What SheSays: Is women swearing a new epidemic or old news?

A recent New York Times column called out women’s magazines for using too much vulgar language and swearing. SheSays editor Heidi Shaffer (pictured above, center), writer Anna Larson (right) and LaurelLee Loftsgard (left) talk about why women are held to a different standard of prim and proper behavior on this week’s episode of “What SheSays.”

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 http://vintagenorthdakotakitchen.areavoices.com

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 (vintagenorthdakotakitchen.areavoices.com) 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 vintagenorthdakotakitchen.areavoices.com

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 About.com:

“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.

Hungry for More Quick Tip: Perfect pizza sauce

There’s no party like a pizza party and we have the perfect homemade sauce for you.
“Hungry for More” host Jim Manney is back at Rhombus Guys and head chef Connor Paulson shows us their top secret and easy to do at home pizza sauce.
It’s the simple ingredients that most people already have at home that may be most surprising.
Rhombus Guys was voted 2012 Best Pizza of the Red River Valley, so it’s nice to know that our taste buds are liking the things we all know and love. No secret ingredients here.
So round up your friends, family or even just make a personal pizza for yourself, and you’ve already got half of the hard work done, the homemade pizza sauce.
And don’t worry if you don’t eat it all in one sitting, it can last up to 10 days in the fridge!

Pizza Sauce:

4 parts Tomato Sauce
1 part Tomato paste
1/8 part oil
Italian Seasoning to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste
Roasted or fresh garlic
Mix all ingredients. Stir well. Refrigerate up to 10 days.

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: Anti-Tomato.com (“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 shesaystv.areavoices.com.

TOMATO ONION TART

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.

(RECIPE PROVIDED BY EPICURIOUS

A delicious alternative to jellied cranberry sauce

My mom was a great cook. Our Christmas dinners were a delicious array of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and my dad’s favorite: peas with those little pearl onions. But I was never a big fan of one dish on our holiday table: jellied cranberry sauce.

I can still hear that “Bah-lub” sound as the jellied mass plopped out of the can onto the plate; the ridges of the can imprinted on the sides.

My sister, Cheryl Lausch, loved that cranberry sauce. That’s why it’s a little ironic that she is the creator of a cranberry sauce that ended up giving the jarred sauce it’s walking papers.

Several years ago, at a holiday dinner Cheryl unveiled her Cranberry Orange Relish. For those of us who weren’t fans of the jellied sauce, this was a sweet and tarty dream come true.

It fresh, crunchy, and refreshing. It’s super easy to make. And best of all, there are no ridges on the sides.Watch us make it in this weeks “The Great Indoors with Tracy Briggs” on shesaystv.areavoices.com.

CHERYL’S CRANBERRY ORANGE RELISH

1 Bag of Fresh Cranberries
1 Orange – peeled and sectioned (as much white coating taken off as possible)
1 Green Apple – cut in sections, (peeling is optional)
1 large can of pineapple chunks
1 cup of sugar

Put cranberries, orange sections, apple sections and pineapple chunks into food processor. Chop until it reaches the consistency of relish. (But if you like it chunkier, don’t mix as long.)

Pour into bowl. Mix with sugar.

Serves 12.