Will you like lychees? You’ll have to find them first


Lychees are a delicious fruit, hidden behind a nubbly reddish-brown shell. Photo by Laura Groch

If you’re a fan of the Honeymooners (and I hope you are), you might remember the phrase, “sweet and sour leechee nuts.”

That was the treat Ralph Kramden offered his long-suffering wife, Alice, as the finale of dinner at her favorite Chinese restaurant, Hong Kong Gardens.
I thought “leechee nuts” were a figment of someone’s imagination until I ran into

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Don’t forget the CLIF drawing! Get your comments in

Reminder: If you’d like to enter the drawing for free CLIF bars, the deadline is end of day Saturday, March 15. The CLIF folks are publicizing their new Sierra Trail Mix bars by offering gift packs to three lucky winners. To enter,

CLIF bars, contest, giveaway

Don’t forget to add a comment on the blog for a chance to win free CLIF bars!

just leave a comment on the original blogpost at https://beyondbites.com/2014/02/14/a-winner-and-another-giveaway/ to be entered in the drawing for a free pack of CLIF energy bars! Three winners will be chosen. Good luck!

Stoked about stochasticity: Grapefruit Slam IPA

The label on The Stochasticity Project's Grapefruit Slam IPA.

The label on The Stochasticity Project’s Grapefruit Slam IPA.

Grapefruit Slam IPA. Sounds like something those folks at Stone Brewing in Escondido would do, doesn’t it? This beer, released Feb. 10 in 22-ounce bottles, comes from “The Stochasticity Project,” http://www.stochasticity.com/beers/grapefruit-slam-ipa, and if you like bitter, you’ll probably like this new release. (Check out the label from a distance — see if you see anything familiar in the gridlike pattern on the bottle. Hint: It will be very familiar to drinkers of Stone brews.) The Stone folks seem to be running the publicity, but the beer is registered under Koochenvagner Brewing Company. (Hm. Stone was founded by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner. Just sayin’.)

Grapefruit Slam IPA. Step back a bit and look at the image in the center of the label. Recognize anyone? (Photos courtesy Stochasticity Project)

Grapefruit Slam IPA. Step back a bit and look at the image in the center of the label. Recognize anyone? (Photos courtesy Stochasticity Project)

Anyway, the Project’s web page (www.stochasticity.com) describes the beer as a big-bodied pale ale “marrying hand-zested grapefruit peel with the inherent citrusy biterness of Centennial hops” —  “an intensely citrusy brew.” You should be able to find it at liquor stores all over San Diego County.

The Project answered a few questions via email:

Unusual name, Stochasticity. Where’d it come from?

Stochastic is defined as: random; specifically involving a random variable; involving chance or probability. We didn’t want to limit the beers coming from the Stochasticity Project to any one particular style of beer or specific characteristic. All of the releases will definitely involve a random variable whether it is timing of the beer release, ingredients, or the areas the beer will be available.

Who are the people behind/in charge of the Stochasticity Project? 

Everyone that makes up a brewery — brewers, beer scientists, quality assurance engineers, management, administration etc. Their goal is to develop beer recipes by exploring the science of beer, cutting edge theories and other ideas that govern the direction of this ongoing program.

Why grapefruit, and why such pride in such a bitter beer?  

The essential oils and monoterpenoids, like geraniol and citronellol, which are found in hops often provide aromatic components that are described in professional sensory panels as “citrusy.” Flavors like grapefruit, lemon and/or lime for example. The potential synergy of specific hop varieties with citrus fruit is something that brewers who research unique ingredients, and who focus on combining the art of brewing with science, have been experimenting with for a while.

You say your website is not going to be a forum for passive enthusiasts. What exactly are you going for here, then?

The website shares insight into the science behind boundary-pushing beers and features a plethora of information on how science is furthering the development of craft beer. This website isn’t for the average person just looking for a thirst quenching beverage, it’s for someone (who) wants to learn how the beverage was created and conceptualized.

(c) Laura Groch 2014

A winner, and another giveaway!

I’m happy to announce that Barbara Croonquist of Riverside won the free copy of Murrieta author Linda Amendt’s “Gluten-Free Breakfast, Brunch & Beyond” (Taunton Press, 2013), which I wrote about in September 2013.

Now I’ve got another giveaway for you, this one from CLIF Bars.  (Photo courtesy CLIF Bars)


Not to be left out of the chocolate frenzy for Valentine’s Day, the company’s  newest bar, Sierra Trail Mix, is the first CLIF Bar flavor to be made with sustainably grown cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. (Yes, it carries the frog seal on the package.) I’m not saying it’s equivalent to a morsel from See’s or Jer’s — but on the other hand, it’s a lot easier to bring along on a romantic stroll than a two-pound box. ;<)

Each 2.4-ounce energy bar also contains peanuts, organic rolled oats and raisins, among other goodies, and weighs in at 250 calories, 70 from fat. Suggested price is $1.39 per bar.

The CLIF Bar folks are offering three giveaways to readers who post a comment on this beyondbites.blog entry. Add your comment below by March 15, and I’ll choose three at random for a free gift pack of CLIF Bars!

(c) copyright Laura Groch 2014

This post was corrected on Feb. 17, 2014 from its original writing.

Clif Bars fall for autumn flavors


Everyone gets nostalgic this time of year for fall flavors like pumpkin and gingerbread. The folks who make the CLIF Bar aren’t immune from those autumnal cravings, reflected by their seasonal Iced Gingerbread and Spiced Pumpkin Pie energy bars, plus the new Pecan Pie bar. Like all CLIF Bars, Pecan Pie (260 calories, 70 from fat), Iced Gingerbread (250 calories, 50 from fat) and Spiced Pumpkin Pie (240 calories, 40 from fat) are made with 70 percent organic ingredients. They’re a good source of protein and fiber and  have 23 vitamins and minerals. Suggested price for each 2.4-ounce bar is $1.39, and CLIF Bar will donate 1 percent of seasonal net sales to Protect Our Winters, a not-for-profit organization fighting against climate change. Clif Bar & Company only sources ingredients that are non-GMO.

Gluten-free at breakfast? Cookbook author can tell you how


Above: Apple Pancakes from “Gluten-Free Breakfast, Brunch & Beyond” by Linda J. Amendt (recipe below). All photos (c) 2013 by Tara Donne. 

Note to readers: Leave your comment below, and I’ll choose one at random to win a copy of “Gluten-Free Breakfast, Brunch & Beyond” by Linda J. Amendt.

Linda J. Amendt has made a name for herself in Southern California (as well as other states) as a canning and preserving expert and a food-contest judge. She has won more than 900 awards in state and county fair competitions, and has written three award-winning cookbooks.

(Full disclosure: I own a copy of her “175 Best Jams, Jellies, Marmalades & Other Soft Spreads” and love it.)

Gluten-free cooking isn’t exactly her field of expertise. But when she was asked by her publisher to create a gluten-free cookbook, she was ready for the challenge.

Though she doesn’t have to avoid gluten herself, Amendt is very, very familiar with the world of food allergies and sensitivities. For years, she has coped with an allergy to the alkaloids in plants in the nightshade family — tomatoes, potatoes, peppers of all kinds, eggplant, okra, and several kinds of berries, to name a few.

“I understand what people go through because gluten is used as a thickener (in many foods), and you have to read labels,” she said in a recent phone interview.

People with celiac disease — a genetically linked autoimmune disorder — must avoid foods made with wheat or wheat products, which contain gluten.  Rye, barley and sometimes oat flours — but not corn or rice — also contain gluten-like proteins. These proteins trigger an immune reaction in the small intestine. It interferes with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, which creates digestive and other problems over time. Ridding the diet of gluten can help restore the gut’s normal digestive and absorption function.

ImageAmendt, a Murrieta, CA, resident,  had already been helping some friends remove gluten from their diets by reformulating recipes for them. So when her publisher proposed the gluten-free breakfast book, “I thought, ‘What a cool idea!'”

“Gluten-Free Breakfast, Brunch & Beyond” (Taunton Press, trade paperback, $19.95) was born about 10 months later. In it, Amendt covers 100 recipes for quick breads, muffins, scones, pancakes, waffles, French toast, crepes, quiches, omelets and more in 234 pages with color photos.

Making gluten-free versions of those foods is doubly difficult: Gluten is what gives baked goods structure and height, as well as flavor. Not only must revised recipes taste good, it’s important for them to look as appetizing as their non-GF versions.

As she talked to people on GF diets, Amendt realized, “One of the things they really missed was having baked goods similar to what all-purpose (wheat) flour produces. Without gluten, there’s no structure, no support” for breads or cakes or muffins. “My purpose was to try and replicate the texture and flavor of foods made with all-purpose wheat flours. That’s what people missed the most.”

Home cooks cope with the GF regimen by using many different grain flours in varying combinations. “There are a lot of gluten-free recipes that require 10 different flours,” Amendt said.

She met this challenge by creating two all-purpose flour blends — one that takes the place of all-purpose wheat flour in recipes, and one that’s more like a whole-grain blend. They are made with white-rice flour, brown-rice flour, tapioca flour and potato starch, and are the basis for all the recipes in the book that use flour.

“I used rice flour because it’s very neutral, as opposed to soy or sorghum flours, which have a very strong taste and can be heavier,” Amendt said. “Rice flour is lighter, because there’s no gluten you have to replace.”

A natural substance called xanthan gum is also a major player in her recipes. “I learned about the gum from friends, then it was a question of figuring out the right ratios in what kind of recipe. That started me in coming up with a general flour to substitute in all the recipes.”

Perfecting the flour blends took about a month, she said. “I just kept working on those until I got consistent results. Then it was a matter of taking some of my favorite recipes and converting them to gluten-free.”

Among those recipes are traditional favorites like Zucchini Bread, Buttermilk Biscuits, Blueberry Pancakes, Spice Muffins, and Cinnamon Crumb Cake, and variations like Pumpkin Sweet Rolls, Raspberry Coconut Coffee Cake, Spinach Waffles, Cherry Almond Scones and Cheddar Cheese Biscuits.

Besides the recipes, Amendt offers easy-to-read tips for each category and instruction on using starches and flours, baking and mixing techniques, and sources for gluten-free ingredients. She also explains why baking with gluten-free flours is different from using wheat flour.

“Gluten-free batters need to be thick to support the structure of the baked good,” she said. “If you’re finding your batters are too thick, add more fat to them. That will thin them out. Or you can increase the leavening by 25 to 50 percent. That will really help it rise more.”

Quiche crusts benefit from added baking powder. “I use it with my regular pie crusts,” she said. “It just helped them to puff better. This is a problem with a lot of gluten-free foods — they tend to be dense and heavy.”

Another tip: Try a narrower baking pan.

“Gluten-free batters, when rising, need something to cling to,” Amendt said. “Without that gluten around to support them, they are likely to sag in the center. Or they’ll rise, then fall.” For breads, that means trying an 8-inch-by-4-inch pan instead of the usual 9-by-5.

“If you’re making a quick bread and it’s not working in a pan, try baking it as muffins.”

Among her favorites in the book are the Apple Pancakes, Carrot Muffins, Poppyseed Coffee Cake and the Spinach And Feta Quiche. “The one that was the really big hit was the Banana Maple Muffin,” she said. “I gave those to a bunch of different people. Nobody knew (they were made with gluten-free flour) until I told them. Everyone really liked that recipe.”


These recipes are from “Gluten-Free Breakfast, Brunch & Beyond”:


4 cups finely ground or stone-ground white-rice flour

2 cups stone-ground brown-rice flour

2 cups tapioca flour or tapioca starch

1 cup potato starch (not potato flour)

In an extra-large bowl or container, combine the rice flours, tapioca flour, and potato starch. Whisk together until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. Use a large spoon to bring the flour from the bottom of the bowl up to the top and whisk again. Repeat a few times to make sure the flours are evenly distributed throughout the entire mixture.

Store the flour in an airtight container or ziptop storage bag at room temperature for up to 1 month. For longer storage, keep the flour in the refrigerator or freezer. Allow the flour to come to room temperature before using.

Lightly stir the flour before measuring. Spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level off the top with a straight-edged utensil, such as the back of a knife. Makes about 9 cups.


I like to use Grade B maple syrup for baking. It has a stronger maple flavor and darker color than Grade A Amber maple syrup, the type commonly used as a topping for pancakes and waffles. Grade B maple syrup can be found in specialty food markets and some health food stores.


Unsalted butter or nonstick baking spray, for the pan

1 3/4 cups Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons maple syrup, preferably Grade B

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3 bananas)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan with unsalted butter or nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt and baking soda until well combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the maple syrup. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gradually stir in the flour mixture. Mix until smooth, about 30 seconds. By hand, stir in the bananas.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling each cup until nearly full and mounding the batter in the center to the top of the cups, or slightly above.

Bake until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Immediately remove the muffins from the pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool the muffins on their sides. Serve muffins warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 muffins.


I like to use smooth applesauce in this recipe because it gives the pancakes a velvety texture. Any good cooking apple, such as Gala, Fuji, Jonagold, Golden Delicious or Granny Smith, will work well. Be sure the peel the apple before grating, as the peel can be tough when cooked.


1 1/2 cups Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour

3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup whole milk

3/4 cup grated or finely chopped peeled apple

Nonstick cooking spray or unsalted butter, for the pan

Maple syrup for serving (optional)

Heat a griddle or large nonstick frying pan over medium heat, or heat an electric griddle to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, using a wire whisk, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, xanthan gum and nutmeg until well blended. Make a well in the center and set aside.

In a medium bowl, using a wire whisk, lightly beat the eggs. Gradually whisk in the melted butter until evenly combined, then stir in the applesauce. Whisk in the milk until well blended. Pour the liquid mixture into the well in the flour mixture all at once. Stir just until combined and the flour mixture is moistened. There may be a few small lumps; do not overmix. Gently stir in the apples just until evenly distributed.

Lightly grease the griddle with nonstick cooking spray or unsalted butter. Ladle or spoon about 1/3 cup of batter per pancake onto the griddle. Cook until the pancakes rise, bubbles start to come to the surface, and the underside is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn over and cook until golden brown, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes more, adjusting the heat if needed to prevent overbrowning. Serve hot with maple syrup, if desired.

Note: Individual serving-size containers of applesauce hold 1/2 cup and are the perfect premeasured amount to use in this recipe.

(c) copyright Laura Groch 2013

What’s new: Sun-dried tomato ketchup


Summertime (and we’re rapidly approaching it) is picnic time, barbecue time, get-together time for many of us. And many of us will be cooking burgers, hot dogs and other foods that just cry out for some good ketchup. Something new to top them with is California Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup from Traina. It’s made, yes, with sun-dried tomatoes reduced down to a ketchup with a thicker texture than many other ketchups. According to the Patterson, CA-based company, that’s 4 pounds of Roma tomatoes in every 16-ounce bottle! The taste is still sweet, but not sugary, deep and richer. (Comparing the label to that of my other store-brand ketchup shows it has slightly less sugar and sodium overall.) A 16-ounce bottle retails for $4.99. You can find it in San Diego at Gala Foods on Grape Street, or order it online at http://www.traina.com.

Freekeh but fun

ImageQuinoa and farro are the darlings of the “good grains” set right now, but another healthy grain is sprouting fans. It’s called “freekeh,”  pronounced “FREEK-uh” (notice how I spared you all the “freak” puns and double entendres). Freekeh is  roasted green wheat, with a texture kind of a cross between brown rice and bulgur. The flavor is similar to brown rice, and it cooks up the same way, either boiled and drained, or simmered till the water is absorbed. I tried the Rosemary Sage variety from Freekeh Foods Inc. in Minneapolis, which was nicely seasoned (it also comes in original and Tamari). I got at least four servings out of the 8-ounce package. Each serving has 8 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber; it’s low-fat and organic. According to the company, each bag is $3.99 and available online at a discount for bulk buying. You can find it at Whole Foods but not yet at the West Coast stores. Order online at http://www.freekeh-foods.com, where you’ll find more recipes. And you can be the first with the freekeh in your neighborhood!