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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!

Warm Chocolate Pots with Grand Marnier & Cherries

Marc J. Sievers

Warm Chocolate Pots with Grand Marnier & Cherries from the desserts chapter of my cookbook Table for Two: Cooking and Entertaining for You and Your +1.  

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

  • 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)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Start by pre-heating the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Butter the interior of two ramekins (6 to 8 ounces each) and place on a baking dish.  Set aside.
  3. In a heat proof bowl, over barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until just melted.  Remove from heat.
  4. Next, to the chocolate, add the Grand Mariner®, salt, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla.  Whisk until blended.
  5. Slowly whisk in the eggs.
  6. Toss the cherries with the flour, then stir into the chocolate mixture.
  7. 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! 


Warm Winter Glühwein

Marc J. Sievers

My Warm Winter Glühwein - Inspired by a recent trip to Berlin, Germany for a grand tour of the Christmas markets!  Napkins: Britten Couture Home.  Cup & Saucer: Cassandra's Kitchen.

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

Directions

  1. Start by inserting the whole cloves into the pieces of orange peels.  
  2. 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. 
  3. Using a slotted spoon, remove all of the dried spices and orange peels.  Set aside to use as garnishes.
  4. 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.


A Thanksgiving Table

Marc J. Sievers

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.

Textures

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.

Patterns

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.

Autumnal Colors

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.

Apple & Herb Wellington

Marc J. Sievers

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

Directions

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.


Table for Two!

Marc J. Sievers

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!

Order your signed copy of Table for Two!



My Intimate Affair with Paris, in Chicago!

Marc J. Sievers

P.O.S.H. Chicago

In the June issue of Chicago-Woman Magazine, my article INSPIRÈ: A Curated Collection of Parisian Inspiration featured local Chicago boutiques bursting at the seams with fabulous Parisian flare!  As a regular ORD to CDG traveler, there were still more of my favorite Chicago spots with a French accent that I wanted to share with you.  This “Toddlin’ Town” we all love and adore is replete with ways to take a mini Paris-inspired stay-cation just by climbing into the back of an Uber!  From flowers, to bakeries, to hotel silver, fragrance, and French fries, I hope you enjoy a look into my intimate affair with Paris, in Chicago!


Christine Noelle Design

When I stumbled upon Christine Noelle Design tucked away on Oak Street, I was instantly inspired and transported to Flower.fr which is a favorite floral boutique of mine in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood of Paris, on Rue de Babylone.  Christine’s charming, colorful, and delicate studio in Chicago is about simplicity at its best!  Her studio is filled with fresh blooms, rustic farm tables, and French antique touches that set her well apart from others in the city.  Both studios are a must visit!

Flowers: by Christine Noelle Design.  A full service flower studio filled with a fresh daily selection of unique and one-of-a-kind blooms, celebrating each season, while manipulating color, texture, and composition to strike beauty and balance.  Individual blooms and full arrangements available. 

Christine Noelle Design

106 East Oak Street, Chicago, IL 60610

312.475.1500

www.ChristineNoelleDesign.com


Hendrickx Bakery

At Hendrickx Bakery in the Gold Coast, it starts with top quality ingredients:  the best butter directly imported from France, artisanal flour, and lots of patience (as it takes them 18 hours to prepare fold after fold for the perfect croissant dough).  The result is irresistible, light, airy, buttery, flaky.  Your challenge—decide which of their twelve varieties to choose from!  Walking into Hendrickx, which also serves salads, soups, tartines, and other Parisian essentials, is like walking into a patisserie in Paris – instant charm, warmth, and amazing food!  The next time you are in Paris, check out Mamie Gateaux for simple country cakes, food, and charm!

Croissants:  by Hendrickx Bakery.  Discover our artisanal breads, croissants, macarons and pastries.  Enjoy a home-made sandwich or soup or salad, all prepared from scratch on the premises by Belgian Chef Renaud Hendrickx and his inspired team.  Before you leave, don't forget to take a peak in the all open kitchen, who knows, Renaud might offer you a sample of one of his new products!

Hendrickx Bakery

100 E Walton Street, Chicago, IL 60611

312.649.6717

www.HendrickxBakery.com


diptyque

Synonymous with French fragrance, diptyque threw opens its doors in Chicago in November 2012 on North Damen Avenue in Wicker Park.  The incredibly elegant and sophisticated interiors by Jennifer Studio gives you the feeling of stepping inside a jewel box filled with complex and layered textiles, finishes, and of course some of the most cultivated fragrances in the world.  My personal favorites are Géranium Rosa, reminiscent of the red geraniums that fill Parisian window boxes in the summer, and Feu de Bois for the woodsy scent of billowing smoke from wood-burning fireplaces in the fall and winter!  

Candles: by diptyque.  The diptyque story began in Paris 51 years ago, at 34 Boulevard St-Germain, with three friends Christiane Gautrot, interior decorator, Desmond Knox-Leet, painter, and Yves Coueslant, theatre administrator and set designer. Previously designing fabrics and wallpaper for Liberty and Sanderson, together they teamed up in 1961 and opened the first diptyque boutique to showcase their fabric designs. With their unique taste, they gradually transformed the store into a chic bazaar offering a fascinating variety of unexpected items, unique to Paris, which the trio brought back from their travels. In 1963, they introduce the first diptyque scented candles – Aubépine, Cannelle and Thé - and a few years later, they launched their first eau de toilette, L’Eau. Today, the brand’s extensive product portfolio includes home and personal fragrances along with a body care line.

 diptyque

1645 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

773.252.3989

www.DiptyqueParis.com


P.O.S.H. Chicago

Whenever I need a retail pick-me-up, I always head to P.O.S.H. on State Street!  With a desire to offer something unique to the consumer that had grown weary of “sameness”, their small shop is met with a warm reception as the search for pieces that haven’t been mass-produced for coast-to-coast consumption is shared by many.  This is where I like to look for unique hostess gifts, celebration gifts, and truly French vintage tabletop décor – it is like walking into a gleaming Parisian dream!  I especially love holiday time as their window displays are just beyond magical! 

Home Décor & Gifts: by P.O.S.H.  “At some point in your life, you want something that feels authentic - something that speaks to you.” That thought is what drives P.O.S.H. to search high and low for the items that stock its shelves - an eclectic assortment of vintage Hotel and Estate Silver, Restaurant China and Dinnerware and an ever-changing mix of European Flea Market Finds. Found in such disparate places as long-shuttered American china warehouses and restaurant supply depots to the antique markets and auction houses of Europe, the items sold at P.O.S.H. are often one-of-a-kind or limited in quantity. From a vintage silverplate tea service once used in an English Country Inn to a beautiful water pitcher from a Grand Hotel in New York, most of our pieces tell a romantic story of an age gone by.

P.O.S.H.

613 N State Street, Chicago, IL 60654

312.280.1602

www.PoshChicago.com


Le Petit Paris

Probably my most-visited French restaurant in Chicago is Le Petit Paris on Chestnut Street.  It is my go-to spot to sit in the bar area and sip a glass of Champagne while nibbling on a basket of pomme frites, as Edith Piaf plays from the wall mounted jukebox!  There are blinking garlands of Christmas lights in the bar, the occasional Valentine decoration on the wall, and even a couple rolling office chairs for “extra seating”, all of which (and more!) equal eclectic perfection!  Le Petit Paris has genuine charm and personality, partly from the ambience, and also from Alain—chef, owner, bartender, and music volume controller (I like it loud!).  He works seven days a week at his restaurant and goes to the markets every morning at 6:30am to secure the day’s freshest produce, meats, fish, and poultry.  He is then in his kitchen preparing and cooking until the doors open for dinner service starting at 5:00pm. This is truly a hidden gem of Chicago!

French Bistro: Le Petit Paris.  Locals and visitors alike are drawn to the ambiance and relaxed atmosphere of our classic French bistro. Chef/Owner Alain Sutbon lights up the evening and provides a warm setting for lively conversation over a glass of red wine and fabulous French cuisine.  Along with our fine selections of French wines, our signature dishes include Duck with Grand Marnier Sauce, Oven Roasted Rack of Lamb, and fish.  Daily trips to the market are used to give you the freshest ingredients!  To complete the evening, try our house-made desserts with a glass of port.  Check often for monthly specials!

Le Petit Paris

260 E Chestnut St, Chicago, IL 60611

312.787.8260 (Call for reservations)

www.LePetitParis.net


Linda's Tomato Salad

Marc J. Sievers

One of my dearest friends, Linda Marie Clark, lives in California and is an award-winning photographer and exceptional watercolor artist.  She also happens to be an amazing cook!  We met about four years ago after she found my cookbook on Amazon.com and started painting my recipes.   It was so incredibly flattering, especially considering her talent!

Having chatted with her for a few months via email at first then telephone, I decided to invite her to Chicago for a visit.  And now, a few years later, we talk every few days, we started a stationary line together, and our friendship has blossomed.

Linda loves to photograph in her garden in California.  A few weeks back she sent me a text with a photo of a beautiful salad she made after a visit to her local farmers market.  It was filled with fresh tomatoes, sweet corn, and spicy basil!  She also captured the moment perfectly at sunset in her garden.  Her photograph (and salad!) was just too stunning not to share with you!  Linda’s Tomato Salad has made it onto my table three times already this summer and is always a crowd-pleaser!

Happy Summer!


Linda's Tomato Salad

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • Sweet Corn – 2 ears, shucked
  • Heirloom Tomatoes – 1 ½ pounds, 1-inch cubes
  • Basil – ¾ cup, rough chopped
  • Olive Oil – ½ cup
  • Balsamic Vinegar – ¼ cup
  • Sea Salt – ¾ teaspoon
  • Black Pepper – ¾ teaspoon
  • Parmesan Cheese – ¾ cup, large shavings, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended

Directions

  1. Bring a large sauce pan filled with water to a boil.  Add the ears of corn and cook for just 3 minutes.  Remove the corn for the water and cut the kernels off the cob.
  2. Next, arrange the cubed tomatoes down the center of a serving platter.  Scatter the corn evenly onto the tomatoes.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Sprinkle evenly with basil, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.
  4. Serve alongside a basket of crusty bread.

 

 

Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad

Marc J. Sievers

There is something so satisfying about making a big batch of really good pasta salad.  It can be so simple, just a few tosses of fresh ingredients while the pasta is hot, and you have an easy and incredibly flavorful dish.  I will admit that pasta salads were not my favorite as a kid—they always seemed to taste bland, and like the refrigerator.  No good!  But I have since solved the flavor challenge.

This recipe actually came about from a recent trip to Hawaii.  Ryan and I were visiting our best friends for a milestone birthday.  But, the day we were flying back to Chicago, they both got stuck at work.  Before we let ourselves out of their apartment to go to the airport, knowing that they were going to be home very late, I wanted to leave them a surprise dinner in their refrigerator!

After a few minutes, I found everything I needed to create a Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad.  Best of all, it only took 15 minutes and we were out the door and our friends had an easy and delicious dinner waiting for them.  Needless to say, they were very happy to come home after a very long day to a ready-made meal that kept perfectly well!  This is easy summer “cooking”, at its best!


Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad

Ingredients (serve 4-6)

  • Fusilli – 1 pound, cooked al dente
  • Pesto – 7 ounces, store-bought
  • Grape Tomatoes – 2 pints, halved
  • Parmesan Cheese – 1 cup, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended
  • Baby Arugula – 2 cups, washed and dried
  • Green Onions – ½ cup, thinly sliced
  • Basil – ⅓ cup, rough chopped, fresh
  • Parsley - ⅓ cup, rough chopped, fresh, Italian Flat-Leaf variety recommended
  • Red Pepper Flakes – ½ teaspoon
  • Lemon Zest – 1 small lemon, zested
  • Sea Salt – 1½ teaspoons
  • Black Pepper – 1 teaspoon, freshly cracked

Directions

  1. After the pasta has been cooked and drained, and while it is hot, place it into a large bowl.
  2. Immediately add all of the ingredients to the hot pasta and toss until evenly mixed.
  3. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Tip: You can make this in advance and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Before you serve it, check to see if it needs more salt, pepper, and even another handful of fresh arugula or basil mixed in.  I have noticed that as food sits in a cold temperature, some of the flavor “disappears”.  After all, who wants bland food?! 

Order a signed copy of my cookbook Entertaining with Love!


S'mores Ice Cream

Marc J. Sievers

One of my favorite memoires as a child was making s’mores!  Whether it was a beach bonfire in Maine or by a campfire in New Hampshire, they still are one of my favorite indulgences.  I can remember also making them with my nan over the stovetop, using a fork as a “stick” to toast the marshmallow over the open flame – yikes!  Grandmas will do anything for their grandchildren to make them happy.

Now that I am well into my adult years (I call it “adulting”), I still make s’mores whenever there is a fire pit, bonfire, or even a charcoal grill.  On Ryan’s parents’ farm – regardless of the season – we always make a huge fire and sip wine and make these ooey-gooey treats!

I typically don’t buy or use specialty kitchen equipment – especially things that take up precious cupboard space.  However, there are two items that I cannot live without:  My ice cream maker and small kitchen torch.  Though they have very specific functions, they are what make my S’mores Ice Cream possible!  And not just possible, truly incredible!  The flavors from the homemade milk chocolate ganache, crusty and chewy toasted marshmallows, all enrobed in a velvety vanilla ice cream base will make the purchase of these two new kitchen accoutrement well worth every penny! 

In fact, homemade ice cream is simpler that you think!  It really is just about using a few quality ingredients like cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt.  The hardest part is waiting the 25 minutes while the machine “does its thing” until you have the most luxurious ice cream, ever!  Take a peek at my Salted Hot Chocolate Ice Cream, too!  


S'mores Ice Cream

Ingredients (makes 1 ½ quarts)

Ice Cream Base

  • Heavy Cream – 3 cups
  • Sugar – ⅔ cups, granulated
  • Honey – 2 teaspoons
  • Vanilla – 1½ teaspoons, pure extract
  • Fleur de Sel – ½ teaspoon

Chocolate Ganache

  • Heavy Cream – ¼ cup
  • Milk Chocolate Chips – 4 ounces
  • Fleur de Sel – ⅛ teaspoon

Add-Ins

  • Mini Marshmallows – 3 cups
  • Graham Crackers – 10 full sheets, broken into small and medium pieces, plus more for garnish
  • Milk Chocolate Chips – 7.5 ounces

Directions

Chocolate Ganache & Marshmallows

  1. In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely-simmering water, add the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and salt.  Stir until just melted.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  2. Place the mini marshmallows onto a half sheet pan.  Using a small kitchen torch, toast the marshmallows until well-toasted.  Set aside to cool.

Ice Cream Base

  1. In a medium sauce pan set over medium heat, add the heavy cream, sugar, honey, vanilla, and salt.  Stir until the sugar is just dissolved, about 5 minutes.  You can tell the sugar is dissolved by rubbing a bit of the cream between your fingertips.  If there are no granulates, it is done.
  2. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap pressing it directly onto the surface of the mixture.  Chill until very cold, or overnight. 
  3. Once the mixture is very cold, add it to an ice cream maker and follow manufactures directions.

Assembly

  1. Once the ice cream base is finished, transfer to a large bowl and quickly fold in the cooled toasted marshmallows, graham crackers pieces, and chocolate chips. 
  2. Then, fold in the cooled chocolate ganache.
  3. Transfer to freezer containers and chill until firm. 
  4. To serve, garnish with more crumbled graham crackers.

Tip: I love the ease and simplicity of the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker.


10 Simple & Helpful Tips for Entertaining

Marc J. Sievers

Edible Candied Flowers from my cookbook Entertaining with Love!

It is easy to take a simple get-together at home and turn it into an unforgettable evening—it is all in the details!  I am not talking about over-the-top details, or going to any great expense.  Entertaining at home can be transformed so easily with very simple yet thoughtful attention to seemingly small things that will result in a big impact and leave your guests raving about your soireé!  I have been hosting parties for friends, family, and clients for many years and here I have shared some of the most helpful (and simple!) tips and ideas that will make all the difference for your party and your guests.


10 Simple & Helpful Tips for Entertaining 

  • When hosting a cocktail party, buffet, or potluck choose one type of glass for all beverages, including water.  I love using stemless flutes.  They are elegant, add height to a table or buffet, and best of all fit into the dishwasher more easily than a traditional stemmed glass.
  • Keep a collection of paper cocktail napkins with different patterns, themes, and colors on hand.  Not only are they useful for cocktails and finger foods but will help further the theme or color scheme of your soirée!
  • Always use glass for cocktails and wine—it both tastes and looks better.
  • Have extra clean towels and a trash bin at the ready to quickly manage a spill or broken glass.If you don’t have a coat closet (or it's full!), set up a portable garment rolling rack in the foyer or bedroom for coats.  Make sure to have plenty of wooden hangers at the ready.
  • When a guest brings a host(ess) gift open it immediately in front of them so they can see your appreciation.  Also, have a spare vase for flowers, room in the refrigerator for chilled wines and champagne, a place for red wine in your wine rack, and extra trays or serving bowls for any food offerings.
  • Keep your pantry stocked with glass (not plastic!) bottles of both still and sparking waters to serve during sit down dinners and cocktail soirées.
  • Edible flowers are an easy way to garnish salads, desserts, and even cocktails and on-the-rocks drinks!  Make sure to only use pesticide free varieties.  They can be found at many grocery stores or ordered online.
  • When enjoying cocktails or dining al fresco, provide your guests with colorful blankets or pashminas to help keep them comfortable if there is a slight chill in the air.  This a wonderful way to add color to your soirée and further evoke the theme of your menu, party, and occasion! 
  • Use deli style and Chinese take-out container's to send guests home with leftovers.  I like to make small labels that say "Thank You", "Come Back Soon", "Something Yummy Awaits You", and "Bon Appétit" to stick on each container.  Little details make all the difference!

Order a signed copy of my cookbook Entertaining with Love!


 

Eggs Provençal

Marc J. Sievers

There is something so incredibly chic about enjoying a breakfast or brunch dish at dinner time—especially when having company over!  It takes people by surprise and with a sense of delight, transforming “just another dinner party” into a relaxed occasion.  With the menu change there’s usually a palpable mood-change—guests let their guard down and the dinner party goes from regular, to memorable.  The power of food always amazes me.

My Eggs Provençal is just the dish to change up your dinner party dynamic.  It is a flavorful combination of eggs, cream, cheese, and lots of fresh herbs.  I love to serve it with an arugula salad tossed in my French Bistro Vinaigrette, Roasted Savory Carrots, a crusty store-bought Baguette, and a dry Champagne or Rosé.

To enhance the chic-factor, I set my table with simple white plates, flatware, and linen napkins, scatter plenty of scentless white votive candles around the table, and use simple juice glasses filled with red or orange roses to add some drama!  Best of all, this elegant dinner comes together in well under an hour.  Happy cooking!


Eggs Provençal

Ingredients (serve 6)

  • Eggs – 12 extra-large
  • Yellow Onion – 1 medium, ¼-inch diced
  • Garlic – 6 cloves, finely minced
  • Rosemary – 3 tablespoons, fresh, finely minced
  • Thyme – 3 tablespoons, fresh, finely minced
  • Mozzarella Cheese– 1 cup, shredded
  • Olive Oil – 3 tablespoons
  • Kosher Salt – 2 teaspoons, divided
  • Black Pepper – 3 teaspoons, divided
  • Arugula – 3 cups, pre-washed
  • Butter – 2 tablespoons, unsalted
  • Parmesan Cheese – freshly grated, for garnish, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended

Directions

  1. In a large bowl crack the eggs and whisk vigorously until the whites and yolks are completely incorporated and the mixture is a pale yellow.  Set aside.
  2. In a large sauté pan set over medium heat, heat the olive oil.  Once hot add onions and season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of cracked black pepper.  Sauté for 7 to 9 minutes or until translucent and slightly tender.  Next, add the garlic and sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Add the butter to the center of the pan and melt.
  3. Next, add the shredded mozzarella to the egg mixture, then add the rosemary, thyme, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper.  Whisk vigorously to thoroughly mix and immediately pour into the center of the sauté pan.
  4. Gently stir the eggs, constantly scraping the bottom and sides of the pan with a spatula.  The mixture will slowly come together and begin to thicken.  Remove from the heat after about 8 minutes, when the eggs are wet-looking and gooey, but no longer runny.  Continue to gently stir off the heat for another minute.
  5. Next, transfer the eggs to the center of a serving platter.  Garnish with big shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
  6. Serve immediately. 

Order a signed copy of my cookbook Entertaining with Love!


A Creative Approach to Everyday Tablescapes

Marc J. Sievers

Designing tablescapes is something I have been doing for clients for years.  The word “tablescape” sometimes scares people as it conjures images of towering floral arrangements, polished gleaming silver, and layers of fine China.  While that specific image is certainly an option—glorious in its own right—the word tablescape also can refer to everyday tabletop design that have well thought out concepts and choices to help accentuate your personal style, décor, and theme of your soirée, while also showcasing your everyday dishes, glassware, flatware, linens, and other casual pieces you may have.

This May, in celebration for Mother’s Day, I was asked by WGN Chicago to showcase a Mother’s Day brunch extravaganza!  Since Spring is in full swing (most of the days!), I wanted to create a colorful table filled with flowers, texture, thoughtful touches, and an easy and elegant main dish, my Eggs Provençal from my cookbook Entertaining with Love.  In addition to shopping for the ingredients I needed to prepare brunch, I also relied on my local Trader Joe’s for the best overnight croissants (they are available in plain, almond, or chocolate!), another favorite local grocer for an edible and over-the-top gift basket, and stunning flowers, all budget-friendly!

While this tablescape, menu, and basket were each created on the theme of Mother’s Day, they would be equally as fabulous and impressive for a birthday celebration, dinner party, weeknight dinner, or any other celebration with which you want to make a statement—easily using everyday ingredients that are readily available at your local grocery store!  Have fun entertaining!

Order a signed copy of my cookbook Entertaining with Love!

 

Watch the clip below to get a video tour.


Homemade Flavored Oils

Marc J. Sievers

Much of my inspiration comes from specialty food and grocery stores in my neighborhood.  In just a seven block area there are a number of major brand grocery stores as well as a handful of smaller shops and markets, fine-foods stores, and the ultimate food haven:  Eataly

With all of these options right near to me I tend to use them directly for inspiration.  I pop in and out of stores, take photos of what inspires me, take notes in a small notebook I carry in my bag, and even taste-test things that really look delicious.  After my adventures of the day, I either head back to my kitchen and start recipe testing ideas that came to me as inspiration from earlier in the day, or catalog them with a printed photo and my notes to pick up another day.

I keep a pretty well-stocked pantry at home, a bit overflowing with “high and low” ingredients—they are from specialty foods stores (the “high”), and everyday ingredients from my regular grocery stores (the “low”).  This combination not only makes recipe testing easier as I have a plethora of ingredients at my fingertips, but also more creative as there are more flavors to combine and pair together.

A staple in my pantry are flavored oils—some are homemade and some are store-bought.  I love using a basil olive oil drizzled on tomatoes, or a truffle olive oil on roasted potatoes, and my Lemon & Thyme Oil on just about anything!  You can serve this oil with big chunks of crusty bread with drinks or during dinner.  Drizzle it on a bed or arugula with crushed Pistachios, or on pasta with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese.

For fun, I have also included some “extras”—my Orange & Honey Oil and my Shallot & Black Pepper Oil.  All three flavored oils can be used in so many ways, so have fun experimenting!


Thyme & Lemon Oil

Ingredients

  • Olive Oil – ½ cup
  • Thyme – 10 sprigs, fresh
  • Lemon – 1, thinly peeled
  • Garlic – 4 cloves, peeled, lightly smashed

Directions

  1. In a small sauce pan set over medium heat, add all of the ingredients.
  2. Allow the oil to come to a simmer, then lower the heat to low and cook for 3 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat, transfer into a small glass bowl, and allow to cool completely at room temperature.
  4. Store in an air tight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Shallot & Black Pepper Oil

Ingredients

  • Olive Oil – ½ cup
  • Shallots – 1 tablespoon, finely minced
  • Black Pepper – ½ teaspoon, freshly cracked
  • Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon

Directions

  1. In a small sauce pan set over medium heat, add all of the ingredients.
  2. Allow the oil to come to a simmer, then lower the heat to low and cook for 3 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat, transfer into a small glass bowl, and allow to cool completely at room temperature.
  4. Store in an air tight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Orange & Honey Oil

Ingredients

  • Olive Oil – ½ cup
  • Orange – 1, thinly peeled
  • Honey – ½ teaspoon

Directions

  1. In a small sauce pan set over medium heat, add the olive oil and orange peel.
  2. Allow the oil to come to a simmer, then lower the heat to low and cook for 3 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey.
  4. Transfer into a small glass bowl, and allow to cool completely to room temperature.
  5. Store in an air tight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Tip:  I like to make flavored oils in small batches to ensure they stay as fresh and flavorful as possible.  These oils can be stored in an air tight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.  Gently reheat the oil in a small saucepan set oven low heat until the oil liquifies again.  You can either serve the oil warm or at room temperature.  You can easily expand this recipe by two or three times for larger quantities.

Order a signed copy of my cookbook Entertaining with Love!


 

Old Fashioned Banana Muffins

Marc J. Sievers

I think there is something so incredibly delicious about old fashioned recipes that have been re-tested with updated ingredients!  Sometimes, it can be as simple as just amping up the flavor using more of the dominant ingredient in a recipe, which in this case is fresh bananas.

When I was growing up, banana bread was one of the first recipes I learned to make from start to finish from my Nan.  She always kept bananas in her pantry to make her grandchildren toast with butter and sliced bananas—to this day it is still my all-time favorite breakfast concoction!  Inevitably, there were always overly ripe bananas in the pantry that would always magically turn into the most delicious banana bread.  I even included my version of “You’ll Go Bananas Bread” in my first cookbook Entertaining with Love.

For this new take on my old fashioned recipe, I really focused on making the banana the star (without any unnecessary extra ingredients or tricks), and created my Old Fashioned Banana Muffins!  These little muffins give you wonderfully aromatic banana intensity and flavor, and the texture is deliciously gooey with huge pieces of whole banana.  I think this may be the best banana muffin I have ever had!  Don’t take my word for it, make these yourself.  In fact, they are so delicious, I often give a big basket filled with them as a hostess gift for breakfast the next morning! 


Old Fashioned Banana Muffins

Ingredients (makes 16 muffins)

  • Flour – 2 cups, all-purpose
  • Baking Powder – 1½ teaspoons
  • Baking Soda – ¾ teaspoon
  • Sugar – 1⅓ cups, granulated
  • Sea Salt – ½ teaspoon
  • Cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
  • Honey – 2 tablespoons
  • Vanilla – 1½ teaspoons
  • Milk – ½ cup, whole
  • Eggs – 2, extra-large, at room temperature
  • Butter – 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons, unsalted, melted and cooled
  • Bananas – 4, very ripe (1 mashed and 3 diced ½-inch)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line each well of a standard muffin pan with a paper baking cup.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, add the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Turn the mixer to low speed and mix for 3 minutes until fully blended.
  3. Next, with the mixer still running, add the honey, vanilla, milk, eggs, cooled melted butter, and mashed banana.  Mix until just combined.
  4. Using a spatula, fold in the diced bananas.
  5. Using a 2¼-inch metal scoop, scoop the batter evenly into each well. 
  6. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until the edges are brown and the tops are golden. 
  7. Remove from the oven, place each muffin onto a cooling rack to cool.
  8. Re-line the muffin pan with another 4 paper baking liners, and follow the scooping and baking instructions above for the remaining batter.
  9. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Order a signed copy of my cookbook Entertaining with Love!


Apple Turnover with Brie

Marc J. Sievers

When I was little and would watch my Nan bake, she would always give me left-over scraps of pie dough to play with.  I would wrap them around apple slices and sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar, and little did I realize then that I effectively had an instant apple turnover!  Now, 35 years later, I am still doing just that, except I have a little more culinary knowledge under by belt.

I love taking simple ingredients and injecting some new life into an old favorite, like a classic apple turnover.  My Apple Turnover with Brie has been given a Marc Sievers-twist with store-bought puff pastry, creamy Brie, lemon zest, and two different types of ground peppers:  Pink Pepper and White Pepper.  The pink peppercorns have a slightly sweeter and more floral flavor with a lemony undertone, while the white peppercorns have a much more distinctive peppery heat.  Each lends unique aromatics to help make a classic apple turnover more flavorful and complex!


Apple Turnover with Brie

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • Frozen Puff Pastry - 1 sheet, thawed in the refrigerator 
  • Apples – 2 Pink Lady, cored and ½-inch chopped
  • Butter – 1 tablespoon
  • Sea Salt – ½ teaspoon
  • Pink Peppercorns – ¼ teaspoon, freshly cracked (mortar and pestle works perfectly)
  • White Pepper – ¼ teaspoon
  • Sugar – 2 tablespoons, granulated
  • Lemon Zest – ¾ teaspoon
  • Brie – 4 ounces, divided
  • *Egg Wash – 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon of water

Direction

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Begin by laying out the thawed sheet of puff pastry on a floured surface.  Lightly roll into a 10-inch by 14-inch square.
  3. Cut 4 equal-sized rectangles, place onto the prepared sheet pan then place into the refrigerator. 
  4. Next, in a medium sized sauce pan set over medium heat, cook the apples, sugar, salt, lemon zest, butter and both ground peppers for 15-20 minutes, or until tender but not mushy.
  5. Remove the sheet pan from the refrigerator.
  6. Spoon equal amounts of the apple mixture onto one-third of each rectangle, leaving a ½-inch border around the edges.
  7. Then, top the apple mixture with one ounce of Brie per pastry.
  8. Brush all edges with *egg wash and fold the remaining two-thirds of the dough over the filling.  Gently press the edges to seal completely using a fluted pastry cutter or fork.  Repeat until all turn-overs have been assembled.
  9. Place into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill.
  10. Remove from the refrigerator, brush the top of each pastry with the egg wash and then cut three small slits through the top layer of each pastry for steam to escape.
  11. Place into the pre-heated oven and bake for 17-20 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. 
  12. Serve slightly warm or room temperature.