I love the last few days leading up to Christmas, there is a frenetic buzz in the air, everything seems to smell like peppermint and cloves, and the decorations on the streets and in the windows are like no other time of year! I was asked by WGN Chicago for my top tips on some last-minute holiday ideas and I think I came up with a few you are going to absolutely love - and best of all you can find everything at your local grocery store! Below is the clip for you to watch and hopefully get inspired to some festive cheer to your home this time of year! Here are the recipes for my Cointreau Chocolate Ganache and Cointreau Winter Cider. Sending love, hugs, and well wishes from my home to yours - Happy Holidays!
La Vie Piquant
La vie piquant—the spicy life! Everyday is filled with “piquant” moments that are pleasantly stimulation of exciting to the mind. Whether it is in the form of food, style, design, love, entertaining, or any other inspiring idea or tangible object, “it” should be celebrated! Here I will be sharing with you simple, beautiful, realistic, doable, and truly re-creatable recipes, entertaining ideas, and home décor pizzazz that will help you interject a little bit of “piquant” into your life – after all, we only live once. Join me in living la vie piquant!
During the winter, when the temperatures are just freezing, is actually my favorite time of year to entertain at home. People tend to stay a bit longer, the food is very comforting and hearty, and everyone can relax and have a really good time! When my guests arrive, I offer them a hot cocktail to warm them up and make them feel right at home – and it gives me time to put the finishing touches on dinner. My Cointreau Winter Cider is filled with aromatic spices, lime juice to cut the sweetness, and has an orange boozy kick from Cointreau (that is sure to warm you up!)! Best of all it can be made in advance so there is no mixing or shaking individual drinks – which leaves more time for me to enjoy the soirée, too!
Cointreau Winter Cider
Ingredients (serves 8)
- Apple Cider – 32 ounces
- Fresh Lime Juice – 6 ounces, freshly squeezed
- Cinnamon Sticks – 2, plus more for garnish if desired
- Star Anises – 2, whole
- Cloves – 2, whole
- Oranges – 2, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish if desired
- Granny Smith Apple – 1, cored, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish if desired
- Orange Liqueur – 12 ounces (Cointreau recommended)
- In a large saucepan set over medium heat, add all of the ingredients except for the Cointreau.
- Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, add the Cointreau, cover and steep for 20 minutes.
- Fill heat-proof glasses or mugs with hot cider, garnish with extra cinnamon sticks, and serve.
Tip: If you would like to make this in advance, after the cider is finished steeping, remove the fruit and spices, and store the finished cider in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. When you are ready to serve, gently re-heat the cider in a medium sauce pan over medium heat and serve hot.
Whenever I travel I like to bring home food and entertaining inspiration from some of the world’s most extraordinary stores. When I was in Berlin in early December, I was shopping in the candy department at KaDeWe (it is an entire floor!) and came across a beautiful bar of white chocolate with dehydrated strawberries. I snapped a photo and continued on. After getting over my jet-lag, I headed into my kitchen in Chicago and I recreated my version using white chocolate chips that are readily found in all grocery stores and freeze-dried strawberries from Trader Joe's. After a few batches, the addition of vanilla bean seeds and French sea salt where the magic ingredients! The vanilla added depth of flavor to the chocolate and the salt took it from a sweet treat to an elegant homemade candy - a truly winning combination!
Strawberry White Chocolate Bark
Ingredients (serves 8-10)
- White Chocolate Chips – 20 ounces
- Vanilla Bean Seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Fleur de Sel – ¾ teaspoon
- Freeze Dried Strawberry Slices – 1 ounce
- Using a pencil, draw a 9x11-inch rectangle on a piece of parchment paper. Turn the parchment paper over and place it onto a half sheet pan. Set aside.
- Add three quarters of the white chocolate chips to a heat-proof glass bowl. Place the bowl in the microwave and heat on high for exactly 30 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, stir the chocolate, return it to the microwave, and heat on high for another 30 seconds. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second intervals until the chocolate is just melted.
- Once it is just melted, add the remaining chocolate chips and vanilla bean seeds and stir until it's completely smooth.
- Pour the warm melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread it lightly to fill the drawn rectangle on the prepared sheet of parchment.
- Next, while the chocolate is still warm, evenly sprinkle over the fleur de sel. Arrange the freeze dried strawberry slices to fill the entire chocolate surface.
- Allow to sit at room temperature for 3 hours to set. Break into pieces are serve.
Tip: In addition to the whole slices of strawberries, I also use the “strawberry dust” at the bottom of the bag. It adds even more flavor to each bite of chocolate bark and also looks fabulous!
The word “zhush” means to make something exciting or more attractive, or to make it more fabulous (at least, that is how I use it!). In this case, it is all about saving time by making a plain, simple, store-bought cake fabulous! When I don’t have the time to make a cake from scratch (or don’t want to be bothered), I like to buy a small simple chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream to zhush up and turn it into something I am not only excited about serving, but also eating! Grocery store bakeries are usually filled with cakes ranging in size and cost. My approach for a Store-Bought Cake Made Fabulous is to buy the simplest and most delicious cake I can find. Instead of relying of those pre-fab decorated cakes, focus on quality, and use these simple options to dress up even the most unassuming store-bought cake!
These are some of my favorite additions to zhush up a store-bough cake:
Edible gold leaf which you can easily find online and also in silver, adds a bit of glamour to fresh raspberries! The same would be true for using strawberries, blackberries, or even blueberries. Choose something that will complement the flavor of both the cake and frosting you choose.
Simple store-bought salted caramel makes a truly decedent addition to the top of a cake! Once you start slicing, the caramel oozes down into the cake and makes each and every bite scrumptious. I usually keep a little extra on-hand to serve alongside the cake. For added fabulousness, you can also heat up the caramel and pour it over the cake as you present it! Or, add a touch more of flaked sea salt for crunch.
Colorful edible flowers which are typically in the produce department of grocery stores, makes for a very casual yet elegant effect. I love dusting them with a bit of powdered sugar to help sweeten them (they are VERY earthy tasting) and to add a bit of texture and contrast. This is especially elegant on larger rose petals!
Homemade whipped cream is also a wonderful decoration for almost any flavor of cake! I like to use a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (or start tip) and pipe around the base of the cake when the cardboard disk meets the serving plate. To make homemade whipped cream you need:
Homemade Whipped Cream
- Heavy Cream – 1 cup, very cold
- Sugar – 2 tablespoons
- Vanilla – ¾ teaspoon, pure extract
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the cold cream. Turn the mixer to medium-low and begin whipping the cream. Once it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla.
- Raise the speed to high, and whip it until it thicken and begins to forms medium peaks. I like it to still be a bit “soft” as the texture is much creamier.
Tip: Don’t overbeat, or you will end up with a very stiff whipped cream and it will not have any fluidity to it and will also turn into butter!
Like so many of you, I like to have different vinaigrettes on-hand in the refrigerator. A simple salad, when done really well, adds great texture and color to a meal, whether for lunch or dinner. Salads have been know in my house (and clients, too!) to be an impromptu addition when I am having timing issues in the kitchen (or, when I drain the pasta into the sink without a colander - I blame it on the wine!). My Cointreau Vinaigrette has a wonderful balance of sharp orange zing from Cointreau, and the freshly squeezed orange juice adds a bit of sweetness. It is rounded out by the fruity olive oil, blending all of the flavors. A perfect pairing, indeed!
Ingredients (serves 6)
- Orange Liqueur – 1½ tablespoons (Cointreau recommended)
- Olive Oil – ⅓ cup
- Honey – 2 tablespoons
- Orange Juice – 3 tablespoons, freshly squeezed
- Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon
- Black Pepper – ¼ teaspoon, freshly cracked
- Arugula – 5 ounces
- Hazelnuts – 1 cup, lightly toasted
- Goat Cheese – 3 ounces, crumbled
- Parmesan Cheese – large shavings, for garnish (Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended)
- Strawberries – 1½ cups, hulled, then thinly sliced
- Parsley – ¼ cup, fresh, finely minced, Italian flat leaf variety recommended
- Sea Salt – ½ teaspoon
- Black Pepper – ½ teaspoon, freshly cracked
- Orange Juice – ¼ cup, freshly squeezed
- Place all of the ingredients into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously for about 60 seconds.
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before dressing a salad.
- On a large serving platter, arrange the arugula, hazelnuts, goat cheese, Parmesan cheese, strawberries, and parsley. Evenly sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Next, evenly drizzle the salad with freshly squeezed orange juice.
- Add just enough Cointreau Vinaigrette to lightly coat the salad. Toss tableside just before serving.
Tip: I like to serve more vinaigrette in a small pitcher or gravy boat on the side and let guest add more vinaigrette to their salad if they prefer.
A really good chocolate ganache is a fabulous recipe to have in your arsenal of quick and easy desserts because once it is made it has so many uses. It can be used to glaze shortbread cookies, rolled into truffles, served warm over ice cream, used for chocolate covered strawberries, glazing cakes and cupcakes, or even whipped in a stand mixer until light and fluffy to use as a ganache frosting! My Cointreau Chocolate Ganache is flavored with orange liqueur and Cognac, adding sophisticated (and boozy!) flavor of sharp orange and the warmth of Cognac, both of which happen to pair perfectly with dark chocolate. Best of all, it takes just a few minutes to make and instantly makes even the simplest garnishes feel special and soirée-ready!
Cointreau Chocolate Ganache
Ingredients (makes 2½ cups)
- Dark Chocolate – 1 pound, finely chopped
- Heavy Cream – 1 cup
- Honey – 4 tablespoons
- Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon
- Vanilla – ¾ teaspoon, pure extract
- Orange Zest – 1 ½ teaspoons, finely zested
- Cognac – 2 tablespoons (Remy Martin 1738 recommended)
- Orange Liqueur – 3 tablespoons (Cointreau recommended)
- Shortbread Cookies – store-bought (Walkers brand recommended)
- In a heat-proof bowl set over barely simmering water, heat the dark chocolate, heavy cream, honey, and salt until just melted, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from the heat and add the vanilla, orange zest, Cognac, and Cointreau. Stir to combine.
- Drizzle ½ of each shortbread cookie with just enough chocolate to coat it. Set each coated cookie onto a paper baking cup that has been flattened. Garnish with more orange zest if desired. Allow the ganache to set at room temperature for a few minutes before serving.
Tip: Stirring the ganache as it cooks with help make it shiny when it is used as a glaze, making for a professional and dramatic presentation. The ganache will stay fresh in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Idea: Once the shortbread cookies set, do not refrigerate. Store them tightly wrapped at room temperature.
Truffled Toast with Asparagus is one of my all-time favorite recipes in my cookbook Table for Two. It is incredibly chic and elegant, much easier to make than it looks, and is a really unique dish that will "Wow!" your guest! This dish incorporates flavorful asparagus with crisp delicious bread, coated with delicious truffle oil, and topped off with egg yolks that create a luxurious sauce for the whole dish. You need a sauté pan, a little assembly, and a couple minutes under a broiler, and you will have an over-the-top main course that is sure to impress you guest as much as it will delight their taste buds!
Truffled Toast with Asparagus
Ingredients (serves 2, easily expands for larger soirées)
- Truffle Oil – 6 tablespoons
- Challah Bread – 2 slices, cut 2-inches thick
- Butter – 1 tablespoon, unsalted
- Olive Oil – 1 tablespoon
- Asparagus – 5 stalks, bottom ends trimmed and discarded, cut ¾-inch on the diagonal, tips included
- Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon
- Black Pepper – ¼ teaspoon
- Garlic – 2 cloves, thinly sliced
- Fontina Cheese – ½ cup, freshly grated
- Pecorino Cheese – ¼ cup, freshly grated
- Egg Yolks – 4 extra-large, whole, at room temperature, separated into 2 bowls
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place two individual gratin dishes (6-7 inches in diameter) onto a half sheet pan.
- Place a slice of bread into each dish. Make an oval-shaped well in the center of each slice by removing bread about ½-inch deep.
- Brush the tops of each slice with 3 tablespoons of truffle oil, allowing the oil to be absorbed in completely.
- Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until the tops are lightly toasted.
- Meanwhile, in a 10-inch sauté pan set over medium heat, add the butter and olive oil. Once hot, add the asparagus, salt, and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic and continue cooking for another 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Remove from the heat, transfer into a small bowl, and set aside.
- Once the bread is finished baking, remove the sheet pan from the oven, top each slice evenly with both cheeses. Gently place the eggs yolks into the well of each slice, and evenly distribute the asparagus mixture.
- Return to the oven and bake for just another 1-2 minutes, until the cheese is just slightly melted. The egg yolks will still be raw and runny.
- Garnish with more salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Tip: Because the egg yolks are still raw, you really want to make sure to use fresh eggs for this. Also, because the egg yolks are still raw, the moment you cut into them, they instantly make a sauce!
Idea: To give this dish even more truffle flavor, you can replace the sea salt with truffle salt – instant upgrade! Truffle salt, I think, is a fabulous ingredient to keep on hand. You can use it on almost anything savory as a finishing salt.
Each year as Halloween approaches I get excited for the start of the Autumnal season of holidays and traditions. The weather starts to cool off, spiced apple drinks start to flow (I like mine spiked!), and Halloween inaugurates the holiday celebrations with fun and creativity.
There are many directions to go when decorating for Halloween. From kitsch to all-out ghoulish crypt-keeping, often I am left with piles of decorations in November that immediately need to be stored to make way for Thanksgiving. This year I decided to take a different approach. Less pumpkin tchotchke and no conversion to a full cemetery in my living room. Instead, Halloween this year will be paired down to be sophisticated, chic, and best of all done in minutes!
My inspiration for a sophisticated Halloween theme is to utilize a monochromatic color palate of sumptuous black tones, and then to create focused vignettes in specific areas around the apartment. This keeps the decoration contained and easier to manage and is visually more dramatic.
I also approached my theme with classic easy-to-find decorations in the seasonal aisle in my grocery store and drug store, but layered them in a more curated way. As beautiful as many of the high-end Halloween decorations can be, they have to be stored year after year, and may not fit your style or space the next Halloween. All of my decorations fit in a plastic boot-sized storage container for all holidays (except Christmas, of course).
The simplicity of a monochromatic palate is enhanced with different textures in the same black tones, which adds depth, interest, and a more layered look. Use this visual All-Hallows-Eve photo series as inspiration for your own SPOOKtacular décor! Pick and choose the elements that resonate with you, play some Halloween-inspired tunes (Pandora: Halloween Party Radio is my choice!), and just have fun adding some BOOtiful elements to make your space come alive – if you dare!
Cobwebs, Spiders, and Crows - OH MY!
Everyday Items Get a SPOOKtacular Makeover!
A Centerpiece Worthy of Frightful Screams!
Classic Halloween Icons Perfect for Place Cards or Food Markers!
BOOtiful Halloween Details!
My Roasted Fruit Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette is a fantastic combination of incredible flavors and textures and happens to come together without any real effort - my favorite kind of recipe! Roasting fruit intensifies their flavor and is enhanced even more with my incredibly simple rosemary-infused vinaigrette. This is one my favorite dishes from my cookbook Table for Two! It can be served as an entree for lunch or dinner for two, or shared as a salad course for a larger group (I love double-duty recipes!). A friend recently served the warm fruit with vanilla bean ice cream and said it was a huge hit - who knew?!
Series 5, Episode 3: Roasted Fruit Salad with Rosemary Vinaigrette
Roasted Fruit with Rosemary Vinaigrette
Ingredients (serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a salad course)
- French Feta – 5 ounces, crumbled
- Spring Mix Greens – 3 ounces
- Pecans – ¾ cup, whole halves
- Olive Oil – ¼ cup
- Honey – ¼ cup
- Rosemary – 1 sprig, fresh, about 4 inches
- Whole Black Peppercorns – ¾ teaspoon
- Balsamic Vinegar – 1 tablespoon
- Green Grapes – 1 cup, seedless
- Red Grapes – 1 cup, seedless
- Black Plums – 2, cut into quarters, pit removed
- Peaches – 2, cut into sixths, pit removed
- Olive Oil – 1 tablespoon
- Sea Salt – ½ teaspoon
- Black Pepper – ¼ teaspoon, freshly cracked
- In a small sauce pan set over medium heat, add the olive oil, honey, rosemary, and black peppercorns.
- Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat, cover, and allow to sit for 20 minutes.
- Next, place a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl. Strain the warm mixture, making sure to reserve the peppercorns and rosemary in the sieve.
- Lastly, whisk in the balsamic vinegar until full incorporated. Set aside.
- Start by pre-heating the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Place all of the fruit onto a half sheet pan. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Roast for 10-12 minutes, until the fruit just begins to release their juices. During the last 3 minutes, add the pecan halves to the fruit to toast.
- Arrange the greens onto a platter or a serving bowl. Evenly distribute the warm fruit, pecans, and crumbled Feta. Drizzle with vinaigrette.
- Serve warm.
Hotel and restaurant bars can be a fabulous source of inspiration for entertaining at home. And entertaining for two shouldn't be any less glamorous than for 10! My Fried Blue Cheese Olives were inspired by a former menu staple at RL in Chicago, and fond memories of the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston helped me to create a simplified update on classic Amaretto Sour Martinis. These are the perfect pair for a cocktail party just for two! You can find both recipes in my cookbook Table for Two!
Truth be told, I love making cocktails at home but prefer not to be bothered with having to measure out a long list of ingredients and garnish with little drops and drizzles of things - I get bored way too fast for that! My Amaretto Sour Martinis are so simple to make and can be made ahead of time and kept in a glass pitcher until you are ready to shake them over ice and serve them perfectly chilled.
My Fried Blue Cheese Olives are almost as simple as the martinis and truly have that WOW! factor. These are my go-to when I want to serve something warm with drinks. You can't make them ahead of time, but they cook so quickly that you can make them just before your guest arrives - and then watch their face light up with excitement for such a delicious and perfect pairing!
Amaretto Sour Martinis
Ingredients (serves 2)
- Amaretto – 6 ounces (Disaronno® recommended)
- Lime Juice – 2 ounces, freshly squeezed
- Lemon Juice – 2 ounces, freshly squeezed
- Honey – 1 tablespoon
- Maraschino Cherries – for garnish
- In a cocktail shaker, combine the amaretto, lime juice, lemon juice, honey, and a handful of ice. Shake until very cold, about 60 seconds (it is longer than you realize, but worth the work-out).
- Pour evenly into each martini glass.
- Serve immediately.
Fried Blue Cheese Olives
Ingredients (serves 2)
- Canola Oil – 1½ cups
- Egg – 1 extra-large, lightly beaten
- Dried Breadcrumbs – ½ cup, plain
- Blue Cheese Olives – 16, patted dry, at room temperature
- In a small sauce pan set over high heat, add the oil. Line a plate with a layer of paper towels. Set aside.
- Place the lightly beaten egg in a small, shallow bowl. In an additional small bowl, add the bread crumbs.
- Roll each olive through the egg, then through the breadcrumbs to evenly coat. Coat all of the olives and set aside together.
- Once the oil has reached 350 degrees F (use a candy thermometer to be accurate), and working in small batches, gently place the olives in the hot oil. Once golden brown, remove the olives with a small slotted spoon and place on the plate prepared with paper towel to drain.
- Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
I am just so excited to share with you the first webisdoe of my newest series on YouTube of From My Kitchen To Yours: Table for Two edition! When I started planning out recipes I wanted to film from my new cookbook, I really wanted to show you how truly easy and elegant my idea of cooking and entertaining for you and your +1 can be. To launch the new series, I knew my Stuffed Croissants with Spinach would be the perfect recipe! Not only can you serve these as part of a breakfast or brunch, they are also fabulous with a salad for lunch, or even as a first course for dinner. Not to mention, the "filling" doubles as a creamy and luxurious spinach dip!
Stuffed Croissants with Spinach
Ingredients (serves 2)
- Plain Croissants – 2, store-bought
- Olive Oil – 1 tablespoon
- Butter – 1 tablespoon, unsalted
- Shallot – 1 small, finely minced
- Garlic – 1 clove, finely minced
- Spinach – 1 bag (5 ounces), rough-chopped, reserve 2 whole leaves for garnish
- Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon
- Black Pepper – ¼ teaspoon, freshly grated
- Gruyère Cheese – 4 tablespoons, freshly grated, divided
- Mascarpone – 2 tablespoons
- Parmesan Cheese – 2 tablespoons, freshly grated (Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended)
- Egg Wash – 1 extra-large egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Slice each croissant horizontally along the outside curve, but not cutting all the way through—you want to make a “pocket” for the filling to nestle into. Set aside.
- In a 10-inch sauté pan set over medium-low heat, add the olive oil and butter. Once hot, add the shallots. Cook for 2 minutes just until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 30 seconds, being careful not to burn the garlic.
- Next, add the chopped spinach, salt, and pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the spinach is wilted and tender.
- With a spatula, transfer the hot spinach to a small bowl and add the parmesan, mascarpone, and 2 tablespoons of Gruyère. Stir until the mascarpone is melted.
- Next, spoon the mixture evenly into the “pocket” created in each croissant.
- Brush the outside of each croissant with egg wash, place a spinach leaf on top of each croissant and brush again with the egg wash. Then, evenly sprinkle each croissant with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Gruyère.
- Place onto the prepared sheet pan and bake for 7-9 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the spinach leaf is crisp. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
Idea: This recipe can also be served as a hot spinach dip! Instead of stuffing the spinach mixture into a croissant, put it in a heat-proof serving bowl alongside a selection of pita chips, tortilla chips, black pepper crackers, or even crisp carrot sticks.
A few weeks ago on my Instagram feed I announced I had a new series of From My Kitchen To Yours launching soon on YouTube. I am so excited to share with you that the first webisode will air Tuesday April 11th! This five-part series is focused on some of my favorite recipes from my newest cookbook Table for Two and highlights some chic and flavorful ideas on cooking and entertaining for you and your +1. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to ensure you are one of the first to see my latest webisode. I hope you have as much fun watching the new series as I had filming it!
When it comes to making desserts at home, I try to keep the recipe easy and elegant – and always with a twist! My Warm Chocolate Pots with Grand Marnier & Cherries is the perfect dessert for the finale of a casual weeknight meal, yet special enough for a weekend soirée with a glass of Port or Champagne!
The twist comes from (first) a generous “splash” of Grand Marnier, which is an orange liqueur that adds a bit of warmth and depth of flavor to chocolate, and (second) the dried cherries add some sweetness and give it fabulous texture. My Warm Chocolate Pots require zero (and I mean zero!) special kitchen equipment, and is easier than pie (I mean it!) to prepare. The recipe uses simple ingredients from your local grocery store (in fact, you probably already have everything on hand!), and from start to finish it takes less than 20 minutes – making this the ultimate dessert to easily have at the ready when entertaining!
Ingredients (serves 2)
- Semi-Sweet Chocolate – 3 ½ ounces, roughly chopped
- Butter – 4 tablespoons, unsalted, plus more for preparing ramekins
- Grand Marnier® – 2 tablespoons
- Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon
- Powdered Sugar – ½ cup
- Cocoa Powder – 1 tablespoon, plus more for dusting
- Vanilla – 1 teaspoon, pure extract
- Eggs – 1 extra-large, AND 1 extra-large egg yolk
- Dried Cherries – ½ cup
- Flour – 3 tablespoons
- Candied Orange Peel – for garnish (optional)
- Start by pre-heating the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Butter the interior of two ramekins (6 to 8 ounces each) and place on a baking dish. Set aside.
- In a heat proof bowl, over barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until just melted. Remove from heat.
- Next, to the chocolate, add the Grand Mariner®, salt, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla. Whisk until blended.
- Slowly whisk in the eggs.
- Toss the cherries with the flour, then stir into the chocolate mixture.
- Lastly, evenly divide the batter into the prepared ramekins. Bake for exactly 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 2 minutes. Garnish with cocoa powder and candied orange peel. Serve warm.
Tip: You can actually make these ahead of time! Bake and allow to cool completely. Then, wrap each one tightly with foil and place in the refrigerator. When it's time to serve, remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior. Discard the foil and warm in a microwave for 45 seconds. Dust with cocoa powder and serve immediately.
Idea: You can also swap out the Grand Mariner for Cabernet Sauvignon. I like to add 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon to give it a little extra zing!
In early December I had the pleasure of traveling to Berlin, Germany with my dear friend Jennifer to celebrate her milestone birthday! Like me, she is a lover of all things Christmas, and the trip was on her bucket list of places to travel. The plan was to stay in the center of Berlin and spend a week visiting museums, restaurants, and of course the Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas markets) that are situated all throughout Berlin!
A favorite (and very stylish!) market was WeihnachtsZauber at the Gendarmenmarkt. This is one of the most popular Christmas markets in Berlin during the festive Christmas season. Framed by the Französischer Dom, the Konzerthaus, and the Deutscher Dom, a small tent city with more than 1,000 strings of light appears like magic each year in this centrally-located square that house artisans selling handmade ornaments, candles, gifts, and casual food stalls. Besides the many wintry delights at the market stalls, Michelin-starred chefs offer their haute cuisine in heated tents. This market was so enchanting, we went twice!
All of the markets, bars, and restaurants offer different variations of warm Glühwein—based on either red or white wines (I like to use a Cotes du Rhone or Chardonnay) infused with dried spices, honey, and orange peel, which is served warm and typically with a shot of liqueur like amaretto, brandy, or dark rum. After being outside wandering the streets of Berlin this is a very much welcomed drink to help warm your hands and your tummy!
My Warm Winter Glühwein uses a white wine base and infused with aromatics that add incredible flavor and fabulous notes of the wintry holidays. I love having a pot of this on the stove as company arrives—it is a fabulous drink to serve as a welcome, but also makes the house smell so wonderful!
From my kitchen to yours – Happy Holidays!
Warm Winter Glühwein
Ingredients (serves 4)
- Orange – outer peel of 1 orange
- Cloves – 15 whole cloves
- White Wine – 1 bottle (750 ml), Chardonnay, dry variety recommended
- Honey – 4 tablespoons
- Star Anise – 4 whole pods
- Ginger – 2 pieces, fresh, 1-inch each, peeled, thinly sliced
- Cinnamon Sticks – 3
- Sparkling Water – 1½ cups
- Dark Rum – 4 tablespoons
- Orange Liqueur – 2 tablespoons
- Start by inserting the whole cloves into the pieces of orange peels.
- Next, in a medium sauce pan set over medium heat, add the wine, honey, star anise, ginger, cinnamon sticks, and the orange peels dotted with cloves. Allow to come to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover and barely simmer for 30 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove all of the dried spices and orange peels. Set aside to use as garnishes.
- Lastly, stir in the sparkling water, dark rum, and orange liqueur. Gently reheat and serve warm.
Tip: I found that adding in sparkling water at the end gave this warm cocktail a slightly effervescent finish and lighter texture.
Idea: You can also make this in advance by following steps 1,2, and 3. If you plan to serve it later that day, just leave it to cool on the stove top. Before serving, gently reheat over medium heat, and add the sparkling water, rum, and orange liqueur. If you want to make it and store it, allow it to cool completely, transfer it into a container, and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Before serving, gently reheat over medium heat, and add the sparkling water, rum, and orange liqueur.
Thanksgiving for me has always been a favorite holiday as it mostly takes place around a table filled with family and friends, sharing stories and while making more great memories! While the food is always special, and bit more decedent (more butter!) on the day, one of my favorite parts is setting a festive table.
A great Thanksgiving table doesn’t have to be as complicated to create as the Thanksgiving meal itself, or take as much time. A beautiful table is the perfect complement to a hearty and flavorful meal, creating a warm and inviting environment. I love mixing textures, patterns, and autumnal colors to help bring together a rustic and elegant tablescape.
A layered table filled with different textures instantly creates a visually interesting and cultivated table—and truth be told is even better when everything isn’t so “matchy-matchy”. I love mixing different metals like copper mirror-finish stemless glasses (for water), hammered gold flatware, pressed glass amber chargers and salad plates, casual stoneware dinner plates, and a rustic low centerpiece of dried twigs (from the grocery store!), pinecones, and fresh orange tulips (in floral water tubes)! All of these elements add interest and complexity and help create a table filled with textures that work together—even though they are all different.
I love using traditional damask tablecloths as a backdrop to most of my tablescapes. This sets the backdrop elegantly, setting the stage for even the most modern table. Mixing in damask napkins in complimentary tones keeps everything fresh and new (again, not so matchy-matchy, but complimentary). Patterns are also found in the design of the plates, silverware, and even the ridges in the goblets. All of which provide visual diversity.
Classic autumnal colors like orange, wheat, amber, and other warm tones are all brought together with the help and balance of a neutral dove grey, copper, and bright green (from the tulips). I love using bold tones against neutral tones—it warms the neutral colors and helps the bold colors really pop!
While this is a quick course in creating a fabulous Thanksgiving table, these are not “rules” so much as guidelines that apply also to everyday living and holiday entertaining. If you are feeling curious, here is a link to all things Thanksgiving!
From my table to yours, happy Thanksgiving!
Some furnishings provided by Mikasa.
When I began testing this recipe for my new cookbook Table for Two: Cooking and Entertaining for You and Your +1, the combinations of ingredients seemed endless (and they really are!). I finally settled on a selection of fresh herbs, apple, fragrant fennel and onions. To give it even more “body”, I added Gruyère cheese that I diced into very small cubes. This prevented the filling from getting too heavy with melted cheese, and instead created pockets of gently melted Gruyère that added the right amount of richness to the finished dish. Keep in mind, this recipe does make two larger portions, so I like to serve it alongside a salad dressed in my French Bistro Vinaigrette.
What I love most about this recipe is that you can interchange the fresh herbs and filling and have it adapt to be season specific. During the fall and winter, I like to use fresh sage and rosemary (a perfect vegetarian main course for the holidays!), and replace the parsnip with butternut squash. In the spring and summer, I love using basil and chives, and replace the apple with zucchini.
Like this recipe, so many other recipes from Table for Two are adaptable to help make entertaining as easy, elegant, and as truly delicious as possible, for you and your plus one!
Apple & Herb Wellington
Ingredients (serves 2)
- Olive Oil – 3 tablespoons
- Fennel – ¾ cup, ½-inch diced
- Yellow Onion – 1 medium, ½-inch diced
- Parsnip – 1 medium, peeled, ½-inch diced
- Pink Lady Apple – 1 medium, ½-inch diced
- Thyme – 2 teaspoons, finely minced, fresh
- Sea Salt – ¾ teaspoon
- Black Pepper – ¾ teaspoon
- Garlic – 2 cloves, finely minced
- Parsley – 3 tablespoons, finely minced, Italian flat-leaf variety recommended
- Whole Cashews – ⅓ cup, rough chopped
- Golden Raisins - ⅓ cup
- Parmesan Cheese – 2 tablespoons, freshly grated, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended
- Gruyère Cheese – 3 ounces, ¼-inch cubed
- Frozen Puff Pastry – 1 sheet, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
- *Egg Wash – 1 extra-large egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
1. Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In a medium sauté pan set over medium heat, add the olive oil. Once hot, add the fennel, onion, parsnip, apples, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very tender, but not brown.
3. Add the garlic and parsley and continue cooking for another 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Transfer to a medium bowl to cool for 5 minutes. Once cooled, stir in the cashews, raisins, and both cheeses.
4. Next, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the thawed puff pastry dough to be roughly 12x14-inches. Cut the dough in half creating 2 pieces measuring 12x7-inces.
5. Divide the filling evenly onto half of each piece of dough, leaving a ½-inch border. Brush the border with egg wash*, and fold over top the other half of each side of the dough. Using the tines of a fork, seal the edges by of the dough by pressing the tines lightly into the dough. Do this on all three sides or each packet. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
6. Brush the tops with egg wash*. Using a small knife, cut three slits on the top of each packet.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown.
8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
For nearly a year, I have been in the process of creating my new cookbook, Table for Two: Cooking and Entertaining for You and Your +1. And now, finally, it is nearly here! Table for Two debuts November 5 and I am simply bursting with excitement to share it with you! It has been a passion borne from the realization that we entertain for two quite often, and that two is a party! I laid out and wrote my new book with the idea that we each have different plus-ones in our lives—those friendships, relationships, and special connections who deserve our undivided attention. But, cooking (and entertaining) just for two is not always easy. How do you cook and entertain elegantly for two, without it feeling like you’re still throwing a dinner party for ten? Or worse, feeling it’s an effort not even worth making! Table for Two is my answer, presented as an easy-to-use guide.
But, more than just a book of recipes, Table for Two is one-part cookbook, one-part entertaining guide, with a dash of story-telling and memoir. From the very beginning, I set out to address the challenge of cooking and entertaining smartly just for a duo. I created every recipe completely from scratch to ensure each is perfectly portioned for two. I also kept it simple, flavorful, and familiar with elegant recipes you would want to serve to any +1 who is special to you! Giving your undivided attention to your +1 is at the heart of the experience I aimed to capture and guide you through with my cookbook. The food you prepare should support that, and doesn’t need to be complicated, fussy, or overly-extravagant.
What truly sets Table for Two apart is my focus on creating for you a trusted guide. With it, you can set up a catch-up around the coffee table, enjoy a kitchen island soirée, or a marvelous in-bed fête. I have set these scenes and more, with useful ideas, easy menus, and inspired stories, all centered on wonderful recipes with fresh ingredients and straight-forward preparation that doesn’t require exotic tools or wild ingredients.
You do not need to be a wiz in the kitchen, or even an experienced host/ess to entertain at home. What you must be, is willing! Willing to not only learn about fresh ingredients and useful techniques, but also to share that with your +1 and make whoever they are feel as through in that moment they are the only other person in the world that matters! Table for Two is sure to be a welcomed addition to your chef’s library as the first lifestyle cookbook and guide you will turn to for a party of two!
Peek inside the pages of Table for Two: Cooking and Entertaining for You and Your +1!