Tuesday, June 19, 2018


"a portrait of each of my children, once each week, in 2018."

Cruz: You tried a root beer float last night and almost gagged at the taste of root beer.  You still think pop is "too spicy."  But that strawberry milkshake and strawberry shortcake?  You could have had thirds!

Mila: I love you in this little blue sundress.  We've been working through some tooth issues with you the past couple weeks and you've been nothing short of amazing.  From the penicilin you take like a champ (I taught you to plug your nose) to the x-rays and dentist chairs, you have once again proven to be full of spunk and strength.  

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Ashley Cooks Magnolia || Part 2

I am having a ball cooking and baking my way through Joanna Gaines' newest pot of gold, Magnolia Table Cookbook.  It's reinspired me in the kitchen, made meal planning easy as I'm no longer overwhelmed with countless cookbooks, Pinterest boards, and other recipe collections, and I've hardly found a recipe I haven't loved.  The cookbook is simple, classic, and full of sweet stories that get right at the heart of what I love about cooking.  It's so much more than the flavors and tastes when the food hits those taste buds.  Food is just the currency that buys you connection and togetherness, comfort and heart, beauty in the process and the details of it all.  It brings out the very best - a slow rainy afternoon in the kitchen with my girl, a summertime supper on the deck while the sun's going down, a dessert so good your friends can't help but lick the plate.

The pages of my cookbook are smudged and a little worse for wear (there's an avocado stain on the guacamole page that drives me a little bonkers), but I'm 21 recipes in!  I've done the math and if I make about 3 a week, I'll be done with the entire cookbook in a year.  But at the rate I'm going, I may be closing the cover sooner rather than later.  Especially if the recipes continue to be so good!

(8) I made Joanna's orange scones fittingly on the morning of the big royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  I got up before the sun and having just returned from our trip across the pond, I was full of love for everything British, especially something to dunk in my teacup.  I've never been a big fan of scones, always find them a little dry and crumbly, but these nothing of the sort!  And the orange glaze overtop?  This was definitely the icing on the cake!        

(9) I made the deviled eggs for a Memorial Day barbecue at the Susongs, and they were a hit.  You really can't go wrong with a deviled egg!  These were a little unique using pickled relish in the filling, and although I think I prefer my hubby's recipe, these were still gone in a flash.

(10) Beau and I have spent years attempting many different homemade mac and cheese recipes.  And this one is the best we've ever made I think!  If you've spent any time in this cookbook, you've likely discovered Joanna's love of Gruyere cheese.  I know I've purchased more Gruyere the last three weeks than in my entire life!  We've grown to love it's smooth and rich flavor, and have definitely found that the key to a good dish with cheese is the grate it yourself.  I know it takes an extra step, but the grated cheese doesn't compare to the bagged stuff!  And while it's not pictured on the pictures below, the optional crispy topping is a must!

(11) I made the chocolate cola cake for Beau's birthday and it was yet another big hit.  The cola was added to both the cake and the frosting and made both smooth, moist, and easy to work with.  It tasted like a fluffy brownie and stayed good for almost a week.  And, it paired wonderfully with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream!

(12) I made the sour cream chicken enchiladas a couple weeks ago and these will definitely go on the rotation for our favorite Mexican night.  They were easy, especially using rotisserie chicken from the store and chopped the night before. We lightened them up with all the yummy fixings - fresh cilantro, tomato, and lime wedges, and were impressed how long they lasted in the fridge.  Definitely a make again recipe, and would be great made ahead of time to serve for company! 

(13) We also loved the Mexican rice and decided we need to take the extra two steps to make more non-instant rice more often!  It was almost as easy as the instant stuff, and far less sticky.  We threw in a handful of cilantro when we were ready to serve, and also served this with fresh lime wedges for a little citrus.   

(14) I made the egg salad for lunch this week and was a big fan of this as well!  I usually use chopped celery in my egg salad, and this one called for chopped dill pickles instead.  They added the crunch I love, and also gave it some flavor!  I used dried onion flakes instead of the grated onion it calls for, and will definitely be making this again!

(15) Other than the biscuits (these get their very own post), my favorite recipe in the cookbook thus far has to be the broiled honey thyme peaches with ice cream and aged balsamic.  My favorite dishes are ones that include a mix of random and bold (or loud) flavors, ones that sort of dance in your mouth and create a different experience with every single bite.  And I especially love flavors that mix savory and sweet.  And this dish did all of that and it was easy and impressive to put together.  I made the honey butter sauce ahead of time and let it set on the counter until I was ready to assemble.  While the peaches broiled, I scooped the ice cream in pretty bowls, added a peach half to each, then drizzled with the honey sauce and topped with a sprinkle of thyme and a small splash of balsamic.  It was amazing, so good that our foodie friend, Aram, licked the plate with no shame!  

Out of the 21 dishes we've tried, there were just two we didn't care for... 

(16) While we liked the Bow Tie Pasta with Kale and Sun-Dried Tomatoes, next time we'll thrown in some bacon or pancetta, and cut back on the cream cheese.  An entire block of cream cheese, as well as the chopped artichokes, made this one a little too rich and creamy for us.

(17) The pancakes were good, but dare I say too fluffy?  I had a hard time cooking these all the way through the middle without burning the outsides because they were so big!  I've also found a pancake recipe that has become a staple at our house, so JoJo's were up against some stiff competition. :)  

Stay tuned for an entirely separate post on all things strawberries and my favorite recipe to date.  (Hint, we went strawberry picking this week. :))

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Jorgensen Top Chef 3.0

"Children raised with traditions, especially those who have watched their parents invent new rituals as occasions and milestones occur, learn that their own response to life can be active and creative and extremely personal.  They're going to be resilient children, confident they are loved and that they know how to express that love to others."

There are a lot of things I love about my husband, and a few weekends ago, he reminded me of a big favorite.  We were planning to do a big seafood boil to celebrate his birthday like last year, but our plans fell through due to lots of scheduling conflicts with friends.  So we found ourselves with a free weekend night and the rain threatened any plans for outdoor fun.  I offered to call a sitter and call some friends, but Beau had a different idea.  He said he wanted to do a family cook-off similar to the tradition we started at Christmastime two years ago.  At this point, a sitter and a night out to eat was sounding better to me all the time, especially when I thought about the groceries and mess a family cook-off would likely entail, but before I knew it, Beau was thumbing through cookbooks with the kids and talking smack about taking the title this time.  I put my agenda aside and decided to join in on the fun, thankful for a husband who chooses us over and over again.  

And I tell you what, Beau knew just the way to our family's heart that night.  If these are the building block years, I just hope a brick titled "Jorgensen Top Chef" gets forever etched in our little family's foundation.  And we're getting so much better at this!  We each pick a recipe to make, working together to create a spread that includes a variety of courses and flavors that will sort-of pair with each other.  Then we turn on some fun music and team up to prepare our dishes.  We make a point to let the kids take the lead, hopefully teaching them a thing or two in the kitchen.  And most of all, we hope to instill in them so many of the things we love about being in the kitchen - the togetherness that food invites, an appreciation for the flavors and techniques that go into a really great dish, and the joy and energy that come from a night around the kitchen island.  After our first Top Chef night, I told Beau I want this tradition to be a forever one.  I want the kids to come home from college and look forward to a night like this. 

This was our best "Top Chef" yet.  I started things off with a delicious "cookie dough dip" served with Vanilla Wafers and apple slices.  Beau was next with hashbrown potato cakes with a slice of ham.  Cruz chose an absolutely delicious one pot cheese pasta with his favorite meat of choice, smoked sausage, and Mila topped things off with vanilla parfaits with strawberries and whipped cream.  Everything was delicious and we had leftovers for all four courses the next day!  But unfortunately, not everyone can take the gold.  I am pleased to announce that my appetizer currently holds the Jorgensen Top Chef Title for best taste, and Mila's parfaits won for best presentation.  Team Ballerina was pretty excited! 

I was sure to record some footage this time around, in case someday we want to be reminded of our amateur years. ;)

A Last Day of School Campout

We celebrated the end of a school year and the official start to summer break with a good ol' fashioned campout last Tuesday night.  We kept our little secret from Cruz that day and set up the tent while he was at school, surprising him when we pulled in the driveway and declared where we would be sleeping that night.  

We had the best night, one of those extra special nights when you feel all kinds of happy and content and don't want the night to ever end.  We roasted hot dogs and ate chips out of bags, had a makeshift ceremony where we threw a few of Cruz's school papers in the fire and shared favorite memories and learnings from his first grade year, listened to the Avett Brothers, and ate our first s'mores of the season.  We played campfire games like "guess this job" and "name that door" and told stories with flashlights under our chins.  Then the sun went down, the stars came out, and so did the lightning bugs, and Cruz and Mila chased them in their pjs, carefully running to show us their catches before letting their light go into the night sky.  And as I sat by the fire and watched our summer bugs run through the grass in their bare feet, I hoped this would be one of those memories that stuck.  Their carefree spirits, the quiet magic of the night, and peace and joy felt from our home and our hearts.  It was a good good way to welcome summer.

Only we didn't quite make it through the night!  The kids fell asleep quick, but the winds picked up and increased through the night.  Our little tent held strong, but the noises were endless!  Prepared to forfeit a good night's sleep myself, I watched the kids sleep and waited for them to freak out.  And although they didn't freak out, they woke up at 3 am and wanted their beds!  And this proved to be the best part of backyard camping - we were cozy in our beds, sound asleep, at 3:05!  

We woke up the next morning and brought our breakfast outside, where we sat in the tent while it rained, ate our muffins, read some books, and decided we may just leave this puppy up all of June.  Or at least until our lawn-obsessed Dad threatens to take it down!

Summer break was here and we were off to a pretty good start, for we discovered the key to summer AND cozy, two of our very favorite things!

And for good measure, a little video of our favorite memories...


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