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Homemade Flour Tortillas

23 Apr

Tortillas are one of those things that after making them from scratch, the store bought variety just aren’t the same. Yes, it takes a little time and effort, but if you have both of those, I’d definitely go for it!

I used this recipe with the brisket tacos from the last post, but halved the recipe and made them half the size to give them a bite-sized feel. You can use these for regular tacos or fajitas, breakfast burritos, or just heated with some butter as a simple snack. (Am I the only one who does that?) Not only do they taste great and fresh, but you can really impress folks with your tortilla-making skills at your next fiesta!

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Ingredients: 
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 heaping tsp salt
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened (or shortening)
3/4 to 1 cup water

Yield: 12 tortillas

Directions:
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and butter in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade. Pulse the mixture until the mixture is crumbly, about 5 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

With the food processor running, add the water in a slow steady stream until the dough just forms a cohesive ball. Knead for 30 seconds more, until the dough is tacky. If the bowl is too sticky, add a bit more flour. If it’s too dry, add a bit more water.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Working with one dough ball at a time and keeping the others covered, pat the ball into a disc. Dust dough lightly with flour and roll it into a very thin circle, 8 inches in diameter, with a rolling pin.

Carefully transfer the shaped tortilla to the heated skillet and cook each side for 10-20 seconds, just until bubbles form and are lightly browned. (Do not overcook or the tortillas will be too stiff) Repeat this process with the remaining dough balls, lowering the heat as needing to prevent burning. Store in an airtight bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or freeze.

Source: Annie’s Eats – she gives step by step photos too!

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The Shiner Series: Wild Hare Pale Ale

27 Feb

I always get so giddy when I find out about a new Shiner brew. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get my paws on their new Wild Hare Pale Ale. I haven’t tried many ales in my life, but this one had a bolder flavor than I was expecting. The hops make themselves known from the start and I was impressed with the “rich malt flavor” they promised. It’s golden amber color was beautiful and you can definitely pick up on a light taste of citrus and pine.

This is actually the first ale ever made at the Spoetzl Brewery. I say “well done!” to the first timers and can’t wait to see what else they have up their sleeves!

And to top it off, they have fun retro-style commercials: 🙂

Wild Hare Pale Ale: Characteristics

Wild Hare Pale Ale: Dominance

Wild Hare Pale Ale: Breeding Habits

Giveaway: OXO Good Grips Egg Beater

14 Dec

Old fashioned egg beaters – do people still use them? I’d personally never used one so was very intrigued to give one a try. I have this image in my head of my grandmother using one while cooking and baking in her kitchen. But who says old fashioned egg beaters can’t make a come back? With OXO’s new product, I think they could!

OXO was kind enough to send me one of their new Good Grips Egg Beaters to try. Just like the name hints, the handle is soft and easy to grip, making the job super simple and comfortable. This product does a great job of combining the classic structure of an egg beater with slightly newer innovations. For example, the stainless steel beaters can simply pop out of the base to make tasting and cleaning easier. The base also easily detaches with the simple push of a button and is dishwasher safe! There is also a “bridge” between the two beaters that helps it rest against the bowl, keeping everything balanced and helping to relieve any possible arm strain.

If you couldn’t tell, I really like this product! I used it to make the quiche in the previous post, along with whipping up an omelet this morning with some of my extra spinach and a handful of parmesan cheese. And even though it’s specifically called an egg beater, it can be used for so much more, like whipping cream and mixing batters.

So, thanks to the sweet folks at OXO, I have another Good Grips Egg Beater to give away to one of you! There are four easy ways to enter:

1. REQUIRED: Simply leave a comment on this post telling me if you’ve ever used an egg beater before.

2. “Like” OXO on Facebook and leave a separate comment saying you’ve done so.

3. Subscribe to Beckster’s Laboratory (on the left hand side of the site) and leave a separate comment saying you’ve done so.

4. “Like” Beckster’s Laboratory on Facebook and leave a separate comment saying you’ve done so.

The giveaway will be closed at midnight on December 25, 2011. (Texas time!) The winner will be randomly selected, announced, and contacted soon after. Good luck!

*This is not a paid promotion – the egg beaters were provided at no cost from OXO as part of their blogger outreach program

Cherry Limeade

21 Aug

As a refreshing summer treat, I surprised my hubby with a homemade version of a favorite beverage – the classic cherry limeade! We’re suckers for Sonic’s specialty drinks (especially during the daily happy hour when they’re 1/2 off!) and while my go-to Sonic drink is Ocean Water, he loves their Cherry Limeade. After seeing that a fellow food blogger posted her love for their drinks and shared their “secret recipe”, (thanks Jessica!) I knew I had to try it myself!

This is such a simple beverage to concoct; you can use regular Sprite or save calories with Sprite Zero or something similar. The only ingredient that might be hard to find is the cherry syrup. I found it at World Market – they have a fantastic selection of flavored syrups! I was slightly bummed that I didn’t have awesome ice like Sonic does – my big cubes just weren’t the same as their small “cubelet ice” as it’s known. Just a minor detail, I know, but regardless, this drink really hit the spot on a hot summer day in Texas!

Cherry Limeade

Ingredients:
Juice of 1 small lime
1/4 cup cherry syrup
1 can Sprite, 12 oz
Maraschino cherry and lime for garnish (optional)
Ice

Directions:
Put several ice cubes in a large glass. Add the cherry syrup, lime juice, and Sprite to the glass. Stir to combine. Add a maraschino cherry and slice of lime for garnish, if desired. Easy as that!

Source: Adapted from The Novice Chef Blog

NYC Cheesecake Battle

11 Aug

Cheesecake was big on my mind while in NYC last week – I’ve always heard about Roxy’s incredible cheesecake so definitely wanted to stop by there to try a bite.

My friend Jenny, however, is a fan of Junior’s cheesecake.

So, to settle this situation, we decided to have a cheesecake showdown! I went with a plain slice from each shop and before eating, was already convinced that Roxy’s was going to be my favorite due to the hype I’ve heard.
(Junior’s on left, Roxy’s on right)

But whenever I tasted the two, my mind quickly changed – Junior’s completely stood out! Junior’s really had the tanginess and creamy texture I was looking for in a good slice of cheesecake. And while Roxy’s wasn’t bad, it simply paled in comparison in texture and flavor. Even at first glance, Junior’s has the nice browned edge that gives it the authentic perfectly baked appearance.

So readers, if I ever make it back to NYC, are there any other favorite cheesecake spots I should check out? And if you’ve eaten cheesecake from either Roxy’s or Junior’s, what are your thoughts? 🙂

The Shiner Series: Spoetzl Brewery (Part 2)

6 Jul

So after the group tour, Anne took the three of us on an extended private tour of the brewery. It was awesome getting to see the whole process up close. We got to see everything we viewed from afar upstairs; the bottles going in for filling, capping, labeling, and packaging.

Some cool production facts:
-They have 80 tanks for fermenting
-85% of their production is Shiner Bock
-They make 600,000 barrels a year
-635 bottles are filled a minute
-They produce 1000 kegs a day
-Less than 3% of the bottles are damaged in production

The brewery is very good about being economical and resourceful – if a bottle has a label error, it’s taken to be cleaned and then reused. If a bottle breaks in the process, the glass is kept and sent back to their manufacturer to be recycled. We got to see the bottle graveyard…rest in pieces…

Then we were taken to the packaging area, where the bottles are placed into 6 packs, then put into cases.

Then after a pallet of cases is ready, they are stacked and sent to get wrapped in shrink wrap for safe transporting.

Then we were taken to another section of the brewery where the kegs are produced and stored. It was a very happy place. 🙂

The kegs are highly monitored for quality and quantity standards, and once they’re up to par, are sent to packaging and meet the shrink wrap machine too. Anne was telling us how they used to do that part by hand and it was very time consuming, as one can imagine. They would also play around sometimes and a poor brewery employee would end up like a shrink wrapped mummy. 🙂

Then we wandered through the shipping/receiving area and headed back towards the gift shop. When guests are done with the tour, they’re given four wooden coins to trade for a small cup of their choice of brew. (don’t worry, they have kid-friendly options too!) So we perused the gift shop and picked up some goodies while enjoying a fresh taste of our favorite beers.

Then, we had a nice surprise – Anne had asked Jimmy, the current brewmaster, to come over and meet us! Jimmy was a pleasure to speak with…he’s been working at the Spoetzl Brewery since he was a teenager. He started at the bottom of the food chain and has steadily worked his way to becoming the brewmaster. That was such a great thing to hear – knowing that hard work pays off and now, he knows all the different aspects of the brewery from experience. He was such a kind man and after asking about any upcoming special brews, we were told of one that’s in the works. I won’t spill the beans, but folks, it sounds amazing!

Jimmy then introduced us to an awesome man named T-Bone, the shipping supervisor. He directed us to bring our car around to the loading area for a special treat. Let’s just say we had several extra passengers for the drive home! 🙂

Fun fact: You’ll see a cute little white house on the property too – this is where Cecile Spoetzl, Kosmos’ daughter also known as “Miss Celie”, lived while she ran the brewery after her father’s death.

Then we went back inside to finish our sampling and relaxed in the hospitality room, where they show a video about the history of the brewery. There’s also this cool artwork on the wall, featuring Kosmos Spoetzl wearing that purple and green tie!

We went outside to take some more photos and finally had to say goodbye to the lovely town of Shiner. (I really want one of those benches, by the way!)

Thank you again to everyone we encountered on our trip – yall made it a truly unforgettable experience! An extra special thanks to Anne, Jimmy, and T-Bone: your generosity, kindness, and obvious love of Shiner beers has not gone unnoticed. I hope to visit yall again in the future! Prosit!

The Shiner Series: Spoetzl Brewery

5 Jul

“There’s nothing finer than an ice cold Shiner” – while this slogan stands true, I think visiting the place where the magic happens is rather fine too. 🙂 Last week, I had the chance to finally visit Shiner, TX – home of the Spoetzl Brewery and motherland of Shiner beers. This will be a two-part post, because I have A LOT to share! Let me start by saying that the hospitality, kindness, and generosity experienced on this trip were extraordinary. Thanks to everyone we encountered who made it a truly wonderful experience.

Jason, myself, and our friend Jessica headed out bright and early to beat the North Texas traffic as we headed south to Shiner. We jammed to Relient K’s new EP and chatted the whole way, enjoying views of the Texas countryside as we headed to our destination. After arriving an hour early (woo! lack of traffic!) we headed inside to meet up with Anne, who was our guide for the day and a sweetheart from the beginning.

She pointed us in the right direction for a quick lunch before our tour, so we headed to Friday’s Fried Chicken, a local joint just up the road from the brewery. Friday’s was such a homey small town eatery where the locals and visitors alike converged. With a wide selection of sandwiches, homemade baked goods, and of course, fried chicken, we definitely enjoyed our lunch.

We got back to the brewery just in time for the 1:30 tour which Anne was leading. She was the perfect combination of Southern hospitality and professionalism – keeping everyone interested and answering questions like a pro. Anne allowed us to take pictures on the tour (thanks!) but sadly our nice camera was accidently left at home, so iPhone photos will have to suffice. We started on the lower level as a group and were given a brief history of the Spoetzl Brewery. There were some neat photos of Kosmos Spoetzl, the first brewer and namesake of the Shiner brewery. Besides being an excellent brewmaster who was handpicked for the job by the local Germans and Czechs, he was known to be a fun and colorful man, wearing a purple and green tie in this famous image.

Then the group was led upstairs to where the brew kettles and the brewery’s laboratory are located. (Beckster was pretty excited to see the “Laboratory” sign, as one can imagine) The brews are seriously tested and monitored for quality levels – only the best!

Cups of hops were passed around so we could see and smell the different kinds used for different brews. Love the hands on aspect! Interesting fact: their hops are from Germany, the Czech Republic, and Washington.

Then we moved on to another section where you could peek into the brewery and see all the action happening, from bottling to capping, labeling to packaging. We got to see the crew at work and even witnessed them fixing a jam in the machinery. Thanks for your hard work, Shiner employees. 🙂

Anne walked us through the brewing process and discussed each of the current Shiner brews. She even shared some favorite recipes and stories of her own, like brownies made with the Shiner Bohemian Black Lager.

Side note: To any readers living in states with more strict alcohol laws (like Oklahoma), to find your favorite beers with higher than 3.2% alcohol content by weight (rather than the low-point versions), visit liquor stores to find what you seek. Good to know!

PS: If you’re ever on this tour yourself, check out the “King of Beers” chair. You’ll know what I mean 🙂

Turnover is very low at the brewery, and understandably so! The employees are well taken care of – benefits are wonderful and there’s no forced retirement. Fun fact: the longest working employee at the brewery was there for 63 years! While the brewery has seen its ups and downs, they’ve recently expanded to 90 employees after adding extra shifts. A very good sign – business is growing as more people fall in love with Shiner’s spectacular brews!

From here, the group was led down to the gift shop for shopping and sampling. But more on that later – the three of us were lucky enough to then go on an extended tour with Anne. Can’t wait to share more!

Stay tuned for part two where you’ll get a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes at the Spoetzl Brewery! 🙂