Thursday, February 12, 2015

Versatile Flour Tortillas

We eat a lot of Mexican on the boat. It's tasty, it's easy, and the ingredients are easy to store. A good many of our recipes use flour tortillas. If you've never made them yourself, you may not want to - they are so good that you will have a very difficult time going back to store bought after that, so be prepared to make a lot of tortillas! Just remember that these tortillas don't have the preservatives in them that the store bought ones do that make them last an unnaturally long time without molding. Make small enough batches that you can use them in a day or two, or store them in the fridge for about a week max. A note on ingredients: I have not tried these with whole wheat flour yet, but if you do you will need to cut it about 1/2 and 1/2 with white flour and you may need substantially more liquid. You can also cook some spinach and use the drained, pressed-out water for the water in these. Use your imagination. On the shortening, lard or butter - I personally abhor shortening. The Mexicans use lard exclusively for their tortillas and I find it makes a better one.


2-1/2 cups of white flour
1 Tbl shortening or lard or butter.
1 tsp. of baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4-1 cup boiling water


Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together. Cut in the shortening until it resembles very fine cornmeal.

Add 1/2 cup of the boiling water and then begin to mix it with a fork. Add the remaining water a very little at a time and continue mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. You may not need all the water. The dough should be soft but not sticky at all.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it's smooth and elastic, usually just a few minutes.

Oil the surface of the dough and put it back in the bowl and let it rest, covered, for 10 minutes.

Break off golf ball sized hunks of dough and roll them into balls. Keep the balls covered while you work the tortillas so the dough doesn't dry out.  Roll a ball out with a rolling pin until it's very thin but you can still handle it without tearing it.

Preheat a cast iron skillet to medium high and lower the tortilla into the pan carefully so you don't fold it over on itself. Cook it until bubbles start to form.

Flip it and continue to cook it until it has brown spots on the bottom. Move the tortillas to a plate and cover with another plate. The moisture from the warm tortilla will help to soften it. Continue to stack the warm tortillas, but rearrange them periodically so they become evenly moist and soft. If you are making tacos, you can begin to fry the tortillas in oil right away . Use tongs to hold the taco shape as you fry them.Serve warm or cool completely and store in a plastic bag with a paper towel inside the bag to absorb excess moisture.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Beer Cheese Dip

A friend of ours recently brought this dip to sundowners in our cockpit. It's incredibly easy, tastes great, and the ingredients are easy to store on a boat. Besides, it has the side benefit of not using an entire bottle of beer so you <ahem> have to drink the rest. Thanks Tricia for an excellent recipe!


8 oz of cream cheese (whipped or regular either one works great)
1/2 package of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix powder
Cheddar cheese grated


Beat the cream cheese in a small bowl until creamy. You can do this by hand if you don't have a mixer and it will work just as well. Add the Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix and stir it in well. Add as much cheddar as you want. The more cheddar, the cheesier the taste. I used a very sharp cheddar which seems to balance the beer flavor well.  Add a little beer at a time, stirring well in between. Add enough beer to make a light, spreadable consistency. You can vary the flavor of this dip a tremendous amount by what beer you choose. I used Blue Moon for this sample and the taste is pretty light. If you use a darker beer it will make the taste much richer. Choose what you like. Serve it with crackers, fritos, pretzels or veggies.