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May 30, 2013

Spicy Tortilla Fries--Gluten and Potato-Free

Attempting to eat gluten-free is a plenty large enough task, something I discovered I needed to do just about a year and a half ago. But long before that, when I was an early teenager, I discovered that I am allergic to apples and peaches. Those were the first two to go. Then when I was in college, I finally figured out that I am allergic to potatoes. POTATOES. Giving up apple pie and peaches on pancakes is one thing. But giving up french fries and potato chips? I really just try not to think about it. And recalling how it would make me feel if I did eat some goes a long way in the area of self-control.

Naturally, when I discovered the gluten intolerance, my thoughts were, “Great, what next? You take away my fries, now I can’t even eat pizza.” And for all I know, this won’t be the last of the foods I have to cut out. But for now, you’ll notice that any recipes I share with you are not only gluten-free, but also free of potatoes, apples, and peaches!

I don’t know why it took me so long to think of this recipe as a substitute for french fries, as it was less than a year ago that I figured out this concoction and I’ve been potato-free for four or five years. But I was thrilled with my first attempt—dipped in ketchup and eaten with a burger, the fries could have passed for the real thing to my potato-deprived taste buds. Then I discovered what spices to add to get close to the taste of curly fries—my favorite! Now I’m hooked. And I now prefer to get burgers to go (without the bun of course, unless you’re at Red Robin) rather than eat them at restaurants so that I can whip up my fries to go with them.

So if you’re looking for some gluten-free “fries” (as finding those in restaurants can be tricky), or if you’re ready for something different, or if you’re a fellow enemy of potatoes, please give these a try! Plus, these are SO easy to make. I mean, I made them up, so how hard can they be? 

Now, some may find these fries spicy. My mom does, but my husband and I don’t, but then we’re rather hot-food freaks. So feel free to go easy on the spices and figure out what combination you like best.

Spicy Tortilla Fries (the “curly fry” version)

Total time: About 15 minutes

You’ll need:
  • several corn tortillas (I do 10 small ones for me and my very hungry husband)
  • vegetable or canola oil (I prefer vegetable, which lets the fries get a little crunchy without becoming rock-like crunchy, though both work) 
  • salt
  • butter
  • paprika
  • onion powder
  • cayenne pepper

Step 1) Cut the tortillas into strips.

Step 1

Step 2) Heat oil in a skillet on medium to medium/high heat (the amount of oil depends on how many tortillas you’re using—with 10, the oil should spread over about three-fourths of the skillet’s bottom), along with a couple small slabs of butter. **Be very careful to not get the oil too hot. It can start popping and flame up and/or splash on your hands when you put the tortilla strips in the skillet. I may or may not be speaking from experience… :P)**

Step 3) Once the butter has just started to melt, add the tortilla strips. Sprinkle them fairly generously with salt. Then sprinkle the paprika, onion powder, and cayenne pepper, also pretty generously.

Step 4) Once the strips have sat just long enough to get a little oily and buttery, turn them over with a spatula (very carefully) and repeat the sprinkling of salt, paprika, onion powder, and cayenne pepper, all while leaving the stove on medium to medium/high heat.

Step 3 and Step 4

Step 5) Every so often move the strips around with a spatula to try to ensure they all get time in the buttery oil. Knowing when they are “perfect” is rather an art I am still getting down—do them too long, and they’re all crispy; too short, and they’re flimsy and a bit soggy. So keep an eye on them, and when you see a happy medium between crispy and soggy happening (there will be versions of both in the final product regardless), they’re done! Even 15 seconds can make a difference in how done they are, so when you think they’ve reached it, remove them from the pan right away. If they’re still too soggy, you can always put them back in for a bit longer. 

Step 5

Step 6) Serve with ketchup and preferably a burger. ;)

Variation: Classic Tortilla Fries

Simply follow the same steps as above, keeping the salt generous, but omit the paprika, onion powder, and cayenne pepper. I know that may sound rather boring, but this version really tastes like your classic french fries and complements a burger so well, possibly even better than the spicy version.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

May 24, 2013

Transition Mode and Custom Orders

Well, most of my jewelry-making has reluctantly been put on hold for a time while we are in the process of moving (elsewhere, same town). I’m really missing it! That hasn’t kept me from thinking and planning, though!

I have, however, fulfilled two custom orders recently.

Love how this turned out!

So elegant!

The second is my first such endeavor—a vintage brooch turned into a pendant for this one-of-a-kind necklace.

Both are examples of the lovely results that come of a customer’s request—a lot of times things I probably wouldn’t have dreamed up on my own, but just what they were hoping for!

So if you see something in my shop and wish it was a little different, or if you see a sold item and wish you could have it, feel free to let me know and we'll talk!

And even though the usual production aspect of Katya Valera is on hold right now, there's still plenty to browse here!

May 17, 2013

"Yummm" Is Right: Red Robin to the Rescue

Definitely one of the hardest things about being gluten-free is not being able to just order a burger—or any sandwich—at fast food restaurants. A lot of times you can order the item without the bun on it, but what’s the fun in that? And even though it’s something I’ve resorted to (two McDoubles with no bun, please), I’m always a little afraid they’ll make it on the bun, realize the mistake, and then just pull off the bun and give it to me.

Of course, this need for a gluten-free bun spills over into making your own burgers and sandwiches at home. Yay for burgers wrapped in lettuce and corn tortillas for everything else!

So when I heard that Red Robin started offering gluten-free buns on their menu, I was thrilled to death. Unfortunately, we don’t have a Red Robin in our area, so I had to wait until we happened to be near one on vacation for our first anniversary last week.

Our waiter was definitely one of the best waiters we’ve had anywhere. He gathered my allergy needs right away and very well removed any qualms I may have had by sharing that he is allergic to peanuts and so well aware of the seriousness of food allergies.

I didn’t know I was gluten intolerant for more than twenty years, and so ordering a burger with the bun had of course become second nature to me. So to go without that aspect of such a common meal for now a year and a half was quite the change. I haven’t tried any special gluten-free breads or buns from the store, mainly because the grocery stores where I live don’t have a wide gluten-free selection, and I haven’t yet ventured into the realm of making my own.

So as I sat waiting on our orders to be brought out, simply the thought of getting to eat a burger with the bun was almost too much to handle! As crazy as it sounds, I thought I could actually cry! Besides gluten, I’m allergic to so many other common foods, to be expounded on in later posts, that getting to again eat something that had become just one more of my forbidden foods was quite the feeling!

My burger was lacking a bun at all when brought out (better safe than sorry, I guess!) so the suspense of waiting was heightened all the more as I waited for the bun to be brought. Thus its grand showing on a plate all its own.

I got their Bacon Cheeseburger, and it was, of course, amazing. You would never guess the bun was gluten-free, as the taste was nowhere in the realm of rice or corn or cardboard or anything strange. It was light and almost sponge-like and all around wonderful. 

Behold, the gluten-free burger ... with a slightly damaged bun from the piece I tore off for my husband...

I have found online that Red Robin evidently uses Udi’s and Rich’s gluten-free buns, varying by location, so I don’t know which brand I was served. But it was so good, we actually fit in another meal there while on vacation, and I got the Red's Tavern Double that time. (Do note that the Red's Secret Tavern Sauce, which that burger automatically comes with, is not gluten-free; I had it swapped for mayonnaise.) And I also ordered an extra bun which I now have in my freezer awaiting the next opportune meal.

So, huge thanks to Red Robin for adding lots of happiness to the realm of eating gluten-free. And if you’re ever in the Myrtle Beach area, I highly recommend fitting in a meal at their very impressive Red Robin.

May 15, 2013

Gluten-Free, Coming Up!

In the link to the right, below that huge picture of me and my husband of now one year (!!!), you can find more info about me, the girl behind Katya Valera jewelry. But, as there is even more to that girl (thankfully) than Russian and a giant love of jewelry, I wish to share a little more than what can be fit into a brief bio.

You may have read in the aforementioned link that I live with fibromyalgia. And just one aspect of attempts at easing that state has been removing gluten from my diet, a change that has helped just enough in the past year and a half for me to discover that I am in fact gluten intolerant. Quite a discovery after more than two decades of eating all sorts of gluten-y goodness! (And trust me, a lot of times it feels like gluten's where it's at!)

So there I was, someone who did not grow up cooking (gasp!) and who makes no claims as to enjoyment of the task, with the need to keep myself and my new, big-eater husband fed without gluten, while also attempting to not live on just vegetables and rice cakes and not sacrifice taste completely for the sake of healthier insides. What was the solution? Pinterest! ;)

I like to think Pinterest was a huge blessing in our first year of marriage (don't I sound so old and wise? :P) and kept me from starving my husband. A couple of attempts were pretty sad. Even when I made them like the directions said... But we've discovered some huge favorites in my Pinterest experiments, and I have yet to even make all the recipes I've pinned. I plan to share some of those, and also yummy concoctions I've invented all on my own! Hey! :D

And while cooking gluten-free is definitely challenging, eating gluten-free at restaurants can be even more overwhelming. But over time, I've gathered info to make that undertaking easier--and tastier--and I would love to pass along what I'm learning in that area too!

So keep an eye out for an upcoming post on living gluten-free--just one more facet of the girl behind Katya Valera! :)

May 1, 2013

Spring According to Pantone: Emerald and Friends

I recently was delighted to discover Pantone's official list of colors for Spring 2013.

And I was further delighted to find that I already had at least one item in my shop for each color--without trying. ;)

Here's a handy view of Katya Valera items, one for each color on Pantone's list: Dusk Blue, Emerald, Tender Shoots, Grayed Jade, Lemon Zest, African Violet, Linen, Monaco Blue, Poppy Red, and Nectarine.

But if you're feeling ambitious and want to tackle more than just one color at a time, here's a few that offer a happy mixture of two or more in one one-of-a-kind piece. :)

Meanwhile, Pantone has also named Emerald as the official color for all of 2013. Lucky for you, I have several pieces to pick from with that color, whether you're looking for just a hint of it or a bold shade.

I have to say, I think my favorites are African Violet and Monaco Blue. But then I also think they left out a very important color:

Love the juicy simplicity ...
How does that not say spring?? We could call the shade "Juicy Pink." Of course. ;)

Which one (color or piece!) is your favorite? :)