Key Lime Cheesecake with Fresh Strawberry Sauce {Crazy Cooking Challenge}

Key Lime Cheesecake with Fresh Strawberry Sauce
This month’s Crazy Cooking Challenge is cheesecake…my absolute favorite dessert! I was kind of excited to have an excuse to make a cheesecake. I have only made a couple in my life and very rarely eat cheesecake (like once a year maybe) because it is just way too dangerous for me. I would literally eat the whole thing if left alone with it. I always think of the Friends episode with the cheesecake…if you don’t know what I’m refering to you have to check it out!

While cheesecake is my favorite, I am really particular about what varieties I will devour. The crazy cookie dough peanut butter chocolate ones or others filled with tons of toppings and flavors always look really yummy but when it comes to what kind to eat I stick to the simple. I just don’t like those crazy flavors in my cheesecake. I guess I’m a cheesecake purist.
Key Lime Cheesecake with Fresh Strawberry Sauce
Since the Challenge recipe no longer has to come from a blog, I decided to scour my cookbooks to see if I could find a simple, yet tasty cheesecake to whip up. I went straight to one of my favorites for dessert, Classic Southern Desserts {by Southern Living}, and found just what I was looking for in a cheesecake. Not only are the flavors pure and simple but they feature sweet and zingy fruit making it the perfect summer indulgence.

I was also attracted to the recipe because it reminded me of our Florida vacation last month that now seems so far away. I enjoyed a really tasty slice of key lime pie there so I was hoping this recipe could bring me back, if only for a few minutes! The cheesecake was dense and creamy with a slight zing from the key limes. The strawberry sauce tasted so incredibly fresh and added a nice sweetness. It was definitely worth the time and calories!
Key Lime Cheesecake with Fresh Strawberry Sauce
Oh, and it didn’t have any cracks so I totally knocked something off my Top 100 list! Yay!

Key Lime Cheesecake with Fresh Strawberry Sauce
recipe from Classic Southern Desserts {by Southern Living}

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 (8 oz.) container sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. lime zest
1/2 cup Key lime juice
Garnish: strawberries, strawberry sauce (recipe follows)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Stir together first three ingredients and press on bottom and 1 inch up sides of a greased 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 8 minutes; let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

2. Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add 1 1/4 cup sugar, beating until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in sour cream, zest and Key lime juice. Pour batter into crust.

3. Bake at 325 degrees F for 1 hour adn 5 minutes; turn oven off. Let stand in oven, with door partially open, 15 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately run a knife around edge of pan, releasing sides.

4. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack; cover and chill at least 8 hours. Garnish, if desired, and serve with strawberry sauce.

Strawberry Sauce

1 1/4 cup fresh strawberries, washed with tops removed
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. lime zest

Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides.

Key Lime Cheesecake with Fresh Strawberry Sauce

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Extra Crispy Spicy Fried Chicken {Crazy Cooking Challenge}

Fried Chicken Collage


When I saw that the “recipe” for this month’s Crazy Cooking Challenge was fried chicken I may have let out a little squeal. I will full-heartedly admit that fried chicken is my favorite food. God was in a very good mood when he gave whoever invented it the idea! I mean, it’s crunchy, juicy, greasy, salty…the things deliciousness are made of. As much as I love it, I very rarely eat it and never make it homemade. We don’t really ever fry anything so it’s just an occasional indulgence when we go out to eat. But I was more than happy to give it an attempt at home for the sake of the Challenge. DSC_0120

I found a billion different blogger recipes I wanted to try but I decided on this one because it was created based on Popeye’s Chicken and you just can’t go wrong with that. It was just as the name states and totally delicious. Whenever I need a crispy, fried indulgence this is exactly what will pop into my head and cook up on my stove!


Extra Crispy Spicy Fried Chicken
recipe from From Away

3 eggs
1/3 cup water
1 cup hot red pepper sauce (I like Louisiana Hot Sauce)
4 cups flour
2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoon paprika
3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 quart buttermilk (optional)
Salt, Pepper, and Garlic Powder (to taste)
1 (1 to 2 1/2-pound) chicken, cut into pieces Peanut Oil, for fryingDSC_0124

1. Place cut-up chicken in a large bowl, and cover with buttermilk. Cover and chill for two hours, or overnight. This is an optional (but recommended) step.

2. In a large bowl, add eggs, water, and red pepper sauce. Whisk until combined.

3. In a large gallon freezer bag, mix flour, pepper, paprika, and cayenne.

4. Remove chicken from buttermilk (if marinated) and sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

5. Place all chicken pieces in freezer bag with flour mixture. Shake until all pieces are evenly coated.

6. Remove chicken pieces one at a time, shaking excess flour. Dip each piece in the egg mixture, and return to bag of flour. After all pieces of been dipped in the egg mixture and put back in the bag, give it a second shake to coat chicken pieces again.

7. Heat oil in deep fryer or deep pan to 350 degrees. Working in batches, drop each piece of chicken into the hot oil. Fry for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown, turning occasionally if oil does not completely cover chicken. Keep in mind that dark meat chicken takes longer to cook than white meat. Watch your wing segments, as well; these will finish cooking first.
Fried Chicken Collage

5 Fruit Smoothie {Crazy Cooking Challenge}

Today brings back the Crazy Cooking Challenge and the item to make is fruit smoothies or shakes. Today is also a very special day in my personal life. Four years ago today, I married the man of my dreams. It’s hard to believe how fast these four years have gone and how much we have accomplished together. We became homeowners and parents. We went through an incredible amount of happy times and very few hardships. We grew up together and became the wife and husband we wanted and needed to be for each other. So this post is for you Joel. I love and cherish you more than you could ever know. Here are some of my favorite pictures from our big day and the honeymoon.
Joel and his guys. Don’t they look like they belong on the cover of a boy band cd?

First dance.
Joel’s “classic” moves.
Relaxing at Maho Bay.
Trunk Bay, St. John U.S. Virgin Islands.

I wanted to find a way to tie the challenge in with my anniversary so I decided I would search for a tropical smoothie to bring us back to our honeymoon in the Virgin Islands. I ultimately decided on this one because of the coconut and pineapple. A lot of the drinks we enjoyed there included those two ingredients so I thought it was fitting.
5 Fruit Smoothie
I’m so glad I picked this recipe from Made With Pink because it was amazing and just what I was looking for in a smoothie. The coconut and pineapple really jumped out and screamed tropical. The addition of the berries and banana helped round it out and put it over the top. I absolutely love strawberries so I think it would be great with just the pineapple, coconut and lots of strawberries.
5 Fruit Smoothie
5 Fruit Smoothie
recipe from Made With Pink

15 blueberries, frozen
1/2 banana, frozen
10 raspberries, frozen
7 large pineapple chunks, frozen
5 strawberries, frozen
2 Tbsp shredded Coconut
1/3 cup vanilla yogurt (I used Greek vanilla yogurt)
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1. Dump everything into a blend and blend until no large chunks are left. If it’s too thick, add more pineapple juice. If it’s too thin, add more frozen fruit and blend.

5 Fruit Smoothie

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Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese {Crazy Cooking Challenge}

Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese

When I saw that the Crazy Cooking Challenge this month was grilled cheese…I knew exactly what to do! I immediately went over to Closet Cooking to peruse the whopping 24 options of grilled cheese that Kevin offers up. Yep, I said 24. So as you can imagine, it was pretty hard to select which recipe I would make and feature here for the challenge.

I managed to narrow it down to about 5 then gave Joel the options since I just couldn’t decide. He requested the Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese and I was pretty pleased with his choice. I kind of have a thing for buffalo sauce as evidenced here, here and here.

This fancied up grilled cheese sandwich was spicy, creamy, crusty, cheesy and filling. Everything you would ever want in a sandwich! I was really incredible and will definitely be gracing our table again and again.
Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese

Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese
recipe from Closet Cooking

2 slices sourdough bread
1/4 cup cooked shredded chicken, warm
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1/2 tablespoon mayo (optional)
1 tablespoon carrot, grated
1 tablespoon celery, sliced
1 tablespoon green or red onion, sliced or diced
1 tablespoon blue cheese, room temperature, crumbled
1/4 cup cheddar cheese, room temperature, grated
1 tablespoon butter

1. Mix the chicken, hot sauce, mayo, carrot, celery and onion in a small bowl.

2. Butter the outside of each slice of bread, sprinkle half of the cheeses on the inside of one slice of bread, top with the buffalo chicken salad, the remaining cheese and finally the other slice of bread.

3. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat.

4. Add the sandwich and grill until golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 2-4 minutes per side.

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Recipe linked to Mangia Monday, Totally Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday and Cast Party Wednesday.

Whole Lemon Blueberry Walnut Muffins {Crazy Cooking Challenge}

Whole Lemon Blueberry Muffins
This month’s Crazy Cooking Challenge is blueberry muffins which are pretty much my favorite kind of muffin! This may just be my favorite recipe selection so far from the Challenge. Once I found out what we were making, I quickly went on the hunt for blueberry muffins on all my favorite food blogs. And let me tell you, I found a ton of recipes that I wanted to try. It was pretty difficult to decide which I would prepare.

I finally settled on this recipe because I just couldn’t resist the thought of using a whole lemon in a recipe and I had to give it a try. I found the recipe at Confections of a Foodie Bride who changed up a muffin recipe she found at Smells Like Home. Foodie Bride features all kinds of delicious-ness that I pretty much drool over almost daily.
Whole Lemon Blueberry Muffins
The original recipe at Smells Like Home was a whole lemon poppy seed muffin and Foodie Bride changed it up by adding blueberries and omitting the poppy seeds. Both versions sound amazing but the blueberries totally seemed to put these over the top. I made a few slight changes, the first was that I used a meyer lemon rather than a regular lemon. This added a bit of sweetness to the tartness of the lemon. I also used non-fat yogurt rather than full-fat to make them a bit better for us. I also accidentally only added a teaspoon of baking powder rather than a tablespoon, oops. They still rose nicely but I think they would have puffed more if I had read the recipe more carefully. It doesn’t help when little man is watching Elmo on the laptop while I’m trying to make these with the recipe open in another tab. I was trying to memorize the recipe so that I didn’t have to disturb Elmo…guess that didn’t go well.

These giant muffins were bursting with blueberry, citrus-y, walnut goodness. It was an incredible combination and probably one of the best muffins I have ever made. They were a bit more work than most muffins I’ve made (I usually go for a one bowl, no mixer recipe) but they were totally worth the extra effort. The only thing that would make them better is a crumbly, streusel topping to turn them into a true bakery style muffin. That may just be happening in our home soon. Oh yum!
Whole Lemon Blueberry Muffins

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Whole Lemon Blueberry Walnut Muffins
recipe from Confections of a Foodie Bride and Smells Like Home

1 medium lemon, preferably organic (I used a meyer lemon)
1 cup walnuts or pecans
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 2/3 cups plain yogurt
1 pint blueberries
Coarse sugar, for sprinkling

1. Preheat  the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 12 jumbo muffin cups with butter or cooking spray or line them with muffin wrappers.

2. Wash and dry the lemon, cut it into quarters and remove the seeds.  Process the quartered lemon (skin, pith and all) in a food processor fitted with a metal blade for 1  minute or more, until it is completely ground up.  Scrape the lemon into a medium bowl.  Without washing the food processor, add the walnuts and  pulse 10 to 12 times (the nuts will clean the processor bowl).  Add  the walnuts to the processed lemon and stir to combine.  Set the lemon-nut mixture aside to be used later.

3. Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter in a large bowl on medium-high speed about 1 minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sugar and mix on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl.  Add the eggs all at once and beat on  medium speed about 1 minute.  Add the vanilla and beat on medium for  about 30 seconds, until well incorporated.  In a medium bowl, stir  together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Add one-third of the flour mixture to the batter and beat on medium-low speed just until it is incorporated.  Add half of the yogurt and beat on medium  speed until it is just incorporated.  Continue to add the flour mixture and yogurt alternatively, beat just long enough to incorporate.  (End with the dry ingredients).

4. Gently stir in the lemon-nut mixture. Toss the blueberries with a bit of flour (this keeps them from sinking to the bottom). Mix the blueberries into the batter gently. Spoon the batter into the muffin pans, filling each cup just to the top.  Sprinkle generously with coarse sugar. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (or 18 to 25 minutes for standard-size  muffin tins), until they are slightly browned and a toothpick inserted in to the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  Let the muffins cool in their pans about 5 minutes.  Remove the muffins from the pans.

Recipe linked to Mangia Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Totally Tasty Tuesday, Cast Party Wednesday, What I Whipped Up Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday and These Chicks Cooked.

One Pot Spaghetti {Crazy Cooking Challenge}

One Pot Spaghetti
The Crazy Cooking Challenge is upon us again and this time around it’s spaghetti for the making. My heart sank a little when I saw that was the dish to prepare this month. I know a lot of people absolutely love spaghetti but Joel and I just aren’t big fans of red sauce. It’s one of those meals that I really have to be in the mood to eat. And then it has to have ground beef or Italian sausage which sadly are off limits for the next 31 days. This no meat thing has been hard, not as hard as I thought it would be but still difficult. I can’t get bacon off my brain. Mmmm, bacon. Ok, so I got distracted…back to the post.
One Pot Spaghetti
I wanted to find an easy, weeknight option that would still be tasty without meat. I have made a one-pot spaghetti from a cookbook many times that is very similar and really enjoyed it so I figured that this would be a winner. I searched around the blog world and found this recipe over at Recipe Shoebox. And oh my gosh, I am so glad I stumbled upon it! There are some recipes that sound incredible…just look at the dessert index, it is ridiculous in such a good way!

This spaghetti was a great, easy meal that was done in about 25 minutes (if you make it with ground beef or sausage it will take a bit longer). You can’t beat that. And the ingredient list was all staples that I always have in my pantry. I was a little worried that adding that much water would dilute the sauce but it was surprisingly tomato-y and flavorful. I might even add more basil next time around but I kind of have a thing for basil.
One Pot Spaghetti
Make sure to check out everyone’s awesome spaghetti recipes at the linky tool link below!

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One Pot Spaghetti
recipe from Recipe Shoebox

1 lb. ground beef or ground sausage (I left this out since we aren’t eating meat right now)
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large can (32-ounces) chicken broth (4 cups)
3 cups water
2 cans (6-ounces each) tomato paste
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 box (12-ounces) dried spaghetti, broken
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a large saucepan cook the ground beef and/or sausage, onion, and garlic until meat is brown and onion is tender.  Drain. Or, if making this vegetarian like I did, add a little olive oil to a large saucepan and saute onion and garlic until tender.

2. Stir  in the broth, water, tomato paste, oregano, basil, and pepper.   Bring to a boil.  Add the broken spaghetti, a little at a time,  stirring  constantly.  Return to a boil; reduce heat.  Boil gently,  uncovered,  for 17-20 minutes or until spaghetti is tender and sauce is of the desired consistency, stirring frequently.  Serve with Parmesan  cheese.   Enjoy!

Recipe linked to  Mangia Monday, Totally Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Cast Party Wednesday, What I Whipped Up Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday and These Chicks Cooked.

Chocolate Cake with Mint Chocolate Chip Frosting {Crazy Cooking Challenge}

Chocolate Cake with Mint Chocolate Chip Frosting

When Tina from Mom’s Crazy Cooking informed us that this month’s challenge was chocolate cake, I was a tad concerned. This will be shocking and slightly disheartening to many of you but I am not a chocolate cake fan. Please hold back your judgement, disgust and gasps. It’s just too rich for me. But I didn’t want to miss out on the fun so I decided to bite the bullet and see if I could find a chocolate cake that we would truly enjoy. I thought the frosting could really make a difference for us so I went for one that I knew we would love.

After lots of searching, I came across this chocolate cake made by Aimee at Shugary Sweets and I knew I had found it! After reading that the frosting tasted like mint chocolate chip ice cream I thought I might die. That’s my favorite flavor so it had to find out for myself…and she is totally right. The frosting was amazing and so was the chocolate cake. The coffee in the cake batter really enhanced the richness of the chocolate.
DSC_08Chocolate Cake with Mint Chocolate Chip Frosting

Although I don’t make layered cakes too often, I have learned a few tips when it comes to icing them. The first is to place strips of wax paper under the first cake layer on the cake stand/plate so that you don’t get any frosting on it. After frosting the cake, all you have to do is pull out the wax paper and you have a perfectly clean cake stand.
Chocolate Cake with Mint Chocolate Chip Frosting
Another tip I have learned is placing the top cake layer upside down so that the bottom of the cake will be the top of the cake. This provides a nice, flat surface on the top of the cake to frost.
Chocolate Cake with Mint Chocolate Chip Frosting

I passed along some of the cake to friends and also got rave reviews from them so you definitely need to give this a try!
Chocolate Cake with Mint Chocolate Chip Frosting
Make sure to check out Aimee’s other amazing eats and treats here…umm, Pumpkin Pound Cake with Caramel Walnut Sauce? Sign me up!


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Chocolate Cake with Mint Chocolate Chip Frosting
recipe from Shugary Sweets


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
9 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup brewed coffee, cooled
1/2 cup milk


1 cup butter, softened
8 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 cup milk plus 2 Tbsp
11 oz dark chocolate chunks (62%cacao) or mini chocolate chips
1/8 tsp green food coloring gel


3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
1/4 tsp peppermint extract

1. In medium bowl, sift cocoa with flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside. In measuring cup, mix coffee and milk together. Set aside.

2. In mixer, beat butter and sugar for about 5 minutes until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Slowly add in dry ingredients alternating with the coffee/milk blend (about 3 additions of each).

3. Pour cake batter into two prepared pans (two 9inch cake pans lined with parchment paper and then greased and floured). Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Remove and allow to cool about 10 minutes before removing from pans. Cool completely before frosting.

4. For frosting, in food processor, pulse dark chocolate until small bits (not powder)! Set aside.

5. In mixer, beat butter, powdered sugar and milk (slowly add the milk, you may not need it all) for 3-5 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Add in extract and food coloring gel. Mix until fully blended. Add more milk if necessary to desired consistency. Fold in chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips.

6. Frost first layer of cake, then top it with second layer. Completely frost sides and top of cake.

7. For the ganache, heat 3/4 cup heavy cream in saucepan. Bring just to a boil and remove from heat. Place chocolate chips in a bowl then slowly add in hot cream and extract. Stir until smooth and completely combined. Allow ganache to cool then pour over chocolate cake.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cake