Barriqa Illena, corazon contento! This famous Spanish saying translates to ‘a full belly and a happy heart’ which is the goal for this month as our taste buds head off on a journey to Spain. From flamenco dancing, lively music, and colorful celebrations, Spain’s rich culture is characterized not only by these things but also by their distinct cuisine. The country is home to an abundance of traditional dishes including paella, gazpacho, chorizo, and one of their more popular ones, tapas. Tapas are small snacks and appetizers which come in a variety of different flavors and textures which is then combined to create a massive sampler style meal. This month’s Universal Yums box pulls inspiration from this very dish with snacks such as ham flavored chips and lemon cookies, there is sure to be something for just about everyone.
Iberian Ham Flavored Potato Chips
Ham is the crown jewel of traditional Spanish cuisine and is found just about everywhere from breakfast tables to tapas plates. Among the countless varieties of the meat that can be found in Spain, the Iberian version is the more popular of the bunch and comes from Iberico hogs who are fed a special diet of acorns and olives. The meat is then cured for three whole years which gives it that intense flavor and sweetness that is loved by so many.
When I saw these in the box I assumed that they would just taste like bacon chips more than anything but to my surprise they actually taste like legit ham. They were really unique and unlike anything I’ve had before and the flavoring wasn’t too strong or overpowering either.
Lemon Shortbread Cookies
While it’s clear that the main ingredient of this treat is butter, it’s a bit more difficult to tell if its a cookie or a cake or simply something in between. The story of this snack dates back almost 500 years in the southern part of Spain where nuns were using extra butter and wheat to create something called ‘manteca’ or butter cakes which were then sold to the townspeople. In 1870, a businesswoman changed things up a bit and decided to dry the butter cakes in the oven which created a crumblier and more tender texture. The cookies could also last longer and were less susceptible to molding unlike the original butter cakes. Today over 40 million pounds of these cookies are made in the Estepa region of Spain each year including this lemon variety that we will be trying this month.
I’ve mentioned this before but a huge part of whether or not I like something falls down to the texture and this is a great example of that. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the taste of these lemon cookies, the crumbly almost flaky like texture really threw me off and therefore they weren’t exactly my cup of tea.
Chocolate Truffles with Cappuccino or Dark Chocolate
Chocolate is well known to many and can be found in virtually every country in the world but Spain actually had a hand in turning chocolate into of the most famous flavors to this day. The story begins when Christopher Colombus discovered cocoa beans being used as coins in Honduras and then brought them back with him to Spain. The beans were ignored and rejected by the royals who preferred to continue using silver and gold for their coins. It wasn’t until one of Colombus’ fellow explorers showed the royals how to prepare the beans into a chocolate drink that they were given some attention. Cocoa beans then became so loved by the Spaniards that they guarded the recipe from the rest of Europe for over a hundred years but the secret didn’t stay hidden very much longer as in 1600 the French discovered the beans in America and the rest was history. Today however, chocolatiers take the country’s history with chocolate seriously as can be seen which these decadent truffles made with a dense, creamy dark chocolate and sprinkled with a layer of cocoa powder.
As I’ve mentioned previous times in other posts that I’ve done with Universal Yums, I’m really not a huge chocolate lover and even less so with dark chocolate so evidently I didn’t like these truffles one bit. The chocolate was really bitter and too overpowering for the truffles to be enjoyable.
Barbecue Snack Mix with Corn Nuts
Unlike bar scenes in other cultures or countries, bars in Spain are a place to gather and socialize with family through all hours of the day not just at night. People go for the alcohol and also for the snacks such as corn nuts which are served in bottomless bowls and are eaten by the handful. These crunchy, fried corn kernels are the definition of bar snacks and so with this cocktail mix we will not only get a taste of one of the most popular foods in Spain but also a mix of rice puffs and salty corn chips that complement the corn nuts perfectly.
Though tasty and somewhat enjoyable, this peanut mix wasn’t anything spectacular or unique for that matter. I found it to be somewhat good but also quite mediocre at the same time and not necessarily something that I would gravitate towards on a regular basis.
Creamy Almond Nougat
This famous nougat also known as turron was first introduced to Spain by Arabic settlers in the 1500’s and consists of three simple ingredients: roasted almonds, eggs whites, and honey. The simplicity ends there though as this iconic treat has strict guidelines and rules to abide by. The nougat can only be called turron alicante or hard turron if there are whole almonds found inside along with a crunchy, hard texture and can only be referred to soft turron (like the one we will be trying today) if it is made with ground almonds instead. Regardless of the name of it, this creamy nougat is reminiscent of peanut butter but with a completely unique flavoring.
I was honestly really expecting to enjoy this almond nougat as it looked absolutely delicious but unfortunately it wasn’t my thing. Again going back on the whole texture thing, I found it to be a bit too flaky for my liking and I was expecting it to be more creamy. The flavor on the other hand was quite good with the almond taste being noticeable but not too overpowering.
Olive Oil Cookies
Olives were first brought to Spain in 1050 BC but it was the Romans who actually began the cultivation of the trees throughout the country and often referred to olive oil as ‘liquid gold’. To this day there are over 300 million olive trees that can be found throughout the country which produce some of the highest quality oil in the world. Spanish olive oil is incorporated into almost every traditional dish in Spain and is also used to marinate meats, to drizzle over fresh salads, and to create these delicious Spanish tortas. The olive oil is baked into cinnamon, almonds, and anise to turn it into this scrumptious cookie.
As I think many people would be, I was quite wary about these cookies before trying them but surprisingly they were actually pretty good. The taste wasn’t at all what I was expecting and was on the sweeter side. The only problem I found with these cookies though was that they were a bit dry but other than that they were a win in my book.
Spicy Mango Gummies
Though mango and milk isn’t a combination that you would normally associate together, with these gummies you will soon find out that it’s a better idea than you would’ve thought. Since 1963, the Vidal confectionery company has been winning customers over with their unique and strange combinations including such treats as sugar covered licorice and liquid filled gum. One of their most notable treats however, are these spicy mango gummies which start off with a mild tropical, fruity taste which then gives way to a warm tingling sensation which is where that milk mentioned before will come in handy.
For anyone who knows me or if this isn’t the first Universal Yums blog post of mine that you have read, then you would know that I’m a huge wimp when it comes to anything even remotely spicy. I can’t stand it and I tend to steer clear of anything spicier than barbecue flavored chips so needless to say these spicy mangoes were definitely not something that I would eat again. Though I was expecting them to be spicier than they actually were, they still burned my tongue too much for me to enjoy them. The taste of the candy itself though, minus the spice, could have potential and is actually yummy.
Caramel White Chocolate Candies
Over two thousand years ago, Spain was the perfect place to go if you were looking for some gold. In the Northern parts of the country, tiny flecks of gold often flowed through the rivers and creeks which attracted tons of prospectors. Canals were also built to dislodge rock materials into the water to then expose the sought after treasure. Nowadays, you can still find gold in Spain but in the form of these caramel chocolate candies that are gold in color and also can be found in a gold tube. The white chocolate and caramel mixes together perfectly along with a sweet butter flavor and crispy crunch.
White chocolate and caramel are two flavors that I love so these candies were right up my alley and also the treat that I was most excited to try this time around. They ended up being one of my top favorite items in this month’s box and I found them to be quite similar to M&Ms just with white chocolate in the middle rather than milk chocolate which is even better in my opinion.
Barbecue Potato Snack
For most people the thought of summer means longer days, nice weather, afternoons spent sunbathing at the beach and of course a good old barbecue. Though it is a common misconception that the act of barbecuing began in the Western part of the world, it was actually first discovered centuries ago in Barbados where a local tribe were observed cooking meats over a large fire pit. Spanish explorers who witnessed this technique soon brought it over to Spain as well as southern American states such as the Carolinas and Virginia. Though it may not quite be the time for pulling out the old barbecue and grilling up a few steaks, these potato snacks packed with a bold, meaty flavor should tie you over until then.
These potato snacks were really light and fluffy and not at all what I was expecting but were still enjoyable. The barbecue flavoring wasn’t too strong either but because of that I found it a bit difficult to get a taste of the barbecue.
Chocolate Covered Candied Oranges
Situated on the Eastern coast of Spain, the town of Valencia grows some of the best oranges found in Europe. These big, round oranges are sought after by many throughout Spain and beyond and are used to create these yummy, little snacks. The smallest and sweetest of these oranges are candied and then covered in a thick layer of bittersweet chocolate to create the perfect balance of citrus flavor and creamy chocolate.
I’m not normally someone who enjoys fruits and chocolate mixed together but surprisingly these chocolate oranges were not that bad. Though they weren’t something that I would crave or purchase for myself, the citrus mixed with the bitterness of the chocolate was decent.
This month in Spain, it is peak flowering season and we’re not talking about daisies or tulips, rather pistachio nuts. Pistachio trees have been flowering for centuries now, as far back as 7000 BC, and tend to thrive in sunny climates. The trees were first cultivated in Spain around 37 AD and Spanish royalty adored the nuts and that hasn’t changed since. Pistachios are loved throughout the country for their nutty flavor and the balance of sweet and salty which we will be able to experience with these pistachio filled toffees.
These pistachio toffees couldn’t have come at a better time as I’d been craving pistachios for a little while now and these definitely hit the spot. The toffee was really creamy and smooth and the pistachio flavoring was just enough without being too subtle or too overpowering making them one of my favorites from this month’s box.
Chocolate Bon Bon with Biscuit
The Marie cookie was first created in 1874 by a small English bakery to mark the wedding of Maria Alexandrovna, the Grand Duchess of Russia to the Duke of Edinburgh. People ate these cookies in the weeks leading up to the wedding as well as long after the wedding was over. Maria cookies are now one of the most common cookies in the world and can be found in countries such as Pakistan, Sweden, and Canada but there is no country that loves them as much as Spain does. After the Spanish civil war, the cookies became a symbol of the country’s economic recovery after a healthy wheat crop allowed farmers to sell and export the Maria cookies. With this treat you will not only get a taste of the light Maria cookies but also with whole roasted hazelnuts along with a creamy custard filling and milk chocolate.
Aside from the cookie part of this treat being a bit dry and almost stale tasting, these cookies were amazing. I wasn’t sure what to expect with these going into it but the creamy hazelnut filling was amazing and the chocolate layer on the outside was also really good.
Chocolate with Pine Nuts
Believe it or not, pine nuts are known to be some of the most expensive nuts in the world which is mainly due to the extensive process it takes to harvest these nuts. Pine nuts come from pine cones and must be extracted by hand by removing two layers of hard outer shell and there are only about 20 varieties of pine trees that have pine nuts that are large enough to be worth the extraction process. Luckily for us though, we won’t be needing to go through that grueling process to get our hands on some pine nuts and instead we can just sit back and enjoy these rich and buttery pine nuts smothered in creamy chocolate.
I had seen beforehand that these candies were voted the worst yum this month so I was a bit nervous to try them but surprisingly enough I actually enjoyed them. The flavoring was very nutty and woodsy and completely unlike anything that I’ve ever tasted before.
Feel free to take a look at the other blog posts I’ve done with Universal Yums and all of the other unique and different countries we’ve tried snacks from and see you next month for even more snacks and candies to try.