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Recipes & Entertaining Ideas

Filtering by Tag: Fall

Apple Salad with Croutons

Marc J. Sievers

One of my favorite things about writing recipes is surprising readers and my guests with complex flavors by using everyday ingredients!  My Apple Salad with Croutons made its television debut on WGN TV Midday News: Lunchbreak and the star of the dish was my simple and incredibly flavorful homemade vinaigrette!

I made the vinaigrette with cinnamon, honey, and apple cider vinegar as my secret ingredients.  All of those flavors are classic combinations with apple, and the addition of tart cranberries, intense Blue Cheese, nuts, and crunchy croutons creates a layered and complex salad with wonderfully everyday ingredients. A match made in food-flavor heaven!  In fact, I served this same salad on Thanksgiving Day, and the entire platter was devoured with guests actually asking for seconds – of salad!  


Apple Salad with Croutons

Ingredients for Salad (serves 8)

  • Granny Smith Apple – cored, and thinly sliced

  • Honey Crisp Apple – cored, and thinly sliced

  • Lemon - juice of 1 lemon

  • Apple Cider Vinegar – 1/3 cup

  • Honey – 1/3 cup

  • Cinnamon – 1 teaspoon

  • Sea Salt – ½ teaspoon

  • Black Pepper – ¼ teaspoon, freshly cracked

  • Olive Oil – ¼ cup

  • Dried Cranberries – ½ cup

  • Pistachios – ½ cup

  • Candied Pecans – ½ cup

  • Blue Cheese – 4 ounces, crumbled

  • Arugula or Spring Mix – 8 ounces

Directions for Salad

  1. Start by placing the cut apples in a large bowl of cold water. Add the lemon juice, and allow to sit until ready to serve.

  2. Meanwhile, mix vinegar, honey, cinnamon, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking vigorously. Set aside.

  3. Drain the apples.

  4. Arrange the greens down the center of a big platter. Add the apples, dried cranberries, pistachios, pecans, and blue cheese on top. Drizzle evenly with the vinaigrette.

  5. Serve immediately.

Ingredients for Croutons

  • Demi Baguette – cut into ½-inch cubes

  • Butter – 3 tablespoons, unsalted

Directions

  1. In a medium sauté pan set over medium heat, add the butter. Once melted, add the bread cubes.

  2. Toast for 5-7 minutes, tossing occasionally, until lightly brown.

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Pumpkin Spice Trifle

Marc J. Sievers

My Pumpkin Spice Trifle is one of my all-time favorite desserts to make during the holidays!  Filled with the most flavorful Spiced Pound Cake and luxurious Pumpkin Orange Pastry Cream, this trifle will be a fabulous addition to your holiday soirée.  While there a few steps for each component, a majority of them like the pound cake and pastry cream can be made up to three days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.  Then, all you need to do is make some Vanilla Whipped Cream, and then assemble the trifle!

You can also assemble this dessert in individual glass bowls or parfait glasses.  Simply follow the same assembly instructions but for each individual dish.  The dessert can sit out for a couple of hours, making it a perfect seasonal dessert for entertaining.  This is one of those desserts that you and your guests will always remember – and ask for year after year!

This recipe is part of “An Autumnal Feast!  A Collection of Recipes from Watermarc – Art & Appetite”.  Explore the other recipes in this series:

Happy cooking!


Pumpkin Spice Trifle

Ingredients (serves 8)

Pumpkin Orange Pasty Cream

  • Half and Half – 2 cups

  • Egg Yolks – 6 extra-large, at room temperature

  • Butter – 1 tablespoon, unsalted, at room temperature

  • Granulated Sugar – ¼ cup

  • Dark Brown Sugar – ¼ cup, lightly packed

  • Pumpkin Purée – ½ cup (not pie filling)

  • Cinnamon – ½ teaspoon

  • Orange Zest – 1½ tablespoons, finely grated

  • Vanilla – 1½ teaspoons, pure extract

  • Honey – 1½ tablespoon

  • Fine Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon

  • Cornstarch – ¼ cup

Spiced Pound Cake

  • Butter – 2 sticks, unsalted, room temperature, plus more for preparing pans

  • Eggs – 4 extra-large, room temperature

  • Flour – 3 cups, all-purpose, plus 2 tablespoons

  • Baking Powder – ½ teaspoon

  • Baking Soda – ½ teaspoon

  • Kosher Salt – ¾ teaspoon

  • Buttermilk – 1 cup, at room temperature

  • Vanilla – 1½ teaspoons, pure extract

  • Honey – ¼ cup

  • Sugar – 2 cups, granulated

  • Golden Raisins – 1 cup

  • Cinnamon – 1 teaspoon

  • Cloves – ½ teaspoon

  • Allspice – ½ teaspoon

  • Nutmeg – ½ teaspoon, freshly grated

  • Ginger – ½ teaspoon, dried

Vanilla Whipped Cream

  • Heavy Cream – 2 cups, very cold

  • Granulated Sugar – 2 tablespoons

  • Vanilla Extract – 1 tablespoon, pure extract

Components

  • Fleur de Sel Caramel – 5 tablespoons, store-bought

  • Gingersnap Cookies – 9 ounces, lightly crushed

Directions

Pumpkin Orange Pastry Cream

  1. In a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, both sugars, pumpkin purée, cinnamon, orange zest, salt, and cornstarch until smooth. Set aside.

  2. Next, in a medium-sized sauce pan set over medium heat add the milk and heat until just under the simmering point.

  3. Remove from the heat and, very slowly, add the hot milk to the pumpkin mixture in small amounts while whisking constantly.

  4. Return the mixture back to the sauce pan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly for 7 to 9 minutes, until very thick. Do not be alarmed when the mixture turns lumpy.

  5. Remove from the heat and add the butter and vanilla. Whisk vigorously until smooth, about 2 minutes.

  6. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the custard. Refrigerate until completely cool, or until ready to use - up to 3 days.

Spiced Pound Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter and flour (2) 9x5-inch loaf pans and set aside. Toss the raisins with 2 tablespoons of flour and set aside.

  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

  3. With the mixer turned to low speed, add the vanilla, honey, and eggs one at a time, allowing each to fully incorporate. Turn the mixer off.

  4. Next, in a large bowl sift together the remaining flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.

  5. With the mixer running on low speed, add the flour and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. Then, scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl and fold in the raisins.

  6. Transfer the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Tap the pans on a flat surface to release as many air bubbles as possible.

  7. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

  8. Once you have removed the loaves from the oven, allow them to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Then, turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Whipped Cream

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the cold cream and whisk on low.

  2. Gradually raise the speed of the mixer from low to high, making sure the cream does not splatter out of the bowl.

  3. Once the cream begins to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla. Whisk until it forms stiff peaks, or about 1 to 2 minutes.

Assembly

  1. Cut the pound cake into ½-inch thick slices.

  2. Place a layer of cake in the bottom of a 2½ to 3-quart glass serving bowl, cutting the pieces to fit as necessary. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of caramel. Top with a layer of the pastry cream, then a layer of whipped cream, then sprinkle with crushed gingersnap cookies.

  3. Repeat the same process 3 more times. The completed trifle will have 4 glorious layers.

A Helpful Preparation Timeline

  1. First, bake the Spiced Pound Cake - up to 3 days in advance.

  2. Then make the Pumpkin Orange Pastry Cream - up to 3 days in advance.

  3. When you are ready to assemble, find your favorite trifle dish, have your store-bought components ready, and then make the Vanilla Whipped Cream.

  4. Assemble the Pumpkin Spiced Trifle and serve!

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Brown Butter & Basil Mashed Potatoes

Marc J. Sievers

Growing up, my absolute favorite thing to eat (and still is!) were mashed potatoes!  The smell of a big pot of potatoes boiling away always reminds me of family dinners and holidays – the best!  While I still prepare traditional mashed potatoes with just milk, butter, salt, and pepper, I have a new twist on a classic – my Brown Butter & Basil Mashed Potatoes.  These potatoes are filled with browned butter, garlic, spicy basil, nutmeg, and white pepper, making them a welcomed update to the classic version!

You can even make mashed potatoes in advance by keeping them warm in a glass bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap set over a pan of barely simmering water.  They can remain like this for up to 1 hour.  Stir them every 20 minutes to help them maintain an even temperature.  You can add a little bit of warm half and half if they become too thick.  Remember, if making them in advance, stir in the basil just before you serve them, or the basil will turn dark – not a good look!

This recipe is part of “An Autumnal Feast!  A Collection of Recipes from Watermarc – Art & Appetite”.  Explore the other recipes in this series:

Happy cooking!


Brown Butter & Basil Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • Yukon Gold Potatoes – 3 pounds, peeled, cut into 2-inch cubes

  • Garlic – 4 cloves, peeled, lightly smashed

  • Butter – 12 tablespoons, unsalted, at room temperature

  • Half and Half – 1½ cups

  • Sea Salt – 1 teaspoon

  • White Pepper – ¾ teaspoon

  • Basil – ½ cup, finely minced, fresh

  • Nutmeg – ⅛ teaspoon, freshly grated

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the potatoes, return to a boil, and cook for 20 minutes or until tender all the way through.

  2. Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan, set over medium-low heat, add the butter and smashed garlic. Cook until the garlic is golden and the milk solids in the butter have browned, about 10 to 12 minutes.

  3. Scrape all the browned bits, butter, and garlic into a small blender or food processor. Add the half and half, salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. Blend until smooth, or about 1 minute.

  4. Pour into a small saucepan and gently reheat. Once hot, turn off the heat, cover and set aside.

  5. Once the potatoes are fully cooked, drain them, and add them back into the pan.

  6. Using a handheld mixer fitted with the beater attachment beat the hot potatoes in the pot until they are broken up. Slowly add the hot half and half mixture and beat until mostly smooth. They should still have a few small lumps for texture.

  7. Lastly, stir in the fresh basil. Serve immediately.

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Baguette Stuffing

Marc J. Sievers

Like many of you, stuffing is one of my favorite parts of a Thanksgiving meal!  Instead of preparing a stuffing from a bag (boring!), my Baguette Stuffing only takes a few steps and the result is just delicious and fabulous!  The combination of French bread and rye bread gives this dish a real depth of flavor, along with all of the fresh vegetables, herbs, and of course butter!   This recipe is as equally wonderful with almost-ripe pears.  Simply substitute the apples for pears and follow the same cooking directions.  You can also change the cashews for almonds, or even pecans.  Your traditional bread stuffing is about to get a major flavor makeover!

This recipe is part of “An Autumnal Feast!  A Collection of Recipes from Watermarc – Art & Appetite”.  Explore the other recipes in this series:

Happy cooking!


Baguette Stuffing

Ingredients (serves 6-8)

  • French Baguette – 24-inch, cut into ¾-inch cubes

  • Dark Rye Bread – 1 pound loaf, cut into ¾-inch cubes

  • Butter - 12 tablespoons, unsalted

  • Celery – 5 stalks, ½-inch diced

  • Onions – 2 medium, ½-inch diced

  • Granny Smith Apples – 2 medium, ½-inch diced, peeled, and cored

  • Garlic - 4 cloves, finely minced

  • Flat Leaf Parsley – ½ cup, roughly chopped, fresh

  • Rosemary – 3 teaspoons, finely minced, fresh

  • Thyme – 2 teaspoons, finely minced, fresh

  • Sea Salt – 1½ teaspoons

  • Black Pepper – 1½ teaspoons, freshly cracked

  • Vegetable Broth – 3 cups (low sodium preferred)

  • Raw Cashews – 1 cup, rough chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

  2. Place the bread cubes on a sheet pan and toast them in the oven for 10 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Once melted, add the onion, celery, apples, garlic, parsley, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the mixture is soft.

  4. In a large bowl toss the bread, onion mixtue, vegetable broth, and cashews.

  5. Transfer to a 3-quart baking dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.

  6. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

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Curried Pumpkin Soup

Marc J. Sievers

I love taking a classic flavor, like pumpkin, and giving it a flavor-makeover!  My Curried Pumpkin Soup is a new classic in my home this time of year.  The flavors are still very traditional, but the addition of dried yellow curry powder make it a feel a little bit more special and, dare I say, exotic!  This is a perfect soup for a chilly autumn or winter day!  This soup can be prepared up to three days in advance of serving and stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.  You can also freeze large containers of soup to be enjoyed at a later time.  Gently re-heat in a large pot over medium-low heat – soup anytime!

This recipe is part of “An Autumnal Feast!  A Collection of Recipes from Watermarc – Art & Appetite”.  Explore the other recipes in this series:

Happy cooking!


Curried Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • Carrots – 2 large, peeled, ½-inch diced

  • Leeks – 2 large, ½-inch sliced (white and light green parts only)

  • Yellow Onion – 1 large, ½-inch diced

  • Honeycrisp Apples – 2 medium, peeled, cored, ½-inch diced

  • Garlic – 5 cloves, finely minced

  • Pumpkin Purée – 2 cans (15 ounces each), plus ½ cup (not pumpkin pie filling)

  • Vegetable Broth – 8 cups (preferably low sodium)

  • Thyme – 2 tablespoons, finely minced, fresh

  • Sea Salt – 2 teaspoons

  • White Pepper – 1 teaspoon

  • Yellow Curry Powder (mild) – 3½ teaspoons, divided

  • Half and Half – 1 cup, at room temperature

  • Butter – 6 tablespoons

  • Olive Oil – 6 tablespoons

Directions

  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, set over medium heat, add the olive oil and butter. Once hot, add the onions, leeks, apples, carrots, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and 3 teaspoons of curry powder. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  2. Add the vegetable stock and 30 ounces of the pumpkin puree. Continue cooking uncovered for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  3. Carefully transfer the hot contents of the pot into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Purée for 2 minutes until mostly smooth. The soup should still have a slight texture. Note that you may have to do this in smaller batches if you are working with a smaller processor or blender.

  4. Pour the soup back into the pot and add the half and half, the remaining ½ teaspoon of curry powder, and the remaining ½ cup of pumpkin purée. Whisk until completely incorporated.

  5. At this point you can gently reheated, and serve.

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An Autumnal Feast! A Collection of Recipes from Watermarc – Art & Appetite

Marc J. Sievers

This year, Ryan and I are spending my birthday and Thanksgiving in Chicago and will be taking full advantage of our festive city leading up to the big feast!  On my birthday we have dinner plans at my favorite restaurant RL, then will walk over to The Peninsula Chicago to enjoy a cocktail and ice skating atop their Sky Rink—what a fabulous birthday!   On Thanksgiving Day, our menu will consist of things that are store-bought, a few recipes that can be made in advance, and the main course—Gruyere Cheese Soufflé—that will be made right before serving (Julia Child, thank you!). 

In addition to making some of the recipes in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I will also set the table in a palette of white, grey, and pumpkin colored plates, bowls, linens, and white un-scented candles.  Simple white roses, fresh herbs, and silver dollar eucalyptus arranged in silver bowls will take center stage!

Last year, my friend and watercolor artist Linda Marie Clark and I launched Watermarc – Art & Appetite, a growing line of vibrant and collectible occasion cards that are created around collections of my original vegetarian recipes and Linda’s whimsical watercolors.  We developed a series of cards titled “An Autumnal Feast” which had some of the most flavorful Fall recipes you could dream of!  That series has since been retired and I have wanted to share my recipes and Linda’s artwork that were a part of the original collection as they are just too delicious and colorful to keep locked up. 

These are some of my favorite recipes I have created as they’re classic delicious twists that really bring home the Autumnal flavors.  Whether you are looking to spice up your holiday menus, inject some variety for a weeknight/end dinner party, or completely revamp what you normally serve, I know these recipes will add the “Wow!” factor, up the flavor factor, and will have your guests asking for more! 

From our home to yours, Ryan and I wish you the most glorious Thanksgiving filled with good food, good wine, and the most important ingredients:  Big pinches of love and appreciation!

Cheers!

An Autumnal Feast!  A Collection of Recipes from Watermarc – Art & Appetite

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Carrot, Leek, & Potato Soup

Marc J. Sievers

There is nothing I find more satisfying than a big bowl of warm soup this time of year!  My Carrot, Leek, & Potato Soup is filled with fresh vegetables that are cooked until just tender, then puréed into a thick and luscious soup that is perfect for a cool evening dining al fresco, a casual supper, or a weekend lunch.  In fact, this soup is so hearty that all you need to serve alongside it is a basket a crusty French bread, a green salad, and a bold red wine—the ultimate in casual yet chic comfort food!  Best of all, you can store containers filled with this fabulous soup in the freezer for those extra-chilly nights when only a bowl of piping hot stick-to-your-ribs kind of soup will do!


Carrot, Leek, & Potato Soup

Ingredients (makes 5 quarts)

  • Yellow Onion – 1 small, ½-inch dice

  • Red Onion – 1 small, ½-inch dice

  • Leeks – 7 stalks, washed, ½-inch dice, both light green and white parts

  • Carrots – 6 large, peeled, ½-inch dice

  • Yukon Gold Potato’s – 5 large, peeled, ½-inch dice

  • Red Pepper – 1 large, ½-inch dice

  • Garlic – 8 cloves, rough chopped

  • Butter – 12 tablespoons, unsalted

  • Parsley – ½ cup, rough chopped, flat leaf, plus more for garnish

  • Thyme – 2 tablespoons, rough chopped

  • Black Pepper – 2½ teaspoon, freshly cracked

  • Sea Salt – 2 teaspoons

  • Vegetable Stock – 10 cups

  • Half and Half – 1½ cups

  • Parmigiano-Reggiano – freshly grated, for garnish

Directions

  1. In a large heavy bottomed pan or stockpot set over medium heat, add the butter.

  2. Once the butter is hot, add the leeks, as well as both yellow and red onions, red peppers, garlic, parsley and thyme. Cover and cook for 12-14 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  3. Next, add the vegetable stock, salt, pepper, potatoes, and carrots. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes and carrots are tender.

  4. Working in small batches, transfer the soup into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, and process until coarsely puréed.

  5. Return the puréed soup back into the pot. Whisk in the half and half and re-heat over medium heat until hot.

  6. Ladle into individual serving bowls and garnish with fresh parsley and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

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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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Pumpkin & Apple Spread

Marc J. Sievers

I love filling my refrigerator with lots of fabulous preserves, tapenades, and spreads so I can be ready for a last-minute aperitif and nibble with a friend, neighbor, or even Ryan when I least expect it!  In this case, the newest addition to my refrigerator line-up is my Pumpkin & Apple Spread—an absolutely divine combination of savory and sweet flavors. 

Instead of going through the hassle of using fresh pumpkin, I used canned pumpkin purée instead.  Baking it for a few minutes helps to draw out some of the moisture, leaving you with a thick, luxurious, and spreadable base.  Once the warm purée is mixed with apples that have been sautéed in butter, brown sugar, and other autumn-inspired ingredients, the spread can then be used in so many ways.

My Pumpkin & Apple Spread is perfect for serving alongside cheeses or just piled high onto a cracker with some crème fraîche and fresh thyme leaves.  This brightly-colored spread is also wonderful in the morning on toasted brioche with butter, as a topping for pancakes, or stirred into a hot bowl of oatmeal (trust me, every one of those combinations is fabulous!).  Oh, and don’t forget to warm it up and serve it over your favorite ice cream!


Pumpkin & Apple Spread

Ingredients (makes 2 cups)

  • Pumpkin Purée – 1 can, 15 ounces (not pie filling)

  • Gala Apple – 1 medium, peeled, ½-inch diced

  • Golden Raisins – 1/3 cup

  • Butter – 2 tablespoons, unsalted

  • Light Brown Sugar – 2 tablespoons

  • Cinnamon – ¼ teaspoon

  • Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon

  • White Pepper – ¼ teaspoon

  • Nutmeg – ⅛ teaspoon

  • Pure Maple Syrup – 1 tablespoon

  • Honey – 1 tablespoon

  • Vanilla – ½ teaspoon, pure extract

  • Black Pepper Water Crackers

  • Crème Fraîche – for garnish

  • Thyme Leaves – fresh, for garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

  2. Spread the pumpkin purée in an even layer (about 9 x 13) onto the parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Set aside.

  3. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch sauté pan set over medium heat, add the butter. Once hot add the apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, white pepper, and salt. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  4. Transfer the apple mixture into a heat-proof bowl and add the cooked pumpkin, raisins, maple syrup, honey, and vanilla. Stir to combine.

  5. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Warm Figs with Goat Cheese

Marc J. Sievers

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

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Arrange the figs cut side up in a single layer in an oven proof dish or cast iron skillet.

  3. Drizzle the honey over the figs and sprinkle evenly with the pistachios, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Crumble the goat cheese evenly over top.

  4. Bake for 5 minutes, or until the cheese begins to soften.

  5. 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.

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Fall Entertaining Ideas

Marc J. Sievers

My philosophy for entertaining has always been “love is in the details”. It’s the little details that can really make your soirée a day or evening to remember. Details do not have to be elaborate, complicated, or expensive. They should be savvy, creative, and re-creatable time and time again, but with a twist. Oh, and fabulous! With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to show you how you can transition simple concepts, textures, and ideas into inspired details for Fall parties, whether you are entertaining two or twenty.

Whether you are entertaining in your studio apartment, on your kitchen island, or in an expansive dining room, having a centerpiece or focal point helps to ground everything around it. For a smaller table, just one piece will do. For a larger table or sideboard, use multiple of the same arrangement to create a more impactful look.

Here I used a simple glass hurricane, white pillar candle, cake pedestal (for height), wreath picks (that you can save and reuse year after year), and mini pumpkins. This arrangement will last for weeks without any maintenance, except for changing out the candle as your burn through it. The same hurricane can be used for other holidays of everyday décor.

Look to your local grocery store for fabulous supplies for your table! My local grocery store is my #1 place where I get all my flowers. I buy like-colors and arrange them in multiples down the center of my table, add one to my guest bathroom, coffee table, and bar top. This will help carry my theme through the entirety of my chateau apartment.

Here I used clean, covered tomato cans as vases. I also turned turnips, which are the epitome of Fall, into votive holders. Because of their natural texture and tones they take on a pottery feel and add such rustic-chic charm! Mini pumpkins also make adorable votive holders.

Details like these place card holders with fresh rosemary (you can also use thyme, sage, or your favorite combination) adds lovely aromatics as well as a statement to your table. Guests can then take their little bundle home with them and cook with the herbs and use the place marker as a book markers for their favorite cookbook.

Wreath picks and mini pumpkins take on another concept in my favorite French antique wooden bowl. For years this has been my “seasonal bowl”. It gets a makeover once a month and is always filled with fabulous goodies. This can be set out on September 1st and kept through Thanksgiving.

Starting out organized is the first key to a successful soirée. Here are my top 5 tips to follow: 

  1. Start by choosing the style of party; a plated dinner (more formal feel), family-style (informal, casual), buffet or potluck (great for large groups), or cocktail party (perfect for a specific theme).

  2. Focus on a special dish or “show-stopper” and use the following tips and tricks for everything else to help you along the way. This won’t be your last dinner party or soirée, so focus on one thing and do it fantastically, then try something different for the next!

  3. Balancing your time and resources will help both you and your guests enjoy the party to the fullest! Don’t feel obligated to pull out the “big-guns” for every element you are going to serve. Find store-bought brands that you love and trust, and integrate those pre-made components in the steps that make the most sense for the assistance that you need to successfully host your soirée.

  4. Having a theme to your soirée and the food you serve is essential, but don’t go overboard. Try not to be too literal with your tablescape and décor.

  5. 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.

Happy Fall entertaining!

My original article was published on VRAI Magazine - October 2014

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"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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Pear & Orange Punch

Marc J. Sievers

Thank you to Crate&Barrel for all of the beautiful wired-edged ribbons and packaging supplies!

Thank you to Crate&Barrel for all of the beautiful wired-edged ribbons and packaging supplies!

I was recently asked by Crate&Barrel to host the ultimate cookie swap!  I created a custom punch for the event and shared some of my favorite ways to package holiday baked goods for gifting.  The turnout was amazing!  I served over 20 gallons of my Pear & Orange Holiday Punch, wrapped over 1,000 cookies and had an audience of over 500 people!

A traditional cookie swap is simple: Invite friends and family, and have each person make enough of one kind of cookie to share. At the party you taste the treats, then trade and package them in creative and unique ways!  Everyone leaves with finished gifts—and plenty of new recipes.

I have hosted many cookie swaps in my day and have some tried-and-true tips that will make your next party a success!


  • Start by sending out invitations to your guests, which should also explain the cookie swap concept.

  • Ask each guest to bring one kind of cookie and indicate how many dozen.

  • Create a theme to your party! Ask guests to bring all types of chocolate cookies, sugar cookies, or even decorated cookies.

  • Ask your guests to bring copies of the recipes to hand out at the party.

  • I like to make a small assortment of savory tea sandwiches to counteract the sweetness of the cookies.

  • Serve my Pear & Orange Holiday Punch!

  • Remember, be creative and have fun with the packaging supplies. I supply clear glycine bags, an assortment of holiday ribbons, and even food-safe paper shred. Stickers, seals, and labels are also great additions.

  • Cookie swaps are meant to be casual and social, do remember to play holiday music!

  • My BEST tip is, have FUN! This is also an event for you to enjoy!

The next time you host a cookie swap, incorporate my tips, tricks, and punch recipe to ensure a great time is had by all!


Pear & Orange Punch

Ingredients

  • Pear Nectar – 4 cups, bottled

  • Orange Juice – 8 cups, natural

  • Club Soda – 4 cups, cold

  • Orange – 1 whole orange, ¼-inch sliced

  • Rosemary – 5 sprigs, fresh, on stem

  • Cranberries – 1 bag, frozen, whole

Directions

My Pear & Orange Holiday Punch is being served to hundreds of waiting guests!

My Pear & Orange Holiday Punch is being served to hundreds of waiting guests!

  1. Begin with well-chilled ingredients. First, pour the club soda into a large pitcher. Next pour the orange juice into the pitcher, and then the pear nectar. Stir gently.

  2. Next, add the orange slices and whole rosemary sprigs to the pitcher, followed by the frozen cranberries. Stir the pitcher and allow the orange slices, rosemary, and cranberries to stay at the surface. Stir occasionally to keep the fresh juices well-mixed.

  3. Provide punch glasses for your guests and enjoy the merriment!

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A Chic Thanksgiving Table

Marc J. Sievers

Here are some of my favorite ways to dress up a table for Thanksgiving!

I hope these rustic, chic, and easy ideas bring you inspiration for your Thanksgiving day table! Ryan and I wish you a healthy, happy, and delicious Thanksgiving! Cheers!

I hope these rustic, chic, and easy ideas bring you inspiration for your Thanksgiving day table! Ryan and I wish you a healthy, happy, and delicious Thanksgiving! Cheers!


Mini pumpkins are everywhere! You might even have some left over from Halloween. Simply cut a hole large enough into the top of each pumpkin and insert a tea light candle. Scatter them down the center of your table and put one at each place setting. When the day is done, you can throw them away or compost them. The days of scraping wax off of your crystal candle sticks after dinner will be a thing of the past!

Mini pumpkins are everywhere! You might even have some left over from Halloween. Simply cut a hole large enough into the top of each pumpkin and insert a tea light candle. Scatter them down the center of your table and put one at each place setting. When the day is done, you can throw them away or compost them. The days of scraping wax off of your crystal candle sticks after dinner will be a thing of the past!


For a slightly more elegant look, use plain satin ribbon tied in a simple bow. Because the ribbon has a more delicate feel I liked the addition of a small thyme sprig.

For a slightly more elegant look, use plain satin ribbon tied in a simple bow. Because the ribbon has a more delicate feel I liked the addition of a small thyme sprig.

Instead of placing flower arrangements in the center of your table, use a small glass votive candle holders filled with fresh herbs! I used rosemary and thyme and then wrapped each container with a bit of jute twine. Each guest will feel extra special with there own individual arrangement.

Instead of placing flower arrangements in the center of your table, use a small glass votive candle holders filled with fresh herbs! I used rosemary and thyme and then wrapped each container with a bit of jute twine. Each guest will feel extra special with there own individual arrangement.


Laying out my serving platters and bowls is essential to staying organized and making sure everything fits on the table. I like to mark each serving piece with a sticky note, making it easy to remember what goes where. It's also handy because guests can assist you in placing items onto the table. They will not have to second-guess if they are grabbing the correct "big white bowl" as you shout from the kitchen (chances are there are more than one)!

Laying out my serving platters and bowls is essential to staying organized and making sure everything fits on the table. I like to mark each serving piece with a sticky note, making it easy to remember what goes where. It's also handy because guests can assist you in placing items onto the table. They will not have to second-guess if they are grabbing the correct "big white bowl" as you shout from the kitchen (chances are there are more than one)!


Use simple jute twine, wrap it around the napkin multiple times and tie a double knot to secure for a simple napkin ring. I placed a rosemary sprig to add a touch of color to my monochromatic table. Guests will also love the aroma.

Use simple jute twine, wrap it around the napkin multiple times and tie a double knot to secure for a simple napkin ring. I placed a rosemary sprig to add a touch of color to my monochromatic table. Guests will also love the aroma.

I hope one of my simple ideas makes it onto your Thanksgiving table!

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A Rosemary Thanksgiving Touch

Marc J. Sievers

Thanksgiving for my family has always been a holiday when everyone comes together and truly celebrates one another and what we are thankful for:  Each other!  Sitting together around the dinner table during Thanksgiving has always been a time for catching up, laughter, and walking down memory lane. This year I wanted to add a special touch to the table that could be easily created with supplies from our local grocer (or even your yard).

Rosemary Napkin

Rosemary Napkin

Enchanted Pumpkin

Enchanted Pumpkin

As I thought about what to create I wanted to focus on some essence of Thanksgiving (and the Autumn season) and I realized that for me it is rosemary!  I devised two place setting accents that will evoke the aromas of Thanksgiving and the colors of Fall; fresh rosemary napkin rings and enchanted pumpkins!

The following are the instructions for you to easily add a bit of rustic glamour to your holiday table, as well!  They are simple, easy, inexpensive and oh-so-chic! Here's what you need:


Rosemary Napkin Rings

Supplies

(List is for one napkin ring; multiply for however many place settings you wish to set.)

  • 2 fresh sprigs of Rosemary (each about 7 inches long)

  • Green floral wire (1 piece approximately 6 inches long)

  • Jute twine (1 piece approximately 4 inches long)

  • 1 small pine cone (an acorn will also work)

  • Glittered floral/wreath pick (preferably in rust or autumnal color)

  • Hot glue gun and extra glue sticks

Directions

  1. Start by stacking the stems of rosemary together. Using the floral wire, wrap the stacked rosemary, end to end, forming a ring.

  2. Apply a small dot of hot glue to the area where the floral wire has been wrapped, and attached one end of the jute twine. Continue to wrap until the wire has been covered. Secure the loose end of the jute twine with another small dot of hot glue.

  3. Cut a 2 inch section of the floral/wreath pick, preferably a section with small leaves, and attach with hot glue to the top of the ring, centered, on top of the jute twine.

  4. Place the pine cone (or acorn), centered on top of the floral decoration.

  5. Thread napkin through and place at each place setting

These fresh rosemary napkins rings will definitely add an unexpected element to any table!


Enchanted Pumpkins

Supplies

(List is for one Enchanted Pumpkin setting; multiply for however many place settings you wish to set.)

  • 1 mini pumpkin

  • Jute twine (1 piece approximately 6 inches long)

  • Fresh rosemary (1 piece cut to a two inch length)

  • Glittered floral/wreath pick (preferably in rust or autumnal color)

  • Hot glue gun and extra glue sticks

Directions

  1. Start by placing a small dot of hot glue to the end of the rosemary. Attach the jute twine and wrap using about 3 inches of the twine.

  2. Place another small dot of hot glue to the wrapped area and secure the jute twine, creating a “tassel” look.

  3. Tie the other end of the jute twine around the stem of the pumpkin, allowing the tassel to hang about 1 inch, and secure using a simple knot. Cut any excess twine.

  4. Cut a 2 inch section of the floral/wreath pick, preferably a section with small leaves, and attach with hot glue to the top of the pumpkin, just under the stem.

Simple, easy, and elegant! Enchanted pumpkins will delight all of your dinner guests!

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