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. 🙂
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.
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!
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
Sneezing, sniffling, swollen, itchy-eyes got you down this month? If so, you’re far from alone. Mid-august marks the beginning of ragweed season, which lasts through October, and causes a whopping 36 million Americans to suffer the symptoms of “hay fever”, or allergic rhinitis.
Technically, this site is devoted to food allergy sufferers, but with seasonal allergies (not to mention mold!) in full swing, we’ve got a total of 50 million people suffering some kind of torment, four of them in my very own household. So instead of writing about foods to avoid this week, I’ve focussed on foods to include in your diet that can help reduce allergies. Food allergy sufferers, take note: I have not forsaken you! As seasonal allergies are said to exacerbate existing food allergies, this information should be helpful to you as well.
Both my sons are in hyper-allergic mode this summer, both to foods and to pollen. Consequently, there’s been a lot of unnatural drugging going on — of the Claritin, Alavert, Benadryl type. I’m not alone in this. Americans spend billions of dollars annually on antihistamines to treat symptoms of allergies. The problem with these over-the-counter antihistamines — aside from their obvious side effects of drowsiness, cloudy thinking, dry mouth, and for some, accelerated heart rate — is that they don’t stop the problem from happening in the first place, they just mask the symptoms for several hours. But I need more than just a few hours reprieve, and as a desperate parent, sick of doping my children, I have turned for help to a natural alternative: foods that fight allergies. What a novel concept. EATING YOUR ANTIHISTAMINES.
So what are these super-foods? Well, lucky for you, most of them are available in abundance at your local green market or grocer. For a change, East meets West on this topic, with both traditional western medicine and alternative health practitioners agreeing that nature’s top edible antihistamines are found in foods containing Vitamin C, and Quercetin (a powerful flavonoid, sometimes called bioflavonoid). Additionally, there is much evidence that eating foods rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids reduces allergic symptoms.
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is one of nature’s great wonders. In addition to being a natural antihistamine, this water soluble vitamin has a multitude of other functions in the body. From being a powerful antioxidant fighting free radicals, to its role in the synthesis of collagen, it’s the vitamin we truly can’t live without. Foods rich in Vitamin C should be eaten as soon as possible when fresh, as they lose their strength after being exposed to air, or being processed, boiled, or stored for long periods of time. Good food sources of Vitamin C are guavas, blackcurrants, red bell peppers, kale, parsley, green sweet peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, mustard greens, mango, watercress, cauliflower, red cabbage, strawberries, papayas, green and white cabbage, spinach, citrus fruits, elderberries, calf liver, turnips, peaches, asparagus, cantaloupe, cayenne pepper, green onions, new lima beans, black-eyed peas, green peas, radishes, raspberries, yellow summer squash, sweet potatoes, loganberries, tomatoes, new potatoes, lettuce, bananas, kiwi, honeydew, pineapple, cranberry juice, vegetable juice, tomato juice, rutabaga, and kohlrabi. That’s a whole lot of options to keep you eating your C!
Flavonoids, such as Quercetin are a group of plant pigments that are largely responsible for the colors of many fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Quercetin is a natural antihistamine that helps stabilize mast cells to prevent both the manufacture and release of histamine, as well as other allergic and inflammatory compounds. Good sources of Quercetin are citrus fruits, onions, garlic, apples, parsley, tea, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, legumes, berries, and wine (no bummer there!).
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 Fatty Acids are thought to reduce allergic reactions through their anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3 Fatty Acids are found in such foods as cold-water fish (think salmon), and walnuts, but since this is a blog devoted to food allergy sufferers, I prefer to recommend you get your Omega-3s from less allergenic sources, such as hemp seeds, flax seed oil, canola oil, and grass-fed meat.
Many articles advise you to start loading up on your natural antihistamines six weeks prior to peak allergy season, but since many of us don’t know exactly what pollen or mold spores we’re allergic to, I advise trying to eat as much of these foods as possible, all year round. Eating a diet rich in natural antihistamines can help prevent the allergic reactions from happening in the first place, thus reducing the need for the drugs, and making us all a little healthier and happier, not to mention less congested!