A Not So Typical Thanksgiving Cake For A Not So Typical Story

Preparing for Thanksgiving always revolves around one thing, food. How many meats can we stuff with more meat? Are six different kinds of stuffing enough? How about twelve different casseroles? Does each dessert have some kind of pumpkin in it? Let’s not forget about the biggest game of the day. No, not football- who will win the great cranberry debate on game day? Canned or fresh cranberry sauce? Though, personally, there’s nothing more comforting than hearing processed cranberry jelly flop drunkenly out of a can and onto fine chinaware. 

As a foodie, I dove head first into the food blogging sea of recipes in order to think of my perfect Thanksgiving dessert. But honestly, it really doesn’t matter. The food serves one purpose, to bring family together.

 So instead of being thankful for a fried turkey, why not be thankful for the person who made it? All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein tells the story of Gerda’s terrifying six year ordeal as a Jewish girl during the Nazi occupation of Poland.

 Over the course of six years, Gerda lost her home, her family, and her culture. She recalled her experiences living in the ghetto, traveling in cattle cars to concentration camps only to be separated from her family and stripped away of almost everything that was important to her. She managed to find spirit and hope in the darkness of the camps. During a death march led my Nazi officers, Gerda was saved by American soldiers, one of whom she married.

The Nazi’s killed her parents and her siblings, they destroyed her home and Jewish community, but after everything, she still had her life.

 Gerda celebrated a birthday, while living in the ghetto. Finding food was a difficult task, but it was especially rare to find fresh fruits, like oranges. However, on her birthday Gerda’s mother sold some of her possessions to buy her an orange. It was the last birthday her family would celebrate together.

 So for this Thanksgiving, I want to inspire you to make this Cran-Orange Cardamom Upside-Down Cake. It’s out of the Thanksgiving norm, but it captures a poignant family moment in All But My Life and the essence of what Thanksgiving is all about.

Cran-Orange Cardamom Upside-down Cake


4 Sweet Oranges (If the oranges are bitter, so will your cake- Yuck!)

1/2 Cup dried cranberries

1/2 Cup + 3 Tablespoons dark rum

3 Cups all-purpose flour

2 Teaspoons ground cardamom

4 Teaspoons baking powder

1/2 Teaspoon salt

3/4 Cup (1- 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 Cups sugar

4 Eggs

2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

1 Cup orange juice

1 Teaspoon orange zest


  1. In a saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of dark rum to a boil, then add dried cranberries. Bring to a low boil and let simmer for 20 minutes. THen remove from heat and let sit, covered, for anther 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add eggs, one at a time. Then, add vanilla and rum.
  4. Slowly begin to add half the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Then, pour in orange juice and orange zest. Once incorporated, add the rest of your dry ingredients until just blended.
  5. Cut oranges into 1 inch thick, round slices. Grease a springform pan and arrange oranges and rum-infused dry cranberries to the bottom on the pan. Then, pour in your batter.
  6. Cool for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it is golden brown and cook al the way through. You can test if the cake is done by poking it with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, then it is done.
  7. Let the cake sit until cool, then remove from the springform pan and flip over for a unique holiday dessert.

“I hope you will never be disillusioned. To you, life still means beauty, and that is how it should be.” ~ All But My Life



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Hope You Didn’t Miss Me Too Much…

I’ve been a lot of things in the last two week. I’ve been elbows deep in a thirty pound bag of sugar, hard of hearing due to airborne frosting that found its way into my ear drums, and totally thrilled that The Baker in the Rye has gotten such great feedback and more baking opportunities!

As some of you know, I afford this lush life at my parent house by working at Starbucks and I do enjoy working there during this “in between” chapter of my life. The energy is always pumping, the customers are entertaining, and my coworkers are the most eclectic and hilarious group  I’ve yet to meet.

Julius Coltre, Jay, is one of those entertaining customers. The first day I met him, he told me that he would be my worst nightmare, a total pain of a customer. Turns out, he was the total opposite, unless you put too much ice in his grande Pike’s Place coffee with two ice cubes- I repeat, two ice cubes. He knew of my blog and came into Starbucks one day with an interesting proposition: 600 cupcakes.

Let’s rewind. Jay works for Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors in Moorestown, NJ and each year they participate in Candlelight Night hosted by the Moorestown Business Association. This year’s event was held on November 4th. At Candlelight Night, Main Street is blocked  off and the businesses located on the Main Street can hold little events or have little treats. With the streets illuminated by candlelight at this night time event,  it’s a warm way to welcome the holiday season and celebrate community harmony. Where do myself and The Baker in the Rye come in? Jay proposed that I bake 600 cupcakes for Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors for Candlelight Night.

It took both my parent's large cars to transport 600 cupcakes to the event! My tiny two-door Honda Civic, just wasn't cutting it.

I’ve never made 600 cupcakes before. I’ve made maybe fifty, tops. Just to paint you a picture of what I was working with, my kitchen- excuse me- my parents kitchen held the following: thirty pounds of sugar, ninety eggs, and one hundred sticks of butter, among many other ingredients. I enlisted the cupcake tins and cooling racks of my grandma and aunts, as well as my parents help. There’s a show called Hell’s Kitchen on on Fox, where the heat from master chef Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen is so hot that it figuratively causes its contestants heat stroke.  In my 36 hour baking binge, I made Hell’s Kitchen look like it belonged to Hello Kitty. But in the end, it was all worth it.

As I arranged my 600 cupcakes on the kitchen table for a final count, I was overwhelmed with great pride in my website and what I have achieved with it in just two months. The Baker in the Rye is not only a fun way to translate books into food, but also a way to bring people together and to get people talking and excited about what they are eating. My intentions were to make it an interactive website and it has become just that, as well as more than I ever could have imagined.

My chocolate cupcakes with thick chocolate frosting is the reason why I'll never be a size 2, but I can totally live with that fact 🙂

The Baker in the Rye is just a lil’ baby, but it is growing at a speed that blows my mind every day. I’ve gotten several orders for cupcakes, that I decided it was best to invest in bakery boxes and labels, not to mention business cards… and car magnets. The car magnets were $7.00 for 25 magnets! You can’t beat that deal with a stick! Hopefully, I will run out of those bakery boxes and labels just as quickly as I bought them.

Part of my current success is attributed to Jay and  Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors for having a tremendous amount of faith in a 22-year old blogger who happens to bake more than her waistline would like her to.

My parents took some great picture of the Candlelight Night event and I’d love nothing more than to share them with you! Including a photo of a complete random couple who my mom had pose for a picture. Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors had a fabulous carnival atmosphere that included an incredible cascading balloon waterfall in the entryway and vintage carnival popcorn machine. It was a fun night full of family, laughter, and cupcakes- what more could you ask for on a Friday night.

So since I’ve come out of this two-week hibernation, I’m back with holiday recipes to share and more inspiring books. What’s on the agenda? A lot of pumpkin, the greatest story of survival ever written, and a recipe inspired by my all-time favorite book The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.

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Cookies Like White Elephants

I’ve encountered many white elephants in my day, you know the thing no one will talk about, but what everyone knows is there. That pretty young blonde with the full-on mustache and beard duo. My roughly 392-year-old poetry professor who breaks wind in the middle of every class. Our waiter at Friday’s whose zipper was down during the entirety of our dining experience. All are examples of white elephants I’ve crossed.

The first time I heard the phrase “white elephant” was in the short story Hills Like White Elephants by my all-time favorite writer, Ernest Hemingway. Hills Like White Elephants takes place at a railroad station in Ebro, Spain. In literature, railroad stations are always symbolic of two things: a departure from what’s familiar and an important decision that needs to be made.

The two main characters, the American and the girl, discuss a vague issue while waiting for their train, the girl focusing on the mountains in the distance, which resemble white elephants.

The American tries to convince the girl to have a “simple operation.” The nature of the operation is not specified. When I first read this in high school, my teacher asked us what we thought the operation was. Being the loudmouth that I am, I named off every operation I could think of as a 16-year old: appendectomy, kidney transplant, pacemaker implant, boob implant, among others.

The “simple operation” was an abortion. Hemingway was a modernist writer, known for his expatriatism, exploration of human truths, and post World War I settings. Hemingway’s expatriate views are noted in the pushy, self-centered characterization of The American. Also, given the time frame, the simple operation is actually not to simple, but rather incredibly experimental and frowned upon in society.

The most interesting aspect of this short story is the names of the characters and how Hemingway created the girl into a dynamic character in literally a single line. Having the American classified and identified with a country gives him a superior status over the girl. The girl could be anyone, which is why there is no name. Because Hemingway called her the girl rather than the woman, and gave her no identification, he is focusing in on her vulnerability in the situation. She is the pregnant one. The American can leave whenever he feels and she is aware of it. But she is the one stuck with the child- the white elephant.

Though the name of the operation and her final decision are not specified, it is clear in the end what the girl is going to do when she declared, “There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine.” She has decided to keep the child and get rid of the American. This decision, and single sentence transformed the girl from an unsure, insecure girl, into a woman.

I’ve turned her white elephant into something a little sweeter- apricot shortbread cookies. But wait- where’s the white elephant- that things we all know is there, but no one talks about? It’s all in the apricots… you’ll just have to make the recipe to find out

Almond Apricot Shortbread Cookies:

Ingredients For Shortbread:

1 Cup slightly below room temperature butter

3/4 Teaspoon salt

1/3 Cup sugar

1/3 Cup almonds

1  2/3 Cup all purpose flour

1/2 Cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 Teaspoon almond extract

Ingredients For Glaze: 

1 Cup powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons amaretto

2 Tablespoons heavy cream

Ingredients For Topping:

1/2 Cup amaretto

1 Tablespoon butter

1/2 Cup dried apricots, sliced

1/4 Cup almonds


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit
  2. mix 1/3 C. sugar and 1 stick butter together until fluffy. Add 1 t. almond extract
  3. In a small bowl, sift together 1 2/3 C. flour and 3/4 t. salt. Add cornstarch and mix until well combined
  4. In a food processor, grind 1/3 C. almonds until it forms a powder. Do not over mix or it will turn into a paste. Add  this to the dry ingredients.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix  until it has the consistency of small peas.
  6. Knead dough together and work it until it rolls out into a 1/2 inch thick sheet. Cut into small circles, using a cookie cutter and place onto a greased baking sheet. Put it the oven for 15 minutes or until just the edges turn slightly golden  brown. Once cooked, let cool on a cooling rack.
  7. For the topping, cut 1/2 C. dried apricots unto slices.
  8. In a saucepan, bring 1 T. butter and 1/2 C. amaretto to a boil. Then, add apricots and reduce hear to med-low. Let that come to a boil.
  9. Then, cook over low for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, but keeping the lid on when not stirring.
  10. Remove from heat and allow to set for another 30 minutes with the lid on. Apricots will then have absorbed the amaretto and the remaining liquid will be a syrup.
  11. For the glaze, mix together 1 C powdered sugar, 2 T. amaretto, and 2 T. heavy cream until it forms the consistency of a thick glaze.
  12. To assemble, take a shortbread cookie and glaze it with some of the amaretto glaze. Place an amaretto slice on top and garnish with some crushed almonds, if you’d like. Repeat this step until all the cookies are done.

“The girl was looking off at the line of hills. They were white in the sun and the country was brown and dry.” ~ Hills Like White Elephants 

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Reader’s Voice October 2011!

Understanding Under a Crab Apple Tree

by Melissa Krenek

                  The stench of musk filled the air as fans of paper moved around fat necks.  Mouths were propped open either panting or praying, while heads bobbed back and forth. A boy sat in a pew, nervously. He tried to see the small face of Jesus contorting in pain, but a giant floral hat blocked his view. He rubbed his sweaty palms together as he stared at his dress shoes. The suit he wore fit loosely around his body, tight around his neck.

He pulled it out while clenching his teeth, eyes still focused on the small man tacked to the wood.  He looked over at the pulpit, the Reverend looked troubled, the normal heavenly light in his eyes held something darker. He preached about morality or something like that, always speaking more with his hands and his voice than his words.  The boy looked at his father, sitting upright with his chin and chest puffed out. He bellowed the words of the Lord in a monotone voice. The boy looked at the fat woman in the choir, beads of sweat poured down her neck and over her chest like rain.  His eyes followed one into her blouse, immediately ceasing when she noticed.

When mass was over he took his usual trail home, a long and narrow strip of dirt leading from the back of the church into the woods, and then out to the main road. His parents stayed back for the Sunday brunch, an endless sea of finger sandwiches and lemonade. He was forced to attend them when he was a child, the awkward kid in the corner that just stared at everyone. The Reverend would always rub his head yelling “Why won’t you join the rest of us kid?”

The boy, much younger at the time, looked up at the Reverend’s giant hand.  He would move his eyes all the way up to the man’s lips, and come to a screeching halt. The hook shaped line on the top lip always scared him. It would change shape with every expression, almost like a second smile.  He didn’t notice the scar on that particular Sunday morning. He was too focused on the worry behind the Reverend’s beady eyes.

He wondered if it was the same worry he held. The same night sweats that woke him up in the early morning hours. The same tingling in his legs that made him feel paralyzed. His mother told him to pray, pray for God’s forgiveness.  “He will save you,” she said robotically one day at the dinner table. “That itching you have, that trembling, that need to scratch, that is sin my boy, and it is trying to get inside.  It is your job to not let it in.” She was talking in symbols. He tried praying, his hands were always clammy. He never looked directly up at the sky, he was more comfortable talking to the floor or the sheet on his bed.  Was he talking to the devil instead?

He mulled these questions over in his head as he walked to school. He had time, so he decided to visit the church, take another crack at this whole praying thing.  The grass was still wet from the morning dew; the hot air smothered the trees. As he neared the end of the trail, he saw something under the small crab apple tree at the far end of the church property. At first he thought it was the shadow of its leaves, or maybe a log. He drew closer, each foot stumbling over the other. There before him lie two bodies, one a man, the other a woman.

The man’s face was covered by a large hat, the woman’s was exposed. The boy leaned down, carefully moving the hat to the side. He froze. Right where the hat peacefully sat was a white line in the shape of a hook. He pushed the hat over with furry.  The Reverend’s beady eyes glared at him. There was one single gunshot through the side of his head. Those eyes. They saw the boy’s sin, his fear.  The reverend’s mouth was taught, not gaping with the word of God. His arms lay still, and for once were not hidden by giant sleeves. He had small hands, leathery in appearance, the nails yellow. Each individual finger was fat, like sausages. The one hand looked as if it was trying to make a fist. Was he fighting evil and lost?

The boy decided to return the hat to its final resting place. The scar was hidden, as if it never existed.  He turned his attention to the body lying beside the Reverend. Her face was not hidden, the three bullet holes screamed at him. She looked familiar, but he did recall from where. Then he saw her neck. Small white creatures wiggled around inside of it, some spilling out onto the onion grass below her.  He placed his hand over the little workers, feeling the heat rising from their feast.  Her ice blue eyes were big and weary, staring off to the side. He could not take his eyes off her neck, a place that was once used to keep her head upright, now a banquet hall. It did not look as sweaty as before.  The boy rose from his knees and tipped his head to the couple. “Rest in Peace,” he said, looking down at the ground instead of the sky.

Near their feet was a bunch of torn up notes. The handwriting was obviously feminine, calligraphy style. The boy always watched his mother write letters, inspired by the way her hand moved like a gracious wave in the ocean, each loop representing a new swell.  He could not make out the words, except for one,  Edward.  He shoved the piece of paper into his jacket pocket. He started to walk back towards the path, turning one last time to see the couple. Both pairs of feet pointed towards the crab apple tree. Her feet were slightly pigeon toed, his turned slightly outward. He picked a crab apple off the ground and brought it up to his nostrils. Its sour aroma invaded his airways.  He placed it in between the two bodies, moving both tiny hands to reach for it. He made the sign of the cross, bowed, and turned back to his original path. He looked up at the sky, mouthing “Amen.”

 French Apple Tart


1- 8 inch by 8 inch filo dough

3 Granny smith apples

1 lemon

1/4 Cup dark brown sugar

1/4 plus 2 tablespoons white sugar

1 Tablespoon honey

1 Tablespoon amaretto

1/4 Cup crushed candied peacans


  1. Thaw out filo dough and preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Place filo dough on a greased baking sheet. Mix honey, amaretto, and juice of half a lemon together and brush over the filo dough. Set some of the syrup aside.
  3. Cut apples into 1/4 inch slices and place in a large bowl. Then add brown sugar, 1/4 cup of white sugar, and the juice from half of a lemon. Stir until all the apples are coated.
  4. Then, arrange the apple slices neatly on the filo dough and sprinkle with the crushed candied pecans.
  5. Cook tart for 35 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Then, take out of the oven and immediately brush the tart with more of the honey-amaretto-lemon syrup.
  7. Let cool and eat! Yum!

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I Want My MTV: Uncensored Music History at Its Sweetest

Long before a time where 10-year old girls straightened their hair, wore make-up, had cell phones, or knew what Dior, Chanel, or Louis Vuitton were, existed the 1990’s. A time where I was a lot younger, chubbier, frizzier, and poorly dressed. Emphasis on the poorly dressed aspect, but as was everyone in the 90’s.

It was a time when I ran home from the bus stop with my L.L. Bean backpack bouncing on my back after a hard day of fractions in the 4th grade. Why was I running?  To catch the last few minutes of TRL hosted by the hunk-a-saurus of MTV, Carson Daly, also known as the last of MTV’s VJs.  I ran into the basement, never taking off my backpack, and plopped myself in front of the TV to catch just glimpses of Brittany Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Brian Littrell.

I looked forward to those brief seconds of music videos every day after school and longed to be one of the chosen ones who stood outside the MTV studio in Times Square and waited to be plucked by, what seemed to be, the hand of God- God, being Carson Daly or one of his musical guests. Just as soon as the excitement of TRL and music videos entered my life, it quickly vanished in a sea of D-grade reality shows like Date My Mom and Room Raiders.  

MTV, music television, is notorious for not airing music other than as a backdrop to Jersey Shore, The Real World, or that Survivor-Gauntlet-Challenge show. You know which one I’m talking about- that show where retired Real World cast members appear on to catch another fifteen seconds of fame. Yeah, that one.

About a year and a half ago, I was on my way to work when I received an e-mail from one of my college professors, Rene Steinke. Rene was one of my absolute favorite, not to mention most fashionable, professors at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She also has the experience as a writer that every one of my classmates worked towards. All the males in my class wanted to impress her, and all the females wanted to be her, or at the very least, steal her shoes because they were always that fabulous. Students say, and I’m not sure if she knows this, that an A accompanied by perfect comments on an assignment in her Fiction Writing class is definitely a few sheets of paper to cherish. Needless to say, I decided to take a quick look at her e-mail.

She told me about a book her husband and his friend were doing about the history of MTV and wanted to know if I’d be interested in interning for them as an audio transcriber. Lets just say I was twenty minutes late for work that day because I couldn’t quite figure out how to tone down the overwhelming excitement that was in my e-mail response to her.  Surely twenty exclamation points is not appropriate in that situation.

I began working for writers Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbuam a week after speaking with Rene and received my first interview tape to transcribe at around 11 p.m. on June 21. I remember the exact moment because I felt as though the fate of my future career as a writer rests in my work on these interview tapes.

Thanks to the internet, I learned of Craig and Rob’s work as top editors of Blender magazine. I also learned that Rob wrote the infamous February 2010 Playboy article titled Sexual Napalm on John Mayer. While the rest of America was hyped up about the content of the article, I, with wide-eyes, asked the question: How did this guy get John Mayer to unapologetically say whatever was on his mind? Little did I know, a few months later I’d be listening in on his interviewing technique.

I was working for music journalism veterans, something very few college students had the chance to do. Myself and several other interns transcribed some of the most fascinating interviews we’ve ever listen in on.

The names just got bigger and bigger with each new assignment. It started with John Cannelli, a quiet and humble interview. Then, I received an interview with Al Teller, which was one of the funniest and loudest interviews I transcribed. There was the language barrier, Rudolf Schenker of the Scorpions, which challenged my ability to decipher a German accent. The MTV sweetheart, Karen Duffy, who had the most passionate interview and literally brought me to tears with her appreciation for life. And then there was Michael Stipe, which I can’t talk about without getting fired up. There’s nothing like a pretentious, ironic, middle-aged hipster to really get my blood boiling. Talented? Absolutely, and he knows it.

I learned later that one incredibly lucky intern got to transcribe an interview with Snoop Dogg. But these names are just a sprinkle out of 400 plus interviews Craig and Rob conducted for their book.

The interviews were all engaging in different ways. I wondered for months how all these MTV characters would unify in the confines of a hardcover book. But today, the wait was finally over.

Today, I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum hit the bookstore shelves and I could not get out of work at Starbucks fast enough to see it in the flesh. Under full, heavy skies, I raced to Barnes and Noble with a mirrored thrill to when I raced home to watch TRL on MTV. I asked the sales girl for a copy of the book, which was not even on the shelves yet. The five-minute wait was the longest wait of my life.  I tried to pretend to be interested in some of the books on the New Releases table, but honestly, I wasn’t having any of it today. I just wanted my MTV.

Finally, the sales girl emerged from the back with a copy of I Want My MTV. It was as thick as a Bible and weighed roughly the amount of a newborn baby. Holding the book in my hands was the proudest moment of my life. Wait, I lied- seeing my name on page 573 under Acknowledgements, accompanied by kind words from Craig and Rob to the interns, was the proudest moment of my life. I was so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from such experienced writers on what seemed to be a larger than life project.

I literally grabbed the sales girl and showed her my name in the book along with my license. It was an attempt to not only convince this startled girl that I am the person whose name is nestled on page 573, but to convince myself that the book had finally arrived.

I then did what every normal writer and intern whose name appeared on page 573, would have done in that situation. I asked for five copies of the book and rearranged the New Releases table to include I Want My MTV. I would have asked for ten, but 500 plus pages are a pretty hefty load.

I want to thank Craig, Rob, and Rene for bringing me in on an opportunity of a lifetime, for being patient with my transcriptions while I juggled them among a mediocre part-time job, a full course load, and work as Senior Editor of FDU’s student newspaper, The Pillar and for inspiring me to keep on writing, even if it means I have to serve a hundred million more coffees at Starbucks just so I can afford to be a struggling writer. Hopefully, in the end, I’ll become the writer I always imagine myself to be.

Congrats Craig and Rob! And here’s an MTV cake!

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How Do You Feel About Frog Frosting?

When I attempt to explain to my friends the premise of Happy Birthday, Little Witch by Deborah Hautzig, also known as the book of my youth, it sounds a little something like this: “There’s a witch, and it’s her birthday and she goes with an astronaut to find friends and a cake. And I think there’s a monkey and they go in this big cauldron.”  Needless to say, this description only got me strange looks.

I am known for constantly emphasizing the fact that I can barely remember anything before I was twelve. I remember weird things like when I wore saddle shoes instead of sneakers in my fourth grade’s Christmas play- I was a dancing present. Or how my bus driver gave my brother a ten pound jar of peanut butter that same Christmas. Weird, bizarre, not normal things.

One of those weird, bizarre, not normal things was my endless reading of Happy Birthday, Little Witch when I was a child. It was when I first learned how to read. My grandma had these two tall shelves that displayed her father’s pocket watch, photo albums, and a collection of western animals made of glass or stone or some kind of highly breakable material. But located in those shelves bottom drawers were stacks of coloring books, an empty tub of baby wipes filled with broken crayons, and Happy Birthday, Little Witch. I was a serial reader of this book.

I would carry the book upstairs to my mom’s old bedroom and read the book over and over again. There was something about the story of a lonely witch on her birthday who sought out an astronaut, devil, and pirate to celebrate with that was so hypnotic my six-year-old self.

I know this is not scary- at all, but Little Witch’s chocolate frog cake with bat eyes wouldn’t seem appropriate in, lets say, March. It’s definitely more suiting for Halloween.


Also, there is no monkey in this book. Maybe in the sequel.

Chocolate Cake/ Cupcakes 


Best chocolate cake recipe of your life. I’ve spent too much time perfecting this recipe.

2 Sticks butter

1 3/4 Cups white sugar

3 Eggs

1 1/2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

1 3/4 Cups buttermilk

2 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour

6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 Teaspoons baking soda

1 Teaspoon salt.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together. Then, add eggs and vanilla extract. Beat until creamy and lighter in color.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk into the wet ingredients.
  5. Once all incorporated, pour into two 9-inch cake pans or cupcake pan. Will make 24 cupcakes.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool before frosting

Vanilla Frosting



3-4 Cups of confectioners sugar

2 Sticks of butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2-4 Tablespoons heavy cream


  1. Cream together confectioners sugar and butter  until thick, but without lumps.
  2. Add in vanilla extract and heavy cream. Beat until smooth. You can add heavy cream according to the consistency that you want. I like a thicker icing so I use 2 tablespoons.
  3. Decorate with jimmies and chocolate eyeballs or dye the frosting green using Wilton’s Lemon Yellow and Kelly Green food dye.


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The Raven (Tenders)

First things first, I know I haven’t been posting much lately, but alas, the coffee demand at Starbucks is high and so are my hours. I’m not complaining though. How do you think I pay to keep this blog up and delicious? Secondly, have you ever eaten a black chicken?  I think you may very shortly.

They don’t sell ravens in the supermarket- I bet you see where I’m going. But if they did sell ravens, I bet Edgar Allen Poe would be the butcher. Today, The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe is on the cutting board in the form of kickin’ blue tortilla crusted chicken fingers. 

The poem, The Raven is known for the pesky raven that drove the narrator mad after the loss of his lover Lenore. The repetition of “nothing more” and “nevermore” further insinuates the notion of the narrator’s frenzy over his undying devotion for Lenore. The narrator battles the need to remember and the need to forget his love, which is symbolized through the persistence of the raven.

The Raven is noted because of its meter and rhythm. It reads to a song-like pattern, which is why is rapidly gained popularity. As the rhythm intensifies, so does the narrators madness.

Ready to eat some black chicken?

Kickin’ Blue Tortilla Crusted Chicken Tenders


2 Cups of blue corn tortilla chips crushed to the consistency of cornmeal

8 Chicken tenders

1/2 Cup of all purpose flour

2 Eggs

1 Teaspoon salt

1/2 Teaspoon black pepper

1 Teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 Teaspoon paprika

1/2 Cup of canola oil


  1. Crush 2 cups of blue tortilla chips and place on a large plate. Then, add salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper.
  2. In another place, add flour. In a small bowl, beat eggs.
  3. Heat oil up to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  4. Lightly salt and pepper the chicken tenders before proceeding.
  5. Then, take a chicken tender and dip it into the flour, then into the egg mixture, and finally into the blue tortillas. Place the blue tortilla crusted chicken tender into the oil for 5-8 minutes per side.
  6. When cooked through, Place the chicken tender on a layered piece of paper towel. Repeat until all the chicken tenders are cooked.

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce



1 Cup of mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons of yellow mustard

2 Tablespoons of dijon mustard

1 Tablespoon of honey

1/2 Teaspoon lemon juice


  1. Mix the mayonnaise, yellow mustard, dijon mustard, and honey.
  2. Then add lemon juice and mix until all ingredients are combined.

“While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.” ~ The Raven


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The Legend of Pumpkin Cheesecake

Sometimes, a cheesecake comes along and it brings a tear to your eye. This is that cheesecake. Pumpkin cheesecake.

I ate every bite of this cheesecake with an obnoxious smug on my face. I couldn’t wipe it off even if I wanted to because my hands were busy shoveling forkfuls of cheesecake into my mouth. If I could, I would have an out-of-body experience and kiss my own forehead for bringing this cheesecake into the world. I’ll admit it, behind the scenes of this blog, when I’ve made a terrible cake, an even worse cookie, and a completely inedible pie. This is not one of those recipes. Make it. Make it now.

So you’re probably wondering where this cheesecake affair derived from. Last week, I made a recipe for black and white cookies for Washington Irving’s The Devil and Tom Walker. Washington Irving is a big hit with me right now as he makes his second appearance on The Baker in the Rye for his novel The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. 

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow takes place in Sleepy Hollow, New York. The town is known for a strange ghost who rides by the church. It is strange because the ghost is that of a Revolutionary War soldier who lost his head in battle. His headless body is often seen at night, riding on horseback by the church.

The reader follows Sleepy Hollow’s newcomer, Ichabod Crane, as he pines over the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel. Ichabod isn’t the only one interested in Katrina’s flirtatious ways. She has also gained the attention of village hero, Brom Van Brunt. Brom is notorious for scaring off any man interested in Katrina, but Ichabod doesn’t flee as easily. However, Katrina shows little interest in Ichabod at a party at her home. Ichabod leaves, displeased. As he walks home, he spots the ghost of Sleepy Hollow and engages in a horserace of sorts. But alas, it’s hard to outride a ghost and as Ichabod pays little attention to the Headless Horseman’s warning to leave. The Headless Horseman throws his detached head at Ichabod, which knocks him off his horse.

The next day, Ichabod’s horse returns to the farm without Ichabod. A search party is sent out, but all they find is Ichabod’s hat lying next to a smashed pumpkin. Ichabod is never heard from or seen again, leaving Brom free to marry Katrina. The smashed pumpkin can symbolize many things in this novel. It symbolizes the end of a romance for Katrina and Ichabod, the turmoil between Ichabod and Brom for Katrina’s hand in marriage, and also a warning to the town to keep away from the ghost. But for me, it symbolizes pumpkin cheesecake.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is now The Legend of Pumpkin Cheesecake. Ever have the horrible predicament that forced you to choose between cheesecake and pumpkin pie? That predicament is no more! Do you feel the freedom? What makes this cheesecake over the top, is its Sweetzel’s spice wafer crust foundation and its bourbon chocolate ganache coat that just hugs this cake to delicious pieces.

Spiced- Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake

Ingredients for Crust:

2 Cups of Sweetzel’s Spiced Wafers

3 Tablespoons of white sugar

1 Stick of butter, melted


  1. Crush Sweetzel’s Spiced Wafers in a food processor until the cookies resemble sand.
  2. Add sugar and melted butter, and mix until ingredients are well combined. Push the crust down in the bottom of a springform pan.

Ingredients for Filling:

3- 8 Ounce packages of cream cheese

1 Cup of pumpkin puree

3 Eggs, plus 1 egg yolk

2 Tablespoons sour cream

1 1/2 Cups sugar

1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 Teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 Teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 Teaspoon ground cloves

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

1 baking sheet or large pan that can hold about 1 1/2 inches of water

2+ Cups of water


  1. Preheat oven to 35o degree fahrenheit.
  2. Beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Then, add in pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk and sour cream. Once mixed, add sugar, spices, flour, and vanilla extract.
  3. Beat until the mixture is lump-free.
  4. Pour into crust and spread mixture evenly in springform pan.
  5. Place your cheesecake into a baking sheet that can hold about 1 1/2 inches of water. Then add enough water to come up the sides about 1 1/2 inches. Place this into the oven and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  6. Once the cheesecake is firm on the edges, but jiggles like jell-o in the center, turn off the oven and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. This, as well as the water bath, will ensure that there is no cracking.
  7. Let cool overnight in the refrigerator.

Ingredients for the Bourbon Chocolate Ganache:

8- 1 Ounce squared of semi-sweet baking chocolate

1 Tablespoon, or so, of bourbon. I used 2 tablespoons, but this can be left out entirely.

1/2 Cup of heavy cream


  1. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and heavy cream together.
  2. Once mixture is smooth, add in bourbon.
  3. Spread over cooled cheesecake and let sit for 1 hour in refrigerator, before serving

” –but his horror was still more increased on observing that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of his saddle!”  ~ The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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by Rachel Yecco

 To my right, I have a pile of written complaints and to my left, a computer containing e-mailed complaints from the last 9 hours. And they need to get filed!

My life is a cell. even tough, ironically, everyone is made of them, only a select few are them . Cells are those who come in at 9 and sit down in their assigned 10 foot by 10 foot space, which is a nice size or a cubicle according to Nancy who sits diagonally from my cell two rows ahead.

We sit in the center of the building on the 4th floor. All the other floors above can look down on us. I sometimes go up to the top where Jeff, my boss, his office is and look down. It’s like we have our own culture growing in some sort of petry dish. Like, we’re in the Twilight Zone or something, Big Brother, ya know.

I know there is a name for this job, besides certain expletives, but after 4 years working for GCR Corp, I have forgotten what that is. All I know is, we make this new plastic. I dunno, some people don’t like it. They say turns yellow in the dishwasher. Or sparks up in the microwave like 4th of July, so I file their complaints.

I was a writing major a NYU. How I found myself behind a desk in this rather uncomfortable suit is beyond me. All my professors said, “You got it kid, a real something with words”. I held onto those sorts of things to keep me going. I was an intern for the New Yorker for 2 years in college, and now I’m in the business of plastics.

“Tom? Tom?

“Over here,”

‘Tom, I always forget which cell you’re in.”

I’ve been in the same cell for 4 years, and Bob has said this same thing since my second day on the job.”

“Bob, I uhh…” I try to get out a few words.

“ We have a situation! A REAAAL big emergency!”

Bob is my boss’s secretary. The worlds worst Secretary, I may add. Everyday he comes in, confused as to my whereabouts, and from his powdered sugar donut lips, he says, “We have an EEEmergenCY! A real swear-to-God crisis on our hands!” We never do. I’ve learned that EEEmergenCY means we need for toner for the printer and crisis is code for Matt is getting hot and heavy with that pretty little brunette from advertising in the copy room again.

Bob is also very un-secretary-like. Since the dawn of time, it has only been understood by men that secretary’s are hot forbidden territory, giving off the vibe that they want to be kept alone to their library-like good looks, but will give in to the right man and on the right desk.

Bob is particularly pale and large, as well as suffering from male pattern baldness. He is married to an oversized gem named Maggie and has two darling kids, Precious Pearl and Super Steve. I know this because when Maggie calls, he always asks if she can, “put my Precious Pearl and Super Steve on the phone, will yah?” Did I mention he has the voice of a mating humpback whale?

Alternatively, I wouldn’t know, or believe, that Maggie, Precious Pearl, or Super Steve even existed if it were for the shiny gold wedding band cutting the circulation from his sausage ring finger or the watch Maggie gave him for Christmas. It’s not your average silver chain link watch that poor boys like us get off Canal Street, oh no. It’s got pictures of Bob, Maggie, and their kids little heads on it all evenly spaced in the watch. When the clock strikes twelve, Maggie gets whacked in the noggin. Then at three Precious Pearl gets a good hit, followed by Super Steve at six And it’s all rounded off by a good smack to Bob’s cranium at nine.

“Tom, We got a crisis on our hands. Now I don’t particularly know what’s going on, but I think this is it.”

“Do you need me to tell Matt and Lauren to knock it off, again?”

“No, we’re going under, GCR Corp is going under!”

“Jesus Christ Bob, this is the last time I’m telling you, your staying put, now get outta here, I got complaints to file.”

“No you don’t understand!”

Two months ago, a creative little spider, spun a web of rumors. There were three that got the attention of the company.

The First was that Lauren was preggo, but not with Matt’s baby. That one turned out to be a negative. Though I’m sure if it was true, the copy room drama would be better than any HBO series.

The second was that the Gyro cart right outside the building was moving to 53rd and Lexington, which turned out positive. They replaced it with some falafel guy and I can’t taste the big difference, but some folks were pretty pissed ‘bout that. And the last was that GCR Corp. was filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. After months of no lay offs or nothing, everyone down here in complaints figured it wasn’t true and moved on

“GCR Corp is the Titanic, and Jeff is Edward Smith!”

“Who’s Edward Smith?”

“The captain, but that doesn’t matter, the point it…”

“Jeff is no captain of any ship, didn’t you see him at the company picnic on the yacht last year.”

“Tom, Tom listen…”

“Haven’t seen that much puke from a person since my 21st birthday.”

“There were these guys in the office”

“Will you get out of here! I got stuff to do.”

“Jeff filed for Chapter 11!”

Once these words left his lips there was no looking back. People began popping out of their cells like groundhogs, cocking their heads to the side as small whispers rose into the air. Chapter 11.

I pulled Bob into my cell, down onto the floor so no one could see us. I hoped our voices wouldn’t rise  above my cell.

I stared at Bob dead in the eyes. “Tell me what you heard.”

Bob’s eyes got all beady with panic. The world’s worst secretary had heard or seen something to confirm our biggest fears.

“Bob!” I yelled.

“Okay, alright”

“Now whisper, I don’t want you to make everyone worry.”

“Alright, alright,” he began.

“So there were these two men, I don’t know who, but they’ve been coming around a lot in the last year, but a lot more in the last two weeks. They were talking about 1.2 billion dollars in bankruptcy, so to fix it, they filed for Chapter 11. But I didn’t know this until right now.”

“So it was true, that’s why we were still operating.”

“But listen, that 1.2 was kept off the books the entire time because he hid it in separate partnerships.”

“Oh my god.”

“Those small partnerships had debt and losses that he never reported too.”

“But you don’t have to report it unless he owns more than 50 percent.” I said.

Bob’s breathing got heavy and small beads of sweat began to bubble by his receded hairline.

“I just, I don’t,” Bob stuttered. “I got kids, and Maggie. What’s gonna happen?”

The truth was that I didn’t know. The only thing I knew after four years here, was that after five I was quitting. This never crossed my mind as the way I would go.

I always pictured it as a big scene. I’d wake up at 7:30 AM. No shower, no shave, no suit, just a few shots of Old Jack and then off the work by 8 AM. I’d call some of the people who filed complaints and yell, “Yeah? Well maybe plastic doesn’t belong in the microwave?!” I would charge into Jeff’s office with my briefcase, contents two shot glasses, and introduce him to Jack. Then I’d say something like, “ I am an NYU Grad. I spent years around accomplished important writers. And after four years all I have accomplished is two filing cabinets of complaints from people who don’t have anything else better to do than search for the perfect plastic. Something, which you haven’t accomplished, and that’s your job. I didn’t go to school for plastic!” And then leave. I feel like the traditional I quit is so, Tom Cruise via Jerry Maguire, and I have never been a Tom Cruise fan.

I looked at Bob and he was fidgeting with his stupid watch. And he looked at me to try and fix this as a friend. Everyone else in complaints started packing up their things and leaving the office on their cell phones. Cubicles aren’t as quiet as I’d like to think.

At this moment, I chose to leave with Bob.

“Come on Bob, we’re going out.”

“I gotta get home, I gotta tell my wife.”

“No” I paused, “ No yah don’t, let’s go”

I grabbed my stuff and started heading out. “Where are we going?” Bob questioned. I replied, “ o the nearest bar, we gotta figure things out, and the greats never did it without a blood alcohol level of .2.”

“Now, I don’t drink Tom.”

“I know, you’re buying.”

We left the office along with a crowd of people. Jeff’s face was something to see. Normally, he didn’t have to try to make himself appear bigger and better than you. He wore Armani and Gucci suits every day and drove a shade of black Jaguar that doesn’t even exist to anyone else beside himself. It was subtleties like that, which made him better than everyone, all the time, every day. But today, he wasn’t. He hid in his office. He is a coward.

Bob and I headed to the pub two blocks down. It’s the kinda pub that’s been passed down from mom and pop, with pictures of old family on the walls and cheesy Christmas decorations up even though it’s March. But they serve decent beer and fine conversation, so it’s the place to be, especially with Bob.

When we walk in, Martha, the owners daughter, questions the date and time. I’m a Thursday at 8 PM regular and It’s Tuesday morning. After having a glance at Bob she gives us a round ‘on the house’ of their signature brew.

“Oh no, I don’t drink” Bob tells Martha, “Tom, I really gotta go.”

“No you don’t, tell him Martha.”

“Comm’an hand have a beer” she demands as she tops off my glass.

“All right, but just this” Bob bargains.

About half way into his first glass he takes off his suit jacket and loosens his tie. After he finishes his glass, the top buttons on his shirts are undone as he orders me and him another glass.

As the glasses keep coming, on Bob’s demand, articles of his clothes start to find itself undone or misplaced, example his neck tie around his head, which he then started as a bar trend. It did have quite as popular a following as Bob and I had hoped for. It was shocking to me because a) Bob was being the trendsetter, and b) it was eleven in the morning. How could there possibly be that many people in a bar and hammered?

Regardless of actual analog time, this was the first cognitive time I could think of Bob being this much fun. Not to completely diss the pig roast he has in ’96 for Labor Day. Now that was a good time, until Frank Kilmer from accounting tried to put Precious Pearl on the pig roast stick. Things turned sour after that.

By this point, Bob has had six beers and two shots of Jack and I’m sure I’m in the same area, though I’ve lost count. We’ve managed to make nice with a bunch of nice-headed kids from NYU, ironically. They say, this bar keeps them from being one of the 3 percent. Annually, at NYU, 3 percent of the incoming freshman jump off the deep end. Literally, they jump off the library balcony after hours of reading medical journals. Typically, they’re ethnically some sort of Asian, or Italian from guilt providing families. But these kids say this bar keeps them far from the NYU library balcony or Brooklyn Bridge- another hot spot for the 3 percent.

“Now listen, guys, this is reaaally, just, this is really, important!” Bobs words fall from his mouth like drunk man getting out of a car. “Never get married. Ever.” The kids start to cackle loudly. A red-head high fives Bob and says, “ Yes, hell yes! I love you man! Seriously.”

“No, Serious! I mean, I’m serious! I love you, but that’s not serious. About the marriage part.”

“Awe Bob” I say, “ But Maggie got you that special watch with your faces on it.”

“I hate this watch! Sometimes in the middle of the night, I check to see what time it is because the numbers glow in the dark and stuff.”

“What are you eleven?” asks the kid that goes by the name Short Bus

“Man, I wish, but I wake up in the middle of the night and see Pearl and Steve glowing at me and I get scared and think, ‘Bob, Bob is this it’. I got a miserable wife and two fat kids. I mean, I know Pearl’s only thirteen, but you know, I didn’t think she’d look like this. That. I don’t know.”

The kids stopped laughing now. “ Another round Martha” says Short Bus as he waves at the bar. “ No, man, you can’t think like that. Do you think I was this good looking’ when I was thirteen” he says.

“Yeah” The red head agrees. “I mean look at me! Look at my head. I got- has it three time as bad. Everyone is ugly at thirteen, but I was thirteen and a ginger!”

“He has a valid point Bob” I point out.

“But what do I do, I mean- I’m unhappy. The only thing that makes me happy is you guys.” Bob says

“ I’m feeling this right now,” Short Bus declares while the red head nods. “I’m getting good vibes.”

“You know what Bob?” The red head begins. “You need to open up a bar. You said it yourself, you only like beer.”

“Yeah, but that wasn’t until today” Bob said.

“So, you like it, love it, it makes you happy”


“Yeah, me and Short Bus can work for you! We’re only in NYU because our parents bought the courtyard a bench or something.”

“Yeah” short bus agreed, “ I mean who we kiddin’, majoring in pre law, that’s a bunch of bull- I’ll tell you.”

“You’re right,” Bob declared.

He stood up from his seat, “I’m going into the beer business.”

“Yeah” everyone in the bar agreed as they cheered. “And everyone here, gets free beer, all the time, because I’m boss.”  “Your boss!” Short Bus said.

“I’m the boss!”

By the next month, I was one of four people to show up to work in complaints. The cubicles were small little abandoned caves.

“Cheryl, where did everyone go?”

“According to Lisa, a bunch of guys went to work for Bob at his new bar. It’s opening next week.”

“You got to be kidding me.”

“Seriously. Everyone’s been either drinking there for free or working there. He’s got his thirteen year old serving beer! Bob’s a funny guy, you know. Who’d have thunk it”

“He is, Bob is a pretty funny guy.”

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The Devil and Some Cookies

I’ve noticed a trend during my October readings. A majority of scary stories take place in Massachusetts. Fact. Maybe that’s why I’m so inclined to visit there.

The Devil and Tom Walker by Washington Irving takes place in Massachusetts hub, Boston. The Devil and Tom Walker was controversial for its time because it told the story of a man who made a deal with the devil. He Essentially chose a life full of luxury over a life with his wife.

But his wife isn’t all-innocent here, either. After Tom is approached with a deal from the Old Scratch, who represents the devil, he tells his wife. She then goes to the woods where Tom first met the Old Scratch and attempts to sell all their expensive goods. A few days later, Tom finds what is left of his wife wrapped up in her apron underneath a tree. Tom thought of his wife’s death as a good thing and believed what the Old Scratch did was an act of kindness. Tom was mistaken, but didn’t realize it yet.

Tom had a way of swindling people out of money. As he grew older and older, fear of the afterlife caused Tom to carry two bibles with him at all times. Except for one time…. It only takes one time. When a man approaches Tom and blames him for taking his money, Tom says, “The Devil take me if I have made but a farthing!”

That very moment the Devil, dressed in all black, arrives on Tom doorstep on horseback. They both disappear into the darkness. Legend has it, that Tom’s home and all his belongings burned to the ground and that Tom haunts the area where his home once stood.

As the story ends, there is a clear image of the Devil in his smoky black garb as he carries away Tom, who is dressed in all white.  The obvious translation­–black and white cookies. I used the recipe for these black and white cookies from fellow blogger and soon to be published cookbook author, Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. Look for her recipes on her blog and check back in 2012 for the release of her book! I know I’m looking forward to it!

“Tom Walker, however, was not a man to be troubled with any fears of the kind.” ~ The Devil and Tom Walker






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