No Boogers in the Wine. Table Manners in Medieval and Renaissance Times.


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1569 Pieter_Aertsen_-_Market_Scene_-_Google_Art_Project

It is a common misconception that people in the Late Medieval and Early Renaissance meals were hedonistic, violent, and with no sense of cleanliness or manners.

In truth, etiquette guidelines were complex and exacting. These rules, however, varied from country to country. In England, meals remained fairly bawdy even when the rest of Europe was seriously reigning in the ribaldry.

For example, an Italian guest at the royal table reported that Henry VIII would thrust “gobbits” of food into one cheek then the next. But In the rest of Europe, more refined manners had been adopted by the time Henry VIII reigned in England.

The authority on etiquette was mainly guided by Giovanni della Casa’s book, Galateo: Oero de ‘costume, (The Rules of Polite Behavior). It included how to dress well, develop witty conversation, and how to behave at table.

In his book, he admonished:

  • It is not polite, while at the table, to scratch your head or somewhere else. A man should also, as much as possible, avoid spitting, but if he must, he should do it discreetly.

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Handy Dandy Tips, Tricks, and Quick Reference THE CHEF’S SECRET – RATIOS


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When I cook, it seems I’m always looking up things like converting cups to grams or ounces, a simple brine for poultry, ratios for baking, bread dough conditioners, internal temps for baked goods, conversions for not-sugar sweeteners, or how to cook with gluten-free flours, etc.

If only I had that information in one file that I could print out and plaster to my refrigerator door or put in a sheet-protected notebook.. Hmmm. I’m so brilliant sometimes, I scare myself. Maybe others, too but not for the brilliant part.

Let’s start with… RATIOS

scale antique


Baking is science and alchemy all rolled into one. But, the amazing thing about baking is that there are simple formulas to help you bake without a recipe.

Recipes are relative. Weather, humidity, air temperature, measuring methods, oven temperature quirks, bakeware materials, how old your ingredients are, different techniques for mixing and combining ingredients, elevation, and more can all affect how your cake, brownies, bread, cookies, pie, and such will turn out.

The FAB four – Not the Beetles

Any baked good has a foundation. Almost all baked goods consist of varying amounts of:

  • Flour
  • Liquid
  • Eggs, Fat


For those of you who like Memes, think, FLEB.

There is often also salt, yeast, and sweetener

You also need to know how to combine the ingredients and the finer points of baking, such as kneading, cutting butter into flour for pie crust, oven temperature, rolling out dough, doneness temperature, and such. But if you know your ingredient ratio half or more of the battle for baking amazing goodies is done.

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GMO—Good, Bad, Ugly or Harmless and No Big Deal?


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In my never-to-be-humble opinion, most people are prone to knee-jerk reactions and will believe and repeat, reblog, repost, Tweet, and share nearly anything without fact-checking. A good example of this is the ridiculous but staunch belief by some that jet-airplane contrails are actually “chemtrails”— a government plot to make people stupid. My reply is that most of the people in government are already too stupid to devise such a plot (sic).

Genetically Modified Organisms, (GMOs) is a huge controversy. People rant and rave about them without knowing the facts.

There may be no harm to the actual food. ( Research has shown that many GMO practices are harmless and don’t change the nutritional value at all. We’ve been genetically modifying our food since ancient times but without the help of modern science.

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38 Uses for Vodka!

The Healthy Hybrid - A Life in Transition


Neither my husband nor myself drink alcohol. We’ve nothing against it; it just hasn’t found a place in our lives.  We do, however, keep a ginormous bottle of vodka that gets used pretty liberally.  The stuff is as awesome as baking soda or castile soap!

For instance, the other day I noticed that one of my locs (dreadlocks) had some build up.  Locs tend to hold onto EVERYTHING and while I have locs to avoid having to do much with my hair, I don’t actually want to LOOK like I don’t do anything with my hair.  It was time to bring out the big guns.  I did my usual apple cider vinegar and baking soda wash and after rinsing that out, I mixed vodka and castile soap and washed with that.  It always does the trick!  My hair is super duper clean, soft and as shiny as my hair gets.  🙂


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Curry Pickles to Die For


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curry-pickles-2013 Adapted from: All About Pickling – Ortho Books, 1975

These are my all-time favorite pickle. If you like mild curry flavor you will love these.

Stage 1

4 pounds small to medium-size cucumbers (about 11-12)

2 gallons water

½ cup pickling lime

Fill a plastic tub with the cool water (tap is fine at this stage).

Add ½ cup *pickling lime (available on the Internet or in stores that carry canning and pickling supplies.) It doesn’t dissolve, so you will need to stir it up with a wooden (or metal) spoon. Continue reading

Chocolate cupcakes without sugar and flour

This sounds amazing. I’m going to make these and try some variations. I’ll post the results.

Cooking Without Limits

Yeah!! Finally I found a recipe for my boy for cupcakes without flour and sugar. They called it Paleo recipe, I call it a very healthy and with a great taste recipe for cupcakes.

I added a chocolate frosting without sugar and I got an amazing dessert for our family.

GAB_6913_res_mix Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting

With white sugar being added in almost everything these days, I want to try to eat white sugar as less as possible. So, trying healthy recipes is one of the steps I do to cut white sugar from our daily meals.

GAB_6936_res_mix Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting

Ingredients cupcakes:

  • 1/2 cup coconut powder or flakes
  • 1/2 cup carob or cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 juice from 1 lemon


Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (375 degrees F). Line  a cupcake pan cups with paper liners.

Mix all the…

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Mini Chocolate Muffin Yum


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buona mangiata
Mini Chocolate Muffins

chololate cupcake

Adapted From:, a recipe by LONESTAR1

These are moist and delicious. They are versatile and can be adapted to dozens of flavor and texture variations. Mini muffins are two-bite delights.

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I Told you Thag. Too Much Fire Under Bread. Sheesh!


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Extract from The Dough Also Rises–How to Make Great Bread, Anita Burns

breadWow! I am stunned when I think about how long bread has been a staple in the human diet. It’s even mentioned in the Bible. In my twisted mind, I pictured one of the Old Testament prophets trekking to the marketplace and handing out a few sheckels for a nice white loaf so light it could float. What a miracle. What a “wonder.” NOT!

Bread then was flat, dense, gritty, and hard to chew without soaking it in liquid.
As humans, we love our bread. Always have. People have been making flour for at least 30,000 years. Bread making goes back at least 5,000 years, but it was nothing like what we call bread today—that baby is a modern invention.

If you were sitting around the fire in Neolithic times (stone axes, spear points, and such), you would be munching on hard, grainy, dense, flat bread. Most likely it would also be burnt on the outside. Regulating the temperature on a communal fire pit wasn’t easy.

Neolithic Bread“I told  you, Thag, not so much fire! I’m making bread. Just need hot stones. What’s the matter with you, dung-head?”

The oldest bread that we can really call bread was found in Oxfordshire, UK and dated to around 5,500 years ago. The two “loaves” look like lumps of coal. It was analyzed at the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit in New Zealand, then Dr. Mark Robinson from Oxford University looked at them through a microscope. Imagine his surprise. “Holy yeast farts, Batman. This was BREAD!” Maybe that’s not what he really said, but I would have.

And so it went for centuries. Even though ovens date back to around 29,000 BCE, they were really built to roast mammoth, not bake bread. In pre-dynastic Egypt, home oven pits were used, but they were not made for baking bread and were cumbersome to operate.

Greek Bread OvenIt was the clever Greeks who invented a free-standing, front-loading bread oven. It was a hit, and everyone along the trade route had to have one. It was the latest high-tech fad and a must-have for the up and coming in-the-know couple.
Imagine the sales pitch:
“Ladies, picture yourself with the latest in homemaking convenience—the Klibanos 4000!”

“Have more time for your family, visiting with friends, or just plain relaxing. The Klibanos 4000 is portable. Place it anywhere in your home or take it with you when you travel. Front loading, light weight, and easy to clean.”

“Your bread will be the envy of the neighborhood. Shipped directly to you from the capital of innovation—Santorini. Order now before they run out and you have to hang your head in shame.”

But, even with the convenience of a portable, front-loading bread oven, the end product was pretty hard and chewy. Yeast-leavened bread was still the dream of sorcerers. Any leavening that entered bread dough came from vagabond yeasts riding the wild winds. They dropped down into sticky dough and became trapped like dinosaurs in tar.

“Hmmm! Look at this, Aristophanes. Why is my bread puffing up? Have a bite.”
“Whoa! Holy Zeus, this is good. How did you do this?”

The baker then spent a lifetime trying to figure out why sometimes the dough puffed up and other times it just laid there like a lazy donkey.

egyptianangelMost likely it was the Egyptians (of course, wasn’t it always the Egyptians) who figured out about leavened bread. Maybe they ran out of water for their dough and were too lazy to trek down to the well to get more. Looking around, someone said, “Hey, use beer. They’ll never know the difference.” Voila! It rose up and the magic was born.
Even with leavening, the bread would have been heavy and dense. Why? Because the flour we use today is NOTHING like ancient flours. Depending on geography, they used barley, millet, spelt, kamut, emmerkorn, or rye. These have gluten, (essential for a light, stretchy loaf) but very little.

In Egypt, thanks to their obsession with preserving everything, there are hundreds of bread loaves to examine. Most looked like large pizzas without the toppings. Some were round, but still pretty flat. They, too, used a variety of grains, but a common grain was Emmer. This takes some doing when processing it into flour because its thick chaff has to be removed.

To process it, the Egyptians sprinkled the grain with water, then pounded it with a wooden pestle in a limestone mortar. Then it was dried in the hot sun. Next, the grain was winnowed to let the chaff fly off into the air and the grain sink back to the ground. After that, there was sieving to remove any leftover flakes of bran, chaff, and stone from the pestle. The sieves were made of rushes and not very efficient, so, as a last step, it was picked over by hand. Finally, the grain was milled into flour using a flat grinding stone. Phew!

Even with all this, some chaff, stone grit, and bran remained, so the Egyptians just got used to having stuff stuck between their teeth.

There’s an ancient Egyptian bread recipe included in my book, The Dough Also Rises. It is based on one found in an ancient tomb, minus the grit and stones.

So fast forward to this century. What a difference! Is there anything better, more sensual, and more addicting than the aroma of fresh bread baking? Don’t answer that. You gotta admit, though, that this is one helluva great smell. It’s so good that some bakeries install a fresh bread fragrance atomizer in their shops and pump the fragrance outside to attract customers.

This fragrance speaks to our ancestral pleasure centers. It is so powerful that some real estate agents spray an artificial fresh bread aroma in the houses they are trying to sell or in model homes.

My book, The Dough Also Rises–How to Make Great Bread is available in Ebook from,, and

Good Eating!

Do you make bread? I’d love to hear about it.

Signature Ailments and Cures


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Mr. Green Jeans through the looking glass

I just read a really good article on the Web that, of course, I didn’t bookmark and can’t find again, on the new fad of being gluten-free. Alas, it triggered memories of what I call “Signature Ailments and Cures” across the many decades I have been a resident of this big blueberry in sky.

When I was a child, I watched a kiddie show hosted by Captain Kangaroo (Bob Keeshum). His sidekick was farmer/handyman, Mr. Green Jeans (Hugh Brannum). Green Jeans was the voice of natural healthiness. I would sit on the floor, in front of our  black and white TV, munching on my Skippy peanut butter and Welches’ grape jelly sandwich on fluffy Wonder Bread, totally ignoring what he was saying about “eat your vegetables.”

It seems that in the era following the 1970s, we have sent Mr. Green Jeans into the looking glass and our ideas about health are as convoluted and twisted as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum dancing with the Mad Hatter. We have food fads, gourmet illnesses, food cures that seem like they must have come from outer space, and strange beliefs about will give us everlasting health and vitality.

In the 1970s and ’80s, the big, must-have ailment was hypoglycemia. Recently, the low- or no-fat fad claimed our attention. A silver medal goes to the acid/alkaline cure for everything that ails us. And, let us not forget the low-carb frenzy. I’m sure I’m forgetting one or two other fads. Oh, yes, sleep apnea is another one that is popular now. I could also include Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), although it isn’t dietary. Or is it? Some people think it is a result of the cargo-load of crappy food that kids eat these days. No comment. That’s another rant entirely.

The point is that some of these “ailments” have a legitimate basis in truth. Hypoglycemia—chronically low blood sugar, for example is a recognized medical problem. It is primarily related to deficient glucose in brain, and it is treatable. Continue reading

Gluten-Shmooten, Where’s My Bread?

breadAlthough I have lived the life unusual, it has not been without come-uppance karma. In my childhood I lived off of the five food groups—sugary, salty, crunchy, greasy, and gooey, plus my early adult life of partying, drinking, smoking, and, well other stuff,  left its toll. One of them was something that seems to be catching up to a lot of us—Gluten allergy and intolerance.

According to people who track this sort of thin, Gluten intolerance is rampant. Just take a look at Amazon’s offering for cookbooks and you’ll see a lot of gluten free titles. Search “Gluten free” on Amazon and you come up with thousands of titles.

I’ve read that many people don’t even know what’s wrong with them, they just feel aweful, have rashes, migraines, digestive problems, joint pain, weakness, depression, and a host of other symptoms. The lucky ones figure out that they have a problem with gluten or wheat—no drugs or surgery required.


Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley, and oats that makes our bread rise to a light, elastic loaf instead of a brick. It holds pasta together. If you’ve ever eaten rice pasta, you know how mushy it can get, and fast. Overcook it by 30 seconds and it can turn to slush. Rice has no gluten. Gluten is the stretchy stuff that helps traps yeast bubbles in rising bread dough. Without it, bread is dense, heavy, and crumbly.

I spent years not being able to eat anything with wheat. At first, I thought it was gluten intolerance, but it turned out to be an actual wheat intolerance instead. I discovered this when I started eating Spelt and Kamut breads and had no bad reactions. AHA! It’s the wheat. Spelt and Kamut have gluten.


Kamut is a  version or our common wheat, “triticum” but is not hybridized. It is an organically grown ancient grain that yields a low harvest. Kamut is mainly grown in Montana and Egypt. Kamut is an ancient relative of durum wheat (the best pasta is made from durum). It is high in nutritents and low in gluten.

Spelt is from the Bronze age about 3,000 years ago. It is now grown mainly in Central Europe. It was hybridized only once from emmer wheat and wild goat grass.


Wheat pervades nearly every kind of food in the Western diet, it’s hard to avoid. It is in anything that requires flour such as gravy, sauce, soup, bread, cookies, any baked goods, anything battered, like fried fish, corn dogs, fried shrimp, and more. Even Asian foods, traditionally hooked on rice flour, make much of their foods with wheat flour now. Hell, there’s even wheat in some lipsticks, vitamin supplements, and lunch meats!

So, people have been eating wheat for thousands of years with no problem. What’s the deal? Why now are we getting sick from it? The wheat we use today is not the wheat our great grandmothers ate. Today’s wheat is so hybridized that some people think it is no longer compatible with our digestive systems. And, since we eat so very, very, very much of it, our bodies are rebelling.

Researchers at the International Food Allergy Association (IFAA) seem to agree. In an article published by Purdue University, the IFAA said, “For most wheat sensitive people, Kamut grain can be an excellent substitute for common wheat.” Their research was done on people who have an immediate immune response (allergy) and those with a delayed immune response (intolerance).

In the intolerance group, 70% showed more sensitivity to common wheat than Kamut. In the allergy group—the severely allergic—70% had little or no reaction to Kamut.

Although some people with gluten intolerance can tolerate Spelt and Kamut, not everyone can.  I was fortunate. Kamut and Spelt were just fine for me.

They contain gluten, but apparently it is more tolerated than the highly hybridized regular wheat.


Going gluten free is difficult, considering how much flour is in foods. Going wheat free is a little less of a problem, but is still a challenge. It is especially a challenge for people who don’t cook or bake.

I’m lucky to know how to bake. When I had my wheat intolerance, I learned to bake with Spelt and Kamut in a way that made the bread nearly identical to regular wheat bread. It isn’t easy and it took months of trial and error to discover the secrets. I had to add natural protein strengtheners to help the gluten in Spelt hold its integrity. The gluten in Spelt and Kamut is delicate and collapses easily. The dough has to be soft and not kneaded too much.

Spelt and Kamut work great as is in baked goods that are not kneaded (like bread). Cookies, cupcakes, muffins, breading for frying, and so forth can be made with Spelt and Kamut with no problems at all. In fact Spelt makes the greatest pie crusts because its gluten doesn’t form strong bonds to make the crust tough. Biscuits came out light and fluffy with a nice crust. Brownies were chewy and delicious.

But, all that is NOT going gluten free. Spelt and Kamut have gluten. So if you want to try the Kamut and Spelt route, test it carefully or consult your doctor.

Going gluten free is easier today than it was ten years ago because of increased awareness of the growing number of people sensitive to it. Sprout’s (a chain of natural food stores) carries very good gluten free products including frozen mac and cheese, cookies, and pastas. I’m sure any good natural food store has tons of gluten free products. Some of them taste like they came from the table of the creature from the black lagoon, but some are really good. I was thrilled when major chain restaurant BJ’s started offering a gluten free, thin crust pizza that is fabulous. I still order it. So, with more awareness there will be more choices.

If you eat in restaurants, you have to be extra careful. I once ordered tacos from a restaurant. The corn tortillas had a strange texture. When I asked about it, they told me that their tortillas were a combination of wheat and corn.

When eating out, ask about the ingredients in the dishes if there is any doubt about what’s in your food. Remember that gravy and sauces are usually thickened with flour. Salads usually come with croutons—dried, fried bread. Thank Zeus that butter is still gluten free. If there was a way to extend it with flour, I’m sure they would.


Since I cook and am a pretty good baker, I have lots of choices. If you are interested in baking from scratch, I’d be happy to share some recipes. Most are not gluten free, but are Triticum aestivum L. (common wheat) free. I do have some good recipes that use rice flour, which is gluten free. Just send me an email request  or leave a comment and I’ll be happy to share tips and recipes or recommendations if I can.


I’m sure you noticed that I talk about my wheat intolerance in the past tense. Yes, I am no longer sensitive to it. How did that happen? I read once (sorry, I don’t remember where) that if you stay away from the food that you are sensitive to long enough your body will reset and the intolerance will go away. I’m not sure this works for allergies though.

I stayed off of wheat for more than six years. I also used supplements to help rebuild my intestinal wall, lots of probiotics (I like Udo’s 8), Five-Lac (a probiotic from Japan), L-Glutamine powder, digestive enzymes, and eating a lot of fermented, probiotic foods like KimChi, yogurt, kefir, lassi, raw sauerkraut (I make my own), Kombucha (a soft drink. We make ours), and such. I also used a lot of Re Hu Tek, an energy system from Egypt, sort of like Reiki, but more direct. I don’t know if the Re Hu Tek had anything to do with my recovery or not, but I’d like to think so.

One day, I just had a feeling that I was okay now. I ate a piece of bread. Voila, no problem. I started slowly and now I eat wheat just fine. I can’t tell you how good it is to go into a restaurant and not have to order my sandwiches minus the bread, or to have to inspect every order of rice to make sure it didn’t have Orzo in it. Orzo is tiny pasta that looks like rice. I had to ask for ingredients lists for soups to make sure they weren’t thickened with flour. AARGH! Happy those days are behind me.

So, again, if you want tips, recipes, or recommendations, please let me know. I’ll help if I can. Leave a comment. I will get it in my email box. Or, email me directly

Here are some web sites that I thought had good information.