Showing posts with label pico de gallo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pico de gallo. Show all posts

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Please Welcome Our Guest Diane Vallere!

Novelty Homemade Tortilla Chips by Diane Vallere
(And Pico de Gallo! And Salsa!)

I am the first to admit that I’m not a cook. I do enjoy the creative part of cooking, and I’m great at following directions, so when Peg Cochran asked me to guest on Mystery Lover’s Kitchen, I started thinking about a signature dish or something that would be interesting to the readers of the blog. I went over a few cookbooks and even found a couple of recipes I wanted to try (and I did, and they were yummy, but they just weren’t me). In the end, I decided to go with one of my favorite things to make for the sheer whimsy of them: novelty tortilla chips!

Warning: making these is almost as much fun as making a Halloween costume for a teddy bear. They are particularly popular at parties and book launches. Make extra, because they go quick!
In addition to the tortilla chips, I’m making pico de gallo and salsa. Yummy!

First we start with the chips. You will need a large skillet, a slotted spoon, and a set of cookie cutters.

Today I’m going with a shoe, a dress, and cats

I package corn tortillas
1 bottle of oil (not olive oil!)

Total ingredient cost: $3

1.     Pour the oil into a large skillet and turn on medium-high

2.     While the oil is heating, take two tortillas from package and set on a cutting board
3.     Punch your shapes out and set aside. Don’t worry about “wasted” tortilla pieces. We’ll use them too!

Oh no! The shoe doesn’t fit! Is this what Cinderella’s stepsisters felt like?

It’s good to have a small cookie cutter in your arsenal so you can get 2 punches out of each tortilla.

I’m currently fascinated with parchment paper, so I stacked my reserves on it.

4.     Check if your oil is hot enough. How do you know? Insert a wooden skewer into the center of the skillet. If the oil bubbles around the wood, you’re good to go!

It’s bubbling! Get ready for the fun!

5.     Add your punched tortilla shapes to the oil. (If you’re nervous about your first batch and want a practice round, use the pieces of tortilla that were left over after the shapes were punched. This is equally good for quality control.)

Look! My shoes turned out okay after all!

Stir the shapes loosely with a slotted spoon. Edges will start to brown.

6.     Remove shapes as they harden (you’ll feel this with the spoon). They will be in and out in less than 30 seconds!
     Transfer shapes onto paper towels to drain
8.     Lightly salt
9.     Start next batch and continue until all shapes are fried. When you’re done with all of your cut out shapes, fry the pieces that are left from the punched tortillas. They’ll taste just as good as the shaped ones, and trust me…you’ll want something to snack on.

I like to shake on a little Old Bay, but I’ve been told that’s weird.

Next: Pico de Gallo
1 bunch cilantro
1 tomato
1 onion
1 jalapeno
Total cost of pico de gallo: $1.14

1.     Chop the cilantro, discarding stems.
2.     Dice tomato
3.     Dice onion

I start with the cilantro first so I can them match the size of the pile with my tomato and onion. In this case, I had extra onion, which I will use below in the salsa.

4.     Mix!


5.     Mince a little of the jalapeno and toss in if you want your pico to have a little kick.

A Serrano pepper works just as well. Maybe better!

Extra Credit: Salsa!
Because I had some left over onion and the rest of the jalapeño, I decided to whip up some salsa. I use this handy Cuisinart Mini-mate chopper and blender that my mom gave me for Christmas.

Rest of the onion
Rest of the jalapeno
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tomato
Wad of cilantro (I took this from the bunch that had the stems on it but pulled out most of the stems)
Squeeze of lime

I put everything into the Cuisinart Mini-mate and blended. I wanted it hotter so I added a Thai pepper (I happened to have one lying around). Voila!

Now there’s a snack!

Have fun with the display

Darn cats will get into anything!

Your novelty tortillas are only limited by your imagination. Enjoy!

PSST! Need a beverage to go with that? From the Mystery Lover’s Kitchen Archives, try Cleo Coyle’s Virgin Sangria or Julie Hyzy’s recipe for the fully loaded version!

Diane is the author of the Style & Error Mysteries, the Mad for Mod Mysteries, and the upcoming Material Witness Mysteries. Like her character Samantha Kidd, she is a former fashion buyer; like her character Madison Night, she loves Doris Day movies, and like her character Polyester Monroe from the upcoming fabric shop-themed series, she lives in California. Her next book, SUEDE TO REST, is the first in the Material Witness Mystery Series. Find out more about Diane at www.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Best Salsa I Ever Tasted. Yes, EVER! A snack attack remedy from Cleo Coyle via Nurse Judy Mac

Yes, I do realize that saying something (anything) is the best ever, EVER, is hyperbole. But trust me, today's recipe lives up to my hype. The recipe is not mine, but comes from a follower of this blog: Judy McIntosh, aka "Nurse Judy Mac," which is what her patients call her.

Nurse Judy McIntosh: 
"This is me at Don Pablo's 
for my birthday last October. 
I like the Don's food, but I'd much 
rather have my own salsa!" (Cleo agrees.)

You can read more about Nurse Judy in her fun, funny, (and inspiring) bio below the recipe. (She went back to Purdue at age 32 for her nursing degree and went back for her Master's at age 52.) 
     As for her salsa, Marc and I have tasted many versions of salsa fresca over the years: restaurant pico de gallo, homemade, bottled. This beats the de gallo out of them. It's so good that you'll want to eat it with a spoon, but use tortilla chips for the very best Rx to a snack attack there is.
     Thank you, Nurse Judy, because of you, Marc and I are most definitely eating with joy! ~ Cleo

Fun Foodie Trivia

According to Wikipedia, the term "pico de gallo" is Spanish for "beak of rooster," and at least one food writer claims the name came from the way it was originally eaten, with thumb and forefinger, which meant reaching for the condiment looked like the pecking of a rooster. Others say the name could be a simple reference to the rooster-red color or the minced texture of the sauce, which resembles bird feed. 

P.S. The winner of the official FDNY T-shirt will be announced on this blog at 11:45 PM Wed. (9/19). To see the original post, click here - and thanks to everyone who entered!

Nurse Judy Mac’s 
(Best Ever!) Salsa

Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries
A note on the recipe from Cleo: With beautiful, ripe, end-of-summer tomatoes so plentiful (and football season upon us), I hope today's post comes in handy for you. As mentioned above, it came to us via Judy, already canned for the winter, and that's a wonderful way of preparing it, in large batches that can be saved and eaten over the year or given away as gifts (see Judy's note below)...and eat with joy! ~ Cleo

Nurse Judy McIntosh,
who does not wear the
sombrero on duty,
or so her patients claim.
A note on the recipe from Nurse Judy: I am an experimenter in the kitchen, trying this, trying that, and developing some recipes that I am proud of. This salsa recipe is one of them. I don't like hot (even mildly hot) peppers and I REALLY don't like cilantro, but I love garlic and onions and more garlic. The salsa tastes wonderful fresh and just as good when canned. I hope you like it as much as my family, my friends, and I do. I have a friend who's always begging me for salsa. Her annual birthday present is 6 jars of salsa. She takes me out to lunch, I give her salsa! I will tell you that as good as the salsa is canned, the fresh will have you eating it with a spoon. I know because I end up doing it all the time! Enjoy! ~ Judy Mac

Judy Mac's Salsa Recipe

To download a PDF version of this recipe that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Makes about 3 quarts (6 pints) of salsa


3-4 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled 
       (Note: Judy says she gets the best results with the Roma variety. 
       You'll need 3-4 pounds of fresh tomatoes. Use the ripest you can find. 
       Fresh tomatoes will give you the best tasting salsa, but in a pinch,
       you can use top quality, 
canned whole tomatoes.)

4 fresh bell peppers (1 each green, red, orange, yellow), 
        seeded and cut into chunks

1 extra large or 2 large sweet onions, peeled and cut into chunks
        (Note: Judy uses Vidalias)

1/2 to 1 cup diced garlic 

White vinegar (1 cup or more, to taste)

Salt (1 teaspoon or more, to taste)


Step 1 - Scald fresh tomatoes in boiling water until skins start to split. Carefully remove very hot tomatoes from the water and place in a colander and under running cold water to make peeling easier. Cut out the stem end and transfer tomatoes to a bowl. Let sit and allow clear juice to separate from the fruit. (Judy drains and saves this juice for soups or broths by freezing.) Repeat the draining of the tomato juices 2 more times to concentrate the flavor.

Step 2 - Using your food processor's pulse mode, process the cooked, peeled tomatoes until you have the desired texture for your salsa, whether chunky or smoother. Pour the results into a large bowl.

Step 3 - Process peppers and onions, separately, with pulse mode until you see the pieces chopped into the size of small peas. (Note: Do not over process or you’ll end up with pepper/onion soup!) Pour into your large bowl with the tomatoes. Add garlic (adjust to your own tastes) to bowl and stir until well mixed. 

(Judy does not add cilantro or hot peppers to her salsa, however, if you'd like to add these ingredients, process them and place them into the bowl at this stage.)

Step 4 - As Judy says, "This is where you finish the salsa according to your personal taste." Start with 1 cup of the white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of the salt, add to the salsa and mix thoroughly. Taste test. Add more vinegar in small amounts until you get a small "bite" of vinegar when you taste the salsa. Adjust salt according to personal taste.

Canning/Jarring the Salsa: 

Method One, Fresh Packing: Fill sterilized quart or pint canning-quality (Mason) jars with salsa to 1/2-inch of top of jar, wipe edge clean of any salsa, put new (sterilized) canning jar lids and rings in place and finger tighten the ring. Place in refrigerator. As the salsa chills, the jars will seal and stay "canned" until the seal is broken and the lid is removed. This is fresh packing.  

Method Two, Hot Water Process: If you'd rather not lose space in your fridge to jars of salsa, Judy suggests that you "hot water process" the jars of salsa in boiling water. You can then store the Mason jars at room temperature indefinitely as long as the lids remain safely sealed. To read more about the process of properly canning/jarring salsa, jump to this Wikihow site page by clicking here.

Awesome Guacamole: 

Judy's final note: "You can take out some of the salsa base before you add the vinegar and add it to fresh avocados with lime juice for an awesome guacamole. Another way to do this is with the canned salsa: simply drain out the excess juice, add lime juice (I prefer Key limes), and avocados."

About Judy

Born in Arkansas with a Mamaw that could cook an old shoe and make it taste wonderful! Learned to cook early out of necessity because the cooking gene skipped my mom. She could paint, sing, sew, quilt, and swing a hammer with the best but she just could NOT cook! I went to Purdue University to become a veterinarian and met a dark haired young man under a piece of mistletoe at a Christmas party. Our first kiss was 30 minutes long! So, of course, we eloped, two and one half months later, over Spring Break, 38-1/2 years ago. (That first kiss is why we always have mistletoe up at Christmas!) 

John and Judy McIntosh

Fast forward three kids, lots of cooking, growing gardens, going back to Purdue at age 32 for nursing, cooking, working, back to school for Master's at age 52, two granddaughters, more cooking, more working, and here I am.

~ Judy

Judy asked me to add
this very kind note...

(Thanks again, Nurse Judy! ~ Cleo)

"I discovered Coffeehouse Mysteries with On What Grounds in the fall of 2003 and fell in love. A book based on the love of coffee! I inhaled the first book and began buying (gasp) whole bean coffee and grinding the beans and discovering what fantastic coffee tasted like. Since that time I have bought every book the minute it became available, buying new varieties of coffee, cooking new recipes, and waiting impatiently for the next Coffeehouse Mystery. 

"I've passed the books to my daughter and my mother, taken fabulous new coffees to work to educate the taste buds of night shift nurses who had become used to drinking coffee that had the smell and consistency of old tar. Along the way I have converted a lot of nurses to what REAL coffee tastes like and I will never drink generic coffee again. Life is much too short to drink bad coffee! And I still wait impatiently for the next new Coffeehouse Mystery so I can roam the streets of New York and learn to love new coffees and new recipes."

Your biggest fan from Day One

Nurse Judy Mac

A Brew to a Kill: A Coffeehouse Mystery
Now a national bestseller in hardcover

To see the recipes in my latest
culinary mystery, click here.

Read with joy!
~ Cleo

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

To get more recipes, enter to win
free coffee, or learn about Cleo's books, including
her bestselling 
Haunted Bookshop series, visit her online coffeehouse:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Felicidades!

First a little history: The holiday of
Cinco De Mayo, The 5th Of May,
commemorates the victory of the
Mexican militia over the French army

at The Battle Of Puebla in 1862. It is
primarily a regional holiday celebrated
in the Mexican city of Puebla
and throughout the state of Puebla, with

some limited recognition in other parts of
Mexico, and especially in U.S. cities with
a significant Mexican population.

It is not Mexico's Independence Day,
which is actually September 16.
This year is especially important as Mexico will be celebrating its bicentennial!

And now onto the food! First off, we have the Hub's wonderful
tequila-lime salsa. If you missed it last time, it's worth checking
out. I am a salsa snob, and I have to say the Hub's is the best
I've ever tasted! Also, we have my very own enchilada casserole.
This is a fabulous dish to whip together using chicken, turkey or
beef. It's easy and delicious!

Another recipe I like to use because of its versatility is one for
a quick oven baked quesadilla. It can be made with chicken or
beef, I tend to use beef, and my favorite part of making it is

shopping for the ingredients. My sons and I like to shop at the
Ranch Market in Phoenix. It's a wonderful market that always
makes me feel as if I'm in Mexico (but the drive is much shorter).

The dudes and I spend a lot of time in the tortilleria,
watching the tortillas
being made and then it's on to the
meat counter for our carne asada. I enjoy so much about the
Hispanic culture in the Southwest. The art and history of our
neighbors to the south is truly fascinating. And the food, well,
I am pretty sure I can never leave the Valley of the Sun, because I
simply can not give up Mexican food. I am addicted.

Oven Baked Quesadillas


2 lbs carne asada, broiled and diced
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 whole wheat tortillas
pico de gallo
sour cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put a tortilla flat on a baking sheet.

Layer on cheddar cheese and
carne asada, fold tortilla over.
Repeat three more times until
you have four folded tortillas.
Bake for 6-8 minutes until the
quesadillas are heated through
and crunchy on the outside.
Garnish with pico de gallo, sour
cream and guacamole
as desired.
Makes 8.


And now our contest news...

Congratulations to Stacy from Louisville!
You've won Riley's
Williams-Sonoma’s Ultimate
Grilling Rub Collection

Julie’s first book in the Manor of Murder Mystery series, Grace Under Pressure, debuts June 1st! To help launch the book and to celebrate its release, she's running a very special contest: Pre-order Grace Under Pressure any time before May 31, 2010, and you're eligible to win a $25 gift certificate from Mystery Lovers Bookshop! (and if you've already pre-ordered, you just need to let Julie know!) No receipts required. Just email Julie at with the date that you pre-ordered and the name of the bookstore you ordered it from, and your name goes in! (Please put "CONTEST" in the subject header. Thanks!)

Here are a few helpful links to get you started: Mystery Lovers Bookshop (free shipping on book orders over $10!) - The Poisoned Pen (my local mystery bookstore) - Barnes & Noble -