When it is hot and steamy outside, the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven. But that doesn’t mean that delicious food needs to take a backseat! My version of classic Caprese Skewers is easy, breezy and beautiful, exactly what summer should be all about! Flavorful, ripe San Marzano plum tomatoes pair perfectly with a ribbon of fresh basil and creamy little Bocconcini mozzarella. Assembly could not be easier! In this version, instead of chopping basil as you would in a traditional caprese salad, I take a single leaf and roll it like a little cigar and slide it onto the skewer. Follow with the mozzarella, and spritz gently with my secret ingredient, fresh lemon juice! Not what you would expect, but it adds an amazing burst of citrus that enhances the overall freshness of this dish. Finish with a sprinkle of fleur de sel and freshly cracked black pepper, and you have a backyard soirée superstar that will disappear in no time!
Recipes & Entertaining Ideas
Filtering by Tag: Canapés & Hors d'oeuvre
We have come to expect the traditional bowl of chips at a party. But let’s face it: that can get boring. You do not need to completely abandon the salty, crunchy deliciousness of potato chips, but you can make them a lot more interesting! My Salt & Pepper Potato Chips with Blue Cheese from my second cookbook, Table for Two, will immediately amp up the flavor factor at your next get-together and leave your guests wanting more! I love the addition of Stilton and the fresh zing of the lemon zest in this easy and elegant dish. For a party of two, this pairs perfectly with a glass of very dry champagne or bold red wine. Cheers!
Salt & Pepper Potato Chips with Blue Cheese
Ingredients (serves 2, expand recipe as needed)
Salt & Pepper Potato Chips – 4 ounces, store-bought
Stilton Blue Cheese – 2 ounces, crumbled
Chives – 2 tablespoons, fresh, finely chopped
Lemon Zest – 1½ teaspoons
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In an 8-inch cast iron skillet, or other oven-proof serving dish, add half of the potato chips. Then evenly scatter over the chips 1 ounce of blue cheese, 1 tablespoon of chives, and ¾ teaspoon of lemon zest.
Add another layer of potato chips and the remaining blue cheese.
Place in the oven for 4-6 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
Remove from the oven, and sprinkle with the remaining chives and lemon zest. Serve hot.
Tip: Any brand of Salt & Pepper potato chips will work for this recipe. Using a cast iron skillet allows this dish to go from oven to table, just remember to use a trivet to protect your tabletop.
I love a simple but luxe little bite to serve with cocktails or even as a wonderful quick snack. My Crostini de Brie was inspired by a similar dish I had in a cozy French bistro in Milwaukee. It’s crunchy, melty, savory and a bit sweet- everything you want to nibble on with a chilled glass of champagne!
This is the perfect recipe to keep in mind as you hit your local farmer’s markets. Fresh baguette and arugula will be on hand, and the wide variety of locally-harvested honey (try a flavored variety, like truffle or orange blossom) will be showcased beautifully in this fabulously chic hors d’oeuvre. If you are looking for something new to wow your guests with, give this a try!
Crostini de Brie
Ingredients (serves 6, expand recipe as needed)
Baguette – 6 pieces, sliced ¼ inch thick on the diagonal
Unsalted Butter – 12 teaspoons, unsalted, at room temperature
Brie – 6 pieces, sliced ¼ inch thick
Honey – 6 teaspoons
Black Pepper – 3 teaspoons
Fleur de Sel – 1 ½ teaspoons
Arugula – for garnish
Preheat the broiler on the highest setting. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
Butter both sides of each baguette slice with 1 teaspoon of butter. Set aside.
In a large sauté pan set over medium heat, toast the baguette slices on each side until lightly toasted and golden. Place onto the prepared half sheet pan.
Next, top each slice with brie. Drizzle each slice with 1 teaspoon of honey. Place under the broiler for 60 seconds until slightly melted but not runny. Keep an eye on them, they will burn fast!
Remove from the broiler, sprinkle evenly with pepper, Fleur de Sel and arrange on a serving dish. Garnish each crostini with a few leaves of arugula and serve warm.
More often that not, croutons are an almost forgotten addition to salads and soups. They tend to be pretty flavorless and have a texture that can be, let’s say, a little too crunchy. Who says that croutons can’t be refined? My Salt & Pepper Puff Pastry Croutons are the perfect way to elevate any salad. You can either toss them in, or even serve on the side (in a beautiful basket) as an especially chic bread course!
Believe me, they are so delicious, you might not have any left to make it to the table for your guests! Speaking of guests, these croutons make a fabulous canapé (just sprinkle them with Parmesan or Gruyère) to serve with drinks as your guests arrive. If you are new to baking with puff pastry, one thing to keep in mind is to work quickly. The pastry will become more difficult to handle as it warms up. These can be made in any shape you like, so if you have any fun cookie cutters on hand, get as creative as you want!
Salt & Pepper Puff Pastry Croutons
Egg – 1 extra-large, lightly beaten
Water – 1 tablespoon
Frozen Puff Pastry – defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
Flour – for preparing work surface
Fleur de Sel – 1 teaspoon
Black Pepper – 1 teaspoon, freshly cracked
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a small bowl, beat 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of water.
Place 1 sheet of thawed puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Brush with the beaten egg. Sprinkle evenly with 1 teaspoon of Fleur de Sel and 1 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper.
Using a cutter of your choice, cut the sheet of pastry into shapes. Transfer each piece of pastry to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.
Tip: You can make these croutons up to two days in advance and store in a sealed container. Simply reheat on a baking sheet in a 350 degrees F oven for 5 - 10 minutes and you will have perfectly crisp puff pastry croutons!
Baking with frozen puff pastry doesn’t have to be intimidating! By working carefully, you can make the most of every delicious, flaky layer of this delicate but satisfying freezer staple. My elegant Buttery Pinwheels, crisp and fresh from the oven, can be served at breakfast with jam, at lunch with fresh fruit and a green salad, or at dinner with salted butter.
They are also perfect to make ahead for entertaining a crowd! Just assemble, refrigerate and bake right before your guests arrive. Or you can even bake them ahead of time, store them for up to two days in an air-tight container and re-crisp them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes – et voila! Watch my video below as I show you step by step how to make these beautiful pinwheels yourself. It’s easier than you think!
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, beat 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of water and set aside. Place 1 sheet of thawed puff pastry onto the baking sheet.
Cut the pastry into 4 individual squares. For each square, use a paring knife to cut from each corner toward the center, stopping 1-inch from the center.
You will have a 1-inch circle in the center of each square, and all of the corners will be cut in half. To create each pinwheel, lift one half of a corner and fold the point toward the center of the square. Continuing around the square, fold each of the three remaining corner points toward the center of the square, and gently press all 4 points together to form a pinwheel shape.
Brush the dough with the beaten egg. Bake for 16 – 18 minutes, until the pinwheels are puffed and golden brown.
Tip: Before baking, you can sprinkle a bit of Parmesan or Gruyere cheese onto each pinwheel and serve these with a glass of wine or champagne as a fabulous hors d’oeuvre!
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.
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.
During the holidays, time seems to be a luxury as everyone is preparing to entertain family and friends. Over the years, I have hosted many holidays at home and have always strived to find the balance of not only being the host with the most, but also enjoy the day myself as a guest at my own party!
This elegant no-cook hors d’oeuvre couldn’t be easier, and perfectly showcases the delicate flavor of fresh figs. My Fig & Truffle Nibbles allows guests to have a “little something” while sipping their favorite libation and catching up with one another, but not so much that they will be stuffed before dinner (and dessert!).
I like to serve these on little spoons (available online) for a little added flair, but you can also serve them in endive leaves, on a water cracker, or on a platter with cocktail picks. Not only are these a fabulously luxurious hors d’oeuvre, but they are extremely satisfying for any festive gathering!
Fig & Truffle Nibbles
Ingredients (expand recipe as needed)
Fresh Figs - halved
Fleur de Sel
Black Pepper - freshly cracked
Fresh Thyme - whole leaves
Simply drizzle small, even amounts of truffle vinegar and honey on the cut side of fresh figs. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme leaves.
Serve at room temperature.
Tip: These can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 hours. Allow them to come to room temperature before serving.
Fresh figs are such a luxury this time of year! Their normal season begins the first few weeks of June, then they come back to greet us from August through October. While you can certainly find dried figs year round—they are fabulous to serve with cheeses, in pastas, or just eaten right from the container—fresh figs add such an elegant touch to a party.
In the past, I have written a few recipes using these luscious fruits, but my Warm Figs with Goat Cheese may just become your new favorite way to enjoy fresh figs this time of year! How can you go wrong with fresh figs drizzled in earthy honey, rosemary, pistachios, and goat cheese? The aromatic and savory rosemary adds a bit of an autumnal vibe, perfect for the start of this transitional time of year.
Presentation is very casual as guests can literally spoon the warm figs onto slices of toasted bread. Or, serve as a salad! Best of all, you can assemble this dish one hour head of time and allow it to sit at room temperature (no need to take up precious fridge space). Add the pistachios just before you are ready to bake and then bake as your guests arrive and are greeted by a fabulous and sophisticated aroma that will surely get them excited for what’s to come.
I like to bake and serve this dish in a cast iron skillet or pie plate—from oven to table! Summer coming to an end isn’t so bad after all! This is only the beginning of the fabulous fruits of Fall!
Warm Figs with Goat Cheese
Ingredients (serves 6 as an hors d’oeuvre, 4 as salad course)
Fresh Figs – 1 pint, stems removed and cut in half
Honey – 1/3 cup
Rosemary – ¾ teaspoon, finely minced
Goat Cheese – 3 ounces, at room temperature
Pistachios – ¼ cup, roughly chopped
Black Pepper – ½ teaspoon, freshly cracked
Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon
*Baguette or crackers for serving as a hors d’oeuvre
*Arugula for serving as a salad
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Arrange the figs cut side up in a single layer in an oven proof dish or cast iron skillet.
Drizzle the honey over the figs and sprinkle evenly with the pistachios, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Crumble the goat cheese evenly over top.
Bake for 5 minutes, or until the cheese begins to soften.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
As an hors d’oeuvre – allow guests to spoon the warm figs onto toasted slices of baguette or simple crackers.
As a salad – arrange handfuls of washed arugula onto salad plates (or onto a large platter for family style) and top with the warm figs. The honey and natural juices from the figs will act as the vinaigrette.
Love is in the air at The Sievers! Each year Ryan and I celebrate St. Valentine’s Day with a quiet home-cooked meal in an intimate vignette set up in our own home. We typically watch a Disney movie (Cinderella is my all-time favorite!), enjoy a decedent dessert, and pop a bottle of really good wine. We love being in love! This year we are going to do something different by hosting a cocktail party to celebrating with our BFF’s. It will be an evening filled with delicious nibbles, fabulous Champagne, and lots of laughter. Not only will our soirée be memorable, it will be filled with completely store-bought items from my local grocery store. This night will be about being with friends and not being in the kitchen (well, except to get more Champagne!).
A successful party is not measured by how many items you make from scratch, but rather how much laughter fills your home! For my St. Valentine’s Day cocktail party I designed the evening around a completely over-the-top salty and sweet nibbles tray and glamorous rosé bubbles bar. Let me walk you through the Champagne bar:
The Bubbles Bar
Start by selecting your Champagne flutes. I like to use a different design for each guest to reflect their personality and to help them remember with flute is theirs. Use a tray—I chose silver—to set the flutes on. This will make even the simplest glassware feel more special, while also adding a bit of sophistication and sparkle to your bar area. A tray will also “contain” the flutes and help to visually organize your bar top and keep things from looking “strewn about all willy-nilly”—I use this professional entertaining phase all the time.
Next, choose your favorite Champagne. I prefer a Brut Rosé which is flavorful, complex, and dry, making it both versatile with food and delicious by itself as an aperitif.
I prefer to set out only one bottle of champagne at a time in a small ice-filled bucket. Opening a bottle of champagne has such a celebratory feel about it, so I like to do it in front of everyone. This also allows each bottle to stay as fresh as possible.
Candles, candles, and more candles! I have a collection of candle holders that range in size. I love mixing them and using different heights to get a more dramatic feel.
Paper cocktail napkins are the perfect way to help carry through a theme. I found the most “romantic” tray I had and used that to hold heart-themed napkins.
Finally, I scatter crystals all around the flutes, Champagne chiller, and bar top. They really do add a depth of glamour, and they reflect the flames of the candles.
The Nibbles Tray
Start by selecting your tray or platter. I love this silver spinning server for cocktail parties. It has many different sections which makes arranging food so simple. Guests can spin the tray for easy self-service regardless of where they are sitting on the sofa.
Next, it’s time to shop! I went to my local grocery store and chose things that were different in texture, flavor, and color. For this party, I wanted to create a completely over-the-top selection of nibbles, while still trying to incorporate very recognizable St. Valentine’s Day-themed foods. I choose things that are salty, sweet, and savory. My go-to items are:
Freshly baked baguette
Salt & Pepper Potato Chips
Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar (for dipping)
3. Lastly, set out small plates and napkins. A vase of scent-less flowers (as to not compete with your food) finishes out the look. Et voila—it’s party time!
Idea: If you don’t have a spinner server try using small bowls set atop a tray or just a large platter.