A homecooked chicken dinner with all the fixings for Valentine’s weekend. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

You really can just throw chicken breasts into a pot with only a stick of butter and an onion and get a main dish that is so incredibly tasty that it may become your go-to Sunday dinner. This is one of the easiest ways I know to put some serious comfort food on the table. The aromatic chicken is tender and delicately browned. The butter, onion and chicken juices simmer together to create a velvety concoction that can be thickened for homestyle gravy. What better way to let the valentines in your life know you love them than by creating a meal infused with love?

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

For sides, of course you’ll want some mashed potatoes for that luscious gravy, and because my littlest grandchildren like them so much, I’ve devised the best-ever “sugared carrots.” Yes, that’s what we call them because that’s what they are. And let’s round out the meal with cranberry sauce.

My mother handed down the tradition of making a special Valentine’s Day dinner. We ate in the dining room using the best china and finished the meal with a heart-shaped cake. If you don’t have a heart pan, just improvise. Since we’re recognizing the Day of Love, be sure to frost that baby with pink buttercream and add some celebratory sprinkles!

Oven Chicken Breasts

4 large, skin-on, bone-in chicken breast halves
Salt, pepper and poultry seasoning, to taste
1/2 cup butter
1 onion, peeled

Place butter and whole onion in a casserole dish with a lid. (I use a Dutch oven.) Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Put bone side up in pot. Bake at 300 degrees for four hours or 275 degrees for five hours.

Remove chicken breasts and onion to a serving platter and continue with gravy prep. Yield: 4 servings



In a glass jar with a lid, shake together 2 tablespoons flour or cornstarch with 4 tablespoons water.

Place pot on stovetop and bring liquid contents to a simmer over medium-low heat, skimming off fat. Add flour and water and whisk until thickened and smooth.

Mashed Potatoes

Please don’t whip those (well-salted) boiled potatoes to death with an electric mixer. Instead, use a ricer or a masher. Leave a couple tablespoons of water in the pan when the potatoes are done and warm the milk or cream with a couple tablespoons of butter before adding to the potatoes.

Cranberry Sauce

My go-to method is to simply toss some fresh or frozen cranberries in a bowl, cover it with a paper towel, and zap them in the microwave for a minute or two. I then add just enough sugar to taste and a smattering of orange zest and fresh orange juice. A splash of Grand Marnier added to the mix (with a tipple on the side) is also quite divine.

Sugared Carrots

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut in chunks
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cinnamon stick
Vanilla bean, 1/2-inch piece, split open
1 tablespoon whole cloves
4 star anise pods


Place all ingredients in a saucepan with a couple inches of water. Cover and bring to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer until carrots are almost done. Remove lid and continue simmering, occasionally spooning liquid over carrots until thickened and syrupy. (If carrots get tender before liquid is thickened, remove them from the pan then return them when syrup is the desired consistency.) Yield: 4 servings

Sweetheart Cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut parchment paper to line the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch heart-shaped pan and coat paper and sides of pan with butter.

Beat butter, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating until combined and slightly fluffy. Add vanilla and buttermilk and beat to combine. Add baking powder and cornstarch and beat very well to combine. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat one second more. Add flour and mix just until it disappears. Use a rubber scraper to gently fold in sprinkles.

Spread batter in prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes then run a knife around the side to loosen the cake and cool on a rack before frosting. Yield: 9-14, depending on how you slice it

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