Thursday, December 15, 2016

December Food Fest: Chicken In Milk

chicken in milk
Image via Flickr, because I completely forgot to take a photo myself.
Bonjour, kittens! Today, me myself and I, Tasha from Team BBI, is here to share a chicken recipe perfect for winter. It's rich, comforting, and tasty. You'll want to try it immediately, and you can thank me afterward. You're welcome.

Say hello to your new favorite comfort food: Chicken in milk.

I first ran across this strange-sounding recipe by accident, when I spotted a post titled, "Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Milk Is Probably the Best Chicken Recipe of All Time" at The Kitchn. The recipe is basically a whole chicken braised in milk. The Kitchn wasn't the only blog enthusiastic about the recipe: others called it the best chicken ever, the most tender roast chicken, and "amazing." So naturally I had to try it.

As I was looking Oliver's recipe over, though, it reminded me of a similar recipe I'd seen on America's Test Kitchen, except this one was for milk braised pork loin. ATK had a few different techniques from Oliver's recipe, mainly to keep the milk from curdling. I hadn't tried ATK's recipe yet, but I decided to incorporate some of their tips in Oliver's basic recipe. Specifically, I didn't dump the fat out and used whole milk. Everything else was the same.

chicken in milk
Image by danebrian via Flickr

The results were delicious! This recipe really is ridiculously easy, and leaving the fat in the pot left the sauce just slightly curdled. The picky eaters in my family didn't even notice it.

But I kept thinking, what would have happened if I'd followed ATK's recipe more closely? Is their version superior to Oliver's? So I decided to make their milk braised pork roast as a comparison.

Unfortunately, I was HUGELY disappointed in ATK's milk braised pork. The pork was extraordinarily bland and the sauce never thickened, despite the fact that I boiled it nearly 10x longer than the recipe called for. I did about double the work in this recipe as I did for Oliver's, and got only about a quarter of the flavor out of it.

When I returned to Oliver's milk braised chicken, I wanted to see if I could get the smooth sauce ATK promised with all the flavor I'd previously had with Oliver's recipe. And I did! The sauce was rich and savory, with a ton of umami flavor, and the chicken was tender and moist. My family loved it.


I think ATK tends to try to "solve" problems that aren't really problems, and the curdled sauce in these milk braises is a classic example of that. No, the sauce doesn't look pretty curdled, but it tastes DIVINE. There really isn't any good reason to do backflips just to make a smooth sauce when the curdled sauce tastes so effing good (unless you live in a house full of picky eaters you know will turn their nose up at such a thing, of course).

That said, here's my recipe for chicken in milk with the smooth, uncurdled sauce. If this is a little too much work, just use whole milk and don't dump out the fat when you're making Oliver's original recipe. Definitely try either or both, though!

chicken in milk
Image by thatturtle via Flickr

Chicken in Milk

Active time: 1 hour (includes standing around drinking, playing with the dogs, doing dishes, etc.)
Total time: 2.5 hours


  • Whisk
  • Dutch oven


  • 1 whole (approx. 3 lb) chicken
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • Handful of fresh sage leaves (MUST be fresh, otherwise it tastes too Thanksgiving-y)
  • 6 whole garlic cloves, peeled or not
  • 1 pint whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degs F.
  2. Rinse the chicken, pat dry, and season generously inside and out with salt and pepper.
  3. On the stovetop, heat the Dutch oven to medium-high heat. Melt butter.
  4. Brown chicken on all sides in the butter until golden. Remove from pot and set aside on a plate.
  5. Add milk, garlic, sage, baking soda, and cinnamon stick to pot. Stir and scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot until the milk comes up to a boil, then lower heat to medium and keep stirring and scraping until milk has thickened slightly.
  6. Return chicken and any juices on the plate to the pot. Cover and cook in oven for 1 and half hours, flipping the chicken halfway through cooking.
  7. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove from pot and allow to rest under aluminum foil.
  8. Meanwhile, put the Dutch oven over medium-high heat on the stove and add the wine and lemon zest, whisking vigorously to smooth out the sauce. Bring to a boil and then simmer until sauce is the consistency of thin gravy.
  9. Once thick, remove pot from heat and add parsley, if using. Stir in any accumulated chicken juices and serve with with your favorite starch and veggie.


  • Oliver says not to peel the garlic cloves, but I'm not a fan of finding garlic skins in my sauce, so I peel them before hand.
  • I cover the pot while cooking, but if you like your chicken skin crispy, by all means leave the lid off and baste occasionally with the milk.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

December Food Fest: Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie

hoosier sugar cream pie recipe

No one can imagine a holiday without pie, and J. Doe from Sprung At Last is here today to talk about one of her favorite classic–and cheap!–pie recipes for Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie, as well as the difficulties of dieting while being a food blogger. Onward and pie-ward!

No one can hide from the truth forever, so here is my truth: I am a very poor excuse for a food blogger. Some of this may be due to the fact that I’m not really a food blogger, I’m just someone with a blog who happens to enjoy cooking.

Mostly, though, this is due to another truth: I gained a lot of weight during my unfortunate marriage, and gained even more since its abrupt end.

I tried lying at first, telling myself I hadn’t really gained that much. But my pants never lie, and they told a different story. Lose it, they said, and after a while, I listened.

Dieting is hard, and being a food blogger on a diet is harder still.

A better person than the one I am would probably write about healthy food and low-calorie eating, but not me: I am in deep denial that anyone could find kale edible under any circumstances, and furthermore, I don’t want to be anywhere near a kitchen when I am trying not to think about the kind of food I actually do want to eat.

When I’m not on a diet, the kitchen is place of memories, inspired by the comforting smell of roast chicken, or the astonishingly light weight of my grandmother’s beloved cast iron skillet. When I am on a diet, the kitchen is simply a room full of reminders of things I’d rather be eating: A hundred or so cookbooks, many of them devoted to cakes, pies, and cookies.

Like most people, I like the idea of healthy eating. I own a juicer. It was a gift, and I’ve never actually plugged it in, but I dedicate valuable countertop space to it, and I feel like must surely count of something.

My pants disagree.

I start my diet in the early fall. By the end of fall, I’ve lost some weight, by which I mean, more than twenty pounds. Three pants sizes.

I donate my disagreeable pants to charity, and take myself shopping for a happier pair.

The holidays roll around, and though I begin the season worried about the upcoming buffets and potlucks, it turns out it is not that hard to just eat a little bit of everything, when that has become the habit. I find I’m relaxed - enjoying myself, even. I look forward to baking the things I will contribute. I look forward to writing about them on my blog.

The stars seem to align for the return of my blog, but my friends have other things in mind: They all have their favorites, and with each invitation comes a request for something I’ve made before. Tradition! That pie!

That pie is sugar cream pie, a dessert I researched especially for a poverty-themed party last April 15. I discovered it in Paula Haney’s wonderful cookbook, Hoosier Mama’s Book of Pie, in the chapter of Depression-era recipes titled Desperation Pies. (Other entries in this chapter include Vinegar Pie, something I’ve not yet been personally desperate enough to make.) I tried to keep to the party’s theme with every step of the pie-making process. I resisted the urge to buy the cookbook online, and checked it out of the library. My plan might have been a frugal one, too, if I had not then left the book where my dog could get at it and chew off half the cover before I noticed.

I should probably mind the fact that I ended up paying full price for a heavily used and damaged cookbook, but I don’t. The pie was a hit at the poverty party, and was a hit again at the holiday potluck.

It is easy to make, especially if you do as I do and cheat a little by using a ready-made crust. Just prebake the crust and let it cool, then fill and bake to set the filling. Remember to leave a couple hours – at least four – to chill the pie completely before serving, or it won’t set correctly. You can reduce this time somewhat by resting the pie dish in a pan of ice water once it has cooled a bit, but you will get the best results by chilling it thoroughly before serving.

And if you forget, the pie will still be tasty, just a bit messy.

hoosier sugar cream pie

Recipe: Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie

Adapted from Paula Haney, Hoosier Mama’s Book of Pie


  • 1 single-crust pie shell of your choice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • two vanilla beans


  1. Cut vanilla beans open lengthwise, and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape the seeds out. You will have about ¾ tsp of vanilla bean seeds, put in a small bowl and set aside. (Save the bean pods for some other purpose, like vanilla sugar.)
  2. Pre-bake the pie shell according to the directions, and set aside to cool.
  3. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Whisk the sugar, brown sugar, flour, and salt together in a medium bowl. Use your hands to break up any clumps, if needed.
  5. Gently whisk in the heavy cream; taking care not to beat too much, as whipping the cream will prevent the pie from setting. Stir in the vanilla seeds.
  6. Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pie, and bake another 20-25 minutes.
  7. When the pie is ready, the top surface will be beautifully browned and bubbling vigorously; it will not look set.
  8. Set the pie on a wire rack to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least four hours before slicing.


  • If you have vanilla paste, you can substitute 1 tsp for the vanilla bean seeds.
  • If you are pressed for time, cool the pie for 15-20 minutes on a wire rack, then set it in a pan of icewater, as high as you can get without touching the rim, and place in the refrigerator to cool. This will reduce the time needed to cool the pie by about half. (Or, make the pie a day ahead, and save yourself some stress!)
  • This recipe was originally included in this blog post.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

December Food Fest: Do You Cookie Exchange?

christmas cookie exchange

It wouldn't be the holidays without cookies, and Candace from Beth Fish Reads is here today to discuss the plusses and minuses of a Christmas cookie exchange. Bonus: she's sharing one of her favorite Christmas cookie recipes! Take it away, Candace.

christmas cookie cookbooks

One of the holiday traditions I look forward to is our annual cookie exchange. On the first Sunday of December, a friend of mine hosts a boozy holiday brunch and get-together that also includes a cookie exchange. It's a fun tradition and a nice moment to relax before the holiday season descends in full force.

Truth be told, though, I have a love-hate relationship with cookie exchanges. What's the good? Although I bake only one kind of cookie I end up with at least eight different kinds, all baked by other people. That lets me put together a pretty platter for guests with just a minimum amount of work.

christmas cookie exchange boxes

What's the bad? Oh the temptation of having all those cookies! I'm not much of sweet eater, but a plate full of homemade goodies is so hard to resist. Every year I promise myself that I'll sample just one of each kind. That's all. The rest are for holiday visitors. Well, yeah, the best laid plans and all of that.

Still, despite the threatening sugar coma, I can't wait for the festivities--and cookies--to start! Here's the recipe I used this year. I cut three dozen cookies from each pan.

jan habel christmas cookie

Jan Habel

From Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

My notes: This is a Dutch cookie. I used pecans, because that's what I had in the house, and increased the amount to 1 cup. The cookies will seem very soft but they firm up after cooling. I cut 36 cookies per batch.


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup very finely chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 15-1/2 by 10-1/2 inch jelly roll pan. Mix butter, sugar, and egg yolk. Blend flour and cinnamon; stir into the butter mixture. Pat into pan. Beat water and egg white until frothy; brush over dough; sprinkle with nuts. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until very lightly browned. Cut immediately into finger-like strips. Yield: 50 (3 by 1-inch) strips.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December Food Fest: Send Out 2016 with the Comfort You Need

favorite holiday cookbooks

Our December Holiday Food Fest continues with a post by Serena, who blogs at Savvy Verse & Wit, runs Poetic Book Tours, and is also a fantastic poet herself. She was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize!

Today Serena's here to share some of her favorite holiday cookbooks and comfort food recipes. Take it away, Serena!

The year wraps itself up in December. Although 2016 may not have the shiniest paper and sparkly bow, December is the time for reflection, giving, and, yes, eating. On the east coast, the weather can be rainy or snowy, but almost always, it is too cold for me. My cousin keeps telling me to move to Florida, but that hot weather would leave little room for some of my favorite comfort foods – soup, chili, and shepherd’s pie.

Book bloggers who love to cook gravitate toward cookbooks like children to candy. You can’t get enough. And look out if the latest cookbook also happens to be written by one of our favorite authors – Jane Green. What we really want is good food to warm the body and food that’s easy to prepare and share with family, friends, or even book club.

Some of my favorite recipes are so easy that you just throw the ingredients into a crockpot, set the timer, and go read! Six Sisters’ Stuff cookbooks have a number of easy recipes, but one of our favorites is macaroni and cheese for the crockpot. It does require some prep; you’ll have to cook the elbow macaroni and melt grated cheddar with butter in a saucepan. Spray the crockpot with non-stick spray and add the ingredients. It only takes two hours to cook, so it can be made quickly in a pinch. It is so creamy thanks to the sour cream, milk, and cheddar cheese soup.

My daughter would tell you that her favorite food is chicken nuggets, and Aviva Goldfarb’s SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue has a super easy recipe with some healthy side dish suggestions. Buttermilk-bathed chicken nuggets are easy to make once you prep the buttermilk wash with garlic and the batter of bread crumbs, Parmesan, and seasoning. They take between 15-20 minutes to bake in the oven. But don’t forget to cut the chicken breasts in smaller sizes. We ended up using pre-cut chicken. It was delicious, and there were no complaints from a girl who thinks most food comes from a bag or box.

What are some of your comfort foods? I'm always looking for new cookbooks and recipes to try.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

December Food Fest: Holiday Cocktails

holiday cocktails

Today please welcome Penny Watson, a book blogger and author who's famous for her quirky, unusual romances. Penny's most well-known series is the Klaus Brothers, about the sons of Nick Klaus who leave the North Pole to find love. I also happen to know Penny loves a good cocktail, so I thought it would be fun to have her share some Klaus-inspired cocktails for winter. Take it away, Penny!

Party with the Klaus Brothers! A Few Holiday Cocktail Suggestions from Penny Watson

Happy Holidays!

I’m Penny Watson, author of quirky fiction and lover of cocktails. My holiday romance series THE KLAUS BROTHERS always includes delicious food and beverages.

sweet destiny klaus brothers penny watson

Here are some fun suggestions for holiday drinks inspired by the five Klaus Brothers. They take their cocktails seriously. (And often drink with elves, but that’s another story...)

egg nog
1. Nicholas Klaus (Sweet Inspiration)

Nick Junior is the oldest Klaus brother. He’s a pastry chef who loves all things foodie. He would certainly choose this Salted Caramel Eggnog since it involves a bit of cooking on the stovetop. This recipe includes dark rum, pure vanilla extract, caramel syrup, and cinnamon sticks. Here’s the recipe from The Cookie Rookie.

2. Sven Klaus (Sweet Adventure)

Sven Klaus—toy-maker and hippie extraordinaire—loves his all-natural lifestyle, including fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. What would a Birkenstock-wearing hippie drink over the holidays? A Grapefruit and Rosemary Cocktail.

This simple recipe includes vodka, fresh rosemary and super healthy grapefruit.

3. Gregor Klaus (Sweet Cinderella)

Gregor Klaus, the man-of-finance for Klaus Enterprises, enjoys a life of luxury in Manhattan. He would gravitate towards a bourbon-based beverage. Santa’s Little Helper is his perfect cocktail. It includes plenty of bourbon and some cranberries to jazz up the holiday. Check out this recipe from Aunt Peaches.

4. Oskar Klaus (Sweet Magik)

Oskar Klaus, green-haired punk snowboarder and crazy man, doesn’t hold back with his alcoholic beverages. He goes ALL out. Ergo, the White Chocolate Peppermint Martini is the drink for him. It includes Godiva white chocolate liquor, vanilla vodka, peppermint schnapps, chocolate syrup, and candy canes for garnish (of course).

Here’s a cheery recipe From A Family Feast...

hot apple cider
5. Wolfgang Klaus (Sweet Destiny)

What’s the perfect holiday beverage if you’re cabin-bound in the middle of the Vermont forest? Wolfgang and Belinda would love this recipe for spiked hot apple cider. Simmering this cider on the stovetop makes the whole house smell cozy and festive.

Penny’s Spiked Apple Cider

  • 1 quart fresh apple cider
  • 1 generous handful mulling spices (cinnamon sticks, orange peel, cloves, star anise, lemon peel, etc)
  • Laird’s Applejack
  • Orange/apple slices for garnish

Gently heat apple cider on stovetop. Add handful of mulling spices. When the liquid is at a low simmer, strain out the spices and pour hot cider into mugs. Add 1-2 shots apple brandy into the mug (depending on how “festive” you want your celebration). Garnish with sliced orange or apples and maybe a couple of cinnamon sticks for fun.


For more information about the five Klaus Brothers, stop by my website. I have a cheat sheet for the series and a quiz to determine how much you love Christmas.

Happy Holidays To All!