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Recipes & Entertaining Ideas

Filtering by Tag: Holidays

Copper Holiday Centerpiece

Marc J. Sievers

While you are planning your holiday soirée, remember the flowers! An earthy and elegant arrangement makes for the perfect centerpiece. I love the rustic charm of a small copper pot as the vessel for a French-inspired collection of roses and greenery, which creates an arrangement that is sophisticated and does not overwhelm the table.

The best part is that all of the fabulous flowers (and herbs!) can be found at most grocery stores. While you are out picking up a few last-minute ingredients, you can also bring home simple florals to recreate this arrangement. I used red roses, spray roses, seeded eucalyptus, and rosemary for this holiday-themed bouquet. To make the arrangement, use small pieces of floral foam that fit snuggly into the container to help stabilize the bouquet. Also, throughout the year, keep an eye out for interesting vessels to hold your other arrangements, like vintage copper pans, porcelain, and glass vases of varying sizes. Florals do not have to be complicated, so be creative and experiment with different blooms and containers. You can adapt them for any season or occasion!

 
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 A Few Simple Tips to Create an Arrangement

  • Fill a deep bowl or stock pot with warm water and place a piece of floral foam on top of the water, letting it fully submerge on its own. This is the best way to ensure it absorbs as much water as possible.

  • To help your arranging go more quickly, organize your florals and remove any undesirable petals, stems, or leaves prior to assembling the arrangement.

  • Cut the stems of the roses on the diagonal to allow the blooms to take in more water while in the arrangement.

  • Add the rosemary the day of your soirée to be sure it is fresh and vibrant in the arrangement. Also, be sure to shave off the tough outer bark at the base of the stem, and slice the stem up the center so that it can take in water more easily.

  • I like mixing spray roses and regular roses together in the same color. This adds contrast and visual interest from every vantage point around the table while maintaining a sophisticated look with a unified color palate.

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A Modern Thanksgiving Menu

Marc J. Sievers

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My absolute favorite thing about Thanksgiving is that it’s a holiday all about family, friends and FOOD! Gathering everyone around the table for a fabulous meal is the perfect way to catch up and enjoy the start of the holiday season. While you could go the traditional route and labor over a turkey and stuffing, why not amp up the luxe factor with my take on a modern Thanksgiving dinner?

My Apple and Herb Wellington can be assembled the day before and be baking away in the oven as your guests arrive. Pair it with my Simple Green Salad with French Bistro Vinaigrette. Your home will smell amazing and you will be free to greet everyone with my Fried Blue Cheese Olives and a lovely glass of wine! Save the best for last with my Pumpkin Spice Trifle, a fall-centric version of the traditional English dessert.

Need a refresher on the perfect presentation? Be sure to check out my tips how to set a Thanksgiving table. The full, delicious menu is below. Happy Thanksgiving!  

 

 
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Red, White & Blue - Six Festive Ideas to Do Ahead of Your Summer Soirée!

Marc J. Sievers

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Entertaining during the summer should be all about ease, simplicity, and should include things that can be done ahead of time for your soirée! For any holiday-themed event food is a fun (and easy!) way to bring it to life.  But, keeping it simple and stress-free is important.  These six do-ahead ideas can be done with simple items found easily at the grocery store, craft store, and even items already in your own pantry that will bring the party to life!

Kick off your own fireworks with these six do-ahead ideas for a summer soirée in red-white-and-blue style!


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Champagne or wine glasses get a festive makeover with streaming ribbon

Red, white, and blue ribbons tied with a simple knot onto the stems of glassware is an effortless transformation with a dramatic effect!  Make sure the tails are extra-long!  As your guests hold their glasses the ribbon cascades for a stunning look, especially when multiplied across the backdrop of the party.  Matching-patterned cocktail napkins will pull this look together.  Use this simple idea to accentuate those savvy cheers-worthy moments!


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Get organized right from the beginning

Once you have decided on your menu, choosing the right serving dish is a helpful and time-saving next step.  Write on a sticky note with each of your menu items and label each serving piece with the corresponding sticky note.  This is also helpful during prep the day of the party when a guest asks, “Where should I put the veggie burgers?” All they have to do is look for the labeled platter!  Your food table is planned, organized, and ready to go.


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Create a color-pop platter

Having platters and other serving pieces for every holiday can be an expensive investment, not to mention a storage overload.  Instead, use acrylic rock crystals (they are typically used as filler in vases or scattered around a table) to punch-up an everyday white platter!  Choose a combination of colors (two or three—four or more is a bit overwhelming) that captures the colors of your theme.  Then, simply use a hot glue gun to affix the faux gems to the rim of a heat-proof platter.  You can do them in a pattern, a cluster, or arranged as section dividers on the platter.  After the party is over, the acrylic rocks just pop off leaving behind your simple white platter ready for the next holiday!


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Candles are key

Hurricanes had height, light, and a bit of drama to any décor.  Use the same acrylic rock crystals as the color-pop platter idea to create hurricanes on theme with your holiday look!  Place your candles in the hurricanes.  Mix together the three rock crystal colors, in this case red, silver, and blue.  Pour the rock crystals around the candles in each hurricane, about half way up the height of the candle.


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Take-out containers filled with make-ahead recipes

Doing as much ahead of time is key to keeping your soirée simple and stress-free.  After all, you want to enjoy the party, too!  A delicious and easy-to-make summer pasta salad is the answer.  Pasta salads taste better when you make them in advance and allow the flavors time to meld together.  Since you are already in the kitchen making a fabulous summer pasta salad (like my Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad!), why not do one more small step to package it up in individual servings using take-out containers, also dressed with ribbon tails.  This is the easiest way to pack food for large groups without having to worry about serving bowls and utensils, spoons, and forks—just include a set of to-go chopsticks for each guest!  Best of all, the container, ribbon, and chopsticks are all recyclable, making clean-up easiest of all!


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Ribbon napkin rings

Do you have a drawer filled with mix-and-match napkin rings?  Where do their counterparts go?   It’s like the tabletop equivalent of socks “eaten” by the dryer!  Ribbon is the go-to solution when you need to add a bit of flair to a tablesetting, BBQ, or picnic.  Wired-edge ribbon is a perfect substitute for dedicated holiday napkin rings.  Instead of owning a set of twelve red- white-and-blue glittered star napkins rings to use once (maybe twice) a year, buy a spool of glittery star ribbon as a perfect alternative!

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An Easter Extravaganza!

Marc J. Sievers

For me, Easter has always been a very festive and colorful holiday!  Growing up my entire family would get together to cook, color eggs, hide eggs, and all of us little ones would get fabulous baskets filled with toys, coloring books, and candy from a local shop that opened in the 1920's called Priscilla's Candies.  Priscilla's was in Lawrence, MA along a quintessential main street lined with other small shops, including a Woolworths (where I would go with Nan for an ice cream at the counter).  My cousin Christine worked there during high school and college and learned to make everything by hand—she even handmade candy canes!  Sadly the shop closed in 2011, but has left generations of us with some of the most vivid and sweet memories!

Priscilla's also had magical window displays (thanks Christine!) which is where my inspiration came from for this year's Easter table—a deconstructed Easter basket!  Instead of flowers, I decided to create a tablescape that was designed with all the elements found in an Easter basket:  Green grass, jelly beans, foil covered chocolate eggs, little toys, even chenille chicks!  The center piece was tall curly willow branches adorned with speckled eggs.  Recreating this at home is very straight-forward (I promise!) and can be sized to fit nearly any table.  Best of all, almost everything I used was from a local grocery store or drug store.  Below I have included detailed images, my WGN News segment, favorite Easter recipes, and shoppable links so you can easily recreate my Easter extravaganza for yourself at home! 

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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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Cointreau Winter Cider

Marc J. Sievers

During the winter, when the temperatures are just freezing, is actually my favorite time of year to entertain at home.  People tend to stay a bit longer, the food is very comforting and hearty, and everyone can relax and have a really good time!  When my guests arrive, I offer them a hot cocktail to warm them up and make them feel right at home – and it gives me time to put the finishing touches on dinner.  My Cointreau Winter Cider is filled with aromatic spices, lime juice to cut the sweetness, and has an orange boozy kick from Cointreau (that is sure to warm you up!)!  Best of all it can be made in advance so there is no mixing or shaking individual drinks – which leaves more time for me to enjoy the soirée, too!


Cointreau Winter Cider

Ingredients (serves 8)

  • Apple Cider – 32 ounces

  • Fresh Lime Juice – 6 ounces, freshly squeezed

  • Cinnamon Sticks – 2, plus more for garnish if desired

  • Star Anises – 2, whole

  • Cloves – 2, whole

  • Oranges – 2, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish if desired

  • Granny Smith Apple – 1, cored, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish if desired

  • Cointreau (orange liqueur) – 12 ounces

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan set over medium heat, add all of the ingredients except for the Cointreau.

  2. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, add the Cointreau, cover and steep for 20 minutes.

  3. Fill heat-proof glasses or mugs with hot cider, garnish with extra cinnamon sticks, and serve.

Tip: If you would like to make this in advance, after the cider is finished steeping, remove the fruit and spices, and store the finished cider in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.  When you are ready to serve, gently re-heat the cider in a medium sauce pan over medium heat and serve hot.

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Enter If You Dare: Halloween-Inspired Décor

Marc-Ryan Group

Each year as Halloween approaches I get excited for the start of the Autumnal season of holidays and traditions.  The weather starts to cool off, spiced apple drinks start to flow (I like mine spiked!), and Halloween inaugurates the holiday celebrations with fun and creativity.

There are many directions to go when decorating for Halloween.  From kitsch to all-out ghoulish crypt-keeping, often I am left with piles of decorations in November that immediately need to be stored to make way for Thanksgiving.  This year I decided to take a different approach.  Less pumpkin tchotchke and no conversion to a full cemetery in my living room.  Instead, Halloween this year will be paired down to be sophisticated, chic, and best of all done in minutes!

My inspiration for a sophisticated Halloween theme is to utilize a monochromatic color palate of sumptuous black tones, and then to create focused vignettes in specific areas around the apartment.  This keeps the decoration contained and easier to manage and is visually more dramatic.

I also approached my theme with classic easy-to-find decorations in the seasonal aisle in my grocery store and drug store, but layered them in a more curated way.  As beautiful as many of the high-end Halloween decorations can be, they have to be stored year after year, and may not fit your style or space the next Halloween.  All of my decorations fit in a plastic boot-sized storage container for all holidays (except Christmas, of course).

The simplicity of a monochromatic palate is enhanced with different textures in the same black tones, which adds depth, interest, and a more layered look.  Use this visual All-Hallows-Eve photo series as inspiration for your own SPOOKtacular décor!  Pick and choose the elements that resonate with you, play some Halloween-inspired tunes (Pandora: Halloween Party Radio is my choice!), and just have fun adding some BOOtiful elements to make your space come alive – if you dare!

Happy Halloween!


Cobwebs, Spiders, and Crows - OH MY!

Everyday Items Get a SPOOKtacular Makeover!

A Centerpiece Worthy of Frightful Screams!

Classic Halloween Icons Perfect for Place Cards or Food Markers!

BOOtiful Halloween Details!

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Warm Winter Glühwein

Marc J. Sievers

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

In early December I had the pleasure of traveling to Berlin, Germany with my dear friend Jennifer to celebrate her milestone birthday!  Like me, she is a lover of all things Christmas, and the trip was on her bucket list of places to travel.  The plan was to stay in the center of Berlin and spend a week visiting museums, restaurants, and of course the Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas markets) that are situated all throughout Berlin!

A favorite (and very stylish!) market was WeihnachtsZauber at the Gendarmenmarkt.  This is one of the most popular Christmas markets in Berlin during the festive Christmas season. Framed by the Französischer Dom, the Konzerthaus, and the Deutscher Dom, a small tent city with more than 1,000 strings of light appears like magic each year in this centrally-located square that house artisans selling handmade ornaments, candles, gifts, and casual food stalls.  Besides the many wintry delights at the market stalls, Michelin-starred chefs offer their haute cuisine in heated tents.  This market was so enchanting, we went twice! 

All of the markets, bars, and restaurants offer different variations of warm Glühwein—based on either red or white wines (I like to use a Cotes du Rhone or Chardonnay) infused with dried spices, honey, and orange peel, which is served warm and typically with a shot of liqueur like amaretto, brandy, or dark rum.   After being outside wandering the streets of Berlin this is a very much welcomed drink to help warm your hands and your tummy!

My Warm Winter Glühwein uses a white wine base and infused with aromatics that add incredible flavor and fabulous notes of the wintry holidays.  I love having a pot of this on the stove as company arrives—it is a fabulous drink to serve as a welcome, but also makes the house smell so wonderful!

From my kitchen to yours – Happy Holidays!


Warm Winter Glühwein

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • Orange – outer peel of 1 orange

  • Cloves – 15 whole cloves

  • White Wine – 1 bottle (750 ml), Chardonnay, dry variety recommended

  • Honey – 4 tablespoons

  • Star Anise – 4 whole pods

  • Ginger – 2 pieces, fresh, 1-inch each, peeled, thinly sliced

  • Cinnamon Sticks – 3

  • Sparkling Water – 1½ cups

  • Dark Rum – 4 tablespoons

  • Orange Liqueur – 2 tablespoons

Directions

  1. Start by inserting the whole cloves into the pieces of orange peels.

  2. Next, in a medium sauce pan set over medium heat, add the wine, honey, star anise, ginger, cinnamon sticks, and the orange peels dotted with cloves. Allow to come to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover and barely simmer for 30 minutes.

  3. Using a slotted spoon, remove all of the dried spices and orange peels. Set aside to use as garnishes.

  4. Lastly, stir in the sparkling water, dark rum, and orange liqueur. Gently reheat and serve warm.

Tip: I found that adding in sparkling water at the end gave this warm cocktail a slightly effervescent finish and lighter texture.

Idea: You can also make this in advance by following steps 1,2, and 3.  If you plan to serve it later that day, just leave it to cool on the stove top.  Before serving, gently reheat over medium heat, and add the sparkling water, rum, and orange liqueur.  If you want to make it and store it, allow it to cool completely, transfer it into a container, and refrigerate for up to 1 week.  Before serving, gently reheat over medium heat, and add the sparkling water, rum, and orange liqueur.

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A Thanksgiving Table

Marc J. Sievers

Thanksgiving for me has always been a favorite holiday as it mostly takes place around a table filled with family and friends, sharing stories and while making more great memories!  While the food is always special, and bit more decedent (more butter!) on the day, one of my favorite parts is setting a festive table.

A great Thanksgiving table doesn’t have to be as complicated to create as the Thanksgiving meal itself, or take as much time.  A beautiful table is the perfect complement to a hearty and flavorful meal, creating a warm and inviting environment.  I love mixing textures, patterns, and autumnal colors to help bring together a rustic and elegant tablescape.

Textures

A layered table filled with different textures instantly creates a visually interesting and cultivated table—and truth be told is even better when everything isn’t so “matchy-matchy”.  I love mixing different metals like copper mirror-finish stemless glasses (for water), hammered gold flatware, pressed glass amber chargers and salad plates, casual stoneware dinner plates, and a rustic low centerpiece of dried twigs (from the grocery store!), pinecones, and fresh orange tulips (in floral water tubes)!  All of these elements add interest and complexity and help create a table filled with textures that work together—even though they are all different.

Patterns

I love using traditional damask tablecloths as a backdrop to most of my tablescapes.  This sets the backdrop elegantly, setting the stage for even the most modern table.  Mixing in damask napkins in complimentary tones keeps everything fresh and new (again, not so matchy-matchy, but complimentary).  Patterns are also found in the design of the plates, silverware, and even the ridges in the goblets.  All of which provide visual diversity.

Autumnal Colors

Classic autumnal colors like orange, wheat, amber, and other warm tones are all brought together with the help and balance of a neutral dove grey, copper, and bright green (from the tulips).  I love using bold tones against neutral tones—it warms the neutral colors and helps the bold colors really pop!

While this is a quick course in creating a fabulous Thanksgiving table, these are not “rules” so much as guidelines that apply also to everyday living and holiday entertaining.  If you are feeling curious, here is a link to all things Thanksgiving!

From my table to yours, happy Thanksgiving!


Some furnishings provided by Mikasa.

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Apple & Herb Wellington

Marc J. Sievers

When I began testing this recipe for my new cookbook Table for Two: Cooking and Entertaining for You and Your +1, the combinations of ingredients seemed endless (and they really are!).  I finally settled on a selection of fresh herbs, apple, fragrant fennel and onions.  To give it even more “body”, I added Gruyère cheese that I diced into very small cubes.  This prevented the filling from getting too heavy with melted cheese, and instead created pockets of gently melted Gruyère that added the right amount of richness to the finished dish.  Keep in mind, this recipe does make two larger portions, so I like to serve it alongside a salad dressed in my French Bistro Vinaigrette

What I love most about this recipe is that you can interchange the fresh herbs and filling and have it adapt to be season specific.  During the fall and winter, I like to use fresh sage and rosemary (a perfect vegetarian main course for the holidays!), and replace the parsnip with butternut squash.  In the spring and summer, I love using basil and chives, and replace the apple with zucchini.

Like this recipe, so many other recipes from Table for Two are adaptable to help make entertaining as easy, elegant, and as truly delicious as possible, for you and your plus one!


Apple & Herb Wellington

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • Olive Oil – 3 tablespoons

  • Fennel – ¾ cup, ½-inch diced

  • Yellow Onion – 1 medium, ½-inch diced

  • Parsnip – 1 medium, peeled, ½-inch diced

  • Pink Lady Apple – 1 medium, ½-inch diced

  • Thyme – 2 teaspoons, finely minced, fresh

  • Sea Salt – ¾ teaspoon

  • Black Pepper – ¾ teaspoon

  • Garlic – 2 cloves, finely minced

  • Parsley – 3 tablespoons, finely minced, Italian flat-leaf variety recommended

  • Whole Cashews – ⅓ cup, rough chopped

  • Golden Raisins - ⅓ cup

  • Parmesan Cheese – 2 tablespoons, freshly grated, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended

  • Gruyère Cheese – 3 ounces, ¼-inch cubed

  • Frozen Puff Pastry – 1 sheet, thawed overnight in the refrigerator

  • *Egg Wash – 1 extra-large egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

Directions

1.     Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.  Set aside.

2.     In a medium sauté pan set over medium heat, add the olive oil.  Once hot, add the fennel, onion, parsnip, apples, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very tender, but not brown.

3.     Add the garlic and parsley and continue cooking for another 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Transfer to a medium bowl to cool for 5 minutes.  Once cooled, stir in the cashews, raisins, and both cheeses.

4.     Next, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the thawed puff pastry dough to be roughly 12x14-inches.  Cut the dough in half creating 2 pieces measuring 12x7-inces.

5.     Divide the filling evenly onto half of each piece of dough, leaving a ½-inch border.  Brush the border with egg wash*, and fold over top the other half of each side of the dough.  Using the tines of a fork, seal the edges by of the dough by pressing the tines lightly into the dough.  Do this on all three sides or each packet.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

6.     Brush the tops with egg wash*.  Using a small knife, cut three slits on the top of each packet.

7.     Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown.

8.     Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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Fig & Truffle Nibbles

Marc J. Sievers

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

  • Truffle-Balsamic Vinegar

  • Honey

  • Fleur de Sel

  • Black Pepper - freshly cracked

  • Fresh Thyme - whole leaves

Directions

  1. 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.

  2. 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. 

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