big open space. Look up when you get here and you will see a beautifully painted dome which reaches up 30 meters. This open space is sometimes used for events. Even Spain’s first season of Master Chef has filmed here!


Top Chef
This market has a long history similar to La Boqueria. It began as an outdoor traveling market, in 1839 it became a permanent market called Mercado Nuevo (New Market). Some years later, it started to become too small for the expanding city. After seeing many architectural plans for a building the government decided on a design form architects Alejandro Soler March and Francisco Guardia Vial. Construction began in 1910 and finished in 1928. King Alfonso XIII was the leader at the ground breaking ceremony.



Both tourists and locals frequent this market every day. It is one of the highlights of a trip to Valencia! But, make sure you go in the morning. It is open Monday to Saturday from 8:00-2:30. But most of the stalls start packing up around 2.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Expats Blog Interview

Hello friends!

I recently did an interview with a great website for expats called ExpatsBlog.

Check it out and let me know what you think! Click Here

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween and All Saints Day

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!! Or All Saints Day since I am technically a day late. Smile Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays growing up. I love to make my own costumes and go out with friends. And of course CANDY!


In Spain, Halloween is not as big as it is in the states, but it is gaining popularity. I remember my first year in Almeria celebrating with the kids being very surprised that no one was dressed as a princess or an astronaut or anything that wasn’t covered in blood. They take their scary costumes very seriously here!

This is me and one of my first grade classes in Campohermoso on Halloween!
This year in my School we had a pretty traditional Halloween for the kids. They all dressed up, played games, went trick-or-treating, and even were able to carve pumpkins! Which are relatively hard to come by here in Spain. It was very funny how grossed out they got trying to take the seeds out of the pumpkins. None of them were excited about having to use their hands. That was always one of my favorite parts! I was smart enough to sneak in a plastic bag to take some seeds home to roast.

My 4 and 5 year olds (Cell phone pic, sorry!)
Love her face! So excited to have her hand in a pumpkin

At night the young people do what they do in the US. Go out to the center and hang out. The kids still trick-or treat. They can stay out as late as they want because November 1st is a national holiday!
Being a Catholic country, the Saints are very important here. Each one has their own day and people receive gifts when it is their Saint’s day. It’s almost more important than birthdays! So, All Saints Day is obviously the most important.

 This day is surprisingly low key for Spain, which is known for it’s big festivals. Today is all about honoring and remembering departed loved ones. All the city cemeteries are open and families gather there to decorate and leave flowers on the graves. Walking though the city this morning the only stores that were open were the flower shops and they were very crowded with people buying huge flower displays.
After visiting the cemeteries and maybe staying for the masses that are performed throughout the day the families spend the rest of the day together. Of course there is food involved! Since it is finally fall weather (at least here in Valencia), roasted chestnuts are a very common snack today. Also, a sweet with a strange name is popular. Huesos de Santos, literally called Saint’s bones, are a marzipan tube filled with a sweet egg yolk custard. They are delicious, as long as you don’t think about what they are actually called.