CHOW Member of the Month: The Blender Girl

After a conversation with The Blender Girl, a.k.a. Tess Masters, the LA-based, Australian-born, worldly cook of mostly gluten-free and vegan foods, Tess's focus on energy-rich foods was crystal clear. She's got serious gusto. Tess started her site in July 2009 as a way of sharing recipes with friends. Since then, she's been posting lots of recipes for allergy-friendly foods, many of which can be made in minutes using a blender. The Blender Girl has shared so many of her recipes with CHOW.com that we've decided to spotlight her as the CHOW member of the month. Check out her profile, as well as four of her recipes that we really liked:

How did you learn to cook?
My family lived all over the world, and my parents believed the way to immerse yourself into a culture was through the stomach. My mother was always a good cook, and I learned to cook with her.

My relationship with food really changed when I was introduced to macrobiotics. The more I learned about it, the more I realized that I needed to learn. I sought out different chefs and classes with different people. I read a lot of books.

Are you still macrobiotic?
I was macrobiotic for 10 years. At that point, I hadn't been introduced to the idea that one diet doesn't work for everybody. I did vegan for a while. I was constantly on this quest for a blanket diet, and then I realized I needed to find the Tess diet. I am constantly open to the fact that my diet will change as my body changes.

You cook a lot of vegan and gluten-free food. Was there a health reason for this choice?
I intuitively realized that I had a gluten intolerance and a dairy intolerance. I had a lethargy problem. When I removed these from my diet I had more energy. Then my niece was diagnosed with pretty serious food allergies: eggs, gluten. That's when I switched my site to include egg-free, nut-free, allergy-friendly foods. A good portion of my food is vegan, and a lot is raw.

What are the foods you most miss from a gluten-rich or nonvegan diet?
My gluten-intolerant friends always have the discussion: "I would endure a stomachache for ..." Mine is crêpes. In Paris my motto is "A crêpe a day keeps the grouchies away." The other is cheese. I can inhale cheese.

Why the blender?
People would make fun of me because I would always travel with my blender. They are so time-saving—it's easy, quick, and anyone can do it. I keep my recipes ridiculously simple. That is the whole premise of the site. When people say, "I can't cook," my response is, "Well, can you read?" Cooking is reading. My site is all about helping people make something superquick and easy with flavor and nourishment.

What are your resources for your developed recipes?
Sometimes I'm inspired by recipes from a cooking show or restaurant, the food section of the LA Times, or another food blogger. In that case I will post adaptations of recipes I've sourced from other places. Other times I will look at traditional mainstream recipes and veganize them.

What chefs or cookbooks inspire you?
I really do like Matthew Kenney's food because I really believe you take your first bite with your eyes. And his food is gorgeous. Raw: The Uncook Book by Juliano Brotman. I will always go back to Nigella Lawson—no frills and lots of spills. I just love the whole energy of the way she cooks and celebrates. It's very classy and understated. She cooks with a lot of dairy and refined sugar, so I modify her recipes. I have to say that my bible is always going to be The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander. It's Australian—almost like a cooking encyclopedia. Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford. He's amazing! Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. It's my whole-foods bible, for soaking grains and nuts. It's a really great book for people who are trying to get into these foods. The best allergy-free book is called The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook by Marjorie Hurt Jones.

Jill Santopietro is a former food editor at CHOW.