Appetizers and Snacks

The Boat Galley
By Carolyn Shearlock

Buffalo Wings Dip

Buffalo Wings (aka Hot Wings) are almost traditional while watching football games. They’re great for almost any get together, actually. But if you can’t get a bunch of actual wings, this dip is a great alternative . . . and it’s easy to make on a boat. You can even use canned chicken!

If you’re in a remote anchorage and have satellite radio or an SSB that can get Armed Forces Radio, invite the neighbors over!

One of our fondest memories is this NASCAR party “aboard” Amazing Grace, anchored off Candeleros Bay, just south of Puerto Escondido in the Sea of Cortez. We cranked up the cockpit speakers and lounged in the water with noodles and PDFs to keep cool in the 100+ degree weather, occasionally crawling out for food and fresh drinks!

Bufallo Wing Dip

Buffalo Wings Dip

Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 20 mins

Total Time: 35 mins

If you like hot wings, this dip captures the flavor in an easy-to-make dip!

Course: Appetizers & Snacks

Cuisine: American

Servings: 8

Calories: 269 kcal


  • 12 ounces chicken chunks, canned, drained (OR 2 chicken breasts, cooked)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (light is fine, but not fat free)
  • 3/4 cup blue cheese dressing (OR ranch dressing)
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (to taste, depending on brand of sauce used and personal preference)
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated (OR other cheese that will melt)


  1. Shred chicken and place in a baking dish, approximately 8 inches square (will also work in a loaf pan, but bake an extra 5 minutes to compensate for it being thicker).
  2. Pour hot sauce over chicken, mix well to coat evenly and set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Melt the cream cheese in a saucepan over low heat. Add the blue cheese dressing and mix well.
  5. Remove from heat and pour over the chicken. Mix well so that all chicken is coated.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes at 350.
  7. Remove, but don’t turn the oven off. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and golden.
  8. Best served hot, but also good cold.


Notes, Substitutions and Variations

Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, pita wedges or veggies such as carrot or celery sticks.


Dill Pickle Dip Recipe


This is an absolutely wonderful appetizer for hot days! I’m not normally a big fan of dill pickles, and yet I find it perfectly hits the spot on those sweltering days . . . and considering that there’s never any left when I take it to a potluck, I think others also like it!

I got the idea after someone made wonderful dill pickle rolls (slice of ham, spread with cream cheese, then place a dill pickle on top and roll up, then cut into 1/4″ slices) and wanted the same flavor but with a lot less work.

Dill Pickle Dip


Dill Pickle Dip

Prep Time: 10 mins

Total Time: 10 mins


Delicious summertime dip — totally hits the spot on sweltering days


Course: Appetizers & Snacks

Cuisine: American, Gluten-Free, Keto/LCHF

Servings: 8 people

Calories: 134 kcal



  • ½ cup dill pickle relish
  • 8 ounces soft cream cheese
  • ½ teaspoon garlic power if pickle relish does not have garlic
  • 1 6- ounce can ham drained and broken



  1. Mix dill pickle relish, cream cheese and garlic thoroughly, then mix in ham chunks. Place in serving container.
  2. Good served with Triscuits, pretzel sticks and pita chips – the dip is fairly thick so dipping items need to be sturdy.

Notes, Substitutions and Variations

Can be made ahead and refrigerated – also refrigerate any leftovers (if there are any)!



  • Chop dill pickles if dill relish is not available
  • Add a bit of mayonnaise, sour cream, milk or dill pickle juice if dip is too thick
  • Substitute sour cream for the cream cheese
  • Small cans of ham – about the size of tuna cans – can generally be found near the tuna. You can also use roughly chopped deli ham – or leftover baked ham.
  • Substitute a can of drained tuna (or smoked tuna) for the ham – be careful to mix in gently so it doesn’t turn to mush
  • Omit the meat for a vegetarian version

Keto/LCHF in moderation – 5g carbs per portion (1/8 of total)


Mexican Layered Dip


I’ve always loved 7-Layer Dip and variations on it . . . but it took cruising for me to decide to make my own. I was surprised at how easy it is — and it’s perfect for a special get-together!

If I know a get-together is going to last through the dinner hour and snacks are going to stand in for a meal, I often make it with a layer of meat. Use ground beef, ground turkey, shredded chicken (or even soy crumbles) and prepare it just as you would for tacos. A can of chicken can also be shredded and mixed with the taco seasoning.

I also like this recipe because I can use whatever “layers” I happen to have on hand . . . sometimes, it’s a 9-layer dip, other times only 4. And since Dave is allergic to dairy, I just make him a separate plate with no sour cream (you can substitute mayonnaise if you want) and no cheese. And if you make your own taco seasoning, it’s gluten free, too (commercial taco seasonings often have gluten).

You can also do variations with no ingredients that require refrigeration (see following sour cream recipe).


Oh — and if you have to transport the dip (especially by dinghy) or need to refrigerate it for several hours in a crowded refrigerator, make it in a Lock & Lock container as I did. The high sides and secure lid will make it easier than trying to manage a plate covered with plastic wrap!

Mexican Layered Dip

Mexican Layered Dip

Prep Time: 25 mins

Total Time: 25 mins


Looking for a “special” appetizer with lots of variations? Mexican Layered Dip is great when appetizers will stand in for a meal!


Course: Appetizers & Snacks

Cuisine: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Mexican/Southwestern, No Refrigeration

Servings: 8

Calories: 220 kcal



Layers – choose as many as you wish

  • 1 cup sour cream (make your own sour cream) OR mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup shredded lettuce
  • 1/2 pound taco meat OR sauteed mushrooms
  • 1 cup shredded cheese, such as cheddar
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes or substitute 1/2 cup salsa
  • 4 tbsp green onions, thinly sliced or substitute 1/2 cup diced red or white onion
  • 1/4 cup minced sweet (bell) pepper any color OR spicy pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives



  1. If using meat or mushrooms, mix 1/2 the packet of taco seasoning with the refried beans. If not, mix the entire packet with refried beans. Let sit while preparing other layers.
  2. If using meat or mushrooms, saute until browned and then add the remaining taco seasoning and water (if needed). Cook until ready to be used and set aside.
  3. To assemble, spread refried bean mix on the plate or other serving container.
  4. Spread or sprinkle other layers over the top in the order given — use however many layers you want.
  5. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve — may be refrigerated up to 4 hours (after that, some of the veggies may wilt, but it’s still fine to eat).
  6. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.

Notes, Substitutions and Variations

Times and servings are all approximate as they depend on the layers used.

DAIRY FREE Omit the sour cream and cheese layers.

GLUTEN FREE naturally. None of the suggested layers have gluten. Use veggies or other gluten-free items to dip.

NO REFRIGERATION make your own sour cream from non-refrigerated ingredients. Omit cheese layer. Other ingredients do not need to be refrigerated.


Make Your Own Sour Cream


Sour cream is hard to carry on a boat, as it turns green in a week or so even in the refrigerator. And if you don’t have much room in the refrigerator — or no refrigerator at all — it can be impossible. The great thing, though, is that you can quickly and easily make your own from ingredients that are easy to carry and last almost forever!

Be sure to check out the video showing exactly how easy it is to make your own sour cream this way!


Nestle and several other Latin American dairy companies make a great product called “Media Crema” (literally translates as “half cream” or what we’d call “light cream”). In the US, it almost always comes in cans like the one shown and is generally stocked with the Latin/Mexican foods in larger supermarkets.

In Mexico and Central America, you can also buy it (and sometimes “crema” or “heavy cream”) in vacuum-sealed boxes similar to juice boxes, as shown in the second picture (Lala is a huge brand in Mexico). For some reason, I’ve never seen the boxes in the US. I’m told that there are similar products in the Caribbean — if you know of brands and whether it comes in cans or boxes, please add this information to the comments below.


Either type of container holds about 8 ounces, or 250 ml — 1 cup. And they both work equally well for making your own sour cream. Best of all, they both last virtually forever (I think they usually have an expiration date of about 6 months away). I found the little boxes easier to stow as they fit tightly together with no wasted space, plus they wouldn’t roll with the motion of the boat. But if you’re in the US, you might not have a choice.

Sour CreamSour Cream from Non-Refrigerated Ingredients

Prep Time: 5 mins

Let Sit: 30 mins

Total Time: 35 mins


Make your own sour cream whenever you want it with non-refrigerated ingredients. It’s not a substitute — it’s REAL sour cream.


Course: Appetizers & Snacks, Ingredients

Cuisine: American, Gluten-Free, No Refrigeration

Servings: 1 cup

Calories: 316 kcal



  • 1 cup media crema
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar



  1. Put the contents of the can or box of media crema in a plastic container that has a lid. Mix in 1 teaspoon of vinegar. If you want a thicker sour cream, mix in a second teaspoon after the first teaspoon is mixed in. Don’t use more than 2 teaspoons.
  2. You can either use it immediately or, for the best results, put the lid on and refrigerate it for a half hour before using.



Notes, Substitutions and Variations

  • Other types of vinegar, lemon or lime juice, or white wine can be substituted for the white vinegar.
  • It will last 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator.
  • Use it in any recipe, just as you would any other sour cream. Note that this makes 1 cup, or a half pint — many dip recipes call for a pint, so you’d need a double batch.


Since learning this method, I always keep the ingredients on hand . . . and real, rich, thick sour cream is just minutes away!



Black Bean and Corn Salsa


Looking for a delicious and boat-friendly snack or appetizer? This Black Bean & Corn Salsa is ideal and it even qualifies as a healthy choice.

It’s fast to make and even better when made a day or two ahead of time. Two added bonuses are that none of the ingredients need to be refrigerated until you mix it up and there’s nothing to spoil on a hot day. Even better, young kids can help while slightly older children can make it by themselves.

Make it as spicy (or not) as you and your guests desire by varying the salsa used. If some people like it mild and other prefer a spicier version, make it mild and then divide it between two dishes and add 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or hot sauce to one. Just be sure to label it as the spicy one!


Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Prep Time: 5 mins

Total Time: 5 mins


Quick and delicious appetizer made from ingredients that don’t require refrigeration. Great for spur-of-the-moment get-togethers!


Course: Appetizers & Snacks

Cuisine: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Mexican/Southwestern, No Refrigeration

Servings: 8

Calories: 206 kcal



  • 32 ounces canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 32 ounces canned corn, drained
  • 2 cups salsa
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons cilantro, chopped (optional), to taste



  1. Mix all ingredients together. If not serving immediately, refrigerate.
  2. Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, pita rounds or even veggie dippers such as baby carrots, cucumber slices or green pepper strips.

Notes, Substitutions and Variations

  • Can substitute 2 tomatoes, 1/4 green pepper, 1 spicy pepper (to taste), and 1/4 cup onion, all chopped finely, for the salsa.
  • If a spicier dip is desired, add more cumin and some cayenne pepper or chili powder – or finely chop part of a spicy pepper and add it.
  • Also great over fish, pork chops or chicken.
  • Refrigerate any unused portion.




Aboard Que Tal, we loved it whenever we shared an anchorage with a shrimp boat — that meant there was a pretty good chance of having shrimp for dinner! And in mid-July in the Sea of Cortez, when temperatures soared, we doubly loved shrimp as they took almost no time to cook and were a wonderful cold meal.

I really didn’t know what to do with fresh shrimp the first time we encountered a shrimp boat. One pulled into our anchorage at Isla San Marcos (photo) and our friends Dick and Judi aboard Corazon called on the radio to say that they were going to dinghy over and see if they could buy some shrimp — did we want some? Sure!

Dave went with them, armed with the suggested plastic bag. Ten minutes later, he arrived back at Que Tal with about 10 pounds of whole shrimp. Well, this was wonderful, but coming from the Midwest I didn’t have any experience with cooking or cleaning my own shrimp. The last time I’d had shrimp had been at our wedding reception . . . and that had been catered.

I dragged out my trusty cookbook — my mom had always taught me that if you could read, you could learn to do anything — and followed the instructions for cleaning shrimp, then cooked about a pound and put the rest in the freezer (thankfully, it was pretty empty right then!).

The cleaning went pretty well, but, as with cooking scallops, I learned that the cooking instructions in my cookbook left them rubbery. And again, I turned to other cruisers to teach me how to properly cook shrimp. Over time, I combined advice and methods from numerous friends to come up with the following information on both preparing shrimp and boiling/steaming it.

Boiled ShrimpPreparing Shrimp

De-Head the Shrimp. If you get shrimp from a shrimp boat, they’ll undoubtedly still have the heads attached. Just take one shrimp at a time, grab the head firmly between your thumb and index finger and grasp the body in your other hand. Give a quick twist of the head and it should pop right off.

Rinse the shrimp in cold water.

Two tips here:

  1. If you have some disposable latex gloves aboard, this is a good time to use them to keep your hands from smelling like shrimp. Otherwise, rub a little lemon or lime juice over your hands when you’re done to cut the smell.
  2. Throw all your “shrimp garbage” in a small bowl and discard it overboard when you’re done. The fish and other sea creatures will eat it and it won’t stink up your boat (and your trash can will smell horrendous if you put it in there!).


To De-Vein or Not? You don’t have to de-vein shrimp, but I prefer to. The dark vein running along the shrimp’s back is its gastric vein. Usually they’re small and most people don’t think they make a taste difference.

I simply peel the shrimp, then run my thumbnail under the vein to remove it. Most people use a paring knife but I found that my thumbnail was much faster and I almost never broke or cut the vein.

My friend Jan, who I wrote The Boat Galley Cookbook with (she also has a website for part-time cruisers called has a little de-veining tool that she bought at Wal-mart. She swears that it’s the easiest way to de-vein shrimp.

Boiling/Steaming Shrimp

The first few times I cooked shrimp, I wanted to be sure that they were cooked through. So I cooked them until they were pink, then a few minutes longer. And then I wondered why they were really tough!

The number-one rule with shrimp is not to overcook them. In fact, they’ll cook a little bit more even after you take them out of the water, so you want to cook them only until they are just turning pink.

If you get shrimp fresh from a boat, it’s unlikely that they’ll all be the same size. So when I clean them, I try to separate them into rough piles by size. This isn’t an exact science, just putting the really big ones together and the really small ones together, with everything else in their own pile. Then I can cook ones that are about the same size together.

My cooking method is pretty simple — and one of the reasons that I really like shrimp in hot weather.


Boiled Shrimp

Total Time: 10 mins


Boiled shrimp are a great hot weather meal – delightful tossed on a salad or as shrimp cocktail. The secret is in how you cook them.


Course: Appetizers & Snacks, Main Dish

Cuisine: Dairy-Free, Fish/Seafood, Gluten-Free, Keto/LCHF, Make-Ahead

Servings: 4 (1/4 pound servings)

Calories: 119 kcal



  • water
  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 pound shrimp (cleaned and prepared)



  1. Put just ½ inch of water in a saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning or other shrimp boil seasoning and a splash (about 2 tablespoons) of white or cider vinegar.
  2. Bring the water and spices to a full rolling boil over high heat.
  3. Add up to one pound of medium shrimp, cover and bring back to a full rolling boil.
  4. The instant the water starts boiling, turn fire down to low and begin timing 2 minutes very exactly.
  5. After two minutes, turn the stove off or remove the pan from the stove if you’re using an electric stove.
  6. Time another two minutes – exactly.
  7. Drain water from shrimp. There should be a lot of the spices still sticking to the shrimp.
  8. You can either serve the shrimp immediately, or put it in the refrigerator to chill for a cold meal later.

Notes, Substitutions and Variations

NOTE: Large shrimp will take 2-1/2 minutes in each stage and jumbo shrimp 3 to 3-1/2 minutes in each


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