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Recipes & Entertaining Ideas

Filtering by Category: Seasonal & Holidays

Deck Your Home with All Things Jolly!

Marc J. Sievers

During the holidays, time can play a huge roll when it comes to finishing the little details.  Use the ideas I’ve created here to help set the mood for a festive soirée and still have time to bake those 21 dozen decorated cookies you planned on giving out to your friends and colleagues this year (remember that idea you got after a bottle of wine and endless hours on Pinterest?!).

I believe that each and every day should be festive, stylish, and simple.  When I am coming up with holiday décor ideas I try to use easily-found components, concepts that do not take hours to complete, materials that are budget friendly, and most importantly ideas that won’t take an entire weekend to finish.  This year, I wanted to add a bit of holiday cheer to everyday items commonly found around the house, your local grocery store, and maybe a quick trip to a craft store (don’t worry, I promise no glitter!).  And since I live in a mid-rise, I also wanted to highlight holiday ideas that don’t require “storage” after—making them perfect for a smaller space to add a festive touch!

This is my favorite time of year, and I want to take as much time as I can celebrating and entertaining my friends, family, and clients—with my simple ideas here you will be able to join the party and deck your home with all things jolly!

My original article was written for FW: Chicago Magazine - Holiday Edition


Tinsel Bowl:

This crystal bowl filled with mini LED battery-operated lights and silver tinsel is a must for part of your holiday décor this year!  The effect of the sparkling crystal against the shiny tinsel, all illuminated with tiny lights adds a “WOW!” factor to any table, sideboard, or entry.  The same concept can be done in any clear vessel—so use your imagination!  Imagine multiples of these down the center of your dining table for a dinner party – I’ll bring the champagne!


Ribbon Napkin Rings:

A simple white cotton napkin gets a festive and glamorous makeover with the addition of tartan plaid ribbon, tied in a big bow, then adorned with a sprig of fresh rosemary and crystal chandelier prisms (which I found on Amazon.com).  At the end of your dinner party (or buffet), encourage guests to take the crystals home to adorn their tree—an instant take-away bobble—and enjoy for years to come!  


Peppermint Hurricanes:

Plain glass hurricanes and unscented white pillar candles turn into a winter wonderland with peppermint candies and regular coarse Kosher salt—all available at your local grocery store!  Fill the bottom ¼ full of peppermints then pour spoonfuls of coarse salt over the candies.  Not only does the salt take on a snow-like effect, it also helps to stabilizes the candle base.  Place these all over your home to instantly add a bit of holiday cheer to any room or table.


Silver Tray with Cards

A silver tray filled with holiday cards set either atop a coffee table or under your Christmas tree is probably the chicest way to both display and contain all of those “fa la la” greetings!  If you don’t have a silver tray (I find mine at flea markets and thrift stores) a decorative bowl or even a large platter will work just fine.  


Bow-Tied Flutes:

Transform everyday stemmed glassware with the addition of tiny red velvet bows to add instant holiday cheer!  These charming little bows already come with a twist-tie closure, making the application just a few twists away (martini, anyone?)!  Best of all, after your soirée, you can either save the bows for next year or use them to decorate packages!  


Cinnamon Bundles:

Easily found at your local grocery store, cinnamon sticks tied in little bundles with velvet ribbon are the perfect addition to the doorknob of a powder room, as package ties, around a wine bottle for a host/ess gift, or even hung throughout your Christmas tree to add a spicy scent (especially if you have a faux tree).  A little spice, and everything nice!

Order a signed copy of my cookbook Entertaining with Love!

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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.

Order a signed copy of my cookbook Entertaining with Love!

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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!


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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Mulled Wine

Marc J. Sievers

Every year Ryan and I attend the Christkindlemarket in Chicago which is inspired by the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany.  The Christkindlmarket Chicago brings cherished German and European traditions, with international flair and local charm, to Chicago.  One of my favorite things to get every time I go is something called Glühwein or mulled wine usually made with red wine along with various mulling spices.  It is typically served hot and is a traditional drink during colder months.  Think of it like the European cousin of Sangria.

My version of Mulled Wine gets it's depth of flavor from a good Cabernet Sauvignon, spiced apple cider, peppercorns, and other aromatics!  You can allow the wine to sit on the stove at the lowest heat keeping it warm throughout your party and guests can serve themselves.  Of course, this can be made days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.  When you are ready to serve, gently re-heat over a low flame, then toast to good health!


Mulled Wine

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • Spiced Apple Cider – 4 cups

  • Cabernet Sauvignon – 1 bottle (750ml)

  • Honey – ½ cup

  • Black Peppercorns – 25, whole

  • Cinnamon Sticks – 4

  • Cloves – 8, whole

  • Star Anise – 3, whole

  • Orange – 1 large, juiced

  • Orange Peel – For garnish

Directions

  1. Start by cutting two pieces of cheesecloth into 8×8-inch squares and layer them to make a single sachet.

  2. In the center of the cheesecloth place the orange peels, cloves, star anise, peppercorns, and cinnamon sticks. Pull the four corners of the doubled-up cheese cloth together and tie tightly with kitchen string to form a sachet.

  3. Next, combine the cider, orange juice, honey, and wine in a heavy-bottomed pot or large sauce pan). Add the sachet, and bring to a low boil. Then, lower the heat to a simmer, allowing the wine to mull for at least 20 minutes before serving.

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Fruit Conserve

Marc J. Sievers

A holiday dinner in my family would not be complete without jellied cranberry sauce (with the can lines!) in a little crystal dish on the table!  While I still love that sentiment and tradition, I have upped the game with my Fruit Conserve.  My version of “cranberry sauce” is brimming with flavorful ingredients like dried figs, golden raisins, dried cherries, and currants – just to name a few!  I have even added a few tablespoons of Grand Mariner, an orange liqueur, to add a little more depth of flavor – it is the holidays after all!  What I love the most about this recipe is it can be made up to three days ahead of time and stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.  Allow it to sit for 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.  Leftover conserve is fabulous when warmed through and served over vanilla ice cream or even on crackers with slices of Brie.  A triple-duty recipe, perfect for this time of year!


Fruit Conserve

Ingredients (serves 6-8)

  • Water – 1 cup

  • Sugar – 1¼ cups

  • Fresh Cranberries – 1 bag (12 ounces)

  • Honey Crisp Apple – 1, peeled, cored, ½-inch diced

  • Bosc Pear – 1, peeled, cored, ½-inch diced

  • Orange – 1, zested, seeded and ½-inch diced

  • Lemon – 1, zested, juiced

  • Grand Marnier – 3 tablespoons

  • Cinnamon – ¼ teaspoon

  • Course Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon

  • Golden Raisins – ½ cup

  • Dried Black Mission Figs - ½ cup, rough chopped

  • Zante Currants – ½ cup

  • Dried Cherries – ½ cup

Directions

  1. Start by placing the water, sugar, and cranberries into a medium-sized saucepan set over medium heat. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cranberry skins open.

  2. Next, add the apple, pear, orange, zests, and lemon juice. Continue cooking for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  3. Finally, off the heat, add the raisins, currants, cherries, figs, cinnamon, salt, and Grand Marnier. Allow to cool and place into the refrigerator to set.

  4. Serve slightly chilled.

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Savory Beet & Farrow Cake

Marc J. Sievers

Inspiration for new recipes really can come from anywhere.  A certain smell, a store window, a trip to a fabulous specialty foods store, and of course a restaurant!  Last year when Linda and I were out to lunch, we both ordered a vegetarian burger filled with roasted beets and nutty farrow – it was so good!  After a few tries, I came up with my Savory Beet & Farrow Cake – an elegant twist on the veggie burger we had at lunch.

Instead of making individual patties, I decided to bake it in cake form, making it elegant enough to serve at a dinner party or cut up into small squares for a cocktail party.  You can roast the vegetables and sauté the onion mixture up to three days ahead of time.  You can store them together in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Then, on the day of your soirée, continue to follow the assembly and cooking directions - et voilà!


Savory Beet & Farrow Cake

Ingredients (serves 6 as a main course or up to 12 as an hors d'oeuvre)

  • Sweet Potato – 1 large, peeled, ½-inch diced

  • Beets – 2 medium, peeled, ½-inch diced

  • Farrow – ½ cup, uncooked

  • Water - ½ cup

  • Red Onion – 1 medium, peeled, ½-inch diced

  • Sage – 1 tablespoon, finely minced, fresh

  • Garlic – 4 cloves, peeled, finely minced

  • Nutmeg – ⅛ teaspoon, freshly grated

  • Panko – 1 cup

  • Sea Salt – 1 teaspoon, divided

  • Black Pepper – ¾ teaspoon, divided

  • Butter – 1 tablespoon, unsalted

  • Olive Oil – 3 tablespoons, divided

  • Parmigiano Reggiano – ¼ cup, freshly grated

  • Gruyère – ½ cup, freshly grated

  • Eggs – 5 extra-large, at room temperature

  • Half and Half – ¼ cup

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a 9-inch round spring-form pan by buttering both the interior sides and bottom. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter the top of the parchment paper. Set aside.

  2. Place the sweet potatoes and beets onto a sheet pan. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, ¾ teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Roast for 40 minutes, turning once half way through the roasting time. Remove from the oven and set aside.

  3. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, bring ½ cup water to a boil. Add the farrow, and cook for 18 to 20 minutes, or until tender. The farrow will still have a bite to it. Drain well and set aside.

  4. In a medium sauté pan set over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Once heated, add the onions and ¼ teaspoon of both salt and pepper. Cook until tender and translucent, stirring occasionally.

  5. Next, add the garlic, nutmeg, and sage, and continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the roasted vegetables and cooked farrow and set aside.

  6. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and half and half. Then add both cheeses.

  7. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetable mixture and add the panko. Gently stir to mix completely.

  8. Transfer the mixture into the prepared spring form pan. Bake for 25 to 27 minutes, or until set.

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

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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!


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!


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!


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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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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Vegetarian Chili

Marc J. Sievers

I love recipes that you can make in advance of entertaining that actually taste even better after it sits for a couple of days in the refrigerator and the flavors all blend together!  My Vegetarian Chili - dubbed “I Get a Kick Out of You Chili - is from my cookbook Entertaining with Love and is a perfect example of just that.  This hearty chili is packed with fresh vegetables, black beans, and meatless ground, making it as substantial as a traditional chili made with ground beef.  You can either make this dish entirely on the stovetop, or partly in a slow cooker, whichever method you decide the end result is the same – fabulously delicious!  Best of all, you can top this chili with sour cream, fresh parsley, tortilla chips, avocado wedges, or even charred fresh jalapeños, allowing your guests to be creative and make it their own!  

This recipe is from my cookbook Entertaining with Love.


Vegetarian Chili (serves 6)

Ingredients

  • Butter – 3 tablespoons, unsalted

  • Yellow Onion – 1 large, medium diced

  • Red Onion – 1 large, medium diced

  • Fire-Roasted Tomatoes – 1 (28-ounce) can, crushed

  • Tomato Paste – 3 ounces

  • Garlic – 6 cloves, minced

  • Black Beans – 1 (15-ounce) can

  • Orange Bell Pepper – 1 large, medium diced

  • Red Bell Pepper – 1 large, medium diced

  • Hot Paprika – 1½ teaspoons

  • Cumin – ½ teaspoon

  • Crushed Red Pepper – 1 teaspoon

  • Cayenne Pepper – ¼ teaspoon

  • Chili Powder – 3 tablespoons

  • Kosher Salt – 2 teaspoon, divided

  • Black Pepper – 3 teaspoon, divided

  • Meatless Ground Beef – 12 ounces, Quorn® Grounds recommended

Directions

  1. In a Dutch oven or stock pot, over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Once hot, add the diced onions and sauté for 3 minutes. Season with ½ teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Then, add the bell peppers and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes. Next, add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.

  2. Add the beef grounds and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 5 minutes.

  3. In a small glass bowl combine all of the remaining spices: Chili Powder, Cumin, Cayenne Pepper, Hot Paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 2 teaspoons of black pepper.

  4. Thoroughly drain the black beans and add to the onions and peppers. Add the can of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes. Stir all together. Bring to a gentle simmer, and then reduce the heat to low.

  5. Add the combined spices and the tomato paste. Stir to mix thoroughly.

  6. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and reduce the heat to simmer/low. At this point you can transfer the contents to a slow cooker and set to low heat. On the stove, keep covered and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. In the slow cooker set to low heat cook for 3 hours.

  7. Serve hot.

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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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Rosé Sangria with Peaches & Rosemary

Marc J. Sievers

As the temperature rises in Chicago (and I hope where you are, too!), my desire to sip summer cocktails is in full swing!  To me, a summer cocktail, in this case my Rosé Sangria with Peaches & Rosemary, is refreshingly light with a sweet and savory love affair.  It is a drink filled with fresh sweet peaches and spicy rosemary that come together and marry-nate in a perfectly blush-colored wine.  You can serve either by the glass for yourself as you take a bubble bath to cool off and relax, or make ahead of time for a humid summer’s evening cookout where only a crisp chilled cocktail will do. 

Best of all – you get drunken’ peaches to eat, with a little extra zing, or serve them over cold ice cream for dessert.  Even the rosemary can be used in a white wine cream sauce over simple egg fettucine noodles for a light supper.

As the summer really heats up, have this recipe on standby so you are always ready with a fabulous summer sipper!  


Rosé Sangria with Peaches & Rosemary

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • Rosé – (1) 750ml bottle

  • Triple Sec – ½ cup

  • Italian Sparkling Wine – (1) 750 ml bottle, chilled

  • Honey – 1 tablespoon

  • Ultrafine Sugar – 1 tablespoon

  • Peaches – 4, pitted, cut into 8 wedges

  • Rosemary – (6) 4-inch sprigs, fresh

Directions

  1. Pour the Rosé and Triple Sec into a large glass pitcher.

  2. Add the honey and sugar. Stir until completely dissolved.

  3. Next add the peaches and rosemary. Chill for 3 hours.

  4. Before serving, add the entire bottle of chilled sparkling wine to the pitcher. Serve immediately.

Tip: For a “milder” libation, simply switch out the sparkling wine for an unflavored sparkling water. 

Idea: Have fun with different fruit and fresh herb combination: Orange & rosemary, strawberry & basil, lemon & thyme. 

A little something extra: Sangria is typically a chilled drink served in Spain and Portugal during the summer months – consisting of wine, fruit, a brandy or liqueur, and sweetener.  The honey used in this recipe adds a subtle sweetness without making it “sugary”.  Red, white, and rosé wines can be used in recipes – each variety offering unique flavors and richness. 

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Golden Raisin Bread

Marc J. Sievers

When life gives you golden raisins make them into bread—isn’t that how that “famous” saying goes?  Or perhaps that was something to do with lemons, which in this case you can also add to bread!  Needless to say, those two ingredients are the stars in my newest recipe for Golden Raisin Bread.

While I did not start with the intention to make this exact recipe, it just evolved on its own, and turned out to be what I now consider as one of my top ten recipes of all time.  And yes, I realize that is a huge statement!

When I headed into my kitchen last week I began testing an Irish Soda Bread recipe, in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day.  I spent almost two days reading through recipes from my library of cookbooks, and scouring the internet for articles and reviews of recipes that seemed noteworthy.  I wanted to make sure my recipe stayed true to the original roots of Irish Soda Bread, at which point I stumbled upon the official web site for The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Breads.  I found it to be absolutely fascinating!

As I read through the history of this iconic bread, I learned that traditional Irish Soda Bread has just four ingredients:  Buttermilk, flour, salt, and baking soda.  Any deviation from that simple formula would not only make it not authentic, but it would also change the flavor, texture, and appearance.   Instead of trying to “re-create” an historic tradition, I decided to take the base ingredients, add other flavorings, and try to create something new and different, but grounded in the theme of an Irish Soda Bread.

After scrumptious taste-testing and almost eight loaves of bread later, my Golden Raisin Bread was finished!  I transformed the classic recipe with additions like lemon zest, brown sugar, and golden raisins—a simple bread loaf became something perfect to serve at breakfast (toasted with raspberry preserves), at teatime (accompanied by clotted cream), or even as part of a bread basket with lunch or dinner (salted butter, anyone?!).

The texture is somewhere between a biscuit and a scone, the lemon zest adds a lovely brightness, and the golden raisins add both sweetness and a fabulous texture.  The entire recipe is prepared using a big bowl and rubber spatula—no electric mixer, no rising, no fuss.  All of the ingredients are readily found at your local grocery store, and from start to finish takes less than 60 minutes—making it the perfect bread to bake on a whim!


Golden Raisin Bread

Ingredients

  • Flour – 4 cups, all-purpose, plus 2 tablespoon

  • Baking Soda – 2 teaspoons

  • Cream of Tartar – ½ teaspoon

  • Fine Sea Salt – 2 teaspoons

  • Dark Brown Sugar – 4 tablespoons

  • Buttermilk – 2 cups, cold

  • Eggs – 1 extra-large, plus 1 extra-large yolk, at room temperature

  • Lemon Zest – 2 teaspoons

  • Golden Raisins – 2 cups

  • Butter – 2 tablespoons, unsalted, melted

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

  2. In a large bowl, sift together 4 cups of flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and brown sugar. Set aside.

  3. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour and raisins. Toss to coat. Set aside.

  4. In another small bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, and lemon zest. Lightly beat to break up the yolks.

  5. Next, add the wet mixture into the dry mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold everything together until it is just combine.

  6. Add the raisins and fold them into the dough.

  7. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a few times until it forms a round loaf, roughly 9-inches around by 3-inches high.

  8. Place the loaf onto the prepared sheet pan. Using a serrated knife, cut an “X” into the top of the loaf. Brush the top and sides of the loaf with the melted butter.

  9. Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden brown. The loaf will have a hollow sound when you tap the top.

  10. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool on a cooling rack. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

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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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Rolled Vanilla Cookies

Marc J. Sievers

Entertaining friends, family, and clients is something that truly brings me joy.  Surprising people with little details, thoughtfully crafted tablescapes, and rustic food is my life’s passion and interest.  Ever since I was a little boy growing up alongside my nana (Ms. Rita Madonna Hillard-Berube) poking about the china cabinets, cupboards, and pantry to set the table or to help cook was, and still is, where you can find me!

The holidays in our 3rd floor walk-up apartment were always bountiful, festive, and magical.  The tinsel clad tree in the living room, the electric candles in all 18 windows, the stockings and Christmas cards hung around the doorways, and the constant ebb and flow of family and friends – and the food that seemed to (and still does!) go on forever.  Nothing was fussy, perfect, or over-calculated.  Everything was infused with love – the key ingredient.

As I look back to the parts of the holidays (and birthdays, card nights, and other celebrations) that stuck with me, the main theme was always every inch of our Farley Street apartment was utilized.  The kitchen table was piled high with hors d’oeuvres, the tiny kitchen counter was set up with drinks, the coffee table had dips (Bugles and Shrimp dip, to be exact), cookies, fudge, and so on.  That was the key to keeping the festivities moving about, encouraged mingling, and ultimately allowed for what seemed like a never ending party!  Now, fast forward to present day.  I am 33 and still following in nana’s footsteps: Cooking and entertaining for friends and family but with a Marc Sievers twist! 

The iconic Christmas cookie – seen in every grocery store, specialty food shop, and home cook’s kitchen in America – is still one of my favorite components this time of year.  Buttery, crisp, and covered in course sanding sugar, my Vanilla Christmas Cookies are the closest I have gotten to the memories of my childhood.  They are fuss-free, and the ingredients (including the colored sugars) can be found at your local grocery store.  For a slightly more elegant look (as elegant as sanding sugars can be!), I found matte silver and gold Wilton sanding sugars at my local crafts store. 

For my annual Christmas party, I wanted to create a focal point for my coffee table that would double as part edible and part décor.  Setting up vignettes like I mentioned above really allows your guests to mingle about your entire space, or at least the space you want them in (serving in the powder room is not something I have tried, yet!).  A quick trip to my corner pharmacy (I still love those “seasonal” aisles), I found an adorable iron ornament tree, which I used to hang my Christmas cookies on – take that “cookie platter!”  As guests indulge in the festive cookies, keep a tray of extra cookies strung with ribbons on hand to refill the tree, and a separate tray piled high with cookies (arranged in another area of your entertaining space) minus the ribbons for those “cookie-aholic” guests (that’s me!).

This holiday season while you are entertaining, make sure you too are enjoying this marvelous time of year.  Focus on a few things and do them really well – it’s better to have fewer components if they are delicious, well thought out, and filled with love!  Thank you for taking a walk down memory lane with me, I hope that my memoires sparked some of your own.  From my home to yours – I wish you the merriest of Christmases and the brightest year ahead!


Rolled Vanilla Cookies

Ingredients (makes 2-3 dozen cookies)

  • Flour – 3 ½ cups, all purpose

  • Baking Powder – 1 teaspoon

  • Fine Sea Salt – ½ teaspoon

  • Butter – 2 sticks, unsalted, at room temperature

  • Sugar – 1 ½ cups, granulated

  • Eggs – 2 extra-large, at room temperature

  • Vanilla – 2 teaspoons, pure extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment add the butter. With the mixer set to medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, allowing each to fully incorporate. Gradually add the sugar and then the vanilla.

  4. Set the mixer to low speed and gradually add the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

  5. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface, divide the dough in half, shape each half into a flat disk, wrap each one in waxed paper, and chill for 1 hour.

  6. Working with one disk at a time, roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thick. Cut the dough with festive cookie cutters. Place the shapes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with colored sugars. Using the end of a chopstick, make a hole in the top of each cookie.

  7. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned.

  8. Remove the cookies from the oven, and allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack.

  9. Once cooled, string ribbon through each hole and hang.

  10. Repeat the above process until all the dough has been baked.

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