Learning how to curl a humbling experience!

The Winter Olympics are just two weeks away and I’m as excited as Al Michaels calling the Russian game. When it comes to Olympics, make mine winter, please. The summer games are great, but there’s something about the winter sports. I remember being so inspired by Dorothy Hamill’s figure skating gold in the 1976 Winter Olympics that my sister and I set our alarms to start training the very next morning. We lasted about 20 minutes at the nearby outdoor rink before home and hot chocolate called. Would-be fame and glory shattered by Swiss Miss.

While well-known sports like figure skating and hockey are fun to watch, part of the fun is seeing those less popular sports like the luge, the biathlon or curling.

I remember being mesmerized watching curling in 2010. While I understood very little about the game, I found myself unable to break away from the TV screen as I watched the competitors plot, strategize and deliver the stones down the ice. I swore before the next Olympics I’d try to understand the game of curling a little better.

My timing was perfect. The Fargo Moorhead Curling Club just got done hosting the U.S. Olympic trials and opening its new 2.7 million-dollar facility in Southwest Fargo. They also have some rising stars in their midst.

Four Davies High School seniors and one Minot State University freshman make up a team that has won the North Dakota High School championship two years in a row and most recently qualified to compete at the 2014 USA Curling Junior National Championships in Seattle this weekend. They will face just 9 other teams for the opportunity to represent the United States at World Junior Championships in Switzerland.

Branden Scheel, Tyler Johnson, Aaron Johnson and Hunter Dennison were nice enough to invite me out to their practice to teach me what curling is all about. The four men have been friends for years. Tyler and Aaron’s mother Kristi says they only got into curling because they were looking for something to do.

“We told them, ‘we don’t want you sitting around all winter playing your X-Box! Find something!’ ” she says.

Johnson says the boys went to an open house at the curling club in 7th grade and they couldn’t get them off the ice. Now they practice a couple of times a week and compete in tournaments on the weekends.

About 300 adults curl at FM Curling and they offer lessons to children as well. Scheel teaches children, so perhaps that’s why he was given the responsibility of showing me the ropes. Watch the video to see why Scheel and his teammates deserve a medal for extreme patience with a middle-aged woman.

It was a lot of fun. I learned a lot and feel more equipped to understand the game while I watch it on TV. Here are the Top 5 things I think you should know about curling:

1. It is one of the oldest sports in the world. Paintings from the 16th century show people curling on outdoor ponds. Written evidence has been found as early as 1540 of games existing in Scotland.

2. The ice isn’t what you’d expect. I figured ice is ice is ice. I’ve been to hockey games, figure skated and even suffered through high school PE broomball games and the ice was pretty standard. But curling ice isn’t smooth and glassy. It’s more nubby and pebbled. Ice technicians sprinkle water onto the ice. Those droplets freeze to create a textured surface that helps the curling rocks slide down the ice and make their path more predictable than smooth-as-glass ice.

3. My shoes surprised me too. They’re different. The right shoe looks like a pretty standard black orthopedic shoe. But the left shoe has a protective sleeve on the bottom – like one big galosh without a mate. When you remove it, and step on the ice, watch out! There are discs on the bottom of the left shoe that are designed to help you slide when you throw. It’s hard to keep steady on that foot. I wiped out a couple of times (not agony of defeat falling off a ski jump serious. But still I didn’t want to break a hip).

4. It’s not shuffleboard on ice. Scheel says that’s probably the biggest misconception people have. He says curling is its own sport, but the strategizing makes it closer to chess on ice.

5. While it might be chess on ice, it requires more athleticism than I first thought. I had a friend who enjoyed curling because as he said, “I like any sport where I can keep my beer cold while I play.” So my expectations were lowered. Not to mention Scheel, Johnson, Johnson and Dennison make it look so easy. But it’s not.

It requires strength and balance to lunge during a throw and upper body strength for the brushing they do to clear the way for the stone. The next day after my curling lesson my legs and arms were sore. That doesn’t happen when I lie on my couch and watch other people curl.

Thanks to Team North Dakota for teaching me. We’re proud of you and wish you much luck. I’m available if you need an alternate for Seattle. Or perhaps I should just go find a nice mug of Swiss Miss.

Vote for your Favorite Christmas cookie!

Thanks to those of you who entered your favorite Christmas cookie in our Great Indoors Christmas cookie contest. The 4 finalists are listed below. All of these cookies look delicious! I’d love to bake any of them this season (and maybe I will). Your vote will determine who walks away with $100 from West Acres and a chance to have their recipe made on The Great Indoors.

You can vote more than once. Tell your friends!

Fill out my online form.

Classic Christmas Cut Outs

Classic Christmas Cut-Outs

This is a recipe that was handed down from my Grandmother. I remember growing up making these and they were always the first cookies to disappear from the cookie trays that my mother made. And now when I make them the same holds true.

1 cup shortening (I prefer to use 1/2 butter flavor and 1/2 original Crisco)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
2 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
4 Tablespoons of heavy cream

Cream together shortening, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda. Mix in the eggs unitl combined with sugar mixture. Gradually stir in flour-mix slightly. Scrape down sides of your mixing bowl. Add cream and continue to mix until cookie dough comes together-should only take a minute or so. Divide dough in 3. On a generously floured surface roll the first batch to desired thickness and cut with your favorite Christmas shapes. Continue with additional dough.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.

Cool and decorate as desired.

This dough also works well to make a filled cookie. Follow steps above except cut into 2-3 inch circles. Add 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite filling to the center of the circles, fold over dough and seal edges.

Suggestion for filling for cookies:

Cranberry orange-great way to use up your left over cranberry sauce from the holidays. Take remaining cranberry sauce add some fresh orange zest and a little orange extract and use to fill cookies. Yum!

By Melissa Jaskowski

Cherry Ding a Lings

Cherry Ding-a-lings
1 pkg refrigerated sugar cookie dough, thawed *
1/2 tsp ginger
3/4 c finely chopped pecans or walnuts
1/3 c packed brown sugar
2 T maraschino cherry juice
one jar maraschino cherries, cut in half (I used 15)
Mix filling ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Put cookie dough and ginger in bowl and mix on medium high speed until ginger is incorporated; divide dough in half.
Place Saran wrap on counter and sprinkle lightly with flour; place one ball of dough in center and place another layer of saran wrap on this; using a rolling pin, roll out until 1/4″. This step prevents one from using tons of flour and makes the whole process a snap!
Using a round cutter, cut out shapes and place on stone or cookie sheet with parchment paper. With a small fork, put half a forkful in the top center of circle and fold two sides in to make a bell shape. Seal the edges and top gently with fingers. Tuck a half cherry in to represent a clapper.
Bake at 350 for 13-15 minutes; let sit on pan for a few minutes and remove to cool on rack.
Decorate, outline, or leave plain.
*One could make a homemade dough, but this is a great recipe for busy people who want more than a sugar cookie. This is a fun recipe to do with kids!

By Brenda Gorseth

GG’s Peanut Buttery Chocolate Chip Cookies

GG’s peanut buttery chocolate chip cookies:

4 cups flour
4 tsp soda
1 tsp salt
Mix 3 ingredients in bowl and set aside.

Then mix in a separate bowl:
2 cups Jif peanut butter
2 cups Crisco
2 cups white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
Mix well then add dry ingredients above. Then add in one 12oz bag of peanut butter chips (Reese’s) and 1 bag of semi sweet chips (Nestle). Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or lightly brown.

* I like to roll into balls and freeze so we can have hot fresh cookies at any time!
* At Christmas I add the chocolate chip colored morsels! So festive :)
* FYI…you can not stop at 1 or 2! They are that nummy :)

Tracy Cater

Marshall Sugar Cookies

1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup butter
! cup Oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
4 ½ cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1tsp soda
1 tsp cream of tarter
Cream together sugars and butter, add the oil and eggsand beat until fluffy. Add the dry ingredients to the mixture and mix well. Roll into balls and press down with glass dipped in sugar. Bake at 375 degrees. Frost with powdered sugar frosting.

Enjoy! These area recipe my mom made for years..she got it from Josephine Marshall, her husband Fred was a state legislator years ago and were family friends.

Julia Youngs

Black Friday Tips

I used to think the people who shopped on Black Friday were nuts! Why would you get up long before sunrise, stand in line outside and fight the crowds?

Then one year, when I worked for WDAY-TV, I covered Black Friday. I have to admit, I got caught up in the excitement too. Not completely, but a little bit.

In the last few years, I’ve gone out to shop on Black Friday. I’ve never camped out, nor will I ever. I’m way to big a wimp for that. But I have risen long before I wanted to for the chance to save some money. Here are our tips for how to maximize the day!


Using veggies a different way this Thanksgiving

I started The Great Indoors as a way to celebrate the finer things between four walls: cooking, decorating, entertaining, crafting and more. But let’s be honest most weeks this blog is about food. Maybe it’s because, while I don’t consider myself a great cook, I’m a better cook than I am a decorator, hostess or craft queen. But occasionally I like to put the recipes aside and delve into one of those other topics. Today it’s decorating, but not surprisingly it even involves food.

I found the idea for this centerpiece on Pinterest. I liked it because it wasn’t your traditional orange, red, and yellow turkey inspired centerpiece. It was white, green, and fresh-looking.
It involves using fresh vegetables and flowers to complement white candles.

And before you get on me for wasting food, I’ll tell you, after I was done putting the centerpiece together, I removed the veggies, washed them thoroughly and had them fore dinner. (And there was no taste of wax to be had).

Watch and learn how to make the centerpiece.

Cooking with an old friend

Okay, he’s not really old. In fact Scott Seiler is a couple of years younger than I am. But we go WAAAAAAAY back. I’m talking like bad 80’s hair and acid washed jeans back. Scott and I worked at WDAY-TV together in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

We mostly covered the weekend shift, which meant we were all about pancake feeds, parades and whatever else Saturday and Sunday might bring. He was a great reporter/photographer and I was sad to see him leave for greener pastures after 5 years.

He’s now working with RDO equipment. RDO is the biggest producer of potatoes in the nation, so who better to cook a great potato recipe with?

We had a lot of fun making these twice baked potatoes. I’m even going to make them for Thanksgiving!