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This is one of my easy, go-to appetizer recipes that is perfect for any occasion. Recently, I made it for a bridal shower in August and friend’s birthday gathering in November. It is definitely festive for the upcoming holidays with its pomegranate and thyme garnishing. I will definitely be serving this again!

There are several steps but don’t be intimidated. You can do it!


For the Candied Pecans

1 cup pecan halves

1/2 TBSP unsalted butter melted and cooled

1 1/2 TBSP brown sugar

2 tsp pure maple syrup

1/4 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp kosher salt

For the Blackberry Compote

2 cups blackberries, save a few for garnish

1 TBSP lemon juice

1 TBSP honey

1 tsp vanilla

For the Brie

2 8 ounce wheels of Brie or 1 16 ounce, room temperature

pomegranate seeds for garnish

thyme leaves for garnish

hardy crackers that do not break easily such as Mary’s Gone Crackers or Homemade Crostini (recipe below)


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  3. Place the pecans on the sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes (do not burn)
  4. Mix together the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt in a bowl
  5. Carefully, pace the hot pecans into the mixture and evenly coat. Spread them on the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 10 minutes, stirring every 3-4 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
  6. In a medium saucepan, heat the blackberries, lemon juice, honey and vanilla on medium heat, stirring occassionally. Turn up the heat to medium and continue to stir until the mixture is reduced to syrup consistency. Remove from heat and let cool.
  7. Slice off the top of the brie rinds and discard. Leave the sides intact. Bake the wheels of Brie for 15 minutes at 350 degrees until melted through
  8. Add Brie to a serving platter and top each with blackberry compote and the candied pecans.
  9. Garnish with the remaining blackberries, pomegranate seeds and fresh thyme leaves.
  10. Serve immediately with crackers or crostini.

Homemade Crostini

Baguette of choice, sliced into 1/8″ round toasts

5 TBSP olive oil, more as needed

Coarse Salt

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and add the crostini in a single layer to fill the pan
  3. Using a pastry brush rub each round with olive oil
  4. Season each with coarse salt
  5. Bake for 4-5 minutes depending on your oven until they are slightly browned and crisp (do not burn)

Enjoy! XOXO Jill

Everyone knows…I’m a chocaholic! If I’m going to eat dessert loaded with calories, I want it to be something chocolate or it’s just not worth it. For many years, my favorite birthday cake was Max’s Niagara Falls. It was layers of chocolate cake and buttercream frosting — total indulgence and a great way to begin a new birth year.

This weekend, I’m making a chocolate cake for a friend’s birthday celebration. Like me, she only wants chocolate, chocolate, chocolate and the following cake recipe is moist, tender and full of chocolaty goodness in every bite!

The Best Chocolate Cake Ever!

Cake Ingredients:

8ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (such as Baker’s, Guittard or Ghirardelli)

2/3 cup Dutch-processed Cocoa, sifted (such as Guittard, Ghirardelli or Hershey’s)

2 tsp instance espresso powder (I use Medaglia D’Oro Espresso Instant or Nescafe Gold Espresso Instant)

1 cup boiling water

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup sour cream, at room temperature

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 TBSP white vinegar

2 tsp vanilla

Frosting Ingredients:

2/3 cup granulated sugar

4 large egg whites

1/4 tsp salt

3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces at room temperature

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly (I use Guittard or Ghirardelli)

1 tsp vanilla

Cake Directions:

In a medium heatproof bowl add the chocolate, cocoa powder and espresso powder. Pour hot water over mixture. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth and cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8″ round cake pans.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, salt and baking soda.

Whisk sour cream, oil, egg yolks, vinegar and vanilla into the cooled chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until smooth.

Pour the batter into the two prepared pans and bake for 35 minutes or until a cake tester/toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes then carefully turn them onto a cooling rack.

Frosting Directions:

Combine the sugar, egg whites and salt in a pan of a double boiler with water simmering. Whisk gently and consistently over heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is slightly thickened and foamy and registers 150 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 4 minutes.

Fit stand mixer with whisk attachment (or use hand-mixer) and beat the egg mixture on medium speed until slightly cooled and thickened, about 3 minutes. Add the butter, 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy. Keep beating until smooth.

Add chocolate and vanilla and mix until combined. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light, fluffy and well combined about 2 minutes.


Place one cake layer on a cake turntable or cake stand. Spread an even layer of frosting over the entire cake. The frosting needs to be cold. (I had a hard time once it got soft and needed to place it back in the refrigerator.) Place the other cake layer upside down on top of the frosting. With a spatula, spread the remaining frosting evenly over the cake, smoothing the edges and sides.

Decorate as you wish with sprinkles.

Enjoy! XOXO Jill

A few months ago, I finally decided to write a food blog since cooking has been my passion since I was 15 years old. Like many, I enjoy planning menus and shopping for ingredients. I often look in our (or someone else’s) refrigerator and cabinets and challenge myself to create something delicious with the items on hand. Or, I’ll read a cookbook or cooking magazine cover to cover to search for the perfect recipe(s).

I’m told that cooking and baking for a party is one of my super powers as it is something I do effortlessly. Chopping, measuring, mixing, folding, stirring, sautéing, roasting, frying, basting are all things that bring me great joy. I absolutely love being in the kitchen to create deliciousness for the people in my life.

Although, I do have a day job in a completely different industry, I have (and will) cater dinner parties, weddings, graduations and birthdays. Over the years, I’ve been asked countless times for recipes or suggestions from family and friends. My daughter calls or texts regularly from the East Coast to ask what she should make based upon the items in her refrigerator or pantry.

That’s when I go to work and search my extensive database of recipes accumulated over 35+ years. It is this scrumptious food library that is the impetuous of my nostalgic but modern food-lovers site!

My challenge for this first post was the recipe to share. I literally have hundreds and hope you enjoy my choice that was the main course for a recent dinner party with friends and my spouse’s favorite.

You’ll find that my recipes are easy and delicious. Bottom line, I want you to have confidence in the kitchen. And soon, you’ll realize there is no need to fear the pork chop as long as you follow the recipe below (and do not over cook them).

Simple but Elegant Pan-Seared Bone-In or Tomahawk Pork Chops (one of my favorite recipes I found a few years ago that my spouse loves)

2 TBSP olive oil

Two 12-oz bone-in or tomahawk pork chops (1″ thick)

1 TBSP each Pink Himalayan Sea Salt and Ground Black Pepper (I have both in grinders because I like them coarse but you can use your favorites)

6 TBSP unsalted butter

Thyme leaves from 4 sprigs

4 Garlic cloves, smashed

  1. Season pork chops on both sides with the salt and pepper
  2. In a large skillet (or I use a cast iron, grill pan), heat the olive oil over medium high heat and add the pork chops
  3. Sear the pork chops, flipping once for 4-5 minutes on each side. Then, remove from the pan to a plate
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter, thyme and garlic until melted and fragrant, about 1 minute
  5. Return the pork chops to the pan. Cook and flip once. Baste constantly with the butter sauce until the pork chops reach 140 degrees (do yourself a favor and purchase a good, quality meat thermometer. Pork is generally done at 145 degrees but will continue cooking when you remove them from the pan. Do not overcook them or you’ll have dry chops)
  6. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before serving or carving into thick slices

Serves two but you can double, triple or quadruple the recipe. I like to serve these with Spinach Sautéed with Lemon, Kale and Wild Mushrooms or Roasted Butternut Squash with Fresh Herbs. For a starch, you can add Garlic and Rice Pilaf, Brown Rice, Mashed Potatoes or polenta. These are all excellent choices!

Enjoy! XOXO Jill

T-Bone Chop with Roasted Zucchini and Squash with a Side of Rice