Food

It’s hard to pin down what authentic “American food” really is. Apple pie? Whatever’s on the McDonald’s menu? Battered and deep-fried oreos? Anything with over 2,000 calories per serving?

I don’t know, but one thing’s for sure — this ain’t it:

American Food at the German Supermarket American Food at the German Supermarket

This is a recent weekly ad for the German discount grocery store Penny. While the colors may fool you into thinking that they are offering a selection of American goodies, very few products actually resemble anything you would find any American’s kitchen. Hamburger Sauce, anyone? How about Pulled Pork Soup?

Last time Penny had its American week, I tried the Tex-Mex Pizza with Hot Dog-Stuffed Crust. As you can probably guess, it was pretty gross, and I actually ended up only eating the hot dog-stuffed crust. But since so many people were interested in the German’s twisted concept of what counts as American food, I decided to ask on the Welcome to Germerica Facebook page what I should try from the latest selection of Penny’s American food. Unfortunately for me, the consensus was that I should try the absolute least appealing items from the advertisement: Pulled Pork Soup, Jarred Hot Dogs, and Bacon Mac & Cheese. So, I went shopping…

For some mysterious reason, Pulled Pork Soup was out of stock (who was buying that?!), but I did still pick up three items: Jarred Hot Dogs, Bacon Mac & Cheese, and Salted Microwave Popcorn. The salted microwave popcorn is the one thing that I always pick up whenever the German supermarkets have their American weeks (the Germans prefer sweet popcorn {gross}, and when I am able to find salted popcorn, it’s typically more expensive).

First up: Jarred Hot Dogs

In order to properly review the jarred hot dogs, I also picked up a normal package of hot dogs. Interestingly, the normal hot dogs were the exact same price per gram, and they had the exact same ingredients and nutritional facts. However, the shape and color were definitely quite different. Below you can see comparisons of how they looked pre- and post-cooking (I fried them in a pan).

Jarred Hot Dog Review

The non-jarred variety is much more visually appealing. They browned very well, and the skin became nice and crispy. The jarred hot dogs, on the other hand, ended up looking like a fat detached finger that had soaked in the bathtub too long.

My taste test confirmed that you can judge a hot dog by its cover. The jarred hot dogs were quite soft, and the casing was chewy. My husband also easily picked out the jarred hot dog in a blind taste taste.

However, the jarred hot dogs were still edible (and I did finish the jar, believe it or not). I can imagine that they are quite useful for long camping trips, but I wouldn’t suggest buying them for any situations outside of that.

5/10 – would recommend for survivalists

Next up: Bacon Mac & Cheese.

Immediately upon opening up the package, I was very disappointed to realize that this was not an imitation of boxed Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Instead, it was an imitation of Easy Mac – the noodles and powder were already mixed together, and I was just supposed to heat it in water for about 7 minutes or however long it takes to become sauce-y.

Despite measuring the water correctly and heating it on the stove, I was cooking my noodles for about 15 minutes and the sauce still was not thickening. So, I called it quits and went ahead to plating this abomination.

Even if I were to ignore soup-iness of the mac and cheese, the flavor was still disgusting. The sauce just tasted like milky water mixed with onion powder and liquid smoke.

0/10 – wouldn’t recommend for anyone

Oh, and good news! Just a couple days after purchasing these products, my husband was shopping at Penny and found the Pulled Pork Soup! I still haven’t tried it, but I promise to post another taste test here once I feel courageous enough to open up the can.

What do you consider typical “American food”? Would you purchase (or even eat) and of these products?

Food

Once every couple months, each of the German discount grocery stores (Lidl, Aldi, Penny, etc.) has an “American week” where they sell American-branded food products. These specialty weeks are a great opportunity for us American expats to pick up typical American goodies like salted popcorn and peanut butter. However, they also carry some food abominations that even the US hasn’t even had the audacity to create.
Penny’s most recent “American week” included this masterpiece, and I just had to try it  out:
Germany's American food - Tex-Mex Pizza with Hot-Dog Crust
Tex-Mex Pizza with Hot Dog-Stuffed Crust
This mix of American/Mexican/Italian/German cuisine was so baffling, I posted a picture to the Welcome to Germerica Facebook page. So many of you were just as baffled as I was, so I went out and picked one up.
American food at German grocery stores
Photoshoot in Penny!
Unpackaging the pizza back at home, my German husband asked me the question I am sure is on all your minds:
“Is is just one really long sausage in the crust, or a lot of little sausages?” 
Well, maybe you weren’t thinking that, but I bet you are now! I was excited to find out, so into the oven it went.

Tex-mex pizza with hot dog crust

Frozen tex-mex pizza with hot dog crust

American food found in Germany

Frozen tex-mex pizza with hot dog crust

After 18 minutes, it was done and looking… delicious? Naja, not really. But it was done. 
By the way, all of the following images are unfiltered and unedited. Just a Tex-Mex pizza with sausage-stuffed crust in all its natural glory.
Frozen tex-mex pizza with hot dog crust

Frozen tex-mex pizza with hot dog crust

Frozen tex-mex pizza with hot dog crust

I was most curious about cutting into it and seeing the hot dog-stuffed crust. And when I did, I was actually quite pleased with how it looked. I mean, it looked like edible hot dogs, which was more than I can say about the ground beef (if you can call it that) on the top of the pizza. 

Frozen tex-mex pizza with hot dog crust

Pizza with hot dogs in the crust

But just one bite of the thing, and… well… I think my facial expressions speak for themselves.

The worst part is that instead of normal pizza sauce, this had some kind of spicy ketchup. It was gross. I was also really weary about eating any of the “ground beef” on the pizza. So, I didn’t eat much more than that one bite.
The crust, on the other hand…

The crust was actually alright!
I love hot dogs. I especially love pigs in a blanket  and the crust of this pizza was basically just one big round pig in a blanket.

And guess what!

Pizza with hot dogs in the crust

I found out that the crust is actually made up over lots of little hot dogs, not just one big one. I guess that was a little disappointing, but in the interest of not wasting food, I did eat all the crusts off the pizza 😉

Would you have eaten this pizza? 
Should I try out more “American” food from German grocery stores?

Food

As much as I have integrated into German culture, there is one custom I do not regularly taken part in: buying bread from the bakery.

Kürbisstuten: German pumpkin bread

Bakeries are a big part of traditional German culture, and I remember being shocked with how many bakeries there are (and how popular they are) when I first came to Germany in 2011. Unfortunately, I am not a big bread-eater, and heaven knows that I do not need more sweets and pastries in my life. So, I avoid bakeries. In fact, I have probably only bought something from a bakery about 10 times during my 3 years in Germany. That’s nothing considering most Germans seem to go at least once per week.
Kürbisstuten: German pumpkin bread

However, there is one specific item that draws me to the bakery each November: Kürbisstuten.

For my American palate, pumpkin-flavored food items are seriously lacking in Germany. So, I was seriously excited when I found this delicious pumpkin bread 2 years ago, which I bought for Thanksgiving dinner. Just to clarify, this bread is not sweet like most American pumpkin breads probably would be. However, it does still have a slight sweetness, somewhat like cornbread. It is simply a delicious, moist bread with small pieces of pureed pumpkin throughout.

Kürbisstuten: German pumpkin bread

Quick side story: Marco never heard of Kürbisstuten before I randomly bought it from the bakery 2 years ago. So, when picking one up the other day, he asked the baker for a “Kürbisstute,” assuming that Kürbisstuten was the plural form. It isn’t. Turns out, a Stuten is a type of sweet yeast bread (Kürbis means pumpkin). A Stute, on the other hand, is a mare (female horse).

Kürbisstuten: German pumpkin bread

To eat it, I like to cut off thick slices, toast it until lightly browned in the toaster, and spread on lots of butter. The bread goes especially well with chili, in my opinion, which is also one of my favorite meals during Autumn. Mmmm…

What is your favorite German bakery item?

Food

If you didn’t already know, I love Reese’s peanut butter cups. Actually, I love all things peanut butter and chocolate, which is a shame since I live in Germany, where this type of candy really doesn’t exist. 
After getting several shipments of Reese’s and other peanut butter and chocolate candy from my family in the U.S., I finally decided to try making my own, and it actually turned out great!
Homemade Reese's peanut butter cups
Yes, those are the peanut butter cups that I made! Look at that magazine-worthy photography!
To make this recipe you will need:
  • 200 g chocolate
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
Of course all of these amounts can be adjusted to your personal preferences. I like thin layers of chocolate and a thick layer of peanut butter in the middle. I also chose to use dark chocolate instead of milk.

For this recipe, you will also need muffin forms. The paper ones work great and give the Reese’s that iconic ridged look along the edge. I used silicon muffin forms, which also worked great. Best of all, they are reusable, and I bought them on Amazon for only 5€. 

Ingredients for homemade Reese's peanut butter cups
Half of the chocolate will be used for the bottom layer of the peanut butter cups, and the other half will be for the top layer. So, you should start by setting out your muffin forms, and melting half (100 g) of the chocolate. I chose to use dark chocoalte (50%), but obviously milk chocolate would be more traditional. 
If you want the chocolate to be very soft like the original Reese’s, then you can also mix in a couple teaspoons of peanut butter into the chocolate.
Melting chocolate for homemade Reese's peanut butter cups

Once it is melted, spoon a thin layer into the bottom of each of the muffin forms. If you want to make sure that the peanut butter does not show through on the sides, then you should try to drag the chocolate up on the sides of the muffin forms as well.
Melting chocolate for homemade Reese's peanut butter cups

I tried to make the layers about 0.5 cm in the bottom of the forms. Some ended up closer to 1 cm, but that’s okay.  Place the forms into the refrigerator or freezer to harden the chocolate. 
Silicone forms for homemade Reese's peanut butter cups

While the first layer of chocolate is hardening, mix the peanut butter, powdered sugar, and butter. You can melt the peanut butter and butter in the microwave to make it easier to mix. 
Mixing peanut butter for homemade Reese's peanut butter cups

Once the chocolate is hardened, pull the forms out of the fridge, and add a layer of peanut butter. To make sure the peanut butter doesn’t show through too much, try not to let it touch the sides of the form. You can add as much or as little peanut butter you want — I like a lot of peanut butter and thin layers of chocolate.

Peanut butter layer for homemade Reese's peanut butter cups
Let the peanut butter layer harden in the refrigerator or freezer for a little bit, then add the final layer of chocolate. You only need to add enough to completely cover the peanut butter layer. Once that is done, put your peanut butter back in the refrigerator to completely harden before eating!

Homemade Reese's peanut butter cups

Homemade Reese's peanut butter cups
Are there any other types of American candy that I should try to recreate?
Expat Life, Food

Do you know what’s in a Milky Way? What about a Mars? Well, depending on where you are from, you may be confused when buying these candy bars in a different country.

Let’s start off with a little test.

What kind of candy bar is this?

What kind of candy bar is this?

Answers:
1. If you answered Milky Way, then you are buying your candy bars in Germany/Europe.
    If you answered 3 Musketeers, then you are buying them in the U.S.
2. If you answered Milky Way, then you are buying your candy bars in the U.S.
    If you answered Mars, then you are buying them in Germany/Europe.
Confusing, huh?
The German boyfriend and I first realized these differences when he visited me in the U.S. I was eating a Milky Way, and although it clearly said “Milky Way” on the package, Marco argued that what I was eating was actually a Mars bar, Fast forward a few years, and I am starting to get a grasp on the confusing variations of candy bars from the Mars Corporation.
To clear things up, let’s look at the filling and packing of the various candy bars in question.
Here is what an American Milky Way looks like:
American Milky Way
Here is what a German Milky Way looks like:
Milky Way packaging in EuropeGerman/European Milky Way

The Wikipedia article on Milky Way describes the difference as:

The European version [of the Milky Way] has no caramel topping, and consists of a nougat center that is considerably lighter than that of the Mars bar.

Basically, the German Milky Way is the American 3 Musketeers (a candy bar name that does not exist outside in Europe):

3 Musketeers - American candy bar
And the American Milky Way is the same as the German Mars:
Mars packagingGerman Mars Bar
So, to review:
German Milky Way = American 3 Musketeers
American Milky Way = German Mars
We also know that the 3 Musketeers does not exist in Europe, which leaves us with the question: What is an American Mars bar?
Personally, I have never eaten an American Mars bar, nor do I remember ever seeing them in stores. Turn out, they were discontinued in 2002, 
But if you were curious, this is what the American Mars looked like:
American Mars bar
This candy bar contained nougat and almonds – a variation that I am pretty sure doesn’t exist in Germany or the U.S. anymore… Although, as a lover of nutty candy bars (Baby Ruth is my favorite), I think I would have quite liked it!
What is your favorite candy bar?
Expat Life, Food

If you grew up in America, then chances are that you grew up loving Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Even after living in Germany for nearly 2 years now, I still miss the contents of that little blue box.

So, I have been slaving away in my test kitchen over these past few years trying to figure out a way to recreate the secret Kraft recipe here in Germany.

How to Make Imitation Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

Before someone says it in the comments, let me first address two things:

1. Yes, you can find off-brand macaroni and cheese in Germany. 

My answer to that?

Very few grocery stores carry it, it is extremely over-priced, and no off-brand can compare to the deliciousness of Kraft.

2. Yes, there are lots of amazing recipes online that try to recreate Kraft mac and cheese.

My answer to that?

Most of the cheeses those recipes require are super expensive in Germany (have any of my fellow expats tried to buy cheddar lately?), and those recipes take way too much effort.

Here were my requirements in trying to create German Kraft Macaroni and Cheese:
  1. Ingredients must be available at my local discount grocery store. 
  2. Ingredients for one serving must cost less than 2 EUR.
  3. Total cooking time must be under 20 minutes.
  4. Cooking process must require no more than one saucepan, a colander, and a stirring utensil.
After nearly two years in Germany, I was finally able to fulfill all of these requirements with a imitation Kraft macaroni and cheese recipe that makes the German boyfriend gag, but let’s not try to pretend like Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is some kind of delicatessen.

Imitation macaroni and cheese

Only two ingredients are absoluately necessary to make this macaroni and cheese. These are:

  • Noodles
  • Schmelzkäse
Schmelzkäse is basically a meltier and stickier version of American cheese, and it comes in many different colors and flavors. You can buy whichever kind tickles your fancy.

Now, let’s get to how you make it:

Step 1: Boil Noodles

If you can find macaroni, perfect! My local discount grocery store doesn’t carry macaroni noodles, though, so I just bought these curly noodles. Since I am only cooking for one, I make about three handfuls of these noodles.

Noodles for German macaroni and cheese
Noodles for German macaroni and cheeseNoodles for imitation macaroni and cheese

Noodles for imitation macaroni and cheese

Boiling pasta
Boiling the water in my electric kettle first really make me feel like I have successfully assimilated to the German lifestyle.
Boiling pasta
Boiling pasta
Remember that it’s not macaroni and cheese unless you strain the your noodles in a $2 colander that you bought from IKEA five years ago.

Step 2: Mix in Cheese

After the noodles are cooked and drained, put them back in the saucepan, and add your cheese. For my 3 handfuls of noodles, I use 2-3 slices of Schmelzkäse. I like this white “herzhaft-würzig” kind. Unfortunately, the yellow food dye us Americans love is banned in many European countries, so to get your macaroni and cheese to appear as Kraft-like as possible, just try to find the brightest yellow Schmelzkäse you can find.

German form of American cheese

Unwrap the cheese, throw it in the pan, and stir like crazy. To make it creamy, I do also suggest adding some butter and possibly milk. To minimize on dishes, I do not measure. But I guess I use about a tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons of milk.

Butter for macaroni and cheese

Schmelzkäse pasta
You know its Kraft Macaroni & Cheese quality when the cheese resembles plastic.

Imitation Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Recipe
Don’t worry, it eventually melts and turns into this!

Imitation Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
For an extra special touch, make sure to eat it off of those ugly plates that the person who lived in your apartment before you left behind.
German macaroni and cheese

Enjoy!

What is your favorite boxed/frozen meal? Have you ever tried recreating it from scratch?
Culture, Food

If you are grocery shopping in the U.S., here is something you would never see when opening up a dozen of store-bought eggs:

Eggs in Germany
I distinctly remember my first time grocery shopping in Germany. I spent quite a while looking for the eggs in the refrigerated section before a friend pointed out that they found them near the bread. As if that was not strange enough for my American brain to process (I mean, who doesn’t refrigerate their eggs?!), I opened the case to check for broken ones and found that they were all covered in feathers, dirt, and god-only-knows-what-else.
Over the past three years, I have learned to enjoy seeing the poop and feather-covered eggs. The German boyfriend says that it is a sign that the eggs are really eggs. They are created by hens, get laid onto a dirty ground, and we all enjoy eating them for breakfast. So it goes.
Eggs in Germany
However, I never really thought about the reason for this until I recently found an article about why American eggs would be illegal in a British supermarket and vice versa. You see, it is law in the U.S. that all eggs must be washed with warm water and a non-scented detergent. The issue with this, however, is that any moisture on the egg serves as a vehicle for pathogens to travel through the porous shell. Therefore, American egg-washers (is that a job?) must also make sure the eggs are thoroughly dried before shipping them off to the grocery store.
Since washing eggs is a delicate process, one can already start to see why it is illegal throughout the European Union to wash eggs before selling them. To top it off, the egg has a natural coating on it that protects it from contamination. Wash the egg, and you remove this coating. Therefore, European farmers are simply encouraged to keep the hen’s area clean to ensure that eggs do not become completely poop-covered.
What do you think? Do you like the idea of having clean eggs? Or do you prefer seeing your eggs au naturel?
Expat Life, Food

My March article for Expat Focus was about the American foods that I miss most. To accompany the article, I wanted to make a blog post with some delicious pictures. I also put the six foods that I mentioned in order according to what I miss most.

6. Girl Scout Cookies (particularly Samoas)

Girl Scout Cookies by Hinnosaar

5. Root Beer

A&W Root Beer by Banzai Hiroaki

4. Cheese Popcorn

Billy’s Lounge Popcorn by stevendepolo

3. Red Licorice

Red Vines by Incase

2. Reese’s

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups by KEF08

1. Mac and Cheese

Kraft Mac & Cheese Three Cheese by Myself 🙂

For more words on this subject, make sure to check out my article on Expat Focus!

Food

The local grocery store had bacon and cheese filled hot dogs last week. As soon as I saw the advertisement in the newspaper, I knew I had to get them.

The package contained six huge sausages. So, for dinner that night, Marco ate three, and I ate two.

We grilled them on the panini grill, which is how Marco likes to cook everything nowadays.

You can see they didn’t exactly fit on our plates.

Now, I have to preface my review by saying that cheese-filled anything is my favorite kind of food. So, I had high hopes for these guys. Marco, of course, was more excited for the bacon part.
And I have to say, overall, they were pretty good. I was happy that the bacon flavor wasn’t too strong, but you could definitely still taste it. You can see some of the bacon and fat bits in the picture on the right. They were definitely lacking in the cheese area, however.
Although, we did still end up buying another package that same week 😉
What is your favorite kind of sausage?
Food

Germans aren’t big on peanut butter. In fact, when I made Marco try it for the first time almost three years ago, he told me it was disgusting. Luckily, he’s been around it so much since then that he has grown to like it.

I, on the other hand, love peanut butter. I probably go through about two jars per month. Sometimes I think that I am responsible for at least half of Lüneburg’s peanut butter sales.

So, I decided I will start keeping a little log of all the brands I try in Germany.

We will start with the three I have in my cupboard at the moment:

1. McEnnedy Smooth Peanut Butter

Where to get it: I bought this one from Lidl, a German grocery store, during their “American Week” (it is only during this time that Lidl sells peanut butter at all). Do you like the stereotypical American label?

What it tastes like: It basically tastes like off-brand Jif. Very smooth and very sweet. It’s made from 93% peanuts, but brown sugar as the second ingredient on the list.

Would I buy it again: Definitely not my favorite, but I still like it on toast. So, I would buy it whenever American Week rolls around again.

2. Alnatura Crunchy Peanut Butter



Where to get it: This is an “all natural” brand, and you can see on the bottom that it is also organic (bio in German). It is sold at DM, which is like a German Walgreens.

What does it taste like: If you look at the peanut butter on the spoon, you can immediately see that this has quite a strange consistency and color. It is very dry and very salty. It tastes like eating chopped up peanuts covered in fat, which it basically is. The only ingredients listed are peanuts (88%), oil, and salt. I would say that they didn’t keep the blender on long enough when they made this, though. It is full of whole and half peanuts.

Would I buy it again: Definitely not. It is not spreadable by any means, so the only real option is to eat it with a spoon, which is not particularly enjoyable.

3. PCD Pinda Kaas

Where to get it: This one actually comes from the Netherlands, hence the strange name (Pindakaas). They carry it at Edeka, which is one of Germany’s biggest supermarkets, though.

What does it taste like: This one is actually my favorite peanut butter that I have tried in Germany so far. It is creamy, but has a slight grittiness to it that reminds you it is made from real peanuts.

Would I buy it again: The one in the picture is already empty, and that is probably the 5th jar I have bought in the past 6 months. So… yeah.

What’s your favorite brand of peanut butter? Do you like your peanut butter crunchy or creamy?