Monthly Archives: February 2016

Beer-Brined Chicken

Green food coloring is not required for this recipe.  You can celebrate the luck of the Irish on St Patrick’s Day with this Guinness beer brined chicken recipe.  Guinness is probably the best known of Irish beers.  It has been around since the 1770s.  Two interesting facts you might not know: it’s official color is a deep ruby red and 10 million glasses are sold every day world wide.  That is a lot of beer.  While I’m not much of a beer drinker, I do like to cook with it.

We have St Patrick to thank for this day.  He is the official patron saint of Ireland.  He was born in the late 4th century in Romain Britain and kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave.  After escaping, he returned later to convert the Irish to Christianity.    It was the Irish immigrants who turned this day into a fun way to celebrate everything all Irish.  Source is Encyclopaedia Britannica.

And yes we have an annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Grand Rapids.  Here is a photo from a couple of years ago.  Photo courtesy of Lauren Petracca.


Beer-Brined Chicken

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Brine and Chicken

1 1/4 cups water
1 1/4 cups Guinness stout or draught beer
3 tablespoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons mild-flavored molasses
1 whole chicken (3 to 3 1/2 lb)


1/2  teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned pepper
1/2  teaspoon seasoned garlic powder
2 tablespoons olive oil

For brine: In a large bowl, combine water, stout, salt, and molasses; stir until salt dissolves.  Place the chicken in a 2-gallon food-storage plastic bag set in a shallow dish.  Pour brine over the chicken; seal bag.  Marinate in refrigerator at least 8 hours but no longer than 24 hours.

Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with foil.  Remove chicken from brine; rinse thoroughly under cool running water and pat dry with paper towels. Discard brine.  Place the chicken, breast side up,in pan.  Refrigerate uncovered 1 hour to dry chicken skin.  In a small bowl, mix all the rub ingredients except for the olive oil.  Set aside.

Heat oven to 300°.  Brush the olive oil over chicken and then sprinkle with seasoning mixture; rub into chicken skin.    Roast at 300° for 40 minutes (this low heat will help render fat and crisp the skin). Turn heat to 425°, cook for 30-40 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 170°.  Remove from oven, allow to rest for 15 minutes before carving.  


1.  This makes a good marinade for pork chops also.
2.  Recipe adapted from a 2008 Better Homes and Garden grilling magazine.


Homemade Gumdrops

Chewy and sweet, homemade gumdrops are a perfect treat for Valentine’s Day.  I only recently learned that you can make gumdrops and decided I needed to give them a try.

There are a lot of recipes out there and most of them use Apple Sauce as an ingredient.  To me, it seemed like a strange ingredient for gumdrops but I could not taste the apple sauce in them.  I made my gumdrops in heart shapes since it is close to Valentine’s Day.  I have three 14-count silicon heart shaped candy molds that I bought from Amazon.

silicone molds

These gumdrops are far easier to make than you would think.  You will just need some patience in allowing the gumdrops to set and dry.  These gumdrops may be slightly less firm than ones you buy in the store but the sweet, tart flavor makes up for that.

homemade Gumdrops

Homemade Gumdrops

2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups applesauce, unsweetened
2  (3 oz) boxes Jell-O, any flavor
2 envelopes (4 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin, such as Knox
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 cup coarse white sugar

Prepare three 15-count silicone gumdrop molds by spraying with cooking spray.

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients, let stand 1 minute.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, boil for 1 minute.  Strain into a measuring cup and let cool for 5 minutes; it will be warm but not yet set. Pour the liquid into the prepared molds.   Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight).

Remove the gumdrops from the molds and place onto wax paper.  Roll each of the gumdrops in the coarse white sugar and return to the waxed paper.  Let dry for about an hour and then store in an air-tight container in the fridge. 

1.  A 9 x 13 inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray can be used in place of the silicone molds.
2.  If using baking dish, cut out gumdrops using a knife dipped in hot water to cut squares or a cookie cutter to cut in desired shapes.

Homemade Gumdrops 1


Chocolate-Strawberry Cream Cake

If you are looking for a sweet treat to make for someone special on Valentine’s Day, I can recommend this cake.  It is also fairly easy to make, using the convenience of a boxed cake mix.  It is a pretty cake (and decadent) with the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting, chocolate cake and strawberry buttercream filling.

We know that Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14th and that many people give cards, flowers, candy, and presents to their loved ones.  I love getting a heart shaped box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day.  The chocolates seem to just taste better for some reason.

The history of Valentine’s Day has a lot of legends surrounding it.  Legend has it that Valentine’s Day is named after a martyred Christian Saint named Valentine.  There is doubt as to which Valentine the day is named after because legend also mentions three Valentines.

However, it was Chaucer’s poem The Parliament of Fowls in 1381 that may have linked the day with love.  This poem was in honor of the engagement of Richard II and Anne of Bohemia.  In the poem, Chaucer links the mating season of birds and Valentine’s Day.  (There was a medieval belief that birds select their mates on February 14th.)  Source

For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.”

I found a print copy of the poem on Amazon for less than a dollar and felt the need to purchase it.  This print version has Middle English on one side and the modern English translation on the facing page.  It is quite an interesting poem.


I  make this cake at Christmas time for us as well as to give as food gifts, but Valentine’s Day seems like a good time to serve it also.

white chocolate cake

Chocolate-Strawberry Cream Cake

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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For the Cake:
1 box devil’s food cake mix (Duncan Hines preferred)
1 cup water
3 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare 2 round (9 inch)  cake pans.  Blend cake mix, water, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract in a large bowl at low speed until moistened (about 30 seconds).  Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour batter in two prepared pans and bake 24-29 minutes.  Cake is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool cakes on wire rack for 15 minutes.  Remove cakes from pan and cool completely before frosting.

While the cakes are baking and cooling, prepare the filling and frosting.

For the Strawberry Filling:
1/4 cup pureed strawberries
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar

With electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and powdered  sugar together.  Add the strawberry puree and mix on medium low speed until incorporated.

For the White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups white chocolate chips, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt

In a large bowl with mixer on medium speed,  beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add the melted and cooled white chocolate chips, pinch of salt, and vanilla extract and beat until blended.  Add the powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

Spread the strawberry filling between the two cake layers.  Frost sides and top of cake with the White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting.  Decorate with white chocolate curls, if desired.  Store cake in refrigerator.

white chocolate cake 5white chocolate cake slice 3

To make chocolate curls, use a vegetable peeler to shave the edges of a bar of room-temperature chocolate. Refrigerate until ready to use.



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