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Recipes & Entertaining Ideas

Filtering by Tag: 2014 Q3

"Orange" You Glad It's Fall!

Marc J. Sievers

Simple & Chic Decorating Ideas for Fall

There is a slight chill in in the air, pumpkin lattes are in full swing, and the leaves are starting to change.  That can only mean one thing - its time to decorate for Fall!  This year, instead of covering every single surface I have with mountains of mini pumpkins, I chose to keep things simple, chic, understated, and best of all budget friendly.  Like many of you, when I think of Fall, I instantly think of rich colors like rust, burgundy, and deep yellow, orange.  There seems to be something about this time of year that makes me want to make my home feel very welcoming with the addition of earthy textures, the smells of musk and sandalwood, and the bright contrast of the color orange.  

As I looked around my small (but mighty!) space, I found many components that I already owned that I could re-purpose, re-merchandise, and re-arrange.  Not only did this breathe new life into my home, but it was free (hence the budget-friendly part!).  Use my photos below as a guide for inspiration, then begin your own transformation.  Click on each photo to enlarge and read a simple tip or idea to help you get started.  

Happy decorating!

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Raspberry Basil Cooler

Marc J. Sievers

The basil and raspberries at my local farmers market this morning looked too incredibly delicious to pass up!  Knowing that I had vodka, rum, Prosecco, and sparkling water at home, the idea of making a refreshing cocktail was the first to come to mind.  Typically, I only order mixed cocktails when I am out on the town—the ones I usually order are tedious with a drop of this, a splash of that, and don’t forget the twist!

At home, I try to create cocktails that I can shake-shake-shake in under two minutes, and that are not overly sweet.  I especially like to use fresh ingredients whenever possible and not rely on flavorings or other artificial ingredients (just more I have to have on hand, taking up space in my cabinet for that once-a-year use).

My Raspberry Basil Cooler is a drink you can interchange with whatever you have in your cabinet; vodka OR rum, lime OR lemon, Prosecco OR sparkling water, which makes it a flexible and easy go-to cocktail to entertain with since your guests can swap out whatever they would like. 

This refreshing drink is also fabulous without the use of spirits for a non-alcoholic variation.  Just substitute sparkling water for the rum and Prosecco and you’ll have a delicious “mocktail”! 

It’s cocktail time!

Raspberry Basil Cooler 

Ingredients (makes 1 cocktail, expand as needed)

  • White Rum – ¼ cup

  • Lime Juice – Half of a small lime

  • Extra Fine Sugar – 1 teaspoon

  • Basil – 5 small leaves, fresh

  • Raspberries – 8 whole berries

  • Prosecco – For finishing


  1. Place the raspberries, basil, lime juice, and sugar into a sturdy glass. Use a muddler or handle of a wooden spoon to smash the ingredients until the berries are broken up.

  2. Add the rum and stir for 20 seconds.

  3. Fill your desired serving glass with ice, pour the rum mixture over the ice, and top off the glass with Prosecco.

  4. Gently stir, taste, and toast!

Note:  This is a rustic cocktail that derives its natural flavor from the muddled berries and basil.  This includes the seeds, which remain in the glass as a pulp.  This is normal, and delicious to eat!

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Dark Cherry & Almond Clafoutis

Marc J. Sievers

Summer is in full swing!  The farmer's markets are filled with gloriously colored,  and deliciously smelling, fruits and vegetables.  People are walking around the city with a slight tan, and the pavement is warm to the touch.  As I type this I am laying in the sand at Chicago's Oak Street Beach on Lake Michigan, watching children play in the water, listening to the ice cream vendors pull their carts through the sand while ringing the "ice cream here"  bell, and  running sand through my toes.  Life is good.

A few Tuesdays ago I was perusing my neighborhood farmers market—the one in front of the MCA in Chicago—when I came upon a farmer who had the most deeply black-colored cherries.  I sauntered over to them as if I was courting them with, "Hey sexy, wanna come home with me?" – so I felt my eyes were saying!  As I approached I could smell the sweet aroma in the air.  Before I knew it, a couple of pounds of cherries were in my market tote, money exchanged hands (and I didn't even feel cheap!), and I headed back to my apartment to create a dessert.

Not just any dessert, I created a dessert that would showcase these richly colored, flavored, and luxurious cherries:  Dark Cherry & Almond Clafoutis.  A clafoutis (claw-foo-tee) is a baked French dessert of fruit, traditionally black cherries, then baked in a flan-like batter.  There isn't any fancy dough, special techniques, or even complicated directions, which makes it a perfect mid-summer dessert. 

While fresh cherries are very flavorful, it's a very mild flavor.  I wanted this dessert to sing with lush cherry flavor, and each bite to be filled with a burst of sweetness.  After a few versions (and many taste-tests!), I just wasn't getting what I had conceptualized in my head.  The prior versions were good, but it just wasn't doing the cherries proper justice.  Ryan, with his mouth full of version 4, said, "Try cherry liqueur, and see if that helps to bring out the cherries."  He is so brilliant!

I had just the thing, a bottle of Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liqueur was sitting in our bar.  On a recent shopping trip to Eataly (though you can find it at many spirits stores), I had picked this bottle because of its beautiful design and twine-wrapped exterior.  As with many of the fun ingredients I have procured I figured I would find a use for it later.  And later was now!

After another two tries, and many trips back to different farmer's markets around the city, I had finally reached the flavor and texture I had designed in my head:  Rich, softly sweet, and sophisticated.  My Dark Cherry & Almond Clafoutis is a dessert that you can always count on when you need an amazingly delicious, reliable, and no-fuss signature finale.  It comes together will little effort and in under an hour.  I am so excited to serve this dessert to friends and family.  A mid-summer night's dream, made into reality, with the help of booze!  Happy Summer!

It's time for a dip :)

Dark Cherry & Almond Clafoutis

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • Light Brown Sugar - ¼ cup, lightly packed

  • Granulated Sugar - ¼ cup, plus 1 tablespoon for preparing dish

  • Dark Sweet Cherries - 1½ pounds, pitted and halved

  • Eggs - 3 extra-large, at room temperature

  • Half-and-half - 1¼ cups, at room temperature

  • Butter - 3 tablespoons, unsalted, melted and cooled, plus 1 tablespoon for preparing dish

  • Almond Flour - ⅓ cup, also known as almond meal

  • Cherry Liqueur - 2 tablespoons (Luxardo Maraschino recommended)

  • Almond Extract -½ teaspoon

  • Vanilla - 1 teaspoon, pure extract

  • Nutmeg - ⅛ teaspoon, freshly grated

  • Fine Sea Salt - ½ teaspoon

  • Cornstarch - 3 tablespoons

  • Slivered Almonds - ¼ cup

  • Powdered Sugar - for dusting


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch pie pan with 1 tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.

  2. Arrange the cherries in a single layer in the prepared pie pan. Set aside.

  3. In a large bowl, add the eggs, half-and-half, butter, almond flour, cherry liqueur, almond extract, vanilla, nutmeg, cornstarch, sea salt, light brown sugar, and remaining granulated sugar. Whisk until completely smooth. Pour evenly over the cherries.

  4. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the center is set.

  5. Meanwhile, in a small, dry sauté pan set over medium heat add the slivered almonds. Toast for 3 to 5 minutes, tossing occasionally until lightly browned. Remove from the heat and set aside.

  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and sprinkle the roasted almonds over top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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In My Absence…

Marc J. Sievers

You may have noticed that I have been a little “absent” online as of late.  (Yes, there is a bit of a gap from my last post in April until now.)  Fear not!  I have not succumbed to writer’s block, or worse, a cooking block!  Over the past few months I have been working hard in my super-secret fab-lab-ulous new-ventures laboratory with my friend and collaborator Linda Marie Clark on creating a very special line of fine art paper products called Watermarc – Art & Appetite.  We launched the web site and online store on June 9, and celebrated the debut of Watermarc at Williams-Sonoma Lincoln Park here in Chicago on June 25!

Linda Marie Clark and Marc J. Sievers at a farmer's market in Chicago's Gold Coast.

I am so very excited to share with you the fruits of our efforts to create Watermarc.  Linda is a fabulous artist and photographer.  It is her watercolors that bring to life the collections we created for Watermarc.  I supply perfected savvy recipes and entertaining expertise, and together our contributions create beautiful, useful, collectable, and unique products.

“Watermarc” is, of course, a play on the word “watermark”, but for us “water” represents Linda’s watercolors, “marc” represents my culinary and entertaining expertise, and together “watermarc” is a reference to ink and paint on paper.  Visit the Watermarc website ( and learn more about what we created and how we did it.  Explore the five collections of products we launched just a month ago!

In addition to the debut of Watermarc and its  catalogue of products, I have also been hard at work freshening up my own web site and streamlining things here at  It was time for a fresh look that I could use to really highlight the images associated with my blog posts.  As has been said, we eat with our eyes, and I wanted a web site that better showcases the delicious recipes and know-how I put together for you.

As you can see, I have accomplished just that!  The new design includes my new branding, as well as a refreshed identity for my blog—La Vie Piquant.  My evolution over the last four years has been one of finding my voice in a way that is true to me, but also useful and engaging for my readers and viewers.  La Vie Piquant is the perfect expression of my approach to life, food, style, design, love, and more.

Piquant – pi·quant /ˈpēkənt,-känt/ adjective:  Pleasantly stimulating or exciting to the mind.

Think spicy, intriguing, stimulating, interesting, fascinating, colorful, exciting, lively—these are all attributes I could use to describe food, experiences, recipes, ingredients, style, fashion, design, love, and more.  I want to experience and explore the piquant things in life.  And so Marc’s Weekly is now La Vie Piquantthe spicy life!

I have moved over all of my posts, all the way back to the start of my online sharing in October 2012!  The new format is stunning and is also mobile phone-friendly, another important step in the evolution of my blog.  Just like you, I’m constantly on the go and do a lot of my web surfing on my iPhone.  Now, my web site and La Vie Piquant render beautifully in a mobile browser.  Of course, the best experience is on a large screen so you can soak up the vivid images with each post, but I don’t lug a big monitor around with me, and I suspect you don't either.

In addition to all this updated goodness, I have also revamped my line-up for From My Kitchen to Yours.  New webisodes will be posted on my YouTube channel in the coming months, and my new blog format gives me a great way to integrate all of the media I produce into one rich and complete experience for you without having to jump from site to site.

Welcome to the fresh, updated, and exciting new and La Vie Piquant (you can always jump to my blog directly by way of  Sign up to receive my email announcements and don’t miss any of the fabulous new ideas, recipes, tips, and know-how I have queued up to share with you here on my new web site.  In the coming weeks I will be adding services like private wedding registry planning, themed at-home cooking tutorials, entertaining tutorials, and a scrumptious curated fine foods line (all handmade by moi!).

This has been a wonderful and exciting journey getting to this point, and I’m so energized by this new format and the capability to connect with you in a richer and more vibrant way.  I want to hear from you!  Add your thoughts via the comment box below, and click on the share button and spread the word!  I would not have been able to do all of this if it weren’t for you, so help me to keep it going!

Eat well, laugh often, and share the love!

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