The Great Indoors: How to make Bacon Roses

I’m not sure when I first started to notice that people on Facebook had gone a little nuts. Well, let’s qualify that. Some people on Facebook have always been a little nuts. But about a year ago, I began to see a really weird obsession: people posting their love of bacon.

We’re not talking about, “yeah, it tastes pretty good with scrambled eggs.” We’re talking mind-numbing hero worship. An all out Baconpalooza. Here are just a few examples you’ll find when you type “Bacon Mania” into Google. There are recipes for bacon milkshakes, bacon brittle, bacon popcorn, bacon chocolate chip cookies. Stores are selling bacon air freshener and bacon soda. Even Burger King was selling a bacon sundae.

So in honor of National Pig Day tomorrow we wanted to get into the act and make for you the most romantic of bacon creations: bacon roses.

Basically, it’s bacon strips rolled to look like tiny roses. A great option for your bacon loving loved ones. Unlike real flowers they won’t die, but they might raise your cholesterol.

My co-worker Josh Thomas scanned recipes all over the internet for the easiest way to make these little delicacies. Some require you to drill holes in your favorite muffin pan. But because I care deeply for my Pampered Chef ware, I will not do that. Josh found an easier and just as delicious way to achieve the perfect bacon roses.

What you’ll need:

One package bacon – any kind
fake flowers with flowers pulled off
mini muffin pan or regular muffin pan
cooling rack
parchment paper
cookie sheet

Start by tightly rolling bacon strips. Try to make the straightest edge of the strip the bottom of the rose. With the curviest edge of the strip, it will give a more authentic look to your bacon “petals.” After rolling the bacon, secure in place with a toothpick and place in mini muffin tin. If you only have a regular muffin pan, you can place two “roses” in each cup. One all roses are rolled place in preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Take out of the oven and carefully place “roses” on a cooling rack on a parchment lined cookie sheet. If you don’t take the “roses” out of the muffin cups at this point, bacon grease might overflow from the cups. Place the cookie sheet back in oven for another 10-20 minutes depending on how crispy you like your bacon. Once the bacon has cooled for a few minutes. Secure them onto the fake flower stems. Place in a vase and watch your loved ones smile and probably need a glass of water.

The Great Indoors – Woody’s Spaghetti Sauce

Who doesn’t love a good spaghetti sauce especially when it’s packed with healthful, filling ingredients?

That’s what Concordia College Cooking Show Host and KVRR Reporter Hannah Johnson showed me on this weeks’ Great Indoors.

“Woody’s Spaghetti Sauce” is named for Hannah’s grandfather who made the sauce as long as she can remember. Not only is it easy to make, it’s delicious, and it’s a good way to sneak your veggies into your diet. Power packed with flavor and nutrition.


Olive Oil
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup sliced zucchini
1/2 cup green peppers
black pepper
Optional: asparagus, broccoli and other kind of vegetable you like
28 oz can tomato sauce
6 slices of bacon – cooked
Spaghetti noodles

Heat olive oil in sauce pan at medium high heat. Add onions and garlic until onion sweats. Add vegetables and saute until crisp tender. Add 28 oz can of tomato sauce. Add crumbled slices of bacon to the sauce. Sprinkle with black pepper and serve over cooked spaghetti noodles.

The Two Biggest Mistakes in Chocolate Dipped Strawberries and A Strawberry Margarita for Chocolate Lovers

Valentine’s Day is here and for those of you in a panic that you haven’t done anything special for your amour there’s still time and it comes courtesy a popular Valentine’s Day culinary pairing.

Chocolate and Strawberries go together like Romeo and Juliet, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, or Taylor Swift and boyfriend du jour.

What’s better is the two of them together (strawberries and chocolate not Taylor Swift and whomever) are not only romantic but part of a fuss-free holiday.

We have two recipes that you can whip up tonight and still score points with your sweetie.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

You might ask, why do I need a recipe for this? Seems pretty straight forward. However, believe it or not this is one of those recipes that is easy to screw up. But not if you avoid the two biggest mistakes in chocolate dipped strawberries.


12 oz package chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk chocolate)
waxed paper

Wash your strawberries the night before you dip them. Spread them out on a cookie sheet and make sure they’re as dry as possible. That is mistake #1. If the strawberries are wet the chocolate won’t stick. Put toothpicks through top of strawberries for easier handling.

Pour chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Set microwave for 1:30 at high power. Stop every 15 seconds or so to check chips and stir. Don’t over melt them. This is mistake #2. Whether you use a double boiler or microwave – SLOWLY MELT your chips. If the chips get too hot, the chocolate will seize up and there is no saving it. In fact, let some of the chips remain unmelted. They’ll melt as soon as you stir them together with the melted chips.

Once chocolate is melted, dip strawberries.(If you prefer, after dipping the chocolates in strawberries dip them in coconut, peanuts or sprinkles.) Rest on waxed paper lined cookie sheet and let sit for a few minutes in a cool spot.

Chocolate Lovers Strawberry Margarita

Who doesn’t love a margarita? But there’s a way to improve the traditional strawberry margarita for your favorite chocoholic.


Chocolate Milk
Strawberry Margarita or Daiquiri Mix
Crushed Ice

Mix 3 parts chocolate milk to 2 parts strawberry mix to 1 part tequila. Pour over crushed ice and garnish with chocolate covered strawberry. How easy is that?

What to do with all of those old T-shirts

It seems like everytime you turn around someone is giving you a t-shirt. You run a race, you join a club, you give money to a fundraiser. You get a shirt, you get a shirt, you get a shirt.

The thought is nice, but after awhile that shirt drawer is stuffed. Some inventive crafty types make them into adorable t-shirt quilts (We’ll save that one for another day).

But if you have a little less time, LaurelLee Loftsgard has a really fun way to repurpose those old t-shirts.

T-shirt Scarves add a little color to an otherwise drab outfit and because they’re cotton they’re washable and comfy too.

In this week’s “The Great Indoors with Tracy Briggs” LaurelLee walks you through how to make one.

Find a t-shirt (extra large work best, but any size will do)

Cut off the sleeves.

From the cut-off sleeves cut three small strips of fabric. They should be about 6 inches long. These will be used to tie the scarf.

Then cut 9 strips of fabric (about an inch thick) out of the main body of the t-shirt. (Make sure you cut off the seam of the shirt first)

You’ll have 9 circles of fabric. Cut them so they become 9 long strips.

Grab the strips in a bunch and tie them together at the top with one strip of fabric from the t-shirt sleeve.

Divide the 9 fabric strips into 3 bunches and start braiding. When you have the amount of braid you like, tie it off with the second piece of fabric from the sleeve.

Put it around your neck. Tie the final sleeve strip to the two ends to secure in place.

And best of all, you can use the room you’ve saved in your T-shirt drawer for something else!

The Great Indoors: Jalapeno Popper Super Bowl Dip

Let’s be honest some of us go to Super Bowl parties just for the food. I must say that’s the case for one of my favorite co-worker’s LaurelLee Loftsgard.

LaurelLee is a remarkably talented and successful young woman, but ask her about football and she’ll give you a blank stare like none you’ve ever seen before.

When I asked her who she wanted to win the Super Bowl she claimed she just chooses whoever’s winning so she’ll always be in a good mood.

I know. It makes true football fans squirm just a little, right?

But one thing I will say is what LaurelLee lacks in football knowledge she makes up for in Super Bowl food prep. This week on The Great Indoors she makes an out of this world Jalapeno Popper Dip that your guests will love. Warm and oozing with cheese (lots of it says LaurelLee) it also has a spicy kick and tastes like the real deal.

Enjoy! And Happy Super Bowl snacking!

Jalapeno Popper Dip

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, room temp
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese (half Jack, half cheddar cheese)
1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 (4 ounce) can sliced jalapenos – double if you like heat
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
No stick spray


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth. You do not need to drain either can of peppers. Spray an oven safe casserole dish with no stick spray. Pour mixture into dish. In a bowl, mix breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over the dip and spray top of dip with light coating of non stick spray (you can use melted butter if you prefer). Bake in oven for about 20 minutes. You want the top to get browned and the dip to be heated through and bubble gently on the edges.

Serve with crackers or bread.

Who says fondant has to be hard?

You know you’ve thought it. You see a recipe on Pinterest and you think, “Well that’s great! But I could never make that!” Well, that’s what Areavoices blogger Shannon Olson once thought. An untrained baker, she’s become a local expert on fun creative, cake decorating and she says it’s easier than you might think. Take for example fondant. The smooth, beautiful frosting looks difficult to master and you’d think you had to spend a lot of money to get the look. But Olson shows us how to make your own fondant. In this case, she’s using it to make a cake that looks like a box of popcorn.

Fondant Covered “Popcorn” Cake

1 prepared cake, cooled and sliced in half. (Shannon used a pan that was 8 X 9.5 X 3 Pyrex 2.75 liter glass pan.)
caramel popcorn

Fondant ingredients:

16 ounces mini marshmallows
2-5 Tablespoons water
2 pounds powdered sugar
Crisco (white not butter flavored)

Icing ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened
4 c powdered sugar (adjust to consistency needed)
1/4 c milk
2 tsp vanilla

To make the fondant place place marshmallows and 2 Tbs. water in a microwavable bowl. Heat for 30 seconds and stir. Continue heating 15 to 20 sec, stirring in between, adding additional water if needed until smooth and completely melted.

Stir in 3/4 bag of powdered sugar.

Grease counter top or board with Crisco, pour out fondant.
Grease hands and begin kneading, working in more sugar if needed. Fondant should end up being smooth, not dry and not sticky. If it gets too dry add a very small amount of water.
Take about ¼ of it and mix in red food coloring.
Store red and white fondant in plastic wrap. Set aside.

Icing ingredients
1 cup butter, softened
4 c powdered sugar (adjust to consistency needed)
1/4 c milk
2 tsp vanilla
Cream butter, add 4 c powdered sugar, milk and extract. Add remaining sugar until smooth spreadable consistency.

When cake is completely cooled, cut it to the desired size for your popcorn box. Spread the icing on the cake. Don’t worry about whether crumbs mix in with the frosting. This layer of frosting is simply the glue that will hold the fondant in place. Appearance doesn’t matter. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Take fondant out of plastic wrap. Cover countertop or workspace with powdered sugar and begin to roll out the fondant to the size needed to cover your cake. Roll out red fondant as well and make the red stripes for the popcorn box. Carefully place white fondant over the top of the cake with an opening at the top. Place red stripes on top of the white fondant. Place caramel corn at the opening of the cake. Refrigerate until it’s served.

For more ideas on cake decorating or vintage decorating check out Shannon Olson’s blog at

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cake and Popcorn Cupcakes

The other day while scrolling through Facebook, my friend Shannon Olson posted a picture of a cake she had just made. Shannon is famous for her creations. As the writer of Vintage North Dakota Kitchen on Areavoices ( she never ceases to amaze with her creative turn on some standard dishes.

But even this one astounded me with it’s creativity and authenticity. It’s her peanut butter and jelly sandwich cake. Looking at the picture I could have sworn it was a sandwich. So I insisted she prove to me that it was actually a cake. She invited LaurelLee Loftsgard and I out to her vintage kitchen and showed up not only the adorable PB and J cake, but also fun popcorn cupcakes, perfect for an Oscar night party. Best of all, both are super easy and achievable even for us non-experts. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cake

White cake mix (and ingredients it requires: oil, eggs, water)

½ cup creamy peanut butter

½ cup softened butter

3-4 TBSP milk

Powdered Sugar

Jelly (any kind)

Prepare a white cake mix according to package directions (of course you can always make a homemade cake, but who has time?)

Bake in an 8X8 or 9X9 pan lined and buttered with parchment paper. You will have cake left over.

Remove from pan, cool completely.
When cool, slice the cake in half horizontally. Flip the top half over. You’ll notice it looks like a slice of bread.

Mix together peanut butter, butter, milk and just enough powdered sugar to achieve the desired consistency. Spread that mixture on the bottom layer of your cake. Be messy. Let it slide off the sides so it looks like a real sandwich. Spread desired amount of jelly on top of peanut butter. Place the remaining half of cake on top of the filling so the bread-looking side is up. Cut diagonally into two triangles. Serve.

“Buttered Popcorn” Cupcakes

1 batch baked cupcakes

1 bag mini marshmallows

yellow food coloring

1 cup butter, softened

4 c powdered sugar (adjust to consistency needed)

1/4 c milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

Cream butter, add 4 c powdered sugar, milk and extract. Add remaining sugar until smooth spreadable consistency.

Tear mini marshmallows in half and stick back together making them look like popcorn kernals. Frost cupcakes and top with marshmallows, dilute yellow food coloring with water and paint on for butter look. If you want to get really creative you can dab black food coloring to represent some darker kernals.

Cut striped red and white paper and create popcorn bags to wrap around the cupcakes.

Next week, Shannon shows us just how easy it is to make your own fondant.

For more recipes and vintage decorating ideas check out Shannon’s blog at

Is Feng Shui the answer to a happier home life?

The Ancient Chinese might say so and some modern day Midwesterners too. What is Feng Shui? According to

“Feng shui is an ancient art and science developed over 3,000 years ago in China. It is a complex body of knowledge that reveals how to balance the energies of any given space to assure health and good fortune for people inhabiting it.”

There are many ways to use Feng Shui to tackle problems or challenges within a home.

I heard about Feng Shui expert Tracy Green of Fargo and invited her into my home to give it a whirl. In the video, you’ll see me interview her, but she spent a good part of our time interviewing me about my family life and challenges we faced. Almost immediately she asked me if I have trouble making decisions. I had to think about it for awhile (just kidding) but the answer was a definitive “yes.” She says it’s not uncommon for people living in split level homes or bi-level homes where you’re faced with a decision about where to go immediately upon entering the home.

She also diagnosed that based upon the placement of my daughter’s bedrooms, they have more power in the home than they should (well, I could have told her that a long time ago).

Short of moving, what are the solutions to my problems and others? According to Feng Shui experts like Green and others, there are a few simple things you can do:

1. Clean out the clutter. Clutter blocks energy. Have you ever noticed how much lighter you and your house feel after putting your junk out on the curb during clean up week? Green says think about your desk at work, when it’s crowded with stuff, it’s hard to focus on anything.

2. Live with good quality air and light. Open the windows, have air purifying plants. Think about using full spectrum light.

3. Crystal placement within the home. Crystals are used to help the energy or vibration within the home. Different kinds of crystals do different things ranging from helping you concentrate to helping you find love or wealth.

Green is a realtor who says clients have used her Feng Shui expertise to help them decide between two homes. She says it’s not “Woo Woo” stuff. It’s based on real science and she’s seen first hand how postive Feng Shui within the home has changed lives.

What if the Downton Abbey Characters were food?

It was quite an education the other night at Prairie Public Television’s Downton Abbey Season Three premiere party. Not only did I get to have tea with three brilliant British ladies who taught me the nuances of being Anglo (EG: You are Bri-tish, not Bri-dish) but I also savored some of the finest in British cuisine. (Yes, there is fine Bri-tish cuisine). Watch the video below.

Mosaic Foods and The Golden Spoon Traveling Tea Room catered the evening and they agreed to help you design a menu for your own Downton Abbey viewing party.

Better yet, each dish is inspired by a character from the show (or at least how we interpret them).

We will start the night, appropriately so, with a dish inspired by the matriarch of the family – the woman who started it all.

Dowager Countess Apricot with Goat Cheese and Pistachios

Think of sweet, tart apricots soaked in acidic orange juice. The result is a rich, tart, and sour. Doesn’t that describe the Dowager Countess?

150 dried apricot halves (2 pounds)
1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
1 1/2 cups shelled pistachios, 1/2 of them toasted
1 pound soft mild goat cheese, chilled

Toss apricots with juice and let stand, tossing occasionally, 20 minutes.
Chop all pistachios, preferably by hand, and season with salt. Drain apricots, cut sides up, on paper towels. Top each with a small chunk of cheese and sprinkle with nuts.

Recipe found on Epicurious.

Lord Grantham’s Mini Beef Wellington

Like Lord Grantham himself, this dish is rich, classic, and British. It’s mostly strong and hearty, but has a flaky, delicate side. (Think Lord Grantham’s behavior after he lost Bates. It was like a British masculine version of of Beaches.)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into 24 (1-inch) cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, stemmed and finely chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the beef dry with a paper towel and season all sides with salt and pepper. Quickly sear the beef on 2 sides only until deep golden brown, about 4 minutes total; do not overcook. Transfer to a plate to cool.

Add the mushrooms and cook until beginning to brown and release liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the shallots and continue cooking until mushroom mixture dries out, is golden brown and shallots are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Preheat to the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

On a work surface, roll 1 sheet of puff pastry to a 10 by 14-inch rectangle. Put teaspoon-sized mounds of mushroom mixture on the pastry, evenly spacing them in 4 rows of 3. Top the mushroom mound with a piece of beef, seared side up. With a sharp knife, cut the pastry into even squares around the meat and mushrooms. Working 1 at a time, pull 2 opposite sides of pastry up over each beef piece, then fold the ends over the top to make a packet. Invert and arrange the packets seam side down on the baking sheet and press them lightly to seal the pastry. Repeat with the remaining beef, mushrooms, and pastry.

Bake the Wellingtons until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven to a serving platter and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe courtesy The Food Network

Cora’s Caprese Salad

Cora, more formally known as Lady Grantham, is the American heiress who married into the Crawley family. This salad with its tomato, beans and cheese is like a walk through an American garden. Fresh flavors with a little kick, kind of like Cora. (But what’s up with her devotion to O’Brien?)

3/4 to 1 pound fresh mozzarella, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pound peak-season tomatoes (I prefer roma for this because they’re less wet, but other varieties also work), diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed or 1 3/4 cups white beans that you’ve cooked fresh
1/4 cup pesto (or a handful of slivered basil plus 1/4 cup olive oil)
3 to 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix and season and then re-season again to adjust to your taste. Eat at once or keep it in the fridge up to a few days (really, it will depend on how fresh your mozzarella is; the made-daily stuff is only good for a day or two, most others will last nearly a week).

Recipe courtesy: Mosaic Foods

Matthew’s Scones

Let’s be honest, Matthew is a little bland. He’s no dashing Turk (we know Mary goes for that), but he’s solid and satisfying and with a few embellishments could actually be a little zippier. Kind of like a scone.

5 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups whole milk
3 eggs
Optional: raisins, currants, chocolate chips, etc..

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix the flour and baking powder. Add softened butter until the mixture is crumbly. Add milk and eggs. Mix into dough. Add any optional ingredients. Scatter flour on work surface and roll dough to 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick. Use a round 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter to cut out scones, and place them on a buttered baking sheet. For best results, let the uncooked scones chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Bake 20-25 minutes. Serve with Devonshire cream and preserves.

Lady Mary’s Lemon Crinkles

Lady Mary Crawley is a wispy woman. Thin with pale white skin, it’s hard to picture her working on the farm like sister Edith or marching for suffrage like sister Sybil. Mary is about the parasols and the afternoon tea. She has an edge to her, but for the most part she’s light and delicate like this cookie.

1 box lemon cake mix
1 egg slightly beaten
2 cups Cool Whip – thawed
1 cup powdered sugar

Combine cake mix, egg and Cool Whip. The batter will be sticky. Form dough into tablespoons and roll in powdered sugar. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Edges will be golden brown. Allow to cool 1 minute on baking sheet. Remove to wire rack.

Recipe courtesy: The Golden Spoon Traveling Tea Room (701) 219-4267 or

A tomato/onion recipe for people who don’t like tomatoes or onions

I remember, years ago, when I worked in television news a handful of reporters, photographers and producers were sitting around eating burgers for lunch. I noticed every single one of us had picked the tomatoes and onions off of our sandwiches. They just laid there on the wrappers discarded like the garbage we thought they were.

All of us – tomato and onion haters. At the time I figured it was some sort of weird personality flaw. Maybe those of us with the skills to be journalists conversely lacked the tastebuds to enjoy tomatoes and onions.

But I now realize were weren’t alone. Tomatoes and onions are among the most disliked foods in America. Tomato haters even have their own webpage: (“We hate tomatoes. And we want to eradicate the seed from the earth”) and their own Facebook page, Anti-Tomato Squad (“dedicated to the warriors who hate tomatoes”).

But I believe I might have changed my tune back in the 1990’s when my sister, Cheryl Lausch, found a recipe in Gourmet magazine that meant all bets were off. It used the hated tomato and onion and made them absolutely delightfully delicious. They became part of a buttery, cheesy, rich tart that melted in my mouth. It’s worth a try. It might be time to make up with the tomato and onion. Watch us make it in this week’s “The Great Indoors with Tracy Briggs” on


2 large onions (about 1 1/2 pounds), sliced thin
2 tablespoons olive oil
Butter pastry dough for a single-crust 12-inch tart (see recipe below. You can also use a store bought pie shell)
1/2 pound Jack or Gruyère cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
1/2 pound plum tomatoes cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1/2 pound medium yellow tomatoes (about 2) or 1/2 pound plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1/4 cup Niçoise olives, pitted

In a large heavy skillet cook onions with salt to taste in oil, covered, over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 20 minutes. Remove lid and cook onions, stirring occasionally, until golden and any liquid evaporates. Remove skillet from heat to cool onions slightly.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin roll dough into a 14-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick). Fold round in half and transfer to a 12-inch tart pan with a removable fluted rim or a 12-inch quiche dish. Unfold dough, easing to fit, and trim overhang to 3/4 inch. Fold overhang toward center and press against side of pan or dish. Spread onion mixture over dough and top with cheese. Arrange tomato wedges and olives in concentric circles over cheese and season with salt and pepper.
Bake tart in middle of oven 1 hour, or until pastry is golden, and cool on a rack. Remove rim of pan if necessary.
Serve tart warm or at room temperature.

Butter Pastry Dough
(Makes enough dough for a single-crust 12-inch tart)
May be prepared in 45 minutes or less but requires additional unattended time.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
6 to 7 tablespoons ice water
In a large bowl whisk together flour and salt and with a pastry blender or fingertips blend in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork to incorporate, until mixture begins to form a dough. On a work surface smear dough in 3 or 4 forward motions with heel of hand to slightly develop gluten in flour and make dough easier to work with. Form dough into a ball and flatten to form a disk. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill 1 hour. Pastry dough may be made 1 week ahead and chilled.