Visit Spain – Paella, Churros, Tapas, Ham

Visit Spain – Paella, Churros, Tapas, Ham

The Educational Tourist and seafood paella in Spain

A fun part of any family adventure is trying new food. We love trying lots of different gelato flavors in Italy, cajun food in Louisiana and seafood in Hawaii. Researching and trying famous new foods is fun on family vacations. We love to try new things and often come back from family vacation spots with a ‘souvenir’ recipe! Imagine future weekday meals consisting of something you ate in Spain. It will bring back memories and create conversations.

If you aren’t already eating dinners as a family when you can, you’ll be interested in reading about how incredibly valuable family dinner is for your kids!

Why a Family Dinner is so Great for Curious Kids

Some kiddos are more adventuresome when it comes to food that others. Some kids have strict ‘rules’ about what they will eat. Food can’t ‘touch’ or food has to be a certain temperature. I totally get it. The way to make them more comfortable with anything is to give them an opportunity to see it, think about it, and get comfortable with it BEFORE the main event.

It is great to show them food ahead of time and easy to do. Talk about the ingredients – especially the ones that they eat at home. They’ll experience the smells and texture BEFORE you get there. Some kids will love to help make it. Do you have budding chefs in your house? Let them use the following recipes for wonderful food from Spain – paella, churros, tapas, and ham to create a memorable family dinner.

Don’t worry it if your child won’t eat something the first time. Just put a little on their plate to get them used to the idea. One time see if they’ll give it a tiny taste. If they won’t, ask them to smell the food. Becoming familiar with the food can be done in a variety of ways – creating, tasting, smelling, looking, and even tolerating it on the plate.

Visit Spain – Paella Recipe

One of Spain’s most famous dishes is the paella. This wonderful dish has rice, some veggies and meat and is cooked in a special paella pan. The flavors are subtle and the aroma is just amazing. We loved trying it in every Spanish city we explored on our family adventure.

There are 3 types of paella: Valencian paella, seafood paella, and mixed paella.

Paella takes about an hour to make and is a large portion – usually ordered by at least 2 people. If your restaurant can get you paella quickly – be wary because that means it isn’t fresh, but premade and reheated. Keep this in mind when you are heading to dinner. Will the kids be cranky and starving while you wait on paella to cook? They’ll need something to do!

Valencian Paella Recipe from All Recipes and Jason Nelson


1 T olive oil (There are so many types! Try an olive oil from Spain for extra authenticity.)

4 pounds of chicken, cut into pieces

1/2 pound rabbit (Ummmm…I don’t even know where to buy rabbit.)

I head of garlic – Don’t bother cutting it – just for the flavor, not to eat.

1 tomato – finely chopped

1 (15.5 ounce) can butter beans

10 ounces of frozen green peas

salt to taste

1 tsp. mild paprika (Paprika can be a fun souvenir you buy in Spain on your family vacation!)

1 pinch saffron threads (Also a great souvenir to bring back from Spain!)

dried thyme to taste

dried rosemary to taste

4 cups UNCOOKED white rice


Heat a paella pan over medium heat and coat with olive oil. Add meat and garlic, cook until browned. Add vegetables and season with parka. Mix.

Fill pan to the top with water, measuring as you go along so you can know how much rice to add. Paella pans come in different sizes. Bring to a boil and simmer.

Season with saffron which will color the rice the familiar ‘paella yellow’ and then add other seasonings to taste. Stir in 1/2 as much of the rice as the amount of water you used. Cover, reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed.

***The creator of this dish on All Recipe, Jason Nelson, suggests using a whole chicken and all the parts like gizzard and heart if you can’t find rabbit. ***This paella recipe gets GREAT reviews as being very authentic.

A paella pan is really important! If you don’t want to lug one home from Spain because they are heavy and take up a LOT of room in the suitcase – though they would make a great souvenir, you can buy one here on amazon. Just click on the photo below.

This paella pan is a very popular one on amazon:

I’m not a huge lover of cooking, BUT I can tell you that using the best tool possible makes cooking easier and recipes turn out better than you can imagine. So…if you want the best possible tool for your paella recipe, take a look at this restaurant grade paella pan. The heavier steel will give you improved heat conductivity and the pan will last longer.

Visit Spain – Seafood Paella

I’m not sure I’ve eaten less common meats like rabbit and chicken organs found in the Valencian paella above but I just love seafood and this was a favorite dish we ate in Spain. It has seafood in it, hence the name, and is soooo delicious! I love AllRecipes for great recipes.

Quick and Easy Seafood Paella Recipe by Chef John on AllRecipes

I love this recipe that gets fantastic reviews and 5 stars – a top score!

Incredients for Saffron Broth:

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined – save the shells for the sauce!

2 T olive oil (Go for the Spanish olive oils for extra authenticity and a ‘peppery taste’)

1/2 tsp saffron threads

2 1/4 cups chicken broth (My new favorite is this Chicken BONE broth which adds protein and more flavor!)

1/2 yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/3 cups rice

1/2 cup peas (I am a total green pea snob and think the fresh tiny ones, picked in early spring and frozen right then and there, are the very BEST.) When those aren’t available….Le Sueur peas are my top pick.

1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1 tsp paprika

1 pinch cayenne pepper – or more if you like things with some extra heat

salt to taste


Cook shrimp shells in olive oil over medium heat about 2 minutes then add saffron and broth. Simmer about 20 minutes.

Strain the sauce and keep it hot on the stove.

Preheat oven to 425.

Heat olive oil over med heat and add sausage to brown. Add onion and cook till translucent. Reduce heat to med low.

Stir garlic into mixture, cook about 1 minute. Add rice and peas – stir. Pat down mixture into the bottom of the pan. Then, layer pepper strips and shrimp on top and sprinkle with salt and cayenne pepper.

Increase heat then pour in 2 cups broth. Bake the mixture in the oven about 20 minutes.

Lastly, place pan on stove and cook till liquid is  absorbed about 3 – 5 minutes.

If you like this paella recipe, pop over to Allrecipes and give your review to the creator of this seafood recipe. I’m sure Chef John would appreciate it.

Visit Spain – Mixed Paella

As you might guess mixed paella is a mixture of any of the ingredients in the other two paella types. Add any combination of meats and veggies that suit you. What really makes the paella special and unique is the saffron.

You can add artichoke hearts or green beans and seafood beyond shrimp and mussels…use your imagination.

Visit Spain – Colorful paella rice for kids:

If you have young picky eaters to consider during your family vacation show them yellow rice  before the trip so it will be less dramatic.

Put yellow food coloring in rice. Talk about how rice can be served in all colors. Let them smell, touch, etc. Even if they won’t eat it they’ll be less likely to flip out when they see it in Spain.


What makes the rice in paella yellow? A spice called saffron.

photo credit:

photo credit:

Saffron is a really cool spice that comes from the crocus flower and it is the most expensive spice in the world. Why? Well, the spice is those little orange stick pieces (the stigma – and only the 3 female stigmas per flower are used) in the center of the flower. They must be hand picked. Imagine how long it would take to get even a large spoon full.

photo credit:

photo credit:

See if your city has a Spanish restaurant that serves paella. Try it before you go on your family adventure to Spain. Then compare the paella you have at home with the paella you have in Spain! Some wonderful dinner conversation.

Visit Spain – Spanish Churros

Spanish Churros are a wonderful and very spanish creation that you simply MUST try on your family vacation to Spain. The Spanish churros remind me a little of a donut but crunchier….also a little like a funnel cake, but thicker. You dip this dried pastry dough stick into what is called hot chocolate and served in a little cup with your churros.

Churros with hot chocolate in madrid spain

The hot chocolate is WAY thicker than the hot chocolate you usually drink. I think it is more like warm chocolate pudding and it is as fabulous as it sounds! Take a moment to imagine it – warm chocolate pudding. YUM!

Perhaps what makes this ‘hot chocolate’ warm pudding creation so fantastic is that it is made right here in San Gines chocolateria from their own recipe.

boy eating churros and hot chocolate in madrid at san gines chocolateria

San Gines is down an alley not far from Plaza del Sol – Get directions from google maps.  Come any time you can fit this treat into your schedule as the place is open 24 hours a day – 365 days a year. The busiest times for the restaurant is Saturdays between 11 – noon and 6 pm – 10 pm.

No matter how you describe it, the warm donut like stick Spanish churros dipped into the thick, warm pudding like hot chocolate is nothing less than a little bit of Spanish heaven! Save room after dinner one night to have fun with this local treat. We were glad we did!!

We couldn’t wait to visit the most famous Spanish churros restaurant in Madrid, San Gines Chocolateria. Churros and the hot chocolate have been served here since 1894. Pay first….then the food will be delivered. Admire all the photos on the walls of customers from the past!

San Gines Chocolateria in Madrid Spain

Chocolateria San Gines

Pasadizo de San Gines 5

28013 Madrid, Spain

+34 913 65 65 46

Visit Spain – Churros Recipe from Nagi at Recipe Tin Eats

Whenever you want to celebrate with a sweet treat, you’ll love this recipe because you can make them ahead and then ‘recrisp’ them in the oven.

Churros recipe ingredients coating:

1/4 cup fine sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

Churros recipe ingredients churros:

1 cup white flour (NOT self rising flour)

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

1 T olive oil

1 cup boiled water

2 cups oil for frying

Churros recipe ingredients for chocolate sauce:

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (they kind for cooking melt better than the eating type)

1/2 cup heavy cream

Churros Recipe directions:

  1. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a bowl large enough to add the cooked churros later.
  2. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, oil and water. Mixture should be thick.
  3. To get the right shape, use a piping bag like the ones used for icing decoration.
  4. Heat the oil for frying.
  5. Pipe lengths of dough – 4-6 inches, right into the hot oil. Cook 2 – 3 min.
  6. Drain on paper towel then roll in sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Visit Spain – Tapas

Tapas are a really fun part of the Spanish culture. The word really means ‘snack’ or ‘appetizer’ which we certainly have in other places around the world, but in Spain, it rises to a whole new level. When you venture out to restaurants or bars in Spain, you’ll find that the variety of tapas is HUGE! People order many different types which allows you to taste a wide variety of foods. You’ll love making them at home.

For the littles, we made their regular food ‘small’ and offered a variety to get them familiar with the idea. I find that they just love their food cut small to eat with a little toothpick. The decorated toothpicks are even more fun!

Love these toothpicks for Christmas – how fun!

The bear toothpicks are extra fun for Spanish tapas because the symbol for Madrid is a bear and a strawberry tree.

Use your own ‘go to’ appetizer recipes like the kid friendly pigs in blankets or branch out and try something new!

Visit Spain – Tapas Recipe #1 Gambas Pil Pil

Since we just love shrimp and seafood, this tapas recipe was the first one I tried. I found this tapas recipe from Claire at Sprinkles and Sprouts. It is simple and delicious! Note of warning….dice or slice garlic, do NOT crush or grate because it is too easy to burn if it is small.

Gambas Pil Pil tapas recipe ingredients:

10 – 12 raw shrimp, shelled and deveined – leave the tail on for a little handle

2 T olive oil

4 garlic cloves – diced or sliced – it matters!!! Do not crush or grate.

2 tsp dried chili flakes (or more if you like it really hot!)

pinch of salt

1 T flat leaf parsley

Gamas Pil Pil tapas recipe directions:

  1. Heat oil then add garlic and chili. Stir.
  2. Add shrimp. Cook over high heat till they turn pink. This happens really fast so watch carefully.
  3. To serve, sprinkle with salt and chopped parsley.

Visit Spain – Tapas Recipe #2 – Fried Spanish Califlower Tapas

We were introduced to fried cauliflower from a fantastic mediterranean restaurant in Houston called Fadi’s Mediterranena Grill. Oh, it is the most delicious thing. AND we all know that cauliflower is really super duper good for you – even if it is fried. So, of course I had to try this Spanish version of fried cauliflower from Annemarie at Just a Little Bit of Bacon for our tapas party to get us ready for our family vacation to Spain. We love it so much it is often part of our regular menu at home.

You can also feel even better about this recipe by baking in the oven instead of frying. To be completely honest, it isn’t as good, but it is close and you can feel a whole lot better about eating it frequently.

Fried Spanish Cauliflower Tapas Recipe Ingredients:

1 medium  head of cauliflower

vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1 1/3 dried bread crumbs

1 tsp paprika


Fried Spanish Cauliflower Tapas Recipe Directions

Steam cauliflower for 5 -7 minutes. I put about an inch of water in a pot and bring to boil. Put the cauliflower in and put on the lid. Super easy and quick way to steam and entire head of cauliflower.

Plunge into cold water and then drain on paper towels. To be honest, I often skip the cold water step and things always turn out OK. Cut into bite sized pieces.

Heat oil. Crack eggs into a bowl and stir. In another bowl combine bread crumbs, salt and paprika.

Roll cauliflower in egg mixture and then bread crumbs before adding to hot oil. Fry for 1- 2 minutes just until the coating is golden brown. (for a healthier version – bake at 425 instead of frying)

Serve while still warm. You will be so happily surprised at how delicious something healthy like cauliflower can be!!!

Visit Spain – Spanish Ham or Jamon Iberico

Spanish ham or jamon Iberico is an absolute religion in Spain. Throw out everything you think you know about ham before visiting this region and tasting the Spanish ham consider here –  the ONLY ham and certainly the BEST ham. Honestly, after trying the Spanish ham or jamon Iberico, you may entirely agree with the Spanish people who love their ham!

What makes Spanish ham fantastic is that it comes from the Iberico pig which grows up eating Bellota acorns. The price for the ham raised on Bellota acorns is MUCH higher, sometimes twice as expensive, than Spanish ham from pigs that have eaten other things.

The four grades of jam on Iberico are:

Jamon Iberico de bellota

This ham comes from Iberico pigs that have eaten bellota acorns exclusively. The hams are aged and are labeled by age ‘ reserva’ or ‘gran reserve’. This category is the priciest.

Jamon Iberico de recebo

The ham in this category comes from Iberico pigs that have eaten cereals and acorns. The hams are then aged for 3 years.

Jamon Iberico cebo de campo

The ham in this category comes from Iberico pigs that are free range and fed only cereals

Jamon Iberico de cebo

The ham in this category is the least expensive and comes from commecially raised pigs fed only cereals.

Beyond the highest grades of ham, there are other hams to try as well.

Serrano ham in Spain

 Spanish Ham – Jamon de Trevelez

White pigs – not the black hooved Iberico pigs, are fed cereals. The sweetness of the ham is from the climate.

Spanish Ham – Jamon de Teruel

These white pigs are raised in the mountains and the ham is aged 12 months before being sold.

Go ahead and splurge to try the real deal! Celebrate the complexities of Spanish ham like you would a fine wine – just like the Spanish!

You don’t just stop at ham in Spain! All of the pig is used so there is a large variety of pork products like sausages and tenderloin.

It is available at restaurants and bars and even at take away fast food restaurants. Try a little bit of all of it for an authentic flavor of Spain.

Happy travels and memory making!

Natalie, The Educational Tourist


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