Author Archives: R.K. Modena

About R.K. Modena

Writer, artist, mom, all the rest is icing and sprinkles on the cake.

Do Not Want

So, it’s swiftly apparent that one of Jaenelle’s favourite people is the Housemate, Aff. From a baby point of view, this makes sense. He has the largest hands (besides Rhys) and when he holds her she feels secure. Also, she finds him funny, for reasons none of us can figure out

So Jaenelle was being held and talked to and it came time for her to be fed. Since we feed her through a tube in her nose, it’s easiest to keep her in her cot to do so. Aff, since he was talking to her, said “Okay, now we have to put you down in your cot, so you can have dinner, okay?”

Jaenelle’s smile immediately dropped into a sad frown, to his alarm.

“No, really, you have to be put back down in your cot-“

Even more tragic, tears welling at corners of big, WIDE EYES expression.

Me: *stifle laugh*

Aff: *slowly move toward cot and leans downward*

Jaenelle: *BURSTS OUT INTO ABSOLUTELY HEARTBROKEN AGONIZED TEARS*

Aff: O_O *hands Jaenelle to me, as I am an unhelpful Mom and cuddle and laugh at the same time as she wails and I comfort her*

Mind the reverse is more often true: he’ll lean over her, say hi and she’ll break out into this big gummy smile

Leaderprice Viande et Pommes Recreation

This is a recipe that we were originally introduced to as a frozen food by my middle brother Al’s Morrocan friends when we lived in Paris in the late 90s. It was basically ‘viande et pommes (du terre)’, and sold in the frozen food section of Leaderprice in 1 kg bags. Despite the unassuming name, the tiny diced potatoes, which had similarly tiny chunks of meat, were deliciously spiced – we could identify pepper, but the rest was a mystery, only hinted at by the fact that the potatoes were yellow-orange in hue when cooked. You just had to pop them in the microwave or stir-fry to enjoy. It was very much a budget cheapie frozen food, as there was much more potato than there was meat!

Believe me, we could each eat one of those bags. It’s a miracle that we didn’t end up massively unhealthily obese then, but we also walked a lot back in those days. Also, teenagers, I suppose.

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Berlin Memories Beef Goulash

I sent the recipe of my candied teriyaki tazukuri to my family, and my middle brother Al asked me if I have the recipe for my goulash, which I cooked up once and served to my sister in law (then to be) and she raved about the flavours and taste. It seems she remembers the dish!

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Coffee Jelly

A delightful treat of coffee and sweet cream

Happy New Year! Bye, 2018, hello 2019! Hopefully everyone will have a good year, or at the very least, one you can bear. I’m sharing my recipe of coffee jelly, which we had as part of the New Year celebration food. Really though, it’s such an easy dessert (just takes time, as jellies do) that there is no reason why you couldn’t have it more often than that!

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Candied Teriyaki Tazukuri Dilis

So I was writing about Tazukuri in my Takeno Gohan recipe, and after looking at a few recipes on how to make Tazukuri, I felt I could make my own twist on it – a bit closer to the recipe made by Seakid, maybe.

It turns out that I had already thought of doing this, as my husband remembered that I had some of the dried dilis in a package in the fridge, shoved into the back. I had the rest of the ingredients in my pantry, so seeing as today is New Year’s Eve, I figured, why not? It looked like something I could do while Jaenelle was napping after a feed.

Forgot to take a picture of the dilis in the package. Sorry. I got excited.
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Takeno Gohan with Tofu

Bamboo-tofu rice with seasoned seaweed, aburaage and sweet and spicy crispy fish and blueberries on a tray
of A Japanese-style meal with bamboo tofu rice as the main star!

I started making Japanese style cooked mixed rice as a fairly easy, makes me happy light meal. Takeno Gohan, or Bamboo Rice, is actually by itself pretty filling (to me) but sometimes, I want a bit more and I can add seasoned seaweed, or aburaage, or crispy candied dilis fish. (I didn’t have access to dried dilis at the time but I found them packaged as a coated crispy snack with spicy cornstarch, so I cooked sugar and soy sauce together until it got very thick and sticky and coated the snacks with them to make my own candied dilis. In Japan they’re called Tazukuri.) This is really less of a recipe and more of a method of cooking. (Edited to add: I’ve made my own version of Tazukuri. Enjoy!)

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Delicious Failure

So since it’s heading to New Year, we were preparing the food that should be started ahead of time – squeezed in between taking care of Jaenelle, of course. I had planned a cake for Christmas, but discovered we were out of sour cream, and the shops were all out of it as well. So we let the dry mixture sit in a bowl, and the melted butter was put in the fridge to be reheated later.

Turns out you shouldn’t use the microwave to re-melt the butter that’s already been melted. The fats stay separated. We figured this out only later though, because we poured the remelted butter into the cake mix and ended up with this:

It had boiled over and out of the pan, resulting in a very buttery pudding…thing. It’s still very delicious though and rich, and with a bit of whipped cream on top, it’d be perfect. So we’re enjoying our delicious failure, as it’s already nicknamed. ^_^ By flavour, it is redeemed!

Latkes

So I recently started having a rather peculiar potato craving (and no, I’m not pregnant!) that I acquired from surfing Pinterest recipes while taking care of the baby (usually while holding up her syringe of milk; she’s currently on a nasal-gastric tube only feed.)

Happy bright eyed baby girl
Jaenelle giving me a cute, crooked smile

Anyway, I ran across a recipe for latkes that struck me as super easy, even though I don’t have a cheesecloth to squeeze the shredded potatoes with. I figured I could use the food processor to make my life easier too, so I’ve been wanting to try make this since I saw the recipe for the things about a month ago.

So the other day, I found myself with time to try it; Jaenelle was having a very comfortable sleep in her cot in my work area, and I didn’t think this would take much time to prep and would make a nice side dish with the honey mustard chicken bake I was doing. I had plenty I thought… and ended up with a couple of unexpected but welcome dinner guests, who gave me a big thumbs up and rave reviews about the meal.

I made these with a bit more flour than I should’ve, but they turned out wonderfully – more like a latke-fritter than a proper latke, and still yummy and filling. Next time I’ll use less flour and egg. The onions, which were pre-diced and frozen, ended up meltingly soft and sweet with the potato shreds. Yuuuuum~

I wonder if one could make these as just onion pancakes. =9

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Latkes
Shredded potato and onions result in a more flavorful version of the more well-known hash browns! Eat alone or as a side, it's a flavorful snack!
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Using food processor, shred potatoes. Pour shredded potatoes and onions into a collander lined with a cheesecloth.
  2. Gather up cheesecloth around the potatoes and onions and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Put into a mixing bowl.
  3. Add the seasoned salt to the eggs and beat, then pour over the potatoes and onions. Stir in.
  4. Gently fold in the flour until well mixed.
  5. Pour some oil into a large frying pan. Heat oil on medium heat, and drop in carefully a spoon of potato mixture, flattening slightly. Fry until golden brown, then flip over with a spatula. Remove from pan onto a baking tray lined with paper towels when the other side is golden brown too.
  6. Serve with sour cream and chives, or use as a side dish / hash brown replacement.
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Merry Christmas

Home for Christmas!

Jaenelle is home! We’ve been home since Monday, and we’re all settling in and adjusting to her various medical needs (Mostly her feeding and medicines schedule.)

She had a tube change this morning, and since the NG tube was out for a little while, I took the opportunity to take a photo of her in a pretty dress she was meant to have on for her uncle’s wedding (we couldn’t go, sadly, because Jaenelle was still in hospital) and combine it with an idea I had while admiring the Christmas tree at the cardiac ward that we were staying in: bundle up all the cute babies, put ribbons around them and put them down with the gifts, because they were the most precious gifts of all.

Things are improving, and I think everything will be smoother once things are better set up. I am recovering from the hospital stay, and reckon my back and hip muscles will eventually loosen up again one day.

There aren’t as many presents under the tree because I didn’t get the opportunity to really do shopping; and the older children being older, preferred to have the ability to choose what they got (either money, or books. I’m happy that they went for books; though this means that they weren’t getting them on the day. I’ve been told it’s no problem.) I’m hoping that I can at least bake a cake for Christmas…

As always, we endure, adapt and survive, but when she smiles, it really is worth it! (Apparently she finds Uncle Aff’s voice very ticklish and smiles a LOT when he talks to her.)

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to everyone!

Happy Father’s Day 2018

Card with baby footprints and text reading Dad, Well Done I'm Awesome!

Made by one of the lovely ladies of the NICU

Last Sunday was Father’s Day; and there was a surprise waiting for us at Jaenelle’s crib – a Father’s Day card! ‘From Jaenelle’, as it were. Of course, since she is still little, she got some help in making it. Rhys, of course, loves it to bits.

Vincent usually uses a bit of his saved up money (or an unused gift card) to get his Dad a bottle of his favourite liquor with my help – ergo, the boyo gives me the money to pay for the pressie after he picks out what he thinks is the best option. But since I’m still in hospital fighting off infection (which is why I haven’t been ‘around’ per se), I couldn’t help him this time around. I gave a couple of suggestions (albeit a bit late) of options that Eldest Son can get from the grocery. It’s a wee bit of help, but at least he didn’t forget it at all.

Jaenelle is growing well; she’s in positive birth weight now and has been moved to the special care ward and has been getting a mix of bottle feeds and tube feeds. She’s still a bit too little though to really breastfeed, though she gives it a good try, she gets tired too easily and does what they call tongue thrust – ergo the baby’s tongue gets in the way and pushes out something that is put in the mouth, a normally good survival instinct, but gets in her way in this case. I might be able to help her a bit more but for the cannula in my arm preventing me from bending the limb properly.

On other good news – Congratulations to the winners and nominees of the Dragon Awards!

 

Hello Beautiful Baby!

She has her father’s big eyes, only grey.

Our daughter, Jaenelle, was born last week via a medically necessary c-section, early at 34 weeks, 4 days. She is thriving and perpetually hungry, since she has a lot of growing to catch up to. While she is in the NICU as she is prematurely born, I’ve been informed that she does not suffer from things like apnea or breathing issues, and just needs to feed and sleep enough to catch up to growing to her term size. Looks like the corticosteroids worked a treat on her lungs!

The surgery was required as I had placenta previa and a front-lying placenta. I learned something new: you can have a c-section where you cut through the placenta! I was put under general anaesthesia for it, so I didn’t see that, but Rhys was allowed in to take pictures of our baby after she’d been taken out of the womb and cut the cord. Already all that was more than we had hoped for! After finding out that Rhys had worked with sheep slaughtering, the surgeon allowed him to peek at the sewing-me-up procedure (since Rhys was being sensible and staying out of the way) and gave permission to take a couple of pics for me to see. I’m sure that we’ve made an impression as That Weird Couple.

I am still in hospital with post-natal complications (pulmonary embolism, infection), which are being handled. I do not mind the extended stay in the hospital (I’d already been here a good 3 weeks before the surgery due to pregnancy complications regarding blood pressure) as if anything goes wrong, I’m at the best place for that.

Socialist Bananas And Limited Ice Cream

One summer, shortly after we arrived in East Berlin, my parents and we children were out and about walking and enjoying the day, when we ran across a stall, which had a long line of East Germans patiently queued for whatever it was being sold.

My father being always curious, decided to look at what the stall had to offer: bananas! Since the queue was rather long, I was sent to mind my younger brother while sitting on a nearby bench, while he and my mother got in line, telling us we’d have bananas for a snack. I remember my Dad being excited because they were very cheap, and smelled good despite starting to have brown spots on a number of them. Later, Mom told me what had happened, while they were there. The line moved along at a fairly steady rate, so it wasn’t long before they were at the front. A plastic bag was handed to my Dad, and he happily started filling his bag with bananas.

My mother started nudging him – first discreetly, then a little harder, then hissed at him in his native Romblomanon to have a quick look at the other people. Puzzled, he did, only to realise that the other people in the queue behind him were glaring daggers at his back, and the others who were selecting their bananas were only taking a few pieces – perhaps only enough for one each of their family members, or enough to cut in half and share if they were a larger family. Nobody was filling an entire bag full, like Dad was!

Shamefacedly, Dad carefully put the bananas back, and refused the stall-minder’s saying they surely could get one each! He and my mother walked back to us, saying we’ll get bananas next time. When we were far enough away, Dad explained that we could get bananas any time we liked from the groceries in West Berlin, as much as we wanted, while the East Berliners could only get these whenever a different socialist country – probably somewhere in South America – sent them something like that, which would then be distributed to sell to the locals in stalls across the city, and once they were gone, they were not likely to get any until the next shipment, which might not happen until the next year. So, it was nicer to let them have their special treat, since we could get nicer, larger bananas when we went across the border.

But for the East Germans, that’s all they’d get.

My parents had a way of explaining things so we would understand and not complain if we didn’t get a thing. (If anyone encounters me in real life, this is why I have issues understanding why children aren’t better disciplined in this day and age.)

I don’t really know where the bananas came from. Dad thought maybe Cuba, or Venezuela.

The other memory I have of such stalls and lines involves ice cream. It was pretty hot that day (a different day from the bananas one), so Dad lined up for ice cream one day. But by the time he got there, they no longer had any ice cream (there had been only two flavors – vanilla, and chocolate; chocolate had run out first, then the vanilla) and all that was left were the little shaped wafer dishes that had been used to serve out a single scoop of ice cream per person, which the stall-minder gave to him as an apology. I remember not minding not getting ice cream, because I liked the wafer; and Dad making an especial point of getting a supply of neopolitain ice cream from West Berlin that weekend.

Some time afterward, I remember Dad telling us not to line up for the things that were sold by street seller unless they were a regularly available thing, like bratwurst, and only to do so to treat our friends, because we could always eat the delicious treats the East Germans were lining up for anytime we wanted, while they might not get those things at all. If we were out by ourselves, we would not line up for those things. The government was in charge of all the things that they would get; and things that they weren’t able to grow or manufacture themselves, well, those were special treats, that the government was able to arrange for. The ordinary Germans could enjoy them – in limited quantity – and if they missed out, oh well.

Speaking of bratwurst, I really miss, to this day, the bratwursts we ate there. I remember them well – fat slightly greyish-mostly-brown sausages, boiling in the cart, put between a sliced piece of brotchen, their juices softening the hard bread, which may or may not have had a thin swipe of butter on them. The sausages, when bitten into crunched as you got through the sausage skin, and I remember hurriedly wiping my chin with the edges of my bread to catch the delicious meat juices. The sausages were slightly salty, and a single one was filling.

We always patronised the bratwurst sellers; they were common enough that Dad didn’t feel bad about buying from them nor did he feel that he was depriving someone else of a treat by getting some for us. I’m rather glad about this, because eating bratwurst, especially on a cold autumn, winter or spring day, was a wonderful feeling, and I remember the men selling them being so pleased that we children were really enjoying the food.

To this day, I can still remember how tasty those bratwursts were.

Marshmallow Meringue Frosting

Filipino-style mocha cake with coffee buttercream and dark chocolate coffee bean candies and sprinkles

The cake I sent with Rhys for his birthday. Delicious and was devoured to rave reviews, despite its’ flaws.

So, I made a Filipino-style mocha cake for Rhys’ birthday, that he took to work. It was delicious; but because I kept getting interrupted (by external reasons, lots of phone calls, etc) it ended up a bit denser than normal. Apparently everyone got excited seeing the cake and thought it looked at tasted ‘absolutely amazing.’

However, both Rhys and I knew I could do better. So I made a devil’s food cake, (2 layers, 8 inches each) and decided that it should have a marshmallow meringue frosting, and dark chocolate drip ganache topping it, that he will take with him to work.

Devil's food cake with marshmallow meringue frosting and dark chocolate ganache

Better effort, with Rhys decorating it this time.

 

Rhys got keen on frosting the cake to be brought along, so he did the frosting on this one that I’ve taken a photo of up top. The chocolate ganache is pooled at the bottom ‘because yum.’ I love that man. ^_^

I had Vincent make a cake for practice a few days ago, to teach him the correct order in which one adds melted butter into a cake, versus accidentally cooking the egg added into a cake and it tastes awesome, but was very crumby (it’s also devil’s food cake). The leftover marshmallow meringue frosting is slathered on top like a fluffy sugar cloud. Kiddo’s learning a lot this school holidays; baking cakes, cooking dinner, assembling a whole workstation class computer from scratch with very minimal help (only putting on the liquid cooler and the thermal paste) – and it worked perfectly!

Devil's food cake with marshmallow meringue frosting

Son’s practice cake, now with frosting =9

But, as you can see, it makes a lot of frosting (that’s a 10 inch single layer cake) so it probably has enough for a 2 layer 9 inch cake.

I like using a little bit of cream of tartar to get the egg whites started on frothing before I put them in the double boiler, but other recipes don’t include it, so you may omit if you like.


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Marshmallow Meringue Frosting

Use as a frosting, or as a layer on top of a cake and then cover with ganache, use on top of a mousse or top and sear with a kitchen blowtorch, or pipe, or blop on for a casual, fluffy but engaging frosting style! Makes enough to frost 2 layers of a 9 inch cake, with enough to spare.

Course dessert, frosting

Servings


Ingredients

Course dessert, frosting

Servings


Ingredients


Instructions
  1. Start by boiling water in a large saucepan, enough to heat the bottom of your bowl. Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer.

  2. Mix together the egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla, until lightly frothy, in a bowl, using a handheld electric mixer with the whisk attachments. For ease and sanity, I tend to use the same mixing bowl that my stand mixer uses. When slightly frothy, place bowl in the water.

  3. Moving the speed of your mixer to high, mixing all the while, add the sugar, either shaking it in gradually from your bowl or 1/8 cup at a time. Make sure it is dissolved.

  4. Mix for 7 minutes, on highest speed, moving your mixer's whisks around to make the marshmallow white and silky.

  5. Immediately move the bowl to your stand mixer, tapping out the leftover meringue from your whisks into the bowl. Beat on the highest speed your stand mixer can do for 10-12 minutes.

  6. Use as desired; on your cake, sear with a kitchen blowtorch on top of your pie or mousse, etc.


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Portabello Mushroom Cream Sauce

There’s a restaurant who has a small ‘fast food’ version of their pub food at our local mall. I love the place. They make delicious steak, and it’s got a mushroom sauce that they have with the thick sliced chips… oh, heaven. I love the stuff.

They’re local to the state I’m in though, so I figured I’d try to reverse…uhm… engineer? their sauce. I probably should have chopped up the mushrooms into much smaller pieces, to better get a mushroom flavor throughout. I am not too far off, mostly because I’m erring on the side of caution on the saltiness (I’m kind of aware at the moment that my sense of taste is a bit off thanks to a recent cold) but that’s not too bad, all considered.

The amount of butter is essential though, as is the cream, because you want a creamy, smooth sauce.

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Portabello Mushroom Cream Sauce
A lovely sauce with chopped up portabello mushrooms, that's really good to have with steak and for dipping with thick-cut chips (French fries). You can refrigerate the rest!
Course sauce
Cuisine sauce, Western
Keyword sauce
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Course sauce
Cuisine sauce, Western
Keyword sauce
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, melt half the butter and brown the onion and the garlic.
  2. Add the mushroom and cook through, until you smell that lovely 'cooked mushroom' meaty smell.
  3. Pour the cream, stirring vigorously, then add the water.
  4. Stirring all the while, add the cheese, 1/4c at a time, Season with the salt as you stir.
  5. Allow to come to a boil, as you stir. When it is boiling, add the flour slurry while stirring quickly. Keep stirring as the flour thickens.
  6. Add the other half of the butter, stirring until it melts through. Taste and season the sauce to your liking.
  7. Serve with steak and chips/fries, or have as a dipping sauce with chips. Refrigerate leftovers in portions/freeze for later eating.
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Exciting new developments in development

I’m very excited to have stumbled across this article, which talks about tests being done with extremely premature lambs transferred to artificial wombs. While the tests were done with lambs, it is quite easy to see how this could benefit human neonates – premature babies.

While (the first link) is titled about how the new technology ‘undermines abortion’ – which is something that the referred to bioethicist discusses – I’m very excited about the potentials that this technology brings, as it has great positive potentials for both medical reasons and societal reasons. (For my previous articles on my science-based observations against the ‘blob of cells’ lie, see Moral and Informed Choices and Let There Be Light, the latter of which is a scientific observation of what occurs at the moment of conception.)

First, this is fantastic potential for expectant parents who have had their children born too soon, ‘before viability’ – they now have a chance at life and being saved, and could be put on life support. Doctors wouldn’t have the excuse any more to claim that this child is not viable; and as technology progresses, this line could be moved further and further back (as I have predicted previously.) There may be a point in time where true artificial wombs will come to be, which could then benefit infertile couples and/or homosexual couples without the need for a surrogate mother (which could then eliminate the battles and troubles regarding surrogacy.) What effect this might have on the development of the baby itself (the baby does hear and develop quite a bit as an individual from things like what the mother’s voice is like, the mother’s heartbeat, what she eats, etc) could and likely will be of some concern,* but that is neither here nor now. For the moment, this new technology is a much-needed one to save the lives of wanted children, a lifeboat, so to speak, that will help the the extremely premature move to the greater viability stages of development. Protection of the extreme neonate from the external environment’s demands, which the neonate is unable to withstand by itself, has had surprising discoveries – like the ‘sandwich bag solution‘. Kangaroo care has been seen as very beneficial to the prematurely born baby, and is most famously known for reviving the stillborn son of Kate and David Ogg. (Yes, I am aware that the little boy was very likely to have only stopped breathing a very, very short time before; the procedure would not be beneficial to those babies who had passed well after the brain-death stage of time limits.)

Further, this gives a great potential option for babies who need to be born prematurely; such as c-sections required because the mother has severe pre-eclampsia or other medical issues that could threaten the health of both mother and the child, avoiding the tragedy of having to choose between one’s life and one’s child. While I do not think it would be possible, at present for this to apply to ectopic pregnancies, it certainly could apply to women whose babies can be moved to the new form of life support.

Secondly, this gives a third option for those children who are unwanted, or are wanted by the non-gestating parent – ergo, fathers. Women now have the potential to have their cake (to choose to no longer be pregnant, abort their pregnancy) without the death of the child being necessary (and metaphorically have that cake without guilt). This has a number of secondary benefits that the abortion industry is unwilling to acknowledge – that a number of women who have had abortions have mental health problems post-abortion. This has great appeal to me, not ‘just because it doesn’t kill the baby’, but Continue reading