Tuesday, February 5, 2013

True Confessions of a Blendaholic

When you’re thinking about ways to add spice and sparkle to dishes, Tess Masters has some ideas. Born in Australia, she’s an actor, presenter, voice-over artist, cook, writer, and a super green maven now living in Los Angeles, Calif. Her alter-ego, “The Blender Girl”, writes a quirky vegetarian recipe blog called Healthy Blender Recipes, where she shares super quick and easy allergy-friendly, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, and raw recipes. Tess uses blending as a metaphor for life: combining different ideas and concepts, notes and flavors with philosophies and cultures to find a healthy balance for happiness. She also serves as the spokesperson for a well-known blender appliance brand, has filmed videos for food websites, and had her recipes featured around the world online and in print. Tess says she “loves Allrecipes.com because it is a “one-stop-shop community where I can find any kind of recipe for all tastes and occasions, as well as a wonderful place to search for allergy-friendly, and diet-specific eating regimes.” In this guest blog post, she shares delicious #RecipeForHappiness ideas showcasing her favorite kitchen appliance, the blender, and the wonderful smoothies it creates.

“Hello, My name is Tess, and I am a Blendaholic.”

I LOVE my blender. What can I say? For me, it is right up there with the wheel—a culinary gift from the gods designed to make our lives easier. So, why not exploit its full potential? Besides, let’s face it, a blender levels the playing field in the kitchen, giving everyone a healthy advantage.

My Recipe for Happiness
I use “blending” as a metaphor for how I live my life. It’s the idea of “take what you like and leave the rest.” I like to combine different ideas and concepts, notes and flavors, philosophies and cultures, activities and interests, in order to find a healthy balance for life. “All Things Well Blended” is my #RecipeForHappiness. In this post, I’m proposing ways for everyone to become “Clean and Green in 2013”!

My Story
After being diagnosed in my teens with Epstein Barr virus—a common virus in the herpes virus family and associated with mononucleosis—I was on a quest to find the perfect whole foods diet that was going to keep me in a state of optimum health. As a perfectionist, I was going to master the art of my own health, even if it killed me!

This self-imposed crusade had me following every single whole foods diet known to man! I became vegetarian, and then committed to veganism. I discovered the power of raw foods, and dabbled in Ayurvedic and Chinese yin and yang principles. Then it was onto alkalinity and Dr. Robert O. Young’s pH Miracle, soon followed by Body Ecology anti-candida principles, and blood group strategies. The list goes on.

But no one “program” completely fit my needs. I would feel really good, but eventually, symptoms of ‘less than perfect health’ such as lethargy and fatigue would set in. It was only after I embraced the concept of bio-individuality—the concept that one blanket diet will not work for every human being—that my world opened up. I decided to adopt an intuitive approach to my own health, listening to the signs in my body, and teaching myself a healthy way to move through the world with food. I discovered that “flexibility and fluidity, not “rigidity,” were the keys to success.

My eating regime now changes depending on the climate, emotion, stress, physical activity, and overall health. While many healthy diets have something valuable to offer, I find it more successful to “blend” these pillars of whole foods eating into one immune-boosting “Tess diet.”

Green Smoothies Changed My Life
Throughout my experiences with various eating plans, one thing has remained constant—green smoothies. Consuming alkaline-rich green smoothies was the missing link in my quest to achieve optimum health and vitality. I have now been happily blending raw greens for 20 years, and will never look back. I am healthy and vibrant. I rarely get sick. I have no symptoms of candida, my lethargy has ceased, my hay fever has vanished, and my mind is totally clear.

Everybody Loves Smoothies, Right?
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy a smoothie. They are quick and easy, satisfying, nutritious, delicious, and the flavor combinations are endless! Smoothies provide an accessible way for children and novice cooks to be creative and gain confidence experimenting with food. They make a wonderful nutritionally dense meal or snack, and are the tastiest way to sneak a huge dose of fruits and vegetables, plus healthy nuts and oils, into kids, skeptical adults, and busy people on the go!

The Skinny on Greens
There is no disputing that a diet rich in green vegetables is vital for vibrant health. Greens are rich in vitamins and minerals, contain powerful antioxidants and vital live enzymes, are loaded with amino acids (protein), and are low in calories. I’ve also learned greens contain natural anti-inflammatory agents that assist with aches and pains, and provide vast amounts of chlorophyll year-round. Greens are incredibly alkalizing, which combats the acidity of most foods we eat, and boosts your alkaline buffers to reduce the stress on tissues and organs to help combat disease and infection. Greens also assist with healthy nails and hair, improve skin tone, and reduce blemishes.

I’ve also discovered greens combine beautifully with many things. For example, kale, spinach, collard greens, beet greens, turnip greens and carrot greens—the ones that grow above ground and fit more into the flower and blossom category—combine well with fruits. Experiment to find out what your favorite combinations are. To my mind, greens really are the perfect food!

The Blender Saves the Day
Consuming vast quantities of greens can be challenging. Who can chew bunches and bunches of greens all day long? This is where your blender comes to the rescue! Blending greens breaks them down, and makes their nutrients immediately accessible for the body. By mixing about 40 percent green leaves with 60 percent fruit and some filtered water, you can create a delicious sweet smoothie that tastes like a treat.

The Blender Girl's Raw Vegan Pina Colada Green Smoothie (Photo by Tess Masters)

My Top 12 Tips for Making Green Smoothies
1) Organic is a Powerful Mechanic
Always use organic produce. I believe genetically modified produce, and that sprayed with harmful pesticides, is not healthy for our environment or our bodies. If you can't locate organic produce, wash items in a water bath with a solution of baking soda or vinegar. Alternatively, peel the produce—although much of the goodness in fruits and veggies lies in the skins or just beneath it.

2) Go Mild, Then Go WILD!
Ease into green smoothies by starting with sweet, fruit-based smoothies. Use mild tasting greens such as spinach and romaine lettuce that are easily masked with fruit such as apples and other flavors. Then gradually reduce the amount of fruit and increase the amount of alkaline vegetables. Move slowly into more exotic greens. My favorites are kale, collard greens, beet greens, carrot greens, turnip greens, parsley, cilantro, mint, and basil. Finally, introduce wild edibles such as grasses, dandelion greens, pigweed, lambsquarter, stinging nettles, plantain, hota cola, hibiscus, and nasturtiums. These all offer a wonderful opportunity to expand your food resources and bring incredible variety to your diet.

(Note: I love wild edibles. But always know what greens you’re using before blending them! Research any poisonous wild edibles in your local area, and always do research before picking and eating anything. Introduce new wild edibles slowly, and in small amounts.)

3. Rotate, Not Bloatate!
Avoid any toxic influences of excessive alkaloid intake by using different greens every day. I blend a different leafy green every day for nutritional diversity, as well as for culinary pleasure.

4. Make Friends with Your Farmers and Markets
Buying organic greens every day can become very expensive. My top cost-cutting tip: Ask the vendors at your local farmer’s market if they have any discarded vegetable greens. Most people ask to have beet greens, carrot greens, parsnip greens, turnip greens and so forth cut off. But they’re loaded with nutrients and make wonderful additions to green smoothies. I often pick these up for FREE or for a couple of bucks.

5. Veggies Over Fruits
I recommend limiting your intake of fruit-based green smoothies, and instead, opt for alkaline vegetable juices containing a small amount of apple and lemon. Green vegetable juices are preferable, as they are alkaline, and more slowly absorbed by the body, while high sugar fruits are acidic and may cause sugar spikes. My body responds better to savory alkaline vegetable-based smoothies with a touch of fruit. The good news: You can boost the nutritional and chlorophyll content of any smoothie recipe by throwing in a handful of mild-tasting greens such as baby spinach or Romaine lettuce. It won’t change the taste!

6. Variety is the Spice of Life
 Use a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables to make smoothies. I often buy fresh local produce and freeze, dry, or stew it for use later in smoothies. This gives me a variety of ready-to-use organic options every week. I may also use dried and stewed fruits, which add a deep, rich flavor to green smoothies. Don’t blend the same fruits and vegetables all the time. Surprise your body, and give it some nutritional and flavor diversity. Experiment, be bold, and be creative. Discover your own combinations.

7. Give It Some Sweet and Heat
I like to sweeten my green smoothies with non-alcoholic liquid stevia. I also use pitted dates, coconut crystals, maple syrup, yacón syrup ( a sweetening syrup from the tuberous roots of the yacón plant), blackstrap molasses, and/or pomegranate molasses. You may also jazz up otherwise bland green smoothie blends with a dash of garlic, ginger, turmeric, chili, paprika, cayenne pepper, plus other spices and fresh herbs to give them a kick. These ingredients stimulate your lymph glands and can help detoxify your system. Also try a splash of alcohol-free vanilla and almond extract, as well as raw cacao powder or nibs, and carob powder. A nip of pure rosewater provides a truly exotic twist. WOW!

8. Lemons and Limes Make Everything Sublime
Lemons and limes give green smoothies a lift and a zing, plus both citrus fruits are powerful alkalizing agents. I add an entire peeled lime or some lemon juice to almost every smoothie I make—just for a good luck health bonus! HA!

9. Got Milk?
Healthy plant-based milks such as almond, cashew, Brazil Nut, macadamia, hemp, rice, oat, coconut, quinoa, and soy milk may be added to green smoothies to give them a “creamy green” texture and entice “greenophobes.” Coconut water is wonderful, too. I will note, however, that green smoothies are digested more easily without these milks.

10. “Cream Dream”
I really enjoy the texture of smoothies. “Creamy” is the name of the game for me. They can’t be woody or lumpy. Throwing in some avocado, fresh coconut meat, pure creamed coconut, or raw cashews, macadamias and almonds does the trick in seconds. (Note: I don’t eat too much soy because of its phyto-estrogens, but occasionally use silken tofu as a treat.) I also use a tablespoon of tahini, or almond, cashew, hazelnut, macadamia, and sunflower seed butters for decadent flavor and texture. You may also use bananas, but too much banana can overpower other flavors. Plus, bananas spike sugar levels.

11. Go Nuts!
 Raw cashews, macadamias and pecans bring a rich, creamy, buttery texture and taste for decadent smoothies. Other nuts and seeds such as Brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, sacha inchi seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds are terrific contributors to nutritional density, bone density, heart health, and more. Just a handful is all you need to reap the rewards. (Remember to always soak and sprout any raw nuts and seeds to neutralize enzyme inhibitors and increase nutrient potential.)

12. An Oily Adventure
I like to add a teaspoon of coconut oil to my green smoothies. Coconut oil can offer many health benefits, including serving as a booster for the immune system. Olive oil, flaxseed oil, macadamia oil, pumpkin seed oil, and avocado oil are other terrific additives. Always use cold-pressed, unrefined organic oils and store them in dark glass containers in a cool space.

My Favorite Smoothie Recipes
Some of my “go-to” green smoothies include: Tropical Green Smoothie, Mango Salsa Green Smoothie, Pina Colada Green Smoothie, and the most visited recipe on my site, the Pistachio Kale Shake. I also enjoy these smoothies shared by Allrecipes' home cooks: Coconut-Avocado Smoothie, Green Monster Smoothie, Green Slime Smoothie, Groovy Green Smoothie, and Kale-Orange-Banana Smoothie.

Coconut-Avocado Green Monster Smoothie (Photo by sueb)
What green smoothie combination will you try as your 2013 #RecipeForHappiness?


SO much great green smoothie info here! I love the tip on Rotate, Not Bloatate! I'm going to make a green smoothie for dinner tonight for sure! Thanks Blender Girl!

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I like the recipes and the good advice on making smoothies. Rotating greens sounds like a great idea. I'm going to try out the pistachio kale shake and my kids are going to love the monster and green slime. Thanks Tess.