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.


  1. adorable Diane! thanks for coming by to show us such a fun snack. Lucy

  2. What a great idea! (Sez she with a zillion cookie cutters, including a skull and a variety of murder weapons.) The cats are adorable (yes, I have that cat one too). Terrific conversation starter for a pot-luck event.

  3. Thanks for visiting, Diane! I LOVE these! What fun and what a surprise for a party. You could go with any theme--Christmas, Halloween, murder (as Sheila suggested LOL). Of course I want some RIGHT NOW! The look so delicious.

  4. Diane, what a darling post and what a fun idea. "Cats will go into anything." Made me LOL! Congrats on all your success!

    Daryl / Avery

  5. Diane, I find it hard to believe that you're not much of a cook. These are so clever and cute! And anyone who makes homemade salsa *is* a cook. I love homemade salsa!


  6. I just get a 'kick' out of the shoe! Looks really tasty!

  7. Thanks for inviting me to Mystery Lover's Kitchen! This has been a lot of fun!