Chicken Tinga Tacos

Today I’m sharing with you one of my favorite Mexican dishes: Chicken Tinga.  This very simple recipe is foolproof – It comes out delicious every time!  This juicy dish has a wonderful savory, smoky flavor (and a little heat) from tomatoes and chipotles and is perfectly complemented by the avocado, cheese, and cilantro.  It’s great for weeknights as it requires very little attention while it cooks.  Trust me, you’ll love it!

Tinga Taco

This authentic recipe, given to us by friends, is similar to Rick Bayless’ recipe for tinga from Authentic Mexican.  However, this dish is easier and, in my opinion, tastes better.  I prefer chicken, but this dish also works well with pork if that’s what you prefer or if you are looking to change up your protein a bit.  Once you’ve tried it, you’ll come back to this recipe over and over…

Chicken Tinga Tacos

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients

For the tinga
10 oz. Chicken Breast
1 White Onion
1/4 tsp. Marjoram
1/4 tsp. Thyme
1/4 tsp. Mexican Oregano
3 Bay Leaves
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 tbsp. Vegetable or Canola Oil
5 canned San Marzano Tomatoes, diced
3 canned Chipotle Chiles, seeded and minced
1 tsp. Salt
For serving
4 warm Flour Tortillas (Make your own using our recipe)
Shredded cheese (You want something creamy that melts easily)
coarsely-chopped Fresh Cilantro
1 medium Avocado, diced (see Tips for Cooking with Avocado)

1.  Cut chicken breast into 3-4 ounce pieces and place in a pot with 3/4 of the onion, sliced.  Add enough water to cover the chicken and onions.  Then add the marjoram, thyme, oregano, and bay leaves.  Bring the water to a boil, cover, and cook over medium heat until chicken is cooked through and tender enough to shred (~15 minutes).

Boil Chicken

2.  Once the chicken is cooked, pull the chicken from the water using tongs and set in a bowl.  While the chicken is cooling, strain the broth into a separate container and set aside.  Once cool enough to handle, shred the chicken breast (I use my hands but you could also use a pair of forks).

3.  Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat.  While the oil is heating, dice the remaining 1/4 onion.  Once the oil is hot, add the onion and shredded chicken.  Cook until the mixture is browned then add the garlic and cook an additional two minutes.

4.  Add the tomatoes, chipotles, and salt to the pan and allow the mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes over medium low heat.  If the mixture starts to dry out, add some reserved broth.  After the mixture is done simmering, reduce to the desired consistency.  You want the dish to stay nice and moist, but if it’s too wet it will soak the tortillas and drip all over your plate.

Add Tomatoes and Chipotles

5.  Serve the tinga in warm tortillas – homemade are definitely best (plus they’re quick and easy! – see our recipe for Homemade Flour Tortillas) but raw tortillas from the store are good too – with the avocado, cheese, and cilantro.  For the cheese, I prefer Farmer’s cheese or Monterey Jack.  If you’re not a huge fan of plain diced avocado, you can try it with our Avocado Spread or our Roasted Garlic Guacamole.

Tinga Taco

To make it a meal, serve with a Mexican side dish such as our Mexican White Rice Pilaf (seen below) or Mexican Roasted Corn Salad.

Chicken Tinga Dinner

Now get you a nice big bite of these juicy, smoky tacos – YUM!!  Plus, there’s usually some tinga left over for a lunch taco the next day…

Semi-Homemade Lasagna

perfect piece of lasagna

In my house, Italian food is on the menu at least weekly.  Not always in the form of carb-overloaded pasta, but sometimes, yes ma’am it is!  Lasagna was a staple in my house growing up.  Everyone liked it (which is really saying something, considering my 24 year-old sister’s favorite food is still chicken fingers), and mom could get it on the table pretty fast.  It was also great for company, expected or unexpected, because it makes a whole 9×13 pan.

Everyone has their own way of making lasagna, and I won’t criticize, unless you’re still buying that big red box in the freezer aisle.  This is one dish there is no need to buy prepackaged.  Save yourself and your family the preservatives and salt overload and give this recipe a try.  I call it “Semi-Homemade Lasagna” because we’re not actually going to make the sauce base or the pasta from scratch (we’ll save that for another time).  We will use Prego, combined with seasoned ground beef, for our meat sauce, and cook up some good ole boxed, dried pasta.  (A note about Prego:  It is solely my opinion, but I do believe Prego is the holy grail of the jarred pasta sauce world.  It doesn’t have an after taste, is well seasoned, and isn’t too acidic.  I use it for pasta sauce and pizza sauce alike when I need the sauce already done and waiting on me.)

I used to think using the boxed pasta was cheating; that I was defiling the name of authentic Italian food by using it.  But when I saw Giada (on more than one occasion) use a box of dried pasta, my burden was lifted!  I felt free to use the boxed pasta once more!  Now just for the record, homemade pasta is super simple to make and is so freaking yummy, but most weeknights, I’m kidding myself if I think I have time to roll out and cut my own pasta.  The secret to working with the dried stuff is to heavily salt your boiling water right before adding the pasta.  If you add the salt before the water’s boiling, it will settle to the bottom and cause tiny pits in your cookware.  You also don’t want to cook the pasta as long as it says on the box.  Usually 1-2 minutes under that printed time is perfect for “al dente” (means “with bite”) pasta, which is what you want.  No one wants mushy noodles that fall apart and can’t hold onto the sauce they were destined for.  In lasagna especially, the noodles are your “building blocks” or “bricks,” so to speak.  You need them to be able to hold all the layers together and not fall apart under the weight.

As far as your ground beef goes, I always buy the leanest option I can find, which is generally 97/3 (97% meat, 3% fat).  You are only paying for fat that will cook out of your food if you use anything below 90/10.  A lot of times when I use this extra lean mean, I find that by the time it is done browning, there is almost no fat to drain off, saving me that step.  Since the leaner the meat, the more expensive it seems to be, I try to stock up and freeze it by the pound when it goes on sale.   The exception to the fat rule is for things like grilled burgers, where you need the fat to hold your meat together and create an extra juicy Cheeseburger in Paradise.

We usually serve lasagna with garlic bread and a crisp, light side salad to balance all the carbs.  My 1 year-old is a HUGE fan of broccoli, so I find myself serving that with almost all Italian meals now.  Parmesan Garlic Broccoli (recipe coming soon) is perfect for an Italian meal.  As for the contents of lasagna, if you prefer sausage over beef, or in addition to beef, feel free.  My aunt likes to add chopped onion and bell peppers to the sauce, which is also good.  You can make this a vegetarian dish by either just leaving out the beef, or by sauteing some garlic, bell peppers, and onions (or whatever veggies you like) in a little olive oil to soften them up, then add the Prego to the pan to heat the sauce through.  Whichever way you decide to go with it, I promise you won’t be disappointed.  Bon Appetit!

cheesy bite

Semi-Homemade Lasagna

6 pieces lasagna
1-67 ounce jar Prego Original Pasta Sauce
1 pound ground beef (If you like a really meaty sauce, you may want 2 pounds)
Mozzarella cheese (I use up to 1 lb)
Ricotta cheese (to taste)
Parmesan cheese (to taste)
Salt
Parsley
Oregano
Butter (for the pan)

Step 1: Preheat oven to 375°.  Butter the bottom and edges of a 9×13 casserole dish.

buttering pan

Step 2: Fill a stock pot with water and bring to a boil.  When boiling, generously salt the water and add the pasta.  Cook until al dente, or about 1-2 minutes less than what the box says.  Drain pasta in a colander.

Step 3:  While you’re cooking the pasta, brown your meat in a large saute pan (a frying pan with tall sides).  When it’s almost done, drain any excess fat off the meat, but leaving the meat in the pan.  Sprinkle a little parsley, salt, and oregano and toss the meat to distribute your herbs.  (Fresh herbs are better here, but dried are fine).  When the beef is fully cooked, add the Prego.  I use almost the whole jar here, if not the whole jar.  Just start adding and stop when the sauce is the right consistency for you.

sauce

Step 4:  Now we’re going to assemble the lasagna.  In your buttered dish, lay 3 noodles side by side to cover the bottom.

lasagna noodles in pan

Top with half your sauce mixture.  Now dot the top of sauce with Ricotta.  The night I made this and took photos, my sister was over.  She is not a big fan of Ricotta so I didn’t use as much I normally do.  That being said, the amount pictured here is a nice, medium amount that should be fine for anyone’s tastes.

dotted ricotta cheese

Now cover that layer with shredded mozzarella; I use about 1/2 of a 1 pound bag.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the mozzarella.  I prefer to use shredded, but Target was out, so grated it was!

lasagna last layer

Step 5: Repeat.  Pasta, sauce, dot the Ricotta, Mozzarella, and Parmesan.  Now pop your masterpiece into your preheated oven for 30-45 minutes, or until evenly browned and bubbly.  You may need to rotate your casserole dish halfway through if your oven isn’t heating evenly (you don’t want 1/2 to be burnt and 1/2 not even brown).

into the oven

It should look like this…

out of oven

Step 6:  After removing from oven,  allow the lasagna to rest for 5-10 minutes so the sauce starts to congeal (come together).  You can certainly cut it right after removing it from the oven, but the sauce will run when you do so.  It won’t taste any different; it just doesn’t cut into pretty pieces.

perfect piece of lasagna

Step 7:  Enjoy your Italian masterpiece, fresh from your oven, not a big red box.  And no will know it’s only “Semi” homemade!

Baking 101: An Introduction

Let me start by saying I am not a professional baker.  I have never been to culinary school; I’ve never even taken a cooking class.  But baking is one of my most favorite things to do.  It relieves stress, lightens my mood, and just flat out makes me happy!  In fact, I would love nothing more than to open my own little bakery and get up every morning, put on my apron, and surround myself with butter, flour, and sugar!

Rum Cake Slice

But it wasn’t always so.  Baking, especially when you’re just getting started, can be tricky and overwhelming.  Mix, bake, enjoy.  The steps seem so simple, yet there are so many ways things can go wrong – undermixed, overbaked, overbeaten… Too few eggs and your ingredients fail to emulsify, leaving you with a crumbly or chunky result.  Overbeat your batter, and suddenly you have crumbling cookies or over-aerated dough.  Over knead your bread and it’s too hard to enjoy.  And if you miss an ingredient, misread your recipe, or skip a step, forget it!

Yes, there are certainly challenges to baking.  But with patience and a little guidance, baking really can be fun and enjoyable.  And lets not forget rewarding!  There is just nothing better than pulling a soft, flaky loaf of bread, or a warm, gooey batch of cookies, or a moist, buttery cake, made by your own two hands, out of your oven to share with people you love.  For me, baking is absolutely an act of love… every cookie, every muffin, every loaf.

Glazed Pound Cake

So let’s get crackin’!!

First and foremost, you need to think of a baking recipe like the way you would look at a chemistry equation.  You must use the correct ingredient in the precise amount and at the right time to produce the desired result.  Now obviously, using blueberries instead of blackberries isn’t a recipe for disaster.  But not measuring out your ingredients or substituting fats can be.  You wouldn’t walk into a chemistry lab and change the way your experiment is designed and expect to have the correct outcome.  The same is so with baking.  There’s nothing wrong with experimentation, but don’t do it on a recipe you expect to serve your friends and family tonight.

It is also very important to read the whole recipe before you begin.  It’s just like reviewing the playbook before the big game.  Not only do you need to make sure you have enough of all the necessary ingredients, as well as all the called-for equipment, but you want to be certain you understand any timing requirements.  Does the oven need to be preheated or turned on as the pan goes in the oven?  Does your stone need to be preheated or cool?  Will you need to allow time for a dough to rest, rise, or be refrigerated?  And pay attention to any ingredients that might require quick action, like baking soda, which requires you to bake right away to get the proper rise.

Baked Banana Bread

Next, temperature is very important when baking.  We’re not just talking about the number on your oven, either.  Some recipes call for ingredients to be in a certain state or at a certain temperature for them to fulfill their destiny in your baked goodies.  The temperature of an ingredient can cause it, and those around it, to behave differently.  Butter is a great example to use here.  A recipe may call for cold butter, which means you’re going to pull it straight out of the frig and cut it into your dry ingredients (more on that in Techniques and Terminology). This will evenly distribute fat throughout your dough, without making it runny like a cake batter, and leave room for the air pockets that make pie crust and pastry fluffy and flaky.  Or it might say to use softened butter, which is not the same as melted.  Softened butter should give easily to the touch but should not squish and fall apart under your finger.  The best way to soften butter is to leave it out on the counter for 30-45 minutes before you begin baking.  Softened butter can still be mixed until smooth (or creamed), like in cookie dough, but using it in more of a solid state allows for those same pockets of air, which will make a fluffier rather than denser cookie.  And melted butter is just what it sounds like.  I prefer to use a butter warmer (a tiny, heavy-bottomed saucepan).  It heats the butter quickly and evenly without scorching (if you’re cooking over low heat) and without that horribly messy butter explosion that happens when you overheat it in the microwave (if you do use the microwave, heat, covered, on the lowest setting in small increments. You don’t want to lose part of your butter to an explosion). This is now a liquid fat, and will do nothing for rise.  Eggs, unless stated differently in the recipe, should be brought to room temperature before using.  It is also important to note that if you’re working with warm ingredients (like melted chocolate), eggs need to be tempered to avoid being scrambled by the heat (see Techniques and Terminology).

Rum Cake

So to sum up…

Become a little familiar with your ingredients, equipment, and techniques (our Baking 101 series is a great place to start).  Next, read the WHOLE recipe, beginning to end, at least once before getting started.  Pay attention to any timing or temperature requirements as you’re reading.  Last, but most certainly not least, HAVE FUN!!  It may seem like work, especially the first couple times you might be fumbling through a recipe, but I promise you the rewards are worth the effort!  Now baby baker… LET’S BAKE!!

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

How to Cook Brick Oven-Style Pizza in Your Oven

Who doesn’t love pizza cooked in a brick oven?  The crunch of the crust, the gooeyness of the browned, bubbly cheese, that slight char… Are you drooling yet?

Leek Pizza

Well now, thanks to the brilliance of Jim Lahey, you can achieve pizza nirvana at home with these simple steps and a couple additions to your kitchen armory.

How to Cook Brick Oven-Style Pizza in Your Oven

You will need:

1) a pizza stone (Can you tell ours is well-used?) – You want to make sure you get a stone large enough for the pizzas you like to make.  Ours is 16″.  Also, the thicker the better (increased thickness improves heat retention).

Pizza Stone

and 2) a pizza peel – I recommend getting a peel that’s about the same size as your pizza stone, that way you can’t make a pizza that won’t fit on the stone

Pizza Peel

First, move your oven rack to the top position.  Place your pizza stone on the rack and preheat your oven to 500° F.

Once the oven has reached 500°, set a timer for 30 minutes.  This time allows the pizza stone to heat.

After, 30 minutes, turn off the oven and leave the door open for 1 minute.  It’s important to let some of the heat out of the oven.  Ovens have an automatic temperature cut-off so if it’s too hot, the broiler will shut off in the next step and your pizza won’t cook as well.  Don’t worry, your pizza stone will retain its heat.

After 1 minute, close the oven door and turn the broiler on high.  Let the pizza stone continue to heat for 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on your oven.  If you can no longer see an orange glow, your oven has gotten too hot and the broiler has shut off.  Open the door to let out some heat.  Once you see the broiler glowing orange again, close the door.

Now, your pizza stone is ready!  Using your pizza peel, slide your pizza onto the stone.  Keep the broiler on and cook 5-7 minutes until the cheese is browned and bubbling and the crust is slightly charred.  Remove the pizza from the oven using your peel, allow to cool slightly, slice, and enjoy!!  Doesn’t this look delicious?!

Brick Oven Pizza

A few notes on this cooking method:

1.)  You cannot use parchment paper with this method.  You must make your pizza directly on the pizza peel and slide it from the peel onto the hot stone.  This means you need to make sure you have enough flour on your peel to keep the crust from sticking.  You could also use cornmeal if you don’t mind the texture.

I recommend waiting to shape your dough and put on your toppings until the last minute.  You want to be able to put your pizza in the oven as soon as you’re done making it.  The longer it sits, the more likely your dough will stick.  It’s better to heat the stone a few minutes more than necessary than leave your pizza sitting on the peel for a few minutes waiting for the oven to be ready.

Another tip, shake the peel periodically to make sure the dough’s not sticking.  I shake it after I shape the dough, after I put on the sauce, and after I put on the toppings – it’s good to check to make sure it will slide before you try to put it in the oven.  But don’t shake too much: pizza dough’s elastic so with each shake it may shrink a little.

It may seem like I’ve gone on a long time about making sure your dough won’t stick, but TRUST ME, there’s nothing more frustrating than putting together a delicious pizza and having it stick/rip when you try to put it in the oven and having it fall apart or burn onto that blazing hot pizza stone…

2.)  This method WILL heat up your kitchen.  Not surprising given that you’re holding an oven at 500° for 30+ minutes, but be aware.  You may want to think twice about cooking pizza this way if it’s a hot day… especially if you live in a place like Juneau where people don’t have AC in their homes.  I live in an 800 sq. ft. condo and this warms up the entire place, not just the kitchen.

3.)  There are some ingredients that don’t hold up well under the intense heat of the broiler.  If you’re making a pizza topped with fresh herbs (such as basil or parsley) you want to wait to add those until you pull the pizza out of the oven.  If you cook these delicate ingredients under the broiler, they’ll cook to oblivion and you’ll be left with burnt herbs on your pizza.  Prosciutto is also not recommended for broiler cooking.  This is why I never cook our Pesto Pizza using this method.

Ready to try this method yourself?  Check out our Four Cheese White Pizza, Margherita Pizza, Leek Pizza with Creamy Onion Sauce, Sausage and Fennel Pizza, or Sausage and Ricotta Pizza!  Be careful though, if you shake too hard moving the sausage and ricotta pizza onto the stone, the sausage can roll off…

Sausage and Ricotta Pizza

If you enjoy brick oven pizza as much as I do, you should check out Jim Lahey’s cookbook My Pizza.  It’s worth the investment!  It’s full of delicious and unique recipes that utilize this cooking method.  Since acquiring this cookbook, my boyfriend and I have started a tradition of cooking pizza every Sunday for lunch.  We’ve tried most of his recipes and almost all were wonderful!

Poseidon’s Offering – Phenomenal Grilled Salmon

This dish truly lives up to its lofty name (a shout-out to one of my Juneau friends).  This is the best salmon I’ve ever eaten!!  Then again, it’s a butter-based sauce so it should be delicious… In addition to being mouth-watering, it’s super quick and easy making it one of our favorite summer grill recipes (when the salmon are running).  In just 25 minutes, you could be serving up seafood perfection on a plate!  If you think you don’t like seafood, one bite of this salmon will prove you wrong…

Grilled Salmon

I can’t take credit for this fantastic recipe.  It’s from the Gustavus Inn, a James Beard Award winner (it’s a big culinary award, in case you didn’t know).  Their food is amazing.  If you’re ever headed to Glacier Bay, make sure to check them out.

In addition to being delicious, salmon is great for you, packed with protein and omega-3’s.  Seafood provides important nutrients for your diet, but it’s important to make responsible choices when buying seafood whether it’s in a store or at a restaurant.  Make sure you know what you’re eating and where it’s from.  There are a lot of resources out there to help you choose sustainable seafood, but my favorite is Seafood Watch from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  They have pocket guides that you can print and keep in your wallet, and they have a smartphone app.  Check them out!

Poseidon’s Offering – Phenomenal Grilled Salmon

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients

2/3 – 1 lb. Wild-caught Pacific Salmon
2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. Brown Sugar
1 tbsp. Soy Sauce
4 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
3/4 tbsp. Lemon Juice

1.  First you need to prepare your salmon fillet.  I was using this gorgeous 1 pound king salmon fillet troll-caught in Southeast Alaska… heaven!!  You’ve got to make sure you check for pin bones.  They’re these little tiny, flexible bones in the middle of the muscle.  You can see them along the right side of my fillet (they’re the little white dots).  You locate them by running your finger along the fillet and feeling for the little bones poking up.

Salmon Filet

I like to remove pin bones using tweezers (I keep a dedicated set in the kitchen), pulling in the same direction as the bone rather than against the grain.

Pin Bones

Once you’ve removed all the pin bones, cut the fillet into two pieces.

2.  Gather the ingredients for your sauce: butter, brown sugar, soy sauce, and lemon juice.  Yes, this incredible sauce is made with only 4 ingredients…

Sauce Ingredients

3.  Throw all the ingredients in a small saucepan and melt the butter over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally.  Don’t be too worried about the amount of butter in this recipe, it makes more sauce than you need.

4.  Once the butter is fully melted and the sauce is mixed, turn the heat down to low and keep warm.  Put some of your sauce in a bowl to take to the grill making sure to leave some sauce in the pot for later.

Sauce

5.  Grill salmon over high heat ~4 minutes per side (time will vary depending on fillet thickness) brushing with sauce periodically.  Note: Butter makes up a large proportion of the sauce so the drops that drip off the salmon will catch fire.  Be careful!

Grill Salmon

6.  Serve the fillets while they’re hot with additional sauce to drizzle over them.  After your first bite, your eyes will roll back in your head!

Grilled Salmon

Serve your salmon with a couple Veggies and Sides to make it a meal.  We like steamed broccoli and homemade wild rice pilaf.  This is one of the best seafood dishes you’ll EVER taste!!  You won’t want to make salmon any other way again…

Grilled Salmon Meal

Sausage Balls

If you Google “Sausage Balls,” there would literally be millions of hits.  There are many different recipes out there, and I must say, I haven’t met a sausage ball I didn’t like.  This is my family’s recipe, one my mom has made since before I can remember.  She would mix them up and roll out the little balls of yumminess on Christmas Eve, and just pop them onto a cookie sheet and bake them on Christmas morning.  To this day, no matter when we’re making them, I always think of Christmas when I smell them baking.  And though we will never agree on a football team (my mom and middle sister for Auburn, my dad’s a Gator, and myself and youngest sister are Bama girls), we do ALWAYS agree that these must be on the menu.

Baked Sausage Balls

They are super simple to mix up and after you make them a couple times, you won’t even need to look at the recipe.  My mom taught me to make them before I left for college.  “Just remember 3-2-1,” she said.  That’s because there’s 3 cups of Bisquick, 2 cups of Velveeta, and 1 pound of sausage.  Just mix it all up, rolls into balls, and bake!  So simple!  We use medium heat sausage, but if you prefer hot or want it more mild, you can use any heat level you want.  I have found, however, that the mild sausage lacks the spice to really flavor the sausage balls.  But as you can see in the ingredients picture, when that’s all I have, mild is what I use.

Sausage Balls

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Bake Time: about 15 minutes (until golden brown)

Ingredients

Ingredients for Sausage Balls

3 cups Bisquick
2 cups Velveeta (1 pound)
1 pound sausage (I use medium, but use mild or hot if that is more your taste)

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350°.  Dump ingredients in a large bowl.

Ingredients in Bowl

Mix all ingredients together until everything is well incorporated.  I use my hands; it’s pretty much the only way to get everything together.

Mixture

Step 2: Pinch off small portions of this mixture and roll into a tight ball.

Sausage Ball

Space balls an inch or so apart on a baking sheet.

Sausage Balls Ready to Bake

Step 4: Bake until golden brown.  Enjoy!

Baked Sausage Balls

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Even though she would never admit it, my Mamaw is a fabulous baker! It was so exciting going to her house when I was little because I knew she would always have something warm and yummy waiting for us.  Shoot, it’s still exciting to see her antique cake stand out on the bar, topped with some melt-in-your-mouth sensation.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been going to her house to watch her bake and learn her secrets, since most of what she does, she does by memory – which is simply amazing to me since baking is so scientific.  If you don’t get the right amount of baking powder (your leavening agent), your goodies won’t rise. Without enough eggs, your ingredients won’t bind correctly, creating an irregular and perhaps even chunky result.  But her baked goods are flawlessly executed every single time – without measuring.  Not saying she never measures, but most of the time, nope!  In working with her, I’ve made her stop as she adds ingredients and try to measure them so I can get at least a rough idea.  I hope to learn to “bake without borders” (as I like to call it) like she does, but just in case I forget anything after she’s gone, I want EVERYTHING written down.
Glazed Pound Cake

Cream Cheese pound cake is one of my absolute favorite desserts Mamaw makes.  It’s just so simple and delicious.  The thick, dense cake is perfectly moist and just sweet enough.  Most of the time pound cakes are make in loaf pans and cut into slices like bread.  But Mamaw has always made her pound cakes in Bundt pans – those deep, round pans that have the hole in the middle.  You can certainly use loaf pans for this recipe, but there’s just something so elegant and Southern about a Bundt.  After the cake is done and she’s flipped it over onto her cake stand, she makes a simple glaze from milk, powdered sugar, and a “tad” of almond or vanilla extract.  Her glaze is then poured over the cooled cake and runs down the sides and into the center.  It sort of looks like shimmery little icicles gracing the sides of the cake after it dries.

You can certainly serve it with whipped cream and fresh berries, but we usually eat it all by its self.  It just doesn’t need anything… it’s perfect.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Cream Cheese Pound Cake Ingredients

2 sticks (1 pound) butter
6 eggs
3 cups granulated sugar
3 cups all purpose or cake flour
1-8 ounce block cream cheese
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt

Vanilla or Almond Glaze

Confectioner’s sugar
Milk
Almond or Vanilla extract

Step 1: Preheat oven to 300°. Grease (I always use Crisco) and flour your Bundt pan.

Greased and Floured Pan

Note: If you are using a non-stick spray, for the love of your bakeware, please choose Bak-Klene (pronounced Bake Clean)! Pam (and other sprays) contains chemicals that polymerise (or basically turn to plastic) when exposed to heat.  This reaction is what causes that horrible sticky residue on your pans that is impossible to get off.  It will eventually build up to the point of ruining said bakeware.  Bak-Klene does not contain this chemical, so in turn does not produce plastic on your pans.  I buy mine at Williams Sonoma.

Step 2: Cream together the butter, cream cheese, granulated sugar, and oil. This is where the magic starts, so don’t short change the love you put into it here. Turn your mixer up to 7 or 8 (on a 9 speed mixer) and let these ingredients get happy together.  Be sure to scrape the sides of your bowl, then mix again, to make sure you haven’t left anything behind.  It should be light and fluffy when you’re done.

Step 3: When you’re satisfied that your mixture is perfectly creamed, add the eggs, one at a time.  The “one at time” part is very important – it allows each egg to be distributed evenly and gives it time to emulsify the fats and liquids.  Before adding each egg, I always crack it in a little glass bowl first (a tip I learned from the fabulous Paula Dean).

Cracked Egg

You want to be sure you’re not adding any shell fragments and that “the chicken was flying right that day,” to quote Miss Paula.

Step 4: Sift your flour, salt, and baking soda into a large bowl.  Measure out your milk.  Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the milk, starting and ending with dry, until everything is incorporated evenly.  Be sure to stop occasionally and scrape the sides of your bowl.  Lastly, add the vanilla.  It should be thick, smooth, and creamy.

Batter

Step 5: (If you can resist eating the batter with a spoon) Pour the batter into your prepared pan.  The batter will be uneven and have air bubbles in it, like this. Tap your pan lightly on the counter a few times and rock/twist it back and forth in between taps to get out all the air you can and create a level surface, like this.

Smooth Batter in Pan

Now tuck your baby into your preheated oven for a long nap, 1 hour and 55 minutes to be precise.  I check on it around an hour and a half, but it usually takes every minute.  Do not open the over door for at least one hour.

Step 6: When the center doesn’t jiggle when you move the pan and a toothpick comes out clean, remove your cake and set in on the counter to cool for 10-15 minutes.

Cake Rising Out of Pan

You can see in the picture how much this cake bakes up and out of the pan; totally fine and totally normal. After letting it cool for that 10-15 minutes, place a cake stand or plate over the bottom of the cake and invert the pan to release the cake.  If it resists you, use a rubber spatula and gently run it between the pan and cake.  Let the cake cool to room temperature.

Step 7: While your cake is cooling, mix up your glaze.  I usually start with a 1 cup measuring cup, dump enough powdered sugar to fill up about 1/2 the cup, then add milk, a little at a time, until I get the consistency that I want.  You don’t want the glaze to be too runny or it will all run off the cake and pool around the bottom (not that pools of delicious glaze are a bad thing, but it’s not what you’re going for here).  You want it thick enough that it runs ever so slowly down the sides of your cake, but still sits happily on top.  Remember to add just a tad of almond or vanilla extract, and mix well, before drizzling it on your cake.

Glazed Pound Cake

Step 8: Try not to eat the whole cake.

Piece of Cake