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 07.27.2014 ]

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Swedish Meatballs

I have made Swedish Meatballs many times using different recipes but this is hands-down the best recipe I’ve come across. I used half ground beef and half ground pork for the meatballs, and I highly recommend that because of the flavor you’ll get from that combination. If you’re like me and always have a ton of spices on hand, you’ll love how many this utilizes. It’s a lot more work than the recipes that use cream of mushroom soup, but trust me, WORTH IT. I made this to take to friends, and stuck a picture of Swedish Chef and a box of Swedish Fish to the top. The Swedish trifecta! 

Honey Wheat English Muffins



Making english muffins turned out to be immensely easier than I expected. It’s pretty straight forward (albeit time consuming) and the flavor/texture is great. I subbed out the honey for agave nectar when I made it, simply because I always have so much agave on hand, but the recipe calls for honey. To add wheat to it but still keep the “fluffiness” I used half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour. Using only whole wheat flour would make them too dense, in my opinion. Loved these! I gave a basket of them to my in-laws; people love home baked gifts. :) 

The recipe I used is from Tasty Kitchen, here:

Rich Simple Syrup


I make a lot of iced coffee drinks and iced chai tea, and I prefer them sweetened so I’ve started making simple syrup to avoid any crunchiness of plain sugar. Simple syrup recipes vary from site to site, using different ratios of sugar to water, but I personally prefer this one from Colleen Graham that uses 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. Using 1 cup water and 2 cups sugar, I made exactly 2 cups of simple syrup. Refrigerated, I have it on hand for coffee and tea, and also cocktails! :) Her recipe is here:

Chocolate Pancakes


Generally I would never be attracted to the thought of chocolate pancakes, but my husband requested them so I had to find a good recipe. This one is PERFECT, it’s not too heavy or too sweet or even too chocolatey. They’re fluffy and went great with maple syrup actually. I just added a little Saigon Cinnamon powder to it. The recipe was from Add A Pinch, here:

Mini Frittatas


Breakfast foods are my favorites to make. I love how perfectly sized frittatas made in a muffin pan are, and how you can make each one with different flavors to customize. Quick and easy! I love these on a Saturday morning. I got the recipe idea from Spoonful:

Pretzel M&M Bites


You are minutes away from delicious little super-customizable bite sized desserts! Simply preheat your oven to 275, place Hershey’s kisses on mini pretzels, then bake for exactly 3 minutes. The kisses will hold their form but will be melted. Pull them out of the oven and immediately press an M&M down into the chocolate and it’ll stick. Refrigerate for half an hour! The possibilities here are endless, due to the range of Hershey’s kiss flavors and bite sized candies you could put on top. I used plain Hershey’s kisses and peanut M&Ms.  

Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza


Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza

My favorite kind of pizza is pear and gorgonzola. Following a simple recipe I found online, I simply modified their directions by using my own recipe for Agave Wheat Pizza Crust to make it even better. The recipe for toppings I used was from AllRecipes and is here:

and if you want to take it a step further and make the pizza crust for it, here is my own recipe:

Avocado Coleslaw


These are peach habanero salmon burgers but that’s not exactly what I consider the star of the show here. The avocado coleslaw on top made it infinitely better, and then of course that I served them on a plank of wood. The slaw was so good that we were eating it with chips like a crunchier guacamole before I even put it on the burgers. Simple! You’ll fall in love with it. Just mix up a store-bought creamy coleslaw kit (including the dressing it comes with), a handful of sweet pickled jalapeno slices, a teaspoon of cumin, and the juice from a big lime. Then chop up a large ripe avocado and fold the pieces into the slaw. You’ll never go back to regular coleslaw. 

Marbled Egg Technique


I just adore these eggs! I had discovered this technique in making Chinese Tea Eggs, where you use tea and soy sauce and the marbling is a caramel color. For Easter I changed it up and instead marbled the eggs in bright food coloring and water. Simply hardboil eggs, and use the back of a spoon to shatter the shell without removing any pieces. Then soak the eggs overnight in cups of colored water. Peel away the pieces of shattered shell the next day and you have beautiful marbled eggs! I made deviled eggs with them. :) 

If you want to check them out, I made Chinese Tea Eggs in a January 2012 post here:

And I made avocado deviled eggs with this technique April 2012 for Easter:

Sunshine Muffins


So apparently I never took a photo of the actual muffin but I did take an Instagram picture of the ingredients (I’m so artsy). I still insist on sharing this anyways because they were SO delicious!! They were in Health magazine, and the most refreshing muffins you’ll ever have, not to mention nutrient packed and juuust sweet enough. The recipe is here:„50400000126389,00.html

Brie en Croute


I was feeling fancy (pretty sure it was a holiday, I am not by any means the “fancy” type), so I found a great recipe for brie en croute and gave it a try. I love brie, it’s such a delicious cheese, and combined with the flakiness of puff pastry I knew I couldn’t go wrong. I used a recipe from Eddie Ross, who did it way fancier than I did (the leaf cookie cutters? How could I compete?) and I actually did mine upside down from what his directions stated so that I could just fold around somewhat of a design on the top. Either way, it was delicious. I used a jar of strawberry champagne preserves for mine; it was very sweet with the brie but perfect if you have a sweet tooth. For a first-time brie en croute, I think I did okay. Next time I’ll go for the leaf cookie cutters. Eddie Ross’ recipe is here: