Sunday, January 17, 2010

Water Pieces: An Online Piano Concert

I know this whole idea of an online concert is kind of weird, but I say why not! As a pianist, we spend long hours in front of a piano learning whatever is next on our list of things we want to master (I can tell you this is an inexhaustible list!) Usually these efforts are put forth for various performances and competitions which give us a deadline and help motivate us to learn new things. But what do you do when you're all done with performances and competitions? I thought, what better way to keep this tradition of learning/performing up with online piano concerts! 

For my first online piano concert I decided to have a theme of Water related pieces including the following selection:
  1. Jeux D'eau - Maurice Ravel
  2. Reflets Dans l'Eau from Images - Claude Debussy
  3. Online from Gaspard de la Nuit - Maurice Ravel
Included in the collection is a commentary from me about my selection. BTW, the commentary video makes me laugh because I sound like a nervous zit-faced adolescent boy at first. 

Opening comments from Dennis

Jeux d'Eau by Maurice Ravel
"River god laughing as the water tickles him..." This excerpt from Henri de Régnier's Cité des Eaux is what Ravel used as a template of imagination to compose this piece.

Reflets Dans l'Eau from Images by Claude Debussy

Ondine from Gaspard de la Nuit by Maurice Ravel

Below is the poem written by Aloysius Bertrand in which Ondine was composed
"Listen! listen! it’s me, it’s Ondine who brushes with these drops of water the resonant diamonds of your window lit by the gloomy moon-light; and there in her silken robe is the lady of the manor contemplating from her balcony the lovely star-bright night and the beautiful sleeping lake.

"Each ripple is a 'child of the waves' swimming with the current, each current is a path winding towards my palace, and my palace is built fluid, at the bottom of the lake, in the triangle of fire earth and air.

"Listen! -Listen! – my father strikes the croaking water with a branch of green alder, and my sisters caress with their arms of foam the cool islands of herbs, water lilies and gladioli, or make fun of their sickly, bearded willow that is fishing with rod and line."

Having murmured her song, she begged me to accept her ring on my finger, so that I would be the husband of an Ondine, and to visit her palace with her, so that I would be king of the lakes. And since I replied that I loved a mortal woman, she wept a few tears, sulking and peevish, then broke into laughter, and vanished in showers of rain that drizzled white across my blue window pane.

I'm not exactly sure how this is suppose to work, but I hope everyone enjoys my first online concert. My next concert, currently in the works, will be some rare selections of Ernő Dohnányi never performed repertoire so looking forward to that!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Is it too late for a Christmas Blog?!?!?

I'm not sure if it is because of the massive amounts of food I ate around the holidays, but I've managed to wait this long to post all the yummy things I made for Christmas! So you know how everyone makes a batch of Christmas goodies like cookies, peanut butter kisses, peanut brittle... you know you know. Well I wanted to do the same thing, but since it's my first time, I figured I'd try some different stuff. And don't worry, I didn't miss out on the regular stuff since I pretty much ate all the stuff people brought into work during the last three weeks of the year...

So here is a list of things I made!

(Click on each picture to get the recipe)

1. Magenbrot - When I was in Switzerland last November, I was on a rampage trying every new thing in sight! We came across a lit
tle Christmas stand that had various goodies and this weird pink bag called filled with Magenbrot (translated as stomach bread). Someone in our group told me it is one of his favorite things to eat so I for sure got a bag, inhaled one piece, and fell in love! I ate a lot of things in Switzerland and this by far was one of my favorites. I'm happy to report that despite my concerns with the hard and dry dough, the Magenbrot turned out perfect!! I can see why they call it stomach bread, beacuse one bite and your stomach is happy! Funny thing was that during our Christmas get together, this was the least popular dessert. Oh well... more for me!!!

2. Cream Cheese Raspberry
Brownies - Just the name gives away the yumminess of this one! Although the brownies turned out a tad on the dry side, I really liked the cream and raspberries mixed in with the brownies!

3. Ginger-Lemon Pinwheel Cookies - Instead of just plain old cookies, I decided to make something with a twist. After I made the dough, I probably lost 7.3% of it because it was sooooo good and I couldn't stop eating it. And after I made the cookies, I licked the bowls so clean they didn't stand a chance! Even though the dough was good, I felt like the cookies lost a little flavor after they were baked... so they were just aaaaiiiight. For the trouble it takes to make them, I don't think I will make them again... well maybe I'll make them just to eat the dough!

4. Jeera Biscuits - Had she not been sick, we would have had a guest from Pakistan at our Christmas get together. Just for fun, I thought I would make a dessert from Pakistan and while I was doing a search, I came across a biscuit recipe with cumin seeds... N say what?!? Really they are more like cookies. So... I like cookies... and I like cumin... so why not!!! Since these weren't sweet, they didn't go to well stacked up with the other desserts, but I thought they were OK. The recipe called for 3/4 cups oil, which I thought was excessive, but I wanted to stay true to the recipe. FOR SURE it was too much oil so I modified the recipe to reduce the amount of oil to 1/4 cups. If I was ever in the mood for something not too sweet, I would make these again.

5. Pumpkin Bread Pudding - Next to the Magenbrot, this was one of my favorites!! I looooove bread pudding and have made different kinds in the past, but never one that tasted like this. It was super mushy (just the way I like it) and I filled it with prunes (which everyone things I'm obsessed with) and it was yummy! Of course I decided to be a little decorative and put little piggy and lady bug marzipan pieces on top to freak people out.

6. Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies - I told my sister I was going to bring these and she totally thought I was going to buy them. Do I buy food??????? Ingredients maybe, but I for sure I was going to make these babies from scratch. While the process was cumbersome and messy, this was the most popular item and were quickly gobbled by everyone like.... WHOOOOPIEEE!! I recommend everyone try this recipe out!

7. Babka - Babka is a sweet loaf of bread filled with yummy cinnamon chocolate swirls inside. It's not the easiest thing to make, but it was definitely worth it. The recipe calls for chunks of chocolate, but instead I used these chunks of peppermint bars that
I brought back from Switzerland. I'll tell you that these bars were super strong, so it gave the bread an interesting peppermint chocolate flavor. I want to experiment with this bread again and try a new type of filling. Carmel chunks? Peanut Butter? Onion?!?!? We shall see :)

8. Sugar Plums - So around Christmas time, you hear about sugar plums... I mean... there are frickin sugar plum fairies! But what the heck is a sugar plum?!? I had no clue so I looked up a recipe for it. There are a lot of variations, but basically you take chopped fruits and/or nuts, stick them together with honey and you've got yourself some sugar plums! Again, this wasn't a favorite at the Christmas get together, but that worked out because I loved them! They taste like a fruit and nut energy bar, so I would pop in some before I hit the gym as a snack.

Well that's it! There was dessert that I didn't tell anyone about because it was a complete failure and I eventually threw it away after several attempts to save it. Apparently when you are making meringues, you can't use egg white substitutes... oops! I'll remember that for next time. Anyway, I encourage everyone to try at least one of these recipes next Christmas (or any time for that matter) and aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas usual... ENJOY!!!


Babka and Sugar Plums

Babka (Sweet bread with chocolate swirls)

  • 1 tsp sugar (for yeast and milk)
  • 1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/4 skim milk
  • 1/2 cup fat free half and half
  • 3 tbsp Splenda-sugar blend (for dough)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cup bread flour
  • 5 tbsp soften butter
  • 1/4 cup Splenda-sugar blend
  • 5 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 oz of chocolate, finely chopped (I used peppermint chunks instead)
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp softened butter
  1. Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm milk and let stand for 5 minutes
  2. In a large bowl, stir in yeast mixture, rest of sugar, vanilla extract, salt, and egg
  3. Slowly add 1 1/3 cup of any flour while mixing and continue to mix to form a dough
  4. Add butter to dough and continue to mix (dough is sticky!)
  5. Place sticky dough on a floured surface and kneed for 10 minutes while adding the rest of the flour 1 tbsp at a time (again it's sticky and messy but adding the flour makes it gradually better)
  6. Place dough in a covered greased bowl and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours
  7. After dough has doubled in size, punch it down like a domestic violence victim and let rest for 5 minutes
  8. While dough is resting, make the filling by combining and mixing all filling ingredients in a medium bowl
  9. Roll the dough over a floured surface creating a 16x16 inch square
  10. Sprinkle the filling over the dough evenly and roll that puppy up! (Don't worry if filling gets all over the place because the end result will basically be the same!)
  11. Twist the dough as if you are wringing out a towel around 4 times (just make sure it doesn't lose shape)
  12. Squeeze the dough into a 9x5 inch loaf pan by bending the dough to make it fit
  13. Cover and let rest for 45 minutes until it doubles in size
  14. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (you know you're almost done when you have to preheat!)
  15. For the streusel, mix the powdered sugar, flour, and softened butter with a fork until it is crumbly
  16. Sprinkle the streusel mix over the dough and bake for 40 minutes
  17. Cool and enjoy!!

  • 2 cups unsalted almonds
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • orange zest (from one medium orange)
  • 1 cup apricots
  • 1 cup prunes
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • powdered sugar
  1. Toast the almonds at 400 degrees for 10 minutes
  2. In a medium bowl, mix honey, orange zest, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg
  3. Chop almonds and fruit, then add to honey mixture
  4. Mix everything together then roll into golf ball sized balls
  5. Roll each ball in powdered sugar and enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding and Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

  • 12 slices of cinnamon bread cut into cubes
  • 1 cup of chopped prunes
  • 1 can of 2% evaporated milk
  • 1 can of fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1 can pumpkin (should be around 15 oz)
  • 1 cup egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar Splenda mix
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (or a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Grease a 13x9 inch baking dish
  3. In a large bowl mix both cans of eva-milk, pumpkin, egg substitute, sugar, vanilla extract, pumpkin pie spice, and salt
  4. Add bread crumbs and prunes and let the mixture stand for 10 minutes
  5. Bake for 45 minutes
Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Mini Cookies
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup Splenda-sugar mix
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1 can pumpkin (again should be 15 oz)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Cream Cheese WHOOPIE filling
  • 4 oz 1/3 reduced fat cream cheese
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  1. Starting with the mini cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease 4 sheets of parchment paper
  2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt
  3. In another bowl, mix butter and sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes
  4. While beating the mixture, slowly add egg substitute
  5. Add pumpkin and vanilla extract to the egg mixture and beat until smooth
  6. Slowly add flour mixture while stirring to create a gooey-ooey batter
  7. Use a teaspoon to collect one scoop of the batter and place it on the parchment paper (this should yield around 72)
  8. Bake the mini cookies for 12 minutes (they look like scones when done)
  9. For the WHOOOOOPIE filling, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a small bowl
  10. Gradually add the powdered sugar while beating the mixture at a slow speed
  11. Once the cookies are done baking and cooled, place a small spoonful of whoopie mixture on the flat side of a cookie and place another cookie on top flat side down. (basically looks like a sandwich)
  12. Repeat for all cookies and refrigerate
I will warn you now that making the whoopies is really messy and sticky!

Ginger-Lemon Pinwheel Cookies and Jeera Biscuits

Ginger-Lemon Pinwheel Cookies


Ginger Dough
  • 1/4 softened butter
  • 2 tbsp Splenda brown sugar mix
  • 1/4 cup sugar-free syrup
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
Lemon Dough
  • 5 tbsp softened butter
  • 1/3 cup Splenda-sugar mix
  • 1/4 cup egg white substitute
  • 2 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  1. In a bowl beat brown sugar and 1/4 cup butter with a mixer at medium speed
  2. Add syrup and egg substitute and beat some more
  3. Add 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup whole wheat flour, ginger, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and allspice in butter mixture
  4. Beat at a low speed, wrap dough in plastic, and freeze for 30 minutes
  5. In another bowl, beat sugar and 5 tbsp butter with a mixer at medium speed
  6. Add egg white, rind, and vanilla extract and beat some more
  7. Add the rest of the flour and salt to the butter mixture
  8. Beat at a low speed, wrap dough in plastic, and freeze for 30 minutes
  9. Take out ginger dough and roll between sheets of plastic wrap (or it will stick!!) to a 13x8 inch rectangle and chill for 10 more minutes
  10. Do the same for the lemon dough and remove top plastic wrap making sure to chill it for 10 minutes
  11. Place the ginger dough on top of lemon dough leaving a 1/2 border along one of the long edges
  12. Starting at the other long edge (with no border) roll the combined dough like a jelly roll
  13. Cover roll in plastic wrap and... you guessed it! Freeze that mofo for another 30 minutes
  14. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  15. Unwrap the plastic wrap from dough and carefully cut dough into 1/4 inch slices
  16. Arrange the slices on baking sheets and bake each batch for 10 minutes
Jeera Biscuits

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup flour (or millet flour)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Splenda-sugar mix
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. In a medium bowl, mix sugar, oil, and egg
  2. Add flour, cumin seeds, salt, baking powder, and mix like you've never mixed before
  3. Roll the dough out and use your favorite cookie cutters to shape
  4. Bake those cumin-happy shapes at 350 degrees F for 13 minutes

Magentbrot and Raspberry-Cream Cheese Brownies


  • 9 oz. honey
  • 9 oz. sugar
  • 3.5 oz reduced fat graham crackers
  • 19.5 oz whole wheat flour
  • 3.5 oz milk
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • lemon zest (1/2 lemon)
DIRECTIONS (to prepare dough):
  1. Mix honey, sugar, and water in a bowl and set aside
  2. Grind the graham crackers
  3. In a large bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbles, wheat flour, cocoa, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and ground cloves
  4. Grate the lemon zest and add to dry mixture
  5. Mix baking soda into milk
  6. Once baking soda has dissolved in the milk, add the milk mixture to the honey mix
  7. Add the milk/honey mix into the dry ingredient mix
  8. Mix mix mix to make dough
Just as a warning, the dough is VERY hard and dry! Remember this is Magenbrot and not a loaf of bread... so don't think you made a mistake and accidentally add more water or milk. Once you've managed to mix this weird dough, let it set over night or at least 6-8 hours covered in a place with no drafts.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Take the dough and divide it into four pieces
  3. Roll the dough into little baguette shaped rolls (about 1.5 inches in diameter)
  4. Bake those bad boys for 15-20 minutes and let them cool
  5. Once they cool, cut them loaves into slices that are 1/2 to 1 inch thick
This may seem pretty standard as far as directions go, but it's not so easy since the dough is out of control dry and hard... but good luck! Also, the diameter of the rolls and the thickness of the slices are entirely up to you! You have four loaves so you might as well play around with a variety of sizes

  1. These directions don't end!!!
  2. Take 8 oz sugar, 2 oz honey, 3.5 oz water, and 2 tbsp cocoa and bring it to a boil in a small sauce pan
  3. Continue to stir the mixture for 3-4 minutes until you get a nice syrup
  4. In a bowl, mix one sliced loaf with 1/4 of the syrup. Make sure to mix it well so that the slices are completely covered in the syrup
  5. Do this for the rest of the syrup and slices
  6. Place the slices in a dry place where they are not touching or on top of each other. Let the syrup dry overnight (do not refrigerate!)
Just as a warning, this needs to be done quickly or the syrup will solidify quickly!

Raspberry-Cream Cheese Brownies
(Adaptation of recipe from Cooking Light magazine)

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 oz softened 1/3 less fat cream cheese
  • 2 tsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup egg white substitute
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar-splenda blend
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup egg white substitute
  • 4 tbsp raspberry preserves
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Mix all five Filling ingredients in a bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed. Set aside
  3. In a large bowl, mix both types of flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  4. Once dry mixture is evenly mixed add sugar, cocoa, butter, water, vanilla extract, and both eggs
  5. Mix that stuff like a kid playing in mud!
  6. In a greased 8x8 inch pan, place 2/3 of the mud mixture evenly covering the bottom of the pan
  7. Pour the filling over the mud mixture evenly
  8. Take a spoon and randomly place chunks of raspberry preserves and the rest of the mud mixture
  9. Swirl together the preserves and mud with a knife or chopstick
  10. bake for 35 minutes and let cool!