The Blender Girl by Tess Masters

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antioxidant avenger

 

Tess Masters (aka, The Blender Girl) has just published her much anticipated debut cookbook, The Blender Girl: Super-Easy, Super-Healthy Meals, Snacks, Desserts & Drinks, and it’s a beauty. This is one colorful collection of 100 gluten-free, vegan recipes that all incorporate the use of a blender.    And so, it should come as no surprise, that Tess’s philosophy of life is all about blending.  “Blended” is a metaphor.

For those of you who have followed Tess’s blog, Healthy Blender Recipes, you already know how dynamic Tess is both in her persona and also her food writing.  What I learned from reading her book is how flexible she is on both fronts as well.  While she is a self-professed zealot, she is no preacher.  For Tess, “the way” is a winding path, and it winds in a different direction for each and every one of us. So, this is not a “Gluten-Free” cookbook, or a “Vegan” cookbook, just a celebration of whole foods and a really great way to coax more fruits and vegetables into your daily diet.

Living in a world of fads and trends, it’s refreshing to have a cookbook author admit that there is no one diet that suits all, or even one diet that suits all of us, all the time. For example, Tess eats a lot of raw foods during the warmer months, but eats more cooked foods during the colder ones.

She puts forward the concept of bio-individuality. And while she makes no secret of the fact that she could “easily live without teeth”, this is not a prescription for others.  It would be easy to assume that there would be rigidity to a vegan, gluten-free, (raw foods) cookbook full of recipes all made in a blender, but the opposite is actually true.  This book will open your mind to endless new possibilities. I was delighted by the creativity and ingenuity of these recipes. “Optional” is a key word in this book, because whether you add an ingredient or not is up to you.  But why wouldn’t you want to add the suggested ingredients, when what Tess has created is so perfect? I’m pretty sure that while Tess herself is not dogmatic or didactic, others will be tempted to make her their guru and follow her teachings to the “T” for Tess.

And speaking of “T” for Tess, one of my greatest takeaways from this book was the revelation that a blender-based diet is defined by the four Fs. It’s fun, fast, flexible, and forgiving.

While it might seem odd to focus so much attention on the prevailing philosophy of this cookbook, I think it’s important to recognize that it’s carving out a new genre.  The blender isn’t just for smoothies anymore. It’s become a central kitchen tool in our busy, hectic, and often toxic lives, helping us create nutritionally dense, and delicious meals in a very short amount of time.

The Blender Girl: Super-Easy, Super-Healthy Meals, Snacks, Desserts & Drinks is packed with one healthy mouth-watering recipe after another.  All made with natural flavors and sweeteners, all vegan, gluten-free and many raw. Many are also nut-free, soy-free, corn-free and sugar-free.

So what’s in the blender if you’ve excluded all that? A myriad of fantastic flavors melded into all kinds of exotic concoctions.

Highlights of the book are the “Love your Blender” chapter in which I learned more about blenders than I ever knew possible, (I was delighted to realize I own 3 types of blenders!)  And yes, I too am smitten with longing for a Vitamix.

I also give a nod to her instructions for dehydrating — and I learned a lot from the soaking and sprouting tips.  I also just adored the “Milk it baby!” chapter in which Tess walks readers through making your own vegan milks, of which there are countless varieties.

And here are a few shout outs: hats off to the super gorgeous inventive salads.  To the “butters” and jams, to the dips, the smoothies, the chips, the fruit leather, the drinks chapter (love), the condiments and sauces, and of course, the desserts.  In particular, the “Key Lime” Pudding, made with the incredibly simple and inventive combo of agave nectar, lemon and lime juice, avocado, bananas, and citrus zest.  I loved this recipe because it got me thinking about “dessert” in a totally new way.

Now I will share a couple recipes from the book, which are both free of the Top 8 Allergens.  Please note that you do not need a Vitamix to make the recipes in this book.  While it may be the dream machine, I don’t have one, and these worked just fine. :)

 

antioxidant avenger

 

I think of this powerful blend as “field to shield.” With the antioxidant weight of these ingredients, nothin’s gettin’ the better of you! You can enjoy this booster in summer with a little sweetener and omit the trio of orange zest, cinnamon, and ginger. But, these warming spices taste absolutely incredible with the berries, really pull the other flavors together, and elevate this smoothie from good to great. The açaí and maqui are optional but provide an invaluable boost, and I always include them. If you don’t add these superfoods or the spices, you may not need the dates. However you make it, this one’s got your back.

 

serves 2

 

1/2 cup (120ml) coconut water

1/2 teaspoon probiotic powder (optional; see note, page 30)

1 packet (3.5 ounces/100g) frozen açaí pulp, or 2 tablespoons dried açaí powder

2 teaspoons maqui powder

2 cups (320g) mixed fresh or frozen berries (1/2 cup each of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries)

1/2 cup (85g) red seedless grapes

1 ripe pear, skin on, cored and diced

1/2 teaspoon minced ginger (optional)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

1/2 teaspoon finely grated

orange zest (optional)

1 cup (125g) ice cubes

1 chopped pitted date, soaked,

 

Throw everything into your blender and puree on high for 30 to 60 seconds, until smooth and creamy. Tweak the sweetness to taste.

 

 

watermelon gazpacho is the bomb

 

watermelon gazpacho is the bomb!

 

The name says it all. Gazpacho rocks, and this concoction delivers a surprising taste explosion with every spoonful. A happy blend of sweet and spicy, the flavors in this chilled first course or main mellow nicely with time. In fact, the change in flavor is quite pronounced. This is particularly true of the onion. Like a fabulous sangria (see page 174), this soup is better the next day. But, it’s delicious a few hours after preparing, so don’t feel like you have to wait beyond the three-hour chill.

 

serves 8 as a starter, 6 as a main

 

4 cups (640g) roughly chopped seedless watermelon, plus 6 cups (960g) diced

2 cups (300g) diced tomato

1 cup (145g) peeled, seeded, and diced cucumber

1/2 cup (70g) diced red bell pepper

2 tablespoons diced red onion, plus more to taste

3 tablespoons finely chopped basil

3 tablespoons finely chopped mint

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

2 teaspoons minced ginger

1/2 teaspoon minced green serrano chile, plus more to taste

1/2 tablespoon natural salt, plus more to taste

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

 

Put the 4 cups of chopped watermelon into your blender and puree on high for 30 to 60 seconds, until liquefied. Pour into a serving bowl. Add the 6 cups of diced watermelon and all the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine well. Tweak flavors to taste (you may want more onion, lime juice, chile, or salt).

Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours, but preferably 12 to 24 hours to allow the flavors to fuse and the vibrant red color to develop. Before serving, tweak flavors again (if it’s too spicy, add some lime juice). Pass additional lime juice and salt at the table.

 

 

Recipes reprinted with permission from The Blender Girl: Super-Easy, Super-Healthy Meals, Snacks, Desserts, and Drinks–100 Gluten-Free, Vegan Recipes! by Tess Masters, copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Photo Credit: Photo taken by Anson Smart © 2014

 

The Blender Girl High Res Cover

 

 

Brassicas: Cooking the world’s healthiest vegetables by Laura B. Russell

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Romanesco Summer Salad

 

Laura B. Russell has done it again!  Yup, that’s right, she’s made me drool. Her new book Brassicas is stunning, sumpteous, and best of all, user-friendly.  I will, without a doubt, be cooking my way from cover to cover.

It’s been quite awhile since a cookbook’s jacket copy has inspired my heart to skip a beat. And so it did, when I flipped to read about what awaited me in the pages of Brassicas. I had known that Laura was working on an all-vegetable cookbook, and had filed that somewhere in the back of my mind as interesting (and something to look forward to).  After all, I was a fan of her first cookbook The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen.  But I had no idea how excited I would be when this cookbook finally graced my table.  If you are a fan of cruciferous and other brassicas veggies, you too will feel like this book was written especially for you.  It’s a veritable candy shop for those who like their greens. It’s a celebration of the world’s healthiest vegetables, of their boundless potential and rich natural flavors.  From the inherent sweetness coaxed out of brussels sprouts (see recipe for Charred Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Fig Glaze below) to the peppery zip of arugula and watercress salads, to the creaminess of Cauliflower Hummus, this book will take you on a journey through the wonders of brassicas, superfoods of the vegetable kingdom.

Featuring 80 recipes, Brassicas is chock-full of simple sides, salads, breakfast dishes, soups, snacks and even smoothies.  Veggies aren’t just for balancing out your plate at supper, they are to be featured, as highlights, all day long.   In addition to one knock-out recipe after another, Brassicas is also structured in my favorite format for cookbooks: chapters are devoted to a single vegetable or class of brassicas.

The majority of the recipes are made with recognizable and easy-to-find brassicas like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and brussels sprouts, which is a plus for shoppers. But for those wanting a little exotic variety, there are gorgeous recipes for broccoli rabe, kohlrabi, mizuna, and collards, just to name a few.  I, for one, am always looking for ways to introduce new foods to my family.  And, I’ll venture to say, this is a book full of superfoods that will inspire even professed veggie-haters to gobble up what’s on their plates. Look at the glorious Romanesco Summer Salad picture, featured above. I’m sure I can convince my two boys to eat this simply based upon its other worldly resemblance to dinosaur tails. Fun food! And my husband? With its nod to Italian al fresco dining, that’s one romantic looking plate!

For those with dietary restrictions, please note that all of the recipes are gluten-free. Laura has also included a “Special Diets Table”, for identifying major food allergens. Many recipes are naturally allergy-friendly, and for those containing a major allergen, many can be made allergen-free with a substitution, as identified on this table. The two recipes I feature below are gluten-free and free of all Top 8 Allergens.

Brassicas is available for pre-order now and wherever books are sold on April 8, 2014.

 

Romanesco Summer Salad

Serves 4

 

Although vibrant lime green Romanesco (sometimes called broccoli Romanesco or Romanesco cauliflower) looks like the love child of cauliflower and broccoli, it is actually closer to cauliflower in terms of taste and how it is used. Its color is fantastic in this lively salad, though you can definitely use white cauliflower if that’s all you can find. Cook the Romanesco just long enough to take away the raw bite, 2 to 3 minutes tops. Normally I would suggest plunging the florets into ice water to halt the cooking immediately, but introducing extra water here will mute the flavor and dilute the dressing. Instead, cook them fast and then spread them on a baking sheet so they cool quickly.

 

1 cup water

1 medium Romanesco or regular cauliflower, cored and cut into bite-size florets (about 5 cups)

2 teaspoons whole-grain Dijon mustard

Grated zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt (divided)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1⁄2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1⁄3 cup chopped fresh dill

3 tablespoons drained capers, coarsely chopped

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. (If you have a steamer insert, put it in the pot to hold the Romanesco. If you don’t have one, don’t worry about it.) Add the Romanesco, cover the pot, turn down the heat to medium, and steam for 2 to 3 minutes, until crisp-tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the Romanesco to a rimmed baking sheet or clean kitchen towel, spreading it in a single layer, to cool.

In a small bowl, to make the vinaigrette, whisk together the mustard, lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Slowly add the oil, whisking constantly with a fork to form an emulsified vinaigrette.

Put the Romanesco in a serving bowl. Add the bell pepper, onion, dill, capers, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the vinaigrette and toss gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. It will keep well for several hours. Just before serving, taste and add more salt if needed.

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Charred Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Fig Glaze

Serves 4

 

Nothing tastes better with Brussels sprouts than cured pork, which is why I unapologetically offer you recipes that flavor sprouts with both pancetta and bacon (page 61). Here, the salty pancetta plays well with the sweetness from the fig jam, and you can finish the dish with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar to add a tangy note (see variations). I found fig jam near the grocery store’s cheese counter (not in the jams and jellies aisle), but you could also try apricot or peach jam instead. You may want to add a touch more jam than I suggest, but strive for a subtle sweetness rather than a cloying, sticky mess.

 

3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)

3 to 4 ounces pancetta, diced

11⁄2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (or quartered if large) through the stem end (about 6 cups)

1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons fig jam

1 tablespoon water

1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

In a large (12 inches or wider) frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a small bowl. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the Brussels sprouts, keeping them in a single layer as much as possible. Having a few extra sprouts is fine, but if they are mounded in a pile, they will not brown or cook evenly. If necessary, use a larger pan, cook them in two batches, or pull out the extra for another use. Stir in the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the Brussels sprouts are tender and well browned—even charred in spots. If the sprouts are browning too quickly, lower the heat to medium.

Add the fig jam and the water and stir until the jam melts and coats the Brussels sprouts. Add the reserved pancetta and the pepper and stir to combine. Taste and add additional salt or pepper if needed. Serve warm.

Variations For a sweet, salty, tangy version, add a drizzle (a teaspoon or less) of balsamic vinegar at the end. Aged balsamic is an especially good choice. Although I prefer pancetta here (I like its unsmoked rich pork
flavor), you can use bacon in its place.

Recipes reprinted with permission from Brassicas by Laura B. Russell (Ten Speed Press, © 2014). Photo credit: Sang An.

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Allergy Friendly Pad Thai

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Allergy-Friendly Pad Thai

(Gluten-Free and Top 8 Allergen-Free)

Serves 2

Pad Thai used to be one of my favorite foods, until my allergies to fish, shellfish, and wheat blew up. In fact, in its traditional form, this is one of the world’s most allergenic foods since it contains wheat/gluten, soy, fish, shellfish, eggs, and peanuts.

Not one to be daunted, I decided it was time to conquer this amazing dish, and make it allergy-friendly for us Thai food lovers with food allergies.

This recipe serves two, which is the recommended way to make Pad Thai because cooking a larger batch will make for mushy, clumpy noodles. If you want to double the recipe, you will need to cook the sauce a bit longer than 20 minutes to reduce it, and you will need to cook the Pad Thai in two batches for best results.

Sauce Ingredients

½ cup beef broth [allergy-friendly brand such as KITCHEN BASICS]

½ cup low-sodium chicken broth [allergy-friendly brand such as KITCHEN BASICS]

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

¼ tsp Chinese five-spice powder [try Spicely Organics, which are allergy-friendly]

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tbsp tamarind paste

3 tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar

½ tsp Sriracha hot sauce (optional)

 

Main Ingredients

4 oz rice stick (pad Thai noodles)

2 tbsp canola oil

8 oz chicken breast, or pork, or beef, sliced into ¼-inch thick strips, seasoned with a little salt

1 cup chopped green onion, white and green parts divided

3 cloves finely minced garlic (1 tbsp)

1 1/3 cups bean sprouts, divided

½ cup roasted sunflower seeds, chopped, divided

¼ cup chopped cilantro

½ cup carrots, shredded or cut into match sticks

lime wedges

1. Combine beef broth, chicken broth, garlic, and Chinese five-spice powder in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Now add salt, lemon juice and lime juice, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered 20 minutes until reduced to ¼ cup. Strain broth through a strainer or fine sieve, using the back of a spoon to push garlic juices through.

2. Return to the pot, add tamarind paste, palm sugar and Sriracha (if using). Stir over low heat, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Put noodles in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over noodles to cover completely. Use tongs to stir noodles a couple times. Let soak 4 minutes. Drain, and rinse with cool water. Set aside.

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4. Heat a non-stick or well seasoned wok over high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the canola oil and heat until almost smoking, swirl around wok, then add the chicken.  Cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

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5. Add the remaining tablespoon of canola oil to the wok. Add ½ cup of the green onions and the garlic to the wok, and cook stirring about 10-15 seconds. Do not burn the garlic.

6. Add remaining ingredients in the following order, and toss after each addition: noodles, 3 tablespoons of the sauce, chicken, 1 cup of the bean sprouts, and ¼ cup of the sunflower seeds. Season with a little salt. Toss everything until heated through but no longer than 1-2 minutes. Using two utensils will make tossing a lot easier!

7. Transfer to a serving platter and serve garnished with the remaining ½ cup of green onions, cilantro, the remaining 1/3 cup of bean sprouts, the carrots, the remaining ¼ cup of sunflower seeds, and a few lime wedges.

Pad Thai Tips

• While making your sauce, prep all your other ingredients except the noodles.

• “Chopping” sunflower seeds: Put the seeds in a ziplock bag and bang a few times with a rolling pin or a mallet. Attempting to chop these seeds with a knife is a losing battle.

• To mix evenly and cook through, use two large spatulas or spoons to toss the Pad Thai as you’re cooking it.

• Read the recipe through before making it, so you are ready to add ingredients to the wok quickly.

Allergy-Friendly Pad Thai © 2013 by Cybele Pascal

This recipe first appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Allergic Living Magazine