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Recipes & Entertaining Ideas

Filtering by Tag: Spring

Lavender Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Marc J. Sievers

One of my favorite things to do at home is have a pot of tea with Ryan on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  Throughout the years I have collected antique silver and porcelain teapots, sugar bowls, creamers, and other accessories to create my own special and unique tea service at home.  I have also done a good job at building up my tea selection and always keep a little tin of cookies or biscuits on hand to enjoy, as the English do so well.

When I want to make something homemade for a special treat my go-to recipe is my Lavender Lemon Shortbread Cookies!  They are buttery and crisp, and have such a well-rounded flavor that pairs perfectly with black tea (my favorite is Earl Grey Lavender) with honey and cream.

Whether you enjoy a cup of tea on the go (wrap a single cookie in parchment), set an elaborate table for tea time (serve these on a silver platter), or just want to eat scrumptious shortbread (these also make fabulous gifts), these are perfectly versatile and delicious.  I hope you love them as much as I do.  Now, if only I had a bigger tin!  Hats on, pinkies up, its tea time!

Lavender Lemon Shortbread Cookies 

Ingredients (makes 12 cookies)

  • Butter - 1 stick, unsalted, at room temperature

  • Sugar - ⅓ cup, granulated

  • Vanilla - ½ teaspoon, pure extract

  • Sea Salt - ⅛ teaspoon

  • Honey - 2 tablespoons

  • Lemon Zest - 1 ½ tablespoons

  • Flour - 1 cup + 2 tablespoons, all-purpose

  • Lavender - 2 tablespoons, dried, lightly chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

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

  3. Add the vanilla, sea salt, honey, and lemon zest and mix until well incorporated.

  4. Next, with the mixer running on low speed, add the flour and lavender. Mix until the dough comes together,

  5. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and gently shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  6. Remove the dough and place onto a floured surface.

  7. Roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thickness and use a fluted edged cutter to cut out cookies. Gather excess dough and repeat process of rolling and cutting.

  8. Place cookies onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Place the pan into the refrigerator for another 15 minutes.

  9. Remove from the refrigerator, place into the preheated oven and bake for 14-18 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn a light brown.

  10. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Readying Your Home for Spring Entertaining

Marc J. Sievers

While it does not feel like Spring in Chicago, I am already thinking about the coming season of fabulous brunches, luncheons, and dinners when I can take advantage of the dazzling fresh delights that will be available from the farmer’s markets in my neighborhood.

To be ready for a Spring of fun events and soirees with friends and family, it’s time to plan for a little refreshing of my entertaining spaces and accoutrement.  This is an opportunity to shake off what now seems like the heaviness of holiday entertaining for something cleaner, brighter, and lighter.

While the idea of doing a little Spring refresher to your entire home might seem a bit overwhelming, I like to put the primary focus on my kitchen, living room, and dining room to ensure that when I am in the mood to host a fabulous dinner or even a last-minute party set at a moment’s notice.  Below I have outlined a few of my top ideas to help you get started.

Kitchen Refresher

  • Start by removing everything from your refrigerator and freezer. Clean the inside of each using an all-natural surface cleanser.

  • Go through each product and toss anything that has expired (or has mutated). Make a list of things that your discard so that you remember to re-buy them the next time you are at the grocery store.

  • Wipe down each can, jar, box, container, etc. with a clean damp cloth to remove any residue that may have spilled down the sides or gummed up the bottom of the container.

  • Reorganize the shelves on the refrigerator door with products that go together. Keep the jams and jellies together, condiments together, vinegar-based things like pickles and olives together, etc. This makes “shopping” your refrigerator easy.

  • Use the drawers of your refrigerator for stacking both still and sparkling varieties of bottled water, flavored sparkling waters, cocktail mixers, and cans of soda.

  • Use food-safe acrylic trays to store and organize little items that don’t stack well, such as cheeses, tubes of tomato paste, smaller jars, or anything small that can easily get lost in the back of the “abyss”, I mean refrigerator.

  • If you buy fresh vegetables often, store them lying flat on shelves. Place anything that comes in plastic containers (like berries or packaged tomatoes) in glass bowls. This puts all your fresh produce in clear view and will help encourage you to cook what you have bought.

  • Toss all ice cubes that were made more than 30 days ago. Old ice can easily ruin a drink. Use the old cubes to water your plants by placing a few in each pot—it’s like time-release watering.

  • If something in your freezer isn't clearly marked with a description and expiration date, discard it.

Dining Room Refresher

  • Check each cloth napkin for stains, holes, and frays. Do the same with tablecloths, table runners, and placemats. Either repair the item(s) or donate what is not longer useable.

  • Check your candle sticks for any left-over waxy residue. To remove wax, scrape away excess wax, then apply heat with a blow dryer set to medium heat, wiping off the wax with a soft cloth (lint free) as it softens. Wash the area with hot, non-abrasive soapy water to remove any left-over residue.

  • Check your stemware and flatware for any water spots. To remove water spots, dip a small cotton ball into white vinegar. Gently rub to remove the water spot. Wash the area with hot, non-abrasive soapy water to remove any left-over vinegar.

  • Fill in any minor scratches, dings, and dents in your dining table with a matching paint pen.

  • Reorganize your china cabinets, hutch, and other storage. Not only will this help remind you of what you already have, but you will easily identify what gaps you may have in serving pieces, dinnerware, etc. (which means a shopping trip!).

  • Clean as you go! If you move something take the opportunity to clean it, and its shelf or space, before you put it back.

Living Room Refresher

  • Thoroughly vacuum your sofa, side chairs, and other upholstered furniture to remove any dust, crumbs, and debris. Use this time to re-stuff any sagging cushions, decorative pillows, etc.

  • Clean your draperies either by hand or by enlisting the help of a trusted dry cleaner. Freshly laundered draperies can really make a room look crisp and clean.

  • Discard any out-of-date magazines that you are no longer interested in. Keeping a selection of in-season magazine for guests to peruse while relaxing and enjoying a cocktail is a fun way to spark conversation either before dinner or after dessert.

  • Evoke the season change with fresh flowers, lightly scented candles, and even a new throw for your space.

  • Re-merchandise any displays of accessories on top of your coffee table and side tables. Do the same to your book cases, and other displays you may have curated in your space. This will liven up a room and help you “re-love” what you already own!

My original article was published on VRAI Magazine - March 2015 

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Fresh Green Pea Hummus

Marc J. Sievers

Spring is here (I think)!  So many wonderful fruits and vegetables are in their prime this time of year, green peas being my number 1 favorite!  I love the earthy taste and “bite” they have when perfectly cooked or sautéed.  My recipe for Fresh Green Pea Hummus combines simple, fresh ingredients that create a delicious dip with crackers, a topping for tartines or a healthy spread for sandwiches.  The flavors are bursting at the seam (or should I say pod)!

Going “green” has never tasted so good!

Fresh Green Pea Hummus

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • Olive Oil – 2 tablespoons

  • Red Onion – ½ cup, medium dice

  • Garlic – 3 cloves, finely minced

  • Sea Salt – ¾ teaspoon

  • Black Pepper – ¾ teaspoon, freshly cracked

  • Red Pepper Flakes – 1/8 teaspoon

  • Peas – 2 cups, fresh, uncooked

  • Lemon Zest – 2 teaspoons

  • Thyme – 1½ teaspoons, fresh

  • Hummus – 4 tablespoon, plain variety

  • Butter – 1 teaspoon, unsalted

  • Parmesan – for garnish


  1. In a medium sauté pan set over medium heat, add olive oil, onion, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook for 6 - 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  2. Next, add the butter, peas, lemon zest and thyme. Continue cooking for another 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  3. Add the garlic and continue cooking for 1 minute.

  4. Transfer sautéed mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

  5. Add the hummus and pulse 10 - 15 times, or until desired texture is achieved.

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