Blender Girl is back with 5 easy resolutions to boost your health in 2017

What “elimination” diet are you trying in 2017? No sugar? No gluten? No dairy?

It all sounds like “no fun” to Tess Masters.

Masters — better known in the online world as L.A.’s Blender Girl — is back for the second year in a row to help Saturday readers kick off the new year in style.

She says she’s in your corner if you want to kick the sugar or soda habit this year. “You can do it!” she says enthusiastically. But she also suggests another alternative for those of us struggling to kick the white stuff: Instead of focusing on taking all the “bad” stuff out of your diet, how about simply adding more “good” stuff?

“My big thing is, be more gentle with yourself,” she said. “Small changes create big shifts.”

Masters is an actress, voice-over artist and author of several cookbooks (blenderbooks?) that are all about recipes you can make in your blender. Her newest one is just out: “The Perfect Blend: 100 Blender Recipes to Energize and Revitalize.”

Masters goes beyond smoothies — although there are several in the book — with recipes aimed at different health goals, such as reducing inflammation, increasing probiotic and protein intake, and boosting immunity.

Here are Masters’ tips for kicking off the new year.

Five easy resolutions to improve your health in 2017

1. Hydrate

Drink plenty of water and herbal tea, and eat high-water-content foods such as cucumber, celery, tomatoes, melons, berries, grapefruit, lemons and limes to keep the body hydrated and to flush out toxins. 

2. Grab greens

Add leafy greens such as spinach, kale, chard, arugula, romaine, collard greens and bok choy to your smoothies and salads, or shred them and add to soups and stews to increase your consumption of alkalizing minerals to combat acidic wastes. 

3. Push probiotics

Add probiotic powder to smoothies; drink kefir; eat unsweetened natural yogurt; add 1/4 cup of cultured vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, etc.) to meals to maintain gut health and boost immunity. 

4. Rip Into raw foods

Increase your consumption of raw foods that contain nutrients and enzymes that aid digestion and increase your intake of mineral-rich water. 

5. Move for momentum 

Engage in some kind of easy movement (walking, hiking, running, cycling, etc.) every day for heart and respiratory health to improve circulation and aid metabolism. 

Masters adds: “Being extreme isn't any fun. Healthy living should be fun, and life should be fun. ... It's a much more prudent approach to pick a few tangible things you know you can stick to and grow from there. When you start to make these small changes, you start to feel better. It's layering. You just keep adding healthy layers.”

Another reason for healthy layers? “If you change everything at once, it's hard to know what is working. If you start drinking a green smoothie each day, and you find that your digestion is improving and you’re sleeping better, then you’ve got a proven incentive to keep going.”

Mind-blowing Moroccan Pizza

SERVES 4 TO 8 AS A STARTER, 2 AS A MAIN; PESTO MAKES 3⁄4 CUP (195G)

Vegetables

2 medium heads garlic

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Natural salt (see page 139)

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin

1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander

1⁄2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄8 teaspoon ground allspice

1⁄2 yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and sliced into 1⁄8-inch (3mm) rounds (I use a mandoline)

1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1⁄8-inch (3mm) rounds (I use a mandoline)

2 cups (50g) whole curly green kale leaves (with stalks removed)

1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper pesto

1⁄4 cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil

1 1⁄2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste

1 cup (50g) firmly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves (about 1 large bunch)

1 cup (40g) firmly packed cilantro leaves (about 1 large bunch)

1⁄4 cup (10g) firmly packed mint leaves

1⁄4 cup (35g) dry-toasted pine nuts

1 teaspoon white miso paste, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon ribbed, seeded, and minced green chile, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 1 clove), plus more to taste

1⁄4 teaspoon natural salt (see page 139), plus more to taste

1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 thin, gluten-free, vegan or regular pizza crusts (8 to 10 inches/20 to 25cm each), prebaked if package instructs to do so

1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Optional boosters

3 tablespoons dry-toasted pine nuts

1⁄4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus more to taste

1⁄4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more to taste

Steps:

Remove the papery outer layers from the heads of garlic, leaving them whole, with the cloves connected. Trim 1⁄4 inch (6mm) off the top of the heads to expose the cloves. Drizzle each head with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Wrap the heads separately in parchment paper, then in aluminum foil and roast for 40 to 60 minutes, until tender. Allow to cool, then squeeze the garlic pulp out of the skins. You should have 3 to 4 tablespoons of roasted garlic. Set aside.

To prepare the vegetables, in a large bowl, mix together 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt and the spices, then stir in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion, sweet potato, and zucchini and massage the spiced oil into the vegetables until evenly coated. Lay the vegetables in a single layer on a prepared baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes, until tender and starting to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, toss the kale in a bowl with 4 teaspoons of the olive oil, the black pepper, and 1⁄8 teaspoon of salt. Lay the kale leaves in a single layer on the second prepared baking sheet and roast for 10 to 12 minutes, until crispy. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

While the vegetables are roasting, make the pesto. Throw all of the pesto ingredients into your blender and blast on high for 30 to 60 seconds, until well combined. For conventional blenders you may have to stop the machine, scrape down the sides of the container, and add 1 table-spoon of water (or more) to get the mixture to blend. Tweak the miso paste, chile, garlic, salt, and black pepper to taste. Set aside.

Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F (190°C).

To assemble the pizzas, use a pastry brush to smear 1 1⁄2 teaspoons of the olive oil onto each pizza crust. Then spread half of the roasted garlic (about 2 tablespoons) on each. Spread 6 tablespoons of the pesto onto each crust, leaving a 1⁄2-inch (12mm) border around the edge. Arrange half of the zucchini slices, sweet potato slices, and onions over the pesto on each pizza. Sprinkle 1 1⁄2 tablespoons of the pine nut booster over each.

Bake the pizzas for 10 to 20 minutes, until the crust is fully cooked and the vegetables are slightly browner. Remove from the oven and allow the pizzas to cool slightly. Sprinkle

1 1⁄2 teaspoons of the parsley on each pizza, along with 1⁄8 teaspoon each of the lemon zest and red pepper flake boosters. Scatter half of the kale chips on top of each pizza, slice, and serve.

Nutritional facts (per serving, based on 4 servings)

Calories 794 kcal; Fat 44.6 g; Saturated fat 6.3 g; Sodium 954.4 mg; Carbs 86.2 g; Fiber 8.1 g; Sugars 6.8 g; Protein 15.8 g; Calcium 208.6 mg; Iron 6 mg

Orange greensicle 

Jonesing for some sugar? This blend of strawberries, oranges, bananas and vanilla will help you keep the sugar monster at bay. And if you close your eyes, you won’t be able to tell there’s also three cups of spinach in there.

SERVES 2

1 cup (260g) dairy-free yogurt (almond, coconut, soy)

1 1⁄2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest, plus more to taste

2 medium oranges, peeled, seeded, and quartered

3 cups (132g) firmly packed baby spinach

1 cup (150g) hulled and halved fresh strawberries

1 tablespoon flaxseed oil or chia seed oil

1⁄2 teaspoon natural vanilla extract

1⁄2 teaspoon probiotic powder (see page 154, optional)

1⁄8 teaspoon ground turmeric, plus more to taste

1⁄8 teaspoon natural salt (see page 139)

1 cup (160g) firmly packed frozen sliced bananas, plus more to taste (see headnote)

Optional boosters

1 tablespoon yacon syrup (see page 211)

1 teaspoon inulin powder (see page 155)

1 teaspoon wheatgrass powder (see page 171)

Throw everything into your blender, including any boosters, and blast on high for 30 to 60 seconds, until smooth and creamy.

Nutritional facts (per serving)

Calories 572 kcal; fat 16.6 g; saturated fat 0.8 g; sodium 619 mg; carbs 97.5 g; fiber 23 g; sugars 57.6 g; protein 18.3 g; calcium 159.5 mg; iron 2.6 mg

“My pals Joy and Jay, aka the Jingslingers, are masters of medicinal magic and what they do takes functional food to the next level. We had fun creating this uplifting elixir. The probiotics in the coconut-water kefir promote digestion, boost immunity, and help the old bean produce feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin. Fresh strawberries bring in collagen-supporting compounds like vitamin C and pelagic acid for radiant skin. Rose expands your heart and soothing orange oil expands the mind, improves mood, and relaxes irritations in the body. Arnox Advantage is a combination of food concentrates and amino acids that boost nitric oxide, the most important compound produced in the body for blood-vessel dilation. Three Sisters, a Chinese tincture of tonic berries, builds blood and regulates hormones.”

Tricked-up tabouli

SERVES 6 TO 8; DRESSING MAKES 3⁄4 CUP (180ML)

1⁄2 large head cauliflower, cut into florets

4 cups (200g) firmly packed finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (about 4 large bunches)

2 cups (340g) seeded and diced tomato

2 cups (300g) peeled, seeded, and diced English cucumber

1 cup (140g) ribbed, seeded, and diced red bell pepper

1 cup (80g) finely chopped green onion (white and green parts)

1⁄2 cup (75g) diced red onion, plus more to taste

1⁄2 cup (20g) firmly packed finely chopped mint

2 tablespoons finely chopped dill

1⁄2 cup (70g) shelled hemp seeds

1 teaspoon natural salt (see page 139), plus more to taste

1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste dressing

1⁄3 cup (80ml) extra-virgin olive oil

1⁄4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste

1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)

3⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice, plus more to taste 

Optional boosters

1 1⁄2 cups (270g) cooked chickpeas or 1 (15-ounce/425g) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1⁄2 cup (80g) diced dill pickle

1⁄8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more to taste

Steps:

Put the cauliflower in a food processor and pulse a few times, until the cauliflower has the texture of couscous. You should have about 3 cups (390g) of cauliflower “rice.”

Transfer the “rice” to a large mixing bowl and combine well with the parsley, tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, green onion, mint, dill, and hemp seeds. Add the chickpea and pickle boosters.

To make the dressing, throw the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, allspice, and the red pepper flake booster into your blender and blast on high for about 30 seconds, until the dressing is emulsified and the garlic has been completely pulverized.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well to evenly combine. Add the salt and pepper and tweak the lemon juice, allspice, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve immediately for the best flavor. 

With cauliflower rice stepping in for cracked wheat, the classic Middle Eastern salad goes raw and grain-free. Loaded with hydrating, alkaline ingredients, this version is a cleansing superstar.

Its aromatic elements — herbs, allspice, and lemon zest — enliven the sweet fruits and vegetables.

The pickles come in with crunch, tanginess, and probiotics; the red pepper flakes stimulate digestion and help flush your system. For the most balanced flavor profile, consume the tabouli as soon as it’s dressed. If you’re not serving it right away, chill the salad and the dressing separately, and combine just when you’re ready to serve.

Nutritional facts (per serving, based on 6 servings)

Calories 220 kcal; Fat 16.5 g; Saturated fat 2.5 g; Sodium 483.3 mg; Carbs 16.2 g; Fiber 5.3 g; Sugars 6.1 g; Protein 6.3 g; Calcium 107.7 mg; Iron 3.9 mg

rene.lynch@latimes.com

@renelynch

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World