Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday Appetizers

Last weekend, Steve and I spent Christmas Day at his parents' house with the rest of the family. There were 17 of us, which meant lots of hungry people! I was in charge of the appetizers and enjoyed planning what we were going to bring.

In addition to the Brown Sugar Smokies I posted about last year, one of the items on my list was Southwestern Egg Rolls with Cilantro Cream Sauce. These have received enthusiastic thumbs-up reviews from my panel of guinea pigs (ahem, I mean taste testers), so I thought I'd share the recipes in case you need to make hors d'oeuvres for New Year's Eve or another gathering sometime.

Let's start with the Southwestern Egg Rolls:

Although I didn't take this photograph (which appears on Allrecipes.com, where I got the original recipe from which I adapted mine below), the ones I made looked pretty darn close. Instead of the tortillas originally called for, I used wonton wrappers to create miniature egg rolls. They're the perfect "two-bite delight," LOL!

Southwestern Egg Rolls

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast half
2 tablespoons minced green onion
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
1/3 cup frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons canned green chiles, chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 package wonton wrappers
vegetable oil cooking spray

Rub 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over chicken breast. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook chicken approximately 5 minutes per side, until meat is no longer pink and juices run clear. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in green onion and red pepper. Cook and stir 5 minutes, until tender.

Dice chicken and mix into the pan with onion and red pepper. Mix in corn, black beans, green chiles, lime juice, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Cook and stir 5 minutes, until well blended and tender. Remove from heat and stir in Monterey Jack cheese so that it melts.

Put 1 teaspoon of the mixture in the center of a wonton wrapper, and moisten the edges of the wrapper with water. Fold the sides of the wrapper, and then roll tightly around mixture to make a small egg roll shape. Arrange on a greased baking sheet, and continue to make the rest of the egg rolls in the same manner.

Spray the egg rolls generously with vegetable oil cooking spray, and bake at 425 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve the egg rolls with salsa or guacamole. Better yet, whip up a batch of Cilantro Cream Sauce to go with them:

Again, the above photo isn't mine but instead comes from the Allrecipes.com site. I wish had remembered to take my own pictures, but Steve and I were both scurrying in the kitchen all morning on Saturday trying to get everything done in time.

I think this sauce is absolutely delicious. If you like cilantro as much as we do, you'll probably agree. It's excellent with tacos or burritos, chicken, and even fish. Even so, be aware that the recipe as written below makes a LOT. I usually cut it in half, and we still end up with plenty of yummy leftover sauce.

Cilantro Cream Sauce

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 (7 ounce) can tomatillo salsa
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Combine cream cheese, sour cream, salsa, pepper, celery salt, cumin, garlic powder, cilantro, and lime juice in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy, and chill until ready to serve.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holiday Wishes

Merry Christmas, Inky friends! I hope you have a wonderful day filled with love and laughter!

Card created by Chelsea Comer. :-)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Visiting Bedell-Kraus

Last week, I was in Cleveland working on the Inky convention booth. We're getting some new furnishings (it's pretty exciting...I can't wait to show you next month!), so I had to revise the layout and make sure everything will fit.

While I was there, I had the chance to visit Bedell-Kraus and see the rubber manufacturing process. Even though I've been in the stamp industry for 13 years, I have never known how the rolls of rubber that we use at the shop get made in the first place.

It all starts with the ingredients, enough shown here to make four batches:

See those pale yellow blocks on the right side of the above photo? Those are hunks of synthetic rubber. The brown blocks underneath are hunks of natural rubber. And those flat little squares standing up in the bags of white powder in the center of the photo...that's enough dye to color the entire pallet!

I didn't get to peek at the mixing vat (or whatever they use to mash up all the ingredients). But after that is done, the slabs of rubber are generously powdered:

This rubber happens to be black instead of the usual pink or red you're probably used to seeing on art stamps, but otherwise it looks like this after it's dusted up:

The slabs are then moved to the next area:

And they get fed into a pair of giant rollers, about 350 pounds at a time:

It's like a ginormous pasta machine! The rubber gets rolled around for several minutes, and the friction of the rollers heats it up:

The consistency changes and it starts to look like bubble gum:

Then it gets fed into another rolling machine:

This machine squashes it to the correct thickness and winds it up with a plastic liner, which is how it comes out on the opposite side:

The finished rolls are moved to the cutting area:

Once they're divided into 50-pound rolls, they are boxed up and put into the cooler:

And that's how they look until they get to our shop, where we turn 'em into stamps. Thanks to Steve Bedell for being a gracious host and allowing me to share the process with you!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Snowy's Treats Paperbag Card

I was looking through my sample files the other day and found this paperbag card: It was a make & take project we'd done at the Madison convention a few years back, and it was very well received. When you untuck the bottom flap and open it up, there is a pocket in the upper half of the card from which you can pull out a cocoa packet. Cute, huh?

Even better, here's a FREE project instruction sheet you can download so that you can make one yourself!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's Showtime

We've planned our convention schedule for 2011, and it's posted here on the main Inky site. I'm happy to be home for the holidays, but I know by the time that first show comes around I'll be ready and waiting. I guess it must be in my genes; my dad traveled a lot for his work, too.

Speaking of getting back on the road next year, StampScrapArtTour will be launching its annual tour in Mesquite, TX again. Here's a copy of the billboard ad that will be appearing in the Dallas area soon:

If you happen to see it, please shoot me an email telling me the location and date you spotted it. (There may be a little goodie given for doing this, hint hint.) And if you happen to take a photo, I'd sure like to see it. (Even bigger goodie for sending a picture!)

Please take a peek at our schedule for the whole year and let me know if you'll be able to visit us in 2011. I'd love to see you in person!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blog Candy Congrats

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2010-12-11 14:43:53 UTC

* * *

Congratulations to Suzanne, who won the vacation blog candy drawing. Suzanne, please email me with your mailing address to claim your prize. Thanks to everyone who played. Sounds like there are lots of fun trips in the works this winter. In the meantime, hope you all have a terrific weekend!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sticky Note Holders

Last year, my mother-in-law started a new family tradition and we played the dice game on Christmas Day...all of us, from my four-year-old niece to Steve's middle-aged siblings to his young-at-heart parents. It didn't seem fair that Nikki should buy all the presents, though, so this year we're divvying up the responsbilities.

I'll be bringing several different items (some yet to be purchased...I'm usually not that much of a planner, LOL) and I thought it might be fun to include a couple of handcrafted goodies, namely these sticky note pad holder/pen sets:

They can be made using various sizes of acrylic frames, which you can usually get at the dollar store or another low-price chain retailer. I already had the 4" x 6" frames on hand, so that's what I used. I simply inserted my background paper into the frame like a photo:

Then I decorated the front with a stamped image. I used 10429H Wavin' Petey, which I first colored before embellishing with Diamond Dust using a glue pen. This stuff is what I call "glitter on steroids," and I love its chunky, sparkly appearance:

This fall, one of my students in class suggested filling an RSVP pen with glass beads for an unusual twist. (Most of the time you'll see patterned paper used with them, as I've done in the second project later in this post.) I thought it might be neat to try the Diamond Dust, so I pulled off the cap and the end piece but left the ink tube in the barrel. Then I used the end of the pen itself to scoop up the Diamond Dust:

And I tapped it point-side down so the Diamond Dust could settle before I continued filling it this way:

To adhere the sticky note pad to the frame, I removed the brown release paper from the back and applied strips of red-lined tape onto it:

After layering my image and adhering it to the upper part of the frame and tying a piece of ribbon to the pen cap, I was done:

I mentioned earlier how you can use patterned paper with the RSVP pen. Simply cut a 3/4" x 3 1/2" strip, roll it up, and insert it into the barrel.

For my second project, I stored the patterned paper piece a few times first since I was using cardstock weight:

Then I removed the pen cap, end piece, and this time also the ink barrel before inserting the folded patterned paper:

Instead of just laying the reassembled pen on the lip of my sticky note pad like I'd done earlier, I thought I'd add something to attach the pen to this one. I cut a velcro coin in half and placed each of the "loop" pieces on the side of the frame:

Then I cut the "hook" coin in half and put each piece face down onto the "loop" side (with the sticky adhesive facing out). I carefully positioned the pen onto the sticky part and pressed the "hook" pieces onto the pen.

This note holder was decorated with 0584G Season's Tweetings (which I colored before embellishing with flocking and ultrafine glitter using a glue pen):

Another way to attach the pen is to simply insert it into the ribbon, which I'd tied around the whole frame.

If you want to get really fancy, you can make a pen holder for the frame using 1/2" furniture leg caps as suggested by an Inky customer, Lucy G., who took one of my classes a couple of months ago. This is what she bought:

Lucy cut one of them in half horizontally with a craft knife and used a heavy-duty adhesive (she said Gorilla Super Glue works great) to attach the two pieces to the frame:

Here's a back view of her project:

And a front view:

Thanks for sharing, Lucy...and thank YOU for visiting again, Inky blog readers!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Back From Vacation

I'm sorry for the unannounced blog hiatus...I haven't forgotten about you, Inky friends! Steve and I went on a week-long vacation, and I've been catching up on work and home tasks since we got back a couple of days ago.

As you may recall, we got married last May but didn't have time to go on a honeymoon due to my convention schedule. So we planned to do something special this winter, which turned out to be a cruise:

We chose to sail on the Celebrity Summit:

(Doesn't that photo look almost like a postcard? Steve snapped it from one of the ports.)

We booked a balcony room, so most mornings we were greeted by a scene such as this one in St. Kitts:

We were excited to go ashore, just like these little folks we "met" on the boat:

Of course, when we spotted a grocery shop in the U.S. Virgin Islands, I had to check it out. This seamoss beverage looked, um, interesting:

But I chickened out at the last minute and opted for a watermelon soda instead:

Even though it's a flavor I don't normally associate with pop, it was actually quite good.

Being the foodie that I am, one of the shore excursions we took was called "Around the Isle of Spice" in Grenada. Did you know that cocoa beans look like this when the pod is first opened:

And nutmeg is actually a seed inside a "lacy" reddish covering called mace (which is another spice used in cooking) and a larger shell:

We forgot to pay for the tour, so they put Steve to work turning the nutmeg as it dried in the racks:

(Yes, of course I'm joking here.)

We also visited a rum distillery, where the sugarcane was loaded into the hopper and waiting for its juice to be extracted:

The fermenting juice smelled a little like molasses:

Grenada was quite scenic, too. It rained so we didn't go to the rainforest, but we did see a gorgeous rainbow that appeared to be descending right into the land:

Even some of the trees, such as this eucalyptus, were like rainbows:

After the weather cleared, we visited Annandale Falls:

Througout our trip, we saw so many delightful things. Some were big and some were small...and some were in surprising places, like in this port shopping mall:

Can you guess what the snowman is made from? Yup, it's plastic cups. How cool is that!

And each evening when we got back to the ship, there was something fun waiting in our stateroom:

The towel elephant was made by our talented attendant, Christopher:

There were also things to see and do all over the ship, such as this ice sculpture demonstration:

It only took the chef about ten minutes to create this:

Other sights included intricate beaded lady sculptures on every staircase landing:

And additonal fascinating pieces of art:

There was entertainment, too. We watched a Celebrity version of Family Feud one afternoon:

There were live performances in the lounges:

And shows in the theater:

Plus gambling if you wanted:

Or gazing at scenic beauty if that was more your speed:

But, you know me...I enjoyed the dining most of all:

On our last day, we toured the galley. This was only one small section of it:

I was floored by the sheer amount of food that is prepared there...3000 pounds of tenderloin, 2300 dozen eggs, 12,300 pounds of potatoes, and 11,340 gallons of milk (just to name a few items) on any given seven-day cruise. This chef was par-cooking chicken, one of twenty tubs he was doing that day:

The food was beautifully garnished with love and care:

Apparently the average cruiser gains up to ten pounds per trip. I'll admit that I did my part...I gained six pounds and now my jeans are snug!

Thanks for reading about our trip...how about some BLOG CANDY for getting through the whole post? I'm curious about YOUR vacation plans this winter. Leave a note in the comments section of this post telling me where/when you're going (or where you'd like to go, if you don't have anything in the works right now).

I'll take entries until this Friday at midnight Central time. The winner, who will receive a few surprise winter/holiday themed clear sets, will be randomly chosen on Saturday and I'll post the results here. Good luck, everyone!