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Recipes & Entertaining Ideas

Filtering by Tag: Chocolate

Cognac Hot Chocolate

Marc J. Sievers

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If you’re like me, you get to a point when you just need a moment during the winter months where you can just sit back and feel cozy. I love bundling up and watching snow fall (especially at the beach!), but sometimes, I need a little escape from the cold. I decided that now would be the perfect time for a luxe, chocolaty pick-me-up to relax and recharge.

My Cognac Hot Chocolate is a rich, layered and complex version of traditional hot chocolate, but with a little kick, courtesy of the addition of cognac.  Far from the hot chocolate of your childhood, this treat is sophisticated and worthy of a few quiet moments to sit, enjoy and stay warm indoors. Cheers!

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Cognac Hot Chocolate

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • Whole Milk – 3 cups

  • Half-and-Half – 2 cups

  • Milk Chocolate – 5 ounces, rough chopped

  • Dark Chocolate – 8 ounces, 72% cacao, rough chopped

  • Cocoa Powder – ¼ cup, unsweetened, Pernigotti recommended

  • Cinnamon – ¼ teaspoon

  • Fleur de Sel – ¼ teaspoon

  • Dark Brown Sugar – 2 tablespoons, lightly packed

  • Vanilla – 1 ½ teaspoons, pure extract

  • Salted Caramel Sauce – 4 tablespoons, favorite store-bought brand

  • Cognac – 1 cup, Rémy Martin 1738 recommended

  • Cinnamon Sticks – for stirrers and garnish (if desired)

 Directions 

  1. In a large saucepan set over medium heat, add the milk and half-and-half.  Heat to just below the simmering point. 

  2. Remove the pan from the heat and add all of the remaining ingredients, except the cinnamon sticks. 

  3. Using a whisk, vigorously whisk the mixture until it is smooth and the chocolate is completely melted. 

  4. Gently reheat over medium heat, ladle into mugs and garnish with a cinnamon stick, a bit of frothed milk or whipped cream (if desired).

Tip: You can prepare the hot chocolate up to five days in advance and store it in an airtight container with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against the top of the hot chocolate and set in the refrigerator.  The plastic wrap will help prevent a skin from forming on the top of the hot chocolate.

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Festive & Fabulous Last-Minute Holiday Ideas

Marc J. Sievers

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! 

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Strawberry White Chocolate Bark

Marc J. Sievers

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

Directions

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Once it is just melted, add the remaining chocolate chips and vanilla bean seeds and stir until it's completely smooth.

  4. Pour the warm melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread it lightly to fill the drawn rectangle on the prepared sheet of parchment.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!  

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Watch: Store-Bought Cake Made Fabulous!

Marc J. Sievers

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

Ingredients

  • Heavy Cream – 1 cup, very cold

  • Sugar – 2 tablespoons

  • Vanilla – ¾ teaspoon, pure extract

Directions

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

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Cointreau Chocolate Ganache

Marc J. Sievers

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, 72% cocoa preferred

  • 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)

Directions

  1. In a heat-proof bowl set over barely simmering water, heat the dark chocolate, heavy cream, honey, and salt until just melted, stirring occasionally.

  2. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla, orange zest, Cognac, and Cointreau. Stir to combine.

  3. 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.  

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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 (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)

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! 

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Herbes de Provence Chocolate Truffles

Marc J. Sievers

 

The dried spice blend Herbes de Provence is such a fabulous ingredient to have on hand!  This South of France signature seasoning is a blend of aromatic spices such as lavender, basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, tarragon, parsley, fennel seed, marjoram, and sage.  Traditionally, it is used to flavor meats, poultry, and vegetables, however, I have used it in soups, breads, and now as the star (yet unexpected!) ingredient in my Herbes de Provence Chocolate Truffles!  I just love how the savory blend of herbs compliments the intensity of the dark chocolate and natural sweetness of the heavy cream – a match made in confectionary heaven!  Serve these sophisticated chocolates with a bold red wine, very dry Champagne, or alongside a cheese plate for an exciting twist!


Herbes de Provence Chocolate Truffles (makes 12-14 truffles)

Ingredients

·       Dark Chocolate – 6 ounces, finely chopped

·       Heavy Cream – ½ cup

·       Butter – 2 tablespoons, unsalted, at room temperature

·       Herbes de Provence – 2 teaspoons, dried

·       Cocoa Powder – ⅓ cup, unsweetened (Pernigotti recommended)

Directions

  1. In a small sauce pan set over medium heat, add the heavy cream and Herbes de Provence. Bring to just under the boiling point, then turn off the heat and allow to steep for 5 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, place the chopped chocolate and butter into a large glass bowl. Set aside.

  3. Bring the heavy cream infusion back up to just under the boiling point. Using a fine mesh sieve strain the mixture over the chocolate, pressing down on the herbs with a wooden spoon making sure to extract all of the cream. Stir until completely smooth. This creates the ganache base.

  4. Place the ganache into the refrigerator to firm up, about 2 hours.

  5. Place the cocoa powder into a shallow bowl. Using a 1-inch scoop or tablespoon, scoop out balls of ganache and place onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

  6. After you have scooped all the ganache, roll each one by hand into a ball and then roll each truffle through the cocoa powder to coat.

  7. Arrange on a serving platter, or place into an airtight container. Truffles can be stored for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Order a signed copy of my cookbook Entertaining with Love!

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Salted Hot Chocolate Ice Cream

Marc J. Sievers

If you have never made homemade ice cream, you are in for a real treat!  A few months ago, I was making my Velvety Hot Chocolate from my first cookbook Entertaining with Love, and while I was measuring out the ingredients it occurred to me that they were very similar to the base ingredients for my ice cream recipe.  After a bit of tweaking (and lots of taste testing!), my Salted Hot Chocolate Ice Cream was churning away in my ice cream maker, ready for its close-up!

This is by far the best and most luxurious chocolaty ice cream I have ever had, let alone made myself!  The texture is similar to a velvety mousse—light, airy, and incredibly silky.  The flavors are so rich and intense, from using really good ingredients (particularly the chocolate and cocoa powder), and my secret ingredient:  Fleur de Sel caramel sauce.  Rather than make your own caramel sauce for a few tablespoons, I like to use a good store-bought one.  In fact, my favorite jar is from Trader Joe’s (also where I buy my chocolate bars by the pound).

For the ultimate ice cream enjoyment, allow each scoop to sit at room temperature for a few minutes and you will be able to taste the flavors much better than it being ice-cold.  The most perfect chocolate ice cream is calling your name – enjoy!


Salted Hot Chocolate Ice Cream

Ingredients (makes 1 quart)

  • Milk Chocolate – 4 ounces, finely chopped

  • Dark Chocolate – 4 ounces, finely chopped

  • Cocoa Powder – ¼ cup, unsweetened

  • Heavy Cream – 3 cups

  • Vanilla – 1 teaspoon, pure extract

  • Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce – 3 tablespoons, good store-bought variety

  • Fleur de Sel – ¼ teaspoon

  • Cinnamon – 1/8 teaspoon

  • Dark Brown Sugar – 2 tablespoon

Directions

  1. In a medium sauce pan set over medium heat, add the heavy cream, brown sugar, caramel sauce, and both chocolates. Whisk until the chocolate is just melted.

  2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and cocoa powder.

  3. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap pressing it directly onto the surface of the mixture. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator until it is very cold.

  4. Once the mixture is chilled, add it to an ice cream maker and follow manufactures directions.

  5. Scoop out the ice cream into a freezer-proof container and freeze for 2 hours.

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White Chocolate Truffles with Butterscotch Schnapps

Marc J. Sievers

Whenever I really want to make a great culinary impression on someone, I bring them my homemade chocolate truffles!  While truffles look (and taste) like they take days to make (who has time for that?!), they actually take under an hour to create, and use the simplest of ingredients.  The real difference in taste and texture is made with very good quality ingredients, especially the chocolate.

There are endless flavor combinations for truffles, but one of my favorites are White Chocolate Truffles with Candied Pecans.  The white chocolate has such a delicate vanilla flavor on its own and is enhanced with Butterscotch Schnapps—a light booziness that rolls around on your tongue with a rich delight.  The crunch of chopped candied pecans is what makes this particular truffle even more flavorful and delicious! 

The creamy white chocolate ganache with the sweet crunch of the chopped nuts is a perfect flavor and texture combination.  Very rarely does it get any better—or any easier—than this!  Don’t take my word for it, make them and taste for yourself! 


White Chocolate Truffles with Candied Pecans

Ingredients (makes 20-22 truffles)

  • White Chocolate – 8 ounces, rough chopped

  • Heavy Cream – 1 ½ tablespoons

  • Butterscotch Schnapps – 1 tablespoon

  • Sea Salt – ⅛ teaspoon

  • Vanilla – ¾ teaspoon, pure extract

  • Candied Pecans – ¾ cup, rough chopped

Directions

  1. Place a heat-proof bowl over barely simmering water. Add the heavy cream and chopped chocolate and stir with a wooden spoon until completely smooth.

  2. Remove from the heat and add the salt, vanilla, and Schnapps. Stir until completely incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until firm.

  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  4. Scoop rounded Tablespoon-sized portions of chocolate and place each one onto the lined baking sheet.

  5. Gently roll each one into a ball and immediately roll through the chopped candied pecans.

  6. Place in the refrigerator to set. Serve at room temperature.

Order a signed copy of my cookbook Entertaining with Love!

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Chocolate Maple Whiskey Cupcakes

Marc J. Sievers

A few years ago I was turned on to Crown Royal Maple Whiskey – and I haven’t looked back!  This particular whiskey still has the bite of a regular whiskey, but also a very smooth maple finish.  This time of year, when the weather starts to change, like clockwork I head over to my neighborhood spirits store and pick up a bottle (or two!).  It is the perfect aperitif to sip on a crisp Chicago evening while relaxing with Ryan.  Although he isn’t a fan, he says that when I drink this elixir, I smell like spicy pancakes in the morning.  I mean, things could be worse!

So in order to make him fall in love with this magical whiskey, I decided to use it as an ingredient in my Chocolate Maple Whiskey Cupcakes.  The cake component is intensely chocolatey with a maple twist, while the frosting has much more of a maple whiskey zing.  Have a giant glass of cold milk (or whiskey on the rocks!) at the ready – this could be your new “thing”, too!


Chocolate Maple Whiskey Cupcakes

Ingredients (makes 12 cupcakes)

Cupcake Batter

  • Flour – 1 cup, all purpose

  • Cocoa Powder – 1/3 cup

  • Dark Brown Sugar – 1 cup, lightly packed

  • Baking Soda – 1 teaspoon

  • Baking Powder – ½ teaspoon

  • Fine Sea Salt – ¾ teaspoon

  • Eggs – 1 extra-large, at room temperature

  • Maple Whiskey – ¼ cup (Crown Royal Maple recommended)

  • Buttermilk – ¾ cup, at room temperature

  • Vegetable Oil – ¼ cup

  • Maple Syrup – 2 tablespoons, Grade A

  • Vanilla – ¾ teaspoon, pure extract

Frosting

  • Butter – 1 stick, unsalted, at room temperature

  • Chocolate Syrup – 1 tablespoon

  • Maple Whiskey – 2 tablespoons (Crown Royal Maple recommended)

  • Confectioners’ Sugar – 2½ cups, sifted

  • Maple Syrup – 4 tablespoons, Grade A

  • Vanilla – ¼ teaspoon, pure extract

  • Chocolate Cookies – ½ cup, crushed, for garnish


Directions

Cupcakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a standard 12-well muffin pan. Set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, sift all of the dry ingredients.

  3. In another large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.

  4. Next, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Whisk until just combined and almost smooth.

  5. Using a 1¼ -inch metal scoop, evenly scoop the batter into each well. The wells should be ¾ filled.

  6. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

  7. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 10 minutes inside the pan, then remove from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Frosting

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment set to low speed and cream together the butter, whiskey, vanilla, maple syrup, and chocolate syrup.

  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.

  3. Frost each cupcake using a flat knife or piping bag fitted with a round tip. Garnish with crushed chocolate cookies.

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Champagne Party - #BFF Style! for VRAI Magazine

Marc J. Sievers

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  1. 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.

  2. 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:

  • Gruyere

  • Freshly baked baguette

  • Strawberries

  • Chocolate Truffles

  • 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. 

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Triple Chocolate Cookies

Marc J. Sievers

Developing new recipes allows me the opportunity to experiment with all kinds of ingredients.  Whether they are from my local grocery store, a gourmet food shop, or even an ethnic market, the possibilities and combinations are endless.  Sometimes navigating your way down the aisles and seeing the amount of variety there is when it comes to brands, packaging, and price (we have all had those “YIKES!” moments), can be a bit overwhelming.  Usually when I am testing a recipe that has a star ingredient, like chocolate, I go straight for the best quality I can find but still in my price range.  The outcome – my Triple Chocolate Cookies – so incredibly luxurious in both texture and taste that I have had to stop keeping some of the ingredients in the house because I can’t stop making (and ultimately eating!) them.

These cookies are filled with rich Pernigotti Cocoa Powder, Guittard Milk Chocolate Chips, and French Président Butter.  While most of my posts and recipes encourage you to shop at your local grocery, this recipe is one I highly recommend you splurge on these few ingredients.  If your local grocery doesn't have these particular brands, you can easily find them online and have them shipped directly to you, even the butter


Triple Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients (makes 12 cookies)

  • Flour – 1 cup, all-purpose

  • Sea Salt – ½ teaspoon

  • Baking Powder – 1 teaspoon

  • Baking Soda – ¼ teaspoon

  • Cocoa Powder – ¾ cup, unsweetened, Pernigotti recommended

  • Dark Brown Sugar – 1 ½ cups, lightly packed

  • Eggs – 3, extra-large, at room temperature

  • Honey – 1 tablespoon

  • Vanilla – 2 teaspoons, pure extract

  • Butter – 1 stick, unsalted, at room temperature, Président (or another European-style) recommenced

  • Unsweetened Baking Chocolate – 4 ounces, finely chopped

  • Milk Chocolate Chips – 11.5 ounces (1 bag), Guittard recommended

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a single baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

  2. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa power. Set aside.

  3. In another medium bowl whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, honey, and vanilla until there are no lumps from the brown sugar. Set aside.

  4. In a small microwave safe bowl add the butter and unsweetened chopped chocolate. Microwave on half power for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally until just melted and smooth.

  5. Add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until completely combined.

  6. Toss the chocolate chips in the flour mixture. Fold the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. Allow the dough to rest for exactly 20 minutes at room temperature.

  7. Using a 2 ¼-inch scoop, scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Only 6 cookies will fit per baking sheet, per baking cycle.

  8. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes until just set, rotating the sheet tray once halfway through baking time.

  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling. Repeat above steps to finish baking the other 6 cookies.

Idea: These cookies can be served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce drizzled over top – a truly decedent treat!

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Calling All Chocolate Lovers! Rich Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

Marc J. Sievers

If I could eat chocolate every day, these little cupcakes brimming with chocolaty goodness would be my top pick!  They are rich, fudgy, and addictive (get a glass of cold milk ready!).  They are also incredibly simple to make using everyday ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.  So, stop reading this and get bakin!


Rich Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

Ingredients (makes 12 cupcakes)

Batter

  • Butter – ¼ pound, unsalted, room temperature

  • Sugar – 1 cup

  • Salt – ¼ teaspoon

  • Flour – 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • Eggs – 4 extra-large, room temperature

  • Vanilla – 1 tablespoon, pure extract

  • Cocoa Powder – ¼ cup, unsweetened powder

  • Chocolate Syrup – 16 ounces

Ganache

  • Heavy Cream – ½ cup

  • Chocolate Chips – 8 ounces, semisweet

Directions

Batter

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line a muffin pan (large cups) with paper liners.

  2. Next, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the eggs carefully—1 at a time—and combine thoroughly. Then, pour in the vanilla and the chocolate syrup and mix well.

  3. For the best results sift together your flour and unsweetened cocoa powder. Then, gently add the dry mixture to your mixing bowl and mix until just combined (do not over-mix or your cupcakes will be unpleasantly dense).

  4. Next, scoop the batter equally into the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Let them cool thoroughly in the muffin tin.

Ganache & Assembly

  1. Heat the heavy cream and chocolate chips in a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm. Stir occasionally. In this step you are melting and heating the mixture, not cooking it as it will burn.

  2. Finally, once the cupcakes have cooled, dip the tops of the cupcakes into the ganache and enjoy! The ganache will remain soft and creamy and will not set hard.

Do not refrigerate.

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Fancy Schmancy Butter!

Marc J. Sievers

OK!  So let me start by giving you the true definition of what I call “Fancy Schmancy Butter”:

Compound butters (French: “Beurre composé”, pl. “Beurres composés”) are mixtures of butter and supplementary ingredients. Primarily, they are used to enhance flavor in various dishes, in a fashion similar to a sauce. [Wikipedia]

Now that we have all the formalities out of the way, doesn’t that just sound delicious?!  I have been making (and eating!) fancy schmancy butters for years.  They are all the rage is fabulous bistros and high-end eateries all of the world.  They can be made in a wide variety of flavors, textures and even colors and are as simple as chopping, dash-ing, and mixing!  Whether you are serving something savory or something sweet, my fancy schmancy butters are guaranteed to add a burst of flavor and a creaminess to anything you can dream up!

Three distinct flavors; endless serving possibilities!


Herbed Butter

Ingredients

  • Butter – 1 stick, unsalted, at room temperature

  • Lemon Zest – 2 teaspoons

  • Dill - 2 teaspoons, finely minced, fresh

  • Parsley - 2 teaspoons, finely minced, Italian flat leaf variety

  • Chives - 2 teaspoons, finely minced

  • Honey – 1 teaspoon

  • Sea Salt – 1/4 teaspoon

  • Black Pepper – 1/2 teaspoon, freshly cracked

Directions

  1. Place all the ingredients into a small bowl and mix until combined.

  2. Cut a strip of parchment paper 4½ -inches wide and place the mixture on the short end of the paper. Roll into a log about 1 inch in diameter, rolling the parchment paper around the butter mixture. Twist ends to close. Chill overnight.

  3. Serve by cutting into 1/2 inch thick slices.


Tip: Pairs perfectly with roasted and steamed vegetables, grilled chicken and fish, pasta and toasted baguette.


Countryside Butter

Ingredients

  • Butter – 1 stick, unsalted, at room temperature

  • Orange Zest – 1 tablespoon

  • Strawberry Preserves – 2 tablespoons

  • Sea Salt – 1/4 teaspoon

Directions

  1. Place all the ingredients into a small bowl and mix until combined.

  2. Cut a strip of parchment paper 4 1/2 inches wide and place the mixture on the short end of the paper. Roll into a log about 1 inch in diameter, rolling the parchment paper around the butter mixture. Twist ends to close. Chill overnight.

  3. Serve by cutting into 1/2 inch thick slices.


Tip: Pairs perfectly with biscuits, french toast and pancakes.


Sweet Butter

Ingredients

  • Butter – 1 stick, unsalted, at room temperature

  • Brown Sugar – 2 teaspoons

  • Milk Chocolate – 2 tablespoons, rough chopped

  • Sea Salt – 1/4 teaspoon

Directions

  1. Place all the ingredients into a small bowl and mix until combined.

  2. Cut a strip of parchment paper 4 1/2 inches wide and place the mixture on the short end of the paper. Roll into a log about 1 inch in diameter, rolling the parchment paper around the butter mixture. Twist ends to close. Chill overnight.

  3. Serve by cutting into 1/2 inch thick slices.

Tip: Pairs perfectly with pancakes, croissants and warm baguette for an unexpected twist for dessert.

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A Bubbly "Kiss"

Marc J. Sievers

No matter the occasion, champagne always makes an appearance at all of my parties, no matter the time of day!  Most of the time, I prefer to not add anything to take away from the delicate taste or it's elegant color.  My Champagne Kiss combines the flavors or true champagne with chocolate and strawberries, the perfect romantic combination!

Tip: Serve this elegant take on champagne with my Chocolate Pot de Crème for a truly decedent night!


Ingredients (serves 6)

  • Champagne (your favorite) - 1 bottle

  • Dark Chocolate - 6 pieces, ½-inch

  • Strawberries - 6, ½-inch sliced

  • Cocoa Powder - ¼ cup

Directions

  1. Pour the cocoa powder onto a small plate. On another small plate pour just enough water to coat the bottom of the plate. Place the rim of a champagne flute into the water then directly into the cocoa powder to cover each rim.

  2. Do this with all the champagne flutes.

  3. Place a piece of chocolate in the bottom of each champagne flute and fill with champagne. Top with a slice of strawberry.

I hope my Champagne Kiss has you seeing hearts this Valentine's Day!  XO

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A Chocolate Dream-Date!

Marc J. Sievers

A variety of chocolate confections for my Valentine!

A variety of chocolate confections for my Valentine!

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of hosting a lunch for my dear friend Susan, who just happens to be a chocolatier!  She travels between Chicago, Seattle, and London (can you believe it!) soaking up everything to do with the art of chocolate.  I asked her to help me make some special handmade chocolates for my valentine Ryan, since this year we want our gifts to be hand-made for one another.

I searched for the perfect, romantic, and sweetest molds I could find.  I finally chose the Eiffel Tower and a simple heart.  Two iconic shapes that instantly make anything and everything seem more romantic!  I also wanted to dip some dried fruit, like apricots and candied orange, ginger and lemon peel into a variety of chocolates.  In the end we made over four pounds of various chocolate delights!  Once Susan and I got started it was addictive (and not just because we were eating every other little creation).  I had Parisian-themed music by Pink Martini (a favorite of mine for dinner parties) playing in the background, we sipped lavender tea with cream, and shared stories of our individual sources of inspiration.

A new take on chocolate dipped cherries. Simply add dried cherries to a milk chocolate bar or chocolate bark for a revamp of a classic!

A new take on chocolate dipped cherries. Simply add dried cherries to a milk chocolate bar or chocolate bark for a revamp of a classic!

The day ended with me walking with Susan to the train station while it was snowing (those amazingly huge snowflakes) like a fabulous scene in a movie!  Regardless of how perfectly (or not) my chocolates turned out, it was the experience and memories that made so special!

Though I love to use chocolate in my cooking, and have perfected a sinfully (or perhaps angelically) decadent Honey Lavender Truffle (page 181 in Entertaining with Love), there are advanced techniques with chocolate that I have found to be daunting.  Susan helped me to navigate some of those techniques, as well as provided reassuring advice along the way.  The experience was both fun an eye-opening.  There was no reason to be put off by my perception of chocolate being difficult to work with.  Lesson learned is that there is always something to learn, but you will never learn it unless you try!  Practice makes perfect (or at least increasingly edible), and you should have fun in the process!

Hand-dipped candied orange, lemon and ginger make for the perfect accompaniment after dinner with a glass of champagne!

Hand-dipped candied orange, lemon and ginger make for the perfect accompaniment after dinner with a glass of champagne!

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Warm Chocolate Pots with Grand Mariner & Cherries

Marc J. Sievers

"I love you!"

It can be said in many ways and take many forms and styles.  One of the more thoughtful (and much appreciated) ways of doing so is with the assistance of chocolate!  With Valentine's Day just around the corner I wanted to create a recipe that would be full of love and at least a little something decedent!  How does chocolate, Grand Marnier®, and dried cherries sound?  That's exactly what I thought too:  fabulous!

Fresh from the oven and dusted with confectioner's sugar!

Not only are these individual warm chocolate pots completely irresistible, they are also something that can be made in under 30 minutes.  Perfect for this Valentine's Day that falls on a Thursday.  This can be your "special touch," that would even make take-out or delivery romantic!  You only need a few ingredients, and best of all, they are all at your local grocer:


Warm Chocolate Pots with Grand Marnier & Cherries

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips – 5 ounces

  • Butter – 1 stick, unsalted, plus more for preparing ramekins

  • Vanilla – 2 teaspoons, pure extract

  • Flour – 6 tablespoons, all-purpose

  • Eggs – 2 extra-large eggs, and 1 extra-large egg yolk

  • Kosher Salt – ¼ teaspoon

  • Powdered Sugar – 1 cup, plus more for dusting

  • Grand Marnier® – 4 tablespoons

  • Dried Cherries – ½ cup

 Directions

  1. Start by pre-heating the oven to 425 degrees F.

  2. Butter the interior of four 6 to 8 ounce ramekins 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, add the Grand Mariner®, powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla. Whisk until blended.

  5. Slowly whisk in the eggs.

  6. Toss the cherries with the flour, then stir them into the chocolate mixture using a spatula.

  7. Lastly, evenly divide the batter into the prepared ramekins. Bake for exactly 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, dust with powdered sugar. Allow to stand for 2 minutes before serving.


Tip: To give this dessert a little love-day punch, place a small paper doily with a heart cut from the center over eachramekin and dust with powdered sugar.  Carefully remove the doily and excess powdered sugar before serving.

Trick:  You can actually make these ahead of time!  Bake and dust with powdered sugar. Allow to cool completely, then wrap tightly with foil and place in the refrigerator.  When it's time to serve, remove from the refrigerator 15 minutes prior.  Discard the foil and warm in a microwave for 45 seconds.  Serve immediately.

Entertaining with love has never been so chic and delicious!

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