The vividly average life of Mandy Ashcraft. I like to share the little things that make me happy. :)

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fyi/ Some of the recipes I share are other peoples' and I credit them fully. I like to collect my favorite things here so that I can pass on the info. (Although some are my original creations, and I hope you enjoy!)

[ last updated 06.23.2014 ]

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Turkish Coffee Cake with Ganache Infused with Pomegranate Molasses

I made this for my anniversary and it was absolutely divine. So decadent and rich. The pomegranate molasses absolutely makes it, so don’t skip that ingredient! It’s not that easy of an ingredient to find; I found it in a small middle eastern market for about 3 bucks. The cake has the texture of the cross between cake and a fudge brownie, and the ganache is dark chocolate with a pomegranate undertone. Very easy to make, don’t let the name intimidate you! If you can make a chocolate cake, you can make this cake. 

The Key to a Juicy Porkchop

One word: Brine. You can prepare pork chops all day, in the oven or the stove or the grill. You’ll never have a pork chop juicer than one you put in a salty brine first! For two pork chops, bring 1 cup of water to a simmer (on the stove or about 5 mins in the microwave), stir in 2 tablespoons of salt until it’s fully dissolved, and then add 1 cup of very cold water. Pour it over the pork chops in a dish and put it in the fridge for 3 hours. Before you prepare it, just take them out of the brine and pat them dry. Try it, see the difference! Note: For these in the photo, I used 1 1/2 inch thick bone-in pork loin chops and added fresh sage to the brine as well. 

PB&J 2.0


There is a viral photo being shared by millions of people for a “PB&J 2.0” that uses 6 flavors to essentially make 9 mini sandwiches in one. So of course I had to make it. This is the original post from tastefullyoffensive that went viral: 


So basically, you need:

Jam of your choice (I used strawberry) 


Marshmallow Fluff

Crunchy Peanut Butter


Creamy Peanut Butter 

2 slices of bread 

By assembling one half in rows and the other in columns, you instantly have 9 different flavor combinations. 

It was intense. It was very sweet, very rich, and very filling. But worth it. 

Dijon Chicken Salad in Avocado Boats

This is my own recipe for making chicken salad, based on my favorite flavors with it and my dislike for celery. There shall be no celery in my chicken salad. 

2 large ripe avocados 

Olive oil

2 large chicken breasts sprinkled in salt and pepper

1/4 tsp salt 

1/2 tsp pepper 

3 Tbsp dijon mustard 

1/4 cup mayo (more or less depending on how creamy you prefer)

About 12 small seedless red grapes, cut in half 

2 tbsp finely chopped orange bell pepper 

2 tbsp finely chopped purple onion 

10-12 whole almonds 

1 1/2 tsp dried dill 

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place your chicken breasts on a foil-lined pan. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bake 20 minutes and then allow to cool enough to be able to shred apart. Useful note: Baking chicken breasts for a shorter time at a higher temperature makes them really juicy.

2. Using forks (or your fingers) shred chicken into a large bowl.

3. Add mayo and dijon mustard and mix well. Then add grapes, almonds, purple onion, and bell pepper. Mix to coat all ingredients. Add more mayo and/or mustard if it’s not as creamy as you’d like it. 

4. Add dill, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and refrigerate until cool. 

5. Cut avocados in half evenly, and carefully remove the pits. Divide chicken salad between the 4 avocado boats. 

Heart-Shaped Cinnamon Rolls

This is a very easy thing to do, that will make someone’s morning. (Or make your own morning.)

Simply get a roll of refrigerated cinnamon rolls. Unroll one and roll each end towards the other, pinching the bottom so that you have a heart shape for each. Baking time and directions don’t change, they just bake into perfect cinnamon roll hearts! 

Chocolate Cinnamon Coffee Cake Pops

My original intention was to make the Starbucks recipe for Cinnamon Chocolate coffee cake and give it to a friend for his birthday since he was a barista when I met him. Found a great copycat recipe called Chocolate Cinnamon Bread from the blog Table for Two, cut the recipe in half since it does make two loaves, and pulled the amazing smelling dish out of the oven. Then had a problem getting it out of the dish aaaaaand it was ruined. Upon the suggestion of a friend, I opted to make my pile of super delicious but unattractive chocolate cinnamon cake into cake pops. How to do this:

First, make this recipe, noting that it makes TWO loaves of it, so cut the recipe in half. If you’re not a baker, it’s helpful to know that one egg is 1/4 cup, so use 2 whole eggs and whisk the 3rd egg in a bowl and use 2 tablespoons of it.

You will also need: 1 jar chocolate frosting, 1 bag melting chocolate of one color (I used light blue vanilla flavored), 1 bag melting chocolate of another color (I used Salted Caramel flavor), approximately 20-25 lollipop sticks depending on how big you want to make your cake pops, a large piece of styrofoam to hold your drying cake pops 

When the cake is cooled off, break it apart into little pieces in a large mixing bowl. Add spoonfuls of icing to the bowl and mix evenly, until you get a texture that you can roll into balls that will stay in balls but aren’t too overly sticky and mushy. You’ll use about 2/3 of the jar. Roll the batter into balls and place onto wax paper on a plate and place the plate in the freezer for 20 minutes. Don’t allow them to freeze solid. Set your styrofoam on the counter.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt half of the bag of your chocolate you’ve chosen as your main color in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir, then microwave in 30 second intervals until smooth.

Remove your cake balls from the freezer. Take a lollipop stick and dip it about 1/2 inch into the melted chocolate and stick it into the cake ball. Then dip the entire cake ball into the chocolate, rotating to coat evenly. Allow to drip for a couple seconds and then place the end into the styrofoam to hold it still. Repeat for all of the cake balls, melting the second half of the bag of chocolate when you run out. 

The chocolate dries fast. When you’re done, melt about a handful of your second color/flavor in the microwave for a minute on 50% power. Stir until smooth. Spoon mixture into a sandwich bag and use scissors to snip the very tip of one corner off. Drizzle over the tops of the cake balls. Allow to dry. Refrigerate. 

The Best Coffee Cake Ever

I’ve made a lot of coffee cakes, but honestly I don’t think I’ve ever made one quite as delicious as this one. The writer of The Pioneer Woman Cooks says this was her mother’s recipe, and calls it “The Best Coffee Cake. Ever.” And she is not kidding. The only change I made, just for my personal taste, is leaving off the pecans. I made mine in a 10”x10”x3” cake pan, which was literally perfect. The whipped egg whites being folded into the batter just make for the most ideal texture. I whipped them in my stand mixer first and then set them aside before following the rest of the recipe, which just made it a little easier. She uses a whisk attachment on an immersion blender, which is really cool too.

Farmers’ Market Crustless Quiche

I published this recipe in the June/July issue of Inspire Coastal Bend Magazine ( with photo by Dustin Ashcraft. Such a great way to use fresh farm eggs and veggies you pick up at your local farmers’ market! 


2 tablespoons butter
1 cup sliced zucchini
1 cup sliced yellow squash
1 small purple onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup baby spinach
6 small tomatoes such as black cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
6 fresh farm eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top (approximately 1 tablespoon)
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped apple gouda chicken sausage (recommended)


1. Preheat oven to 375. Heat butter over medium heat, and add zucchini, squash and onion. Sauté until soft, cooked through and slightly browned. Add garlic, then spinach, and cook until spinach is wilted. Add 3 of the sliced tomatoes. Remove from heat. If using sausage, add to mix and toss all ingredients together.

2. In a bowl, whisk the eggs together with milk, Worcestershire sauce and salt. Add cottage cheese and sharp cheddar.

3. Pour vegetable mixture into 9-inch greased pie pan, and pour egg mixture over the top. Use remaining 3 sliced tomatoes to decorate the top, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and parmesan cheese.

4. Bake 30 minutes.

Peach Mint Julep

imageI pretty much adore mint juleps. I’m from the south; I grew up in Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Texas, so I love a traditional southern cocktail. Throw in peaches and it’s like double southern. Add a mason jar…the trifecta! This is my own personal way of making peach mint juleps.

Peach Mint Julep, makes 4 in mason jar sized glasses

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

Large handful of fresh mint

3 ripe peaches, cut into slices 

8oz bourbon 

Club soda

Crushed ice

1. In a sauce pan over low heat, dissolve sugar into water. Add half of a peach, sliced up, and a few sprigs of mint. Allow flavors to infuse. Remove from heat and add 4oz bourbon. Stir. Pour liquid into a bowl, straining out peach slices and mint and discarding them. 

2. Add a sprig of mint to each empty glass. Smash the leaves with the back of a spoon to release flavor. Pour 1 oz bourbon into each glass. Fill with crushed ice. 

3. Evenly distribute reserved liquid into each glass. Add peach slices to each glass. Top each one off with club soda, and stir. 

Blueberry Cucumber Smoothie

This is a slight variation on a Vegetarian Times magazine recipe that I’ve always loved. Even if you think it’s weird to drink a whole cucumber, you won’t even notice it with the other flavors anyways. It’s refreshing and hydrating! 

1 english cucumber, peeled

5.3oz cup Stonyfield “Superfruits” Greek Yogurt (Pomegranate and Acai)

1/4 cup blueberries 

2 tsp honey 

Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth. If you want it icier, just add ice cubes to the blender. Simple!

Octopus Shaped Pizza


Want to pick up a movie and split a pepperoni octopus? 

To make your octopizza, you’ll need one freshly made ball of pizza dough that would be enough to make one large pizza. I use my own Agave Wheat Pizza Crust recipe, cut in half. The recipe is here: Cutting that recipe in half will make one octopus. 

You’ll also need: 

1 small can sliced black olives

Pizza sauce of choice


Cheese of choice

1 cherry tomato and 2 basil leaves (for the eyes)

2 tbsp melted butter

1. Once you’ve got your fresh dough, cut it in two. One will be the body, and one will make the tentacles. Preheat oven to 450.

2. Sprinkle cornmeal on a counter, and use a rolling pin to roll one piece of the dough into an oval for the octopus head. 

3. Transfer head to a large greased baking sheet. 

4. Cut your other piece of dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a long tentacle. Arrange them with the head on the baking sheet to resemble an octopus. Slightly flatten each tentacle with your hands. 

5. Brush everything with melted butter, especially the tentacles. 

6. Place olive slices on the tentacles, they’ll stick with the butter. Spread pizza sauce on the head, then add pepperonis and then cover with cheese. Place a basil leaf with a wedge of cherry tomato on top for each eye.

7. Bake 10-12 minutes until crispy. 

Eggs Benedict with Fresh Cherry Tomato Salsa

Eggs Benedict isn’t the most simple of breakfasts to make, but once you taste it, you’ll be glad you spent the time. It’s basic structure is pretty much universal; half of an english muffin, a slice of ham or protein of choice, a poached egg, and hollandaise. So while I’ll just link to the best online instructions I’ve come across for making it, from The Pioneer Woman Cooks, I’ll add my own personal details for the way I prefer to make it. 

On mine, I use Boar’s Head Black Forest Ham, onion and chive cream cheese, and my fresh cherry tomato salsa: 

1/4 cup quartered cherry tomatoes (try to use different colors)

1 clove minced garlic

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/8 tsp pepper

1/8 tsp salt 

Stir all ingredients together. 

To assemble your Eggs Benedict, toast the english muffin, spread with cream cheese, add a heaping spoonful of cherry tomato salsa, and then a folded slice of ham. Then carefully place the poached egg on top so that you don’t break the yolk, and spoon hollandaise over the top. The citrus in the hollandaise goes amazingly with the lemon zest in the cherry tomato salsa. It also helps if you serve it on adorable plate that says “yum”.