If you think your blender is only for smoothies and soups, think again. In her debut cookbook The Blender Girl, Aussie Tess Masters shares easy plant-based recipes that anyone can whip up in their blender — and shows just how versatile the machine can be.
Fans of Tess’ blog are familiar with her bubbly personality and approachable recipes, which are always fast, healthy, great-tasting and fun. Besides smoothies, soups and spreads, The Blender Girl offers a collection of appetizers, salads and main dishes; Tess shows how blending can add new, unexpected flavors and textures to traditional dishes.
Ready to start blending? Us too! We took this opportunity to talk to Tess all about the book, how blending has changed her life, and her favorite creative ways to use a blender. Read on, then scroll down to learn how you can meet Tess in person at one of our upcoming book signings!
Tell us about your story and how you discovered blending.
I’ve always loved making juices and things like that. I was always quite tired as a child, and when I was about 14 I was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, so I had to give up gluten and dairy. Almost overnight I felt better, and it revolutionized the way I ate. I’m a believer in the food-as-medicine concept. I became obsessed and tried all kinds of diets — macrobiotic, whole food diet, raw food, vegan — I was one of those really annoying people who finds a new diet every six months. One day my dad said to me, “Tess, are you having fun? Because we’re not having any fun watching you order.” I thought about that, and it was true — I was rigidly following things, thinking one diet would make me feel amazing. Since then I’ve embraced the idea of bio-individuality; flexibility and fluidity were among the keys to success and happiness for me.
When I was going to start a blog, I started researching beautiful whole foods websites, and no one was really blending beyond smoothies and juices. The blender is truly the greatest culinary gift — why not exploit it to its fullest potential, beyond the typical things? The more that I researched, the more I saw it as a metaphor for how I live my life, blending philosophies for future health and happiness. I started asking people, “What’s your perfect blend?” And that struck a chord.
For me, I was living a plant-based, alkaline lifestyle. But nobody wants to drink anything that looks gross! It needs to be fun and tasty and beautiful. So I started to experiment with different flavors to make quick, easy things. I need to be able to take things on the run, since I’m eating and drinking throughout the day, so I wanted do that in a fun and interesting way.
For smoothies, sauces and dressings, the flavor possibilities are endless. Now it’s all about, what am I going to put together next? It’s so much fun. Anybody can make a smoothie. So to put smoothie recipes in a cookbook, they better rock your world and be incredible creations that take you on a flavor and texture journey. I love smoothies that make you feel like you’ve had a meal. So that really changed the way I thought about that kind of food.
In the book, I wanted to show people that these are blender-inspired dishes, not blender only dishes. We don’t check our teeth at the door; there’s texture because we’re using the machine to enhance the flavor of textured materials. This has given me so much more energy because I can put so much nutrition into one glass or cup of food. Unless you have the schedule of a panda, you’re not going to chomp on lettuce leaves all day. Blending vegetables in smoothies, sauces, juice, and other ways is easier, more accessible, and it tastes better. I have three criteria for recipes: they have to look really beautiful, be incredibly nutrient dense, and be absolutely delicious. I test pretty rigorously with mainstream eaters, not just with raw foodists and vegans.
The Vitamix changes people’s lives. It’s a fact. People say, “$350 for a blender?” and I say, we all have a very specific idea about what’s worthy spending money on. How much do you spend on healthcare? I’ve spent almost nothing, so that $350 blender is looking really cheap right now. It’s a proactive, preventative strategy for health, an investment in your future. You can’t put a price tag on that. It’s not really about gluten free or vegan, it’s about the celebration of whole foods, fruits and vegetables and how yummy they can taste and how fun they can be.
Tell us about a typical day in food for you — breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I’m a seasonal eater. On a typical day I start with a green smoothie, which is different every day. I’m a big believer in rotating greens to surprise your body and have diversity in your diet. So, a different leafy green, then something alkalizing like a whole peeled lemon, limes, grapefruit or berries. I add a plant-based milk — almond or hemp, again mixing it up for nutritional diversity — and a tablespoon of cold pressed oil, like avocado. Sometimes I add a superfood powder like goji powder or wheatgrass. Plus ice, herbs and spices. I sip on that until noon wherever I am.
For lunch I’ll have a salad with sprouts and vegetables, or soup or a wrap or a veggie burger. For dinner, I eat a lot of cultured vegetables: sprouts, nuts and seeds. I try and eat something alive at every meal to get those live enzymes. Dinner can be anything. In the summer I eat a high raw diet, such as a salad with cucumber and avocado and a clean protein. In the winter I start with a macrobiotic soup, then I’ll have a grain bowl with quinoa or amaranth. The ratio changes throughout the year.
All in all I eat a very clean diet. Throughout the day I’ll have lemon water or liquid chlorophyll.
What are some of the benefits you’ve noticed?
I have more energy, I need less sleep, and I sleep more soundly. I don’t have a foggy brain since giving up white refined grains. Clear skin. The power of food is extraordinary. I very rarely get sick. You don’t have to be extreme — if you’re going to have pizza, have a salad with it! Bring the whole meal back into balance.
What are some creative ways you’ve discovered to use the Vitamix, beyond smoothies?
One of my favorite recipes to show people is all-but-instant raw jam. You can make it in less than a minute and it tastes and looks like conventional jam, without all the sugar. With the Vitamix, you don’t need to pulverize everything; you can pulse for a beautiful chunky texture. So I use coconut water, dates, chia seeds, and fresh fruit, blend it, stick it in the fridge, and it plumps into a thick, naturally sweetened jam free of all sugar and pectin. You can apply the principle to all kinds of fruit to make marmalades and other spreads.
I also like to make bread in my Vitamix! In the book I share my socca flatbread recipe — it’s gluten free, made with garbanzo bean flour. I’ve shown my favorite blends of herbs and spices, but you can make anything! You can also make regular leavened bread; that’s a great thing people don’t usually think of.
I use it for chopping ingredients, like a food processor. There’s also the frozen treat aspect of the Vitamix — you can blend milk, water, and your frozen favorite fruit and make instant ice cream. That’s something I love to do — make sugar-free sorbets and ice creams.
You can make a base for soup — not just purees. I love to show people that you can make chunky soups in the Vitamix. Blend half of the soup and create a creamy base for the chunky ingredients so you still have a little bit of texture. You can apply the same principal for instant risotto and instant rice pudding — take some of the cooked rice and blend with almond milk, dates and chopped apples, and then put in the rest of the almond milk and rice.
I love to make my own condiments. Mayo is a favorite — I make it with cashews and cauliflower, which sounds bizarre but it works. You get an incredible smooth, beautiful spread to use as a base in everything (like my potato salad!)
Cocktails! Margaritas, Pina Coladas, Sangria, Agua Fresca — it’s easy and quick and less cleanup. With the Vitamix you can completely control how much pulp you have in your juice.
Tell us about your cookbook, The Blender Girl. What inspired you to write it?
For my book, I wanted to share blender-inspired recipes, encouraging people to find what works for them. The book is full of gluten-free, plant-based recipes, but that’s not what works for everybody. Really, I’m selling healthy whole foods — it’s all about getting more vegetables into your diet. People can blend into their own lifestyles and stories and use vitamins in a way that’s comfortable for them. Maybe you’re blending a smoothie, then a burger, or a sauce or a dessert — then you may find you’re eating more vegetarian food. People are finding something they love in this book from all angles.
I recipe tested using all kinds of machines so the recipes would be accessible to anybody; I didn’t really give any parameters. In the end, everybody tweaked them to taste and started to experiment. As a method, blending is freeing; you cannot make mistakes. My recipes are incredibly forgiving and designed to be tailored to taste and diet. It’s a wonderful way to introduce people to cooking, like novice cooks or children, and inspire confidence in the kitchen to feed yourself in a quick, fun way.
I was really fortunate that publishers were coming to me, saying they enjoyed my website, and they saw the different things I was making in a blender. I teamed up with Ten Speed, and they were really wonderful. They said, we love your vision and what you’ve created, and we want to make the book an extension of that. That was so exciting — I have a strong vision about my brand; I want it to be incredibly accessible, not dogmatic or preachy or extreme. I wanted bold colors, a living, working kitchen, and photography that looked like a real person had made this in real time.
The food stylist and photographer really trusted me and my vision and gave me control to create this world. I’m really proud of what we created, and people are really responding to it.
What’s amazing is that it hasn’t even been a year since I signed the book deal. After it was sold, I wrote and developed it in 90 days — which almost killed me. But we had to because so many people wanted the book and we had to put it out quickly. There was no room for error; we had to bring our A game 24/7. It went to the printer, and here we are.
What kind of recipes are in there? Can you tell us about them?
The Tastes-Like-Ice Cream Kale smoothie is so extraordinary — you can’t believe kale can taste that good. People go crazy for it.
The Cauliflower Soup is a staple in my house. I’ve been making it over 25 years. People don’t believe it doesn’t have dairy in it. It’s a showstopper that makes anyone look like a gourmet chef.
I also love the I-Love-Veggies! Bake. I almost didn’t include it because it didn’t fit the healthy fast food theme; it takes 1 1/2 hours to make, but it’s so, so worth it in the end. I really wanted to create a vegetable gratin with the rich depth of flavor I grew up eating. I finally got it right, but I was still concerned it was too much work. In the end, all of the recipe testers gave input about their favorite recipes, the easiest ones, etc. and everybody said, you have to include the veggie bake because it’s so good. Plus, it has a generous yield and freezes really well.
To be honest, the show-stopping recipe is the sangria! It’s the best sangria I’ve ever had in my life. It’s not really strong and doesn’t have any sugar — it’s all fruit sweetened. The secret to brilliant sangria is vanilla bean. I could go to heaven with a smile on my face.
Anson eats very similar to me, very clean. But everybody else on set was a mainstream eater. People had to work day in, day out eating this food! I was really nervous because these people work with the most famous chefs in the world, and I was worried they would think I was total hack. But on the second day Dave Morgan, who’s the greatest food stylist in the world, said, “Do you come from family of chefs?” I said “No, why?” I was feeling really nervous! But he said, “I’m going to be totally honest: the thought of eating gluten-free, vegan, blended food — gag. But everyone has been so blown away by this food.” At end of the two weeks some of them had bought a Vitamix and a dehydrator! They are all eating this food now.
It’s really nice to get that feedback from foodies. I’m just a regular person, not a trained chef — it’s not me, it’s the machine. Nature tastes better blended. I hope this helps people realize that they can cook and feed their families and that vegetables can taste good.
Any plans to do another book?
Well, I signed multi-book deal. Next up, I’m touring around the country and the book is sold to Germany, France, Australia, etc., and before that the Blender Girl app launches, mid-July. Then I will move into book 2 and do it all again! It’s a slightly different concept, expanding on what you can do with a blender. There are so many more ideas, more ways to use blender that I haven’t celebrated in the first book.
Creamy Cauliflower Soup
For a simple, impressive, and downright delicious soup, you can’t surpass this rich and creamy blend. This is the recipe my friends request most. When they come over for dinner, they always ask in anticipation, “Are you making the cauliflower soup?” Because you can literally make this blend on demand in about forty minutes, I always keep a head of cauliflower in my fridge. A scoop of cooked grain or a piece of crusty bread makes this soup a meal. It freezes nicely, too.
The secret ingredient is the nuts, which, when blended with the cauliflower, create silky texture, a rich flavor, and an intoxicating aroma. It’s staggering that something so easy delivers so complex a result. Just be sure to soak the nuts and puree the soup really well to get the consistency that my friends proclaim “liquid air.” This is a blendsation that will make you look like a gourmet chef!
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (about 2 cloves), plus more to taste
2 cups (200 g) chopped leeks (white parts only, from 2 or 3 leeks)
1 head cauliflower, chopped
7 cups (1.65 l) vegetable broth
1/4 cup (35 g) raw unsalted cashews or 1/4 cup (35 g) blanched slivered raw almonds, soaked
3 tablespoons chopped chives or a grating of nutmeg (optional; choose one, not both), to garnish
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic, leeks, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt for about 3 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the cauliflower and sauté for another minute. Add the vegetable broth, increase the heat to high, and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the cauliflower is com- pletely tender. Stir the mix periodically and mash the cauliflower with a wooden spoon.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly; stir in the nuts. Pour the soup into your blender in batches and puree on high for 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth and creamy. (Remember to remove the plastic cap in the blender top and cover the opening with a kitchen towel so steam can escape while you blend.) Return the soup to the saucepan and warm it over low heat. Stir in salt to taste.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with either chopped chives or grated nutmeg. Serves 6 as a starter, 4 as a main.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups (300 g) diced yellow onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (about 3 cloves)
2 cups (480 ml) vegetable broth
½ cup (70 g) raw unsalted cashews
1 head cauliflower (about 13/4 pounds/800 g), cut into florets and steamed
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
1 ½ teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
1/8 teaspoon paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 butternut squash (or pumpkin), peeled, seeded, and very thinly sliced
1/4 cup (20 g) plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion (white and green parts)
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1/4 cup (12 g) plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 large potatoes, very thinly sliced
1 pound (450 g) green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
1 large orange-flesh sweet potato, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 cup (90 g) sliced almonds
3 tablespoons dried onion flakes
To make the sauce, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a shallow saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion starts to brown. Put the broth, cashews, and onion mixture into your blender and puree on high for 30 to 60 seconds, until smooth and creamy. Add half of the cauliflower and blast on high for about 30 seconds more, until combined. Add the remaining cauliflower, 2 teaspoons of salt, the pepper, thyme, rosemary, paprika, cayenne, and lemon juice and puree for about 1 minute, until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and lightly grease a 31/2-quart (3.5 l) baking dish with oil. To make the veggie bake, lay the butternut squash in the bottom of the baking dish in overlapping rows. Add 11/4 cups (300ml) of the sauce and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the green onion, 1 tablespoon of the chives, and 1 tablespoon of the parsley over the top. Layer on the potatoes and cover with 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) of the sauce. Sprinkle on 2 tablespoons of the green onion, 1 tablespoon of the chives, and 1 tablespoon of the parsley. Layer on the beans and cover with 11/4 cups (300ml) of the sauce. Sprinkle on the remaining green onion, chives, and 1 tablespoon of the parsley. Add the sweet potatoes and cover with the remaining sauce.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Uncover and sprinkle the almonds and onion flakes over the top. Bake for about 15 minutes more, until the vegetables are cooked through. Cool for 5 minutes, then serve family-style, sprinkled with the remaining parsley. Serves 6 to 8.
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 taken by Anson Smart © 2014
Join us at your local Williams-Sonoma store for a special book signing and conversation with Tess! She will be signing copies of her new cookbook, The Blender Girl.
Please note: Tess will only be signing copies of The Blender Girl purchased at the Williams-Sonoma store where the event is being held. Proof of purchase required.
Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 4:00pm
327 Northpark Center, Dallas, TX 75225
Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 6:00pm
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019
Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 4:00pm
8405 Park Meadows Center Drive, Littleton, CO 80124
Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 1:00pm
7007 Friars Road, San Diego, CA 92108
Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 4:00pm
2450 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ 85016
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Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 1:00pm
7014 – 1236 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 1:00pm
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South Coast Plaza
Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 2:00pm
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