If there's a walking, talking advertisement for the power of food to provide energy, it's got to be Tess Masters. Anyone who has met her, seen her or read her work knows that the actor, cook and author behind the popular Blender Girl blog (and cookbook of the same name) is a whirlwind of positivity, words and ideas.
Her second book, "The Perfect Blend: 100 Blender Recipes to Energize and Revitalize" (Ten Speed Press), came across my desk just as I needed a post-holidays jolt. And the recipe I tried from it, for something Masters calls Sustenance Stew, provided it. (She has a way with recipe names, by the way; two others in the book are Omega Mama and Avocado Avenger.)
It's a soothing bowl packed with some of my go-to ingredients: sweet potatoes, broccoli, Swiss chard, tomatoes and - here's the brilliant addition - almond butter. The latter gives the broth a creamy touch without weighing it down. If you're wondering where the blender comes in, well, it honestly doesn't even need to in this case. Masters suggests that you start with canned whole tomatoes and use a blender to roughly chop them, but it's just as easy to start with canned diced tomatoes, so that's what I did.
She calls for the stew to be topped with the crowning touches of avocado and almonds, and I would never skimp on those. But I didn't take her up on the optional boosters of hemp seeds, chia seeds and pea greens, nor did I even need to eat it with the suggested side of cauliflower rice, as hearty as it was without that.
A few bites in, I was more than sustained. I was satisfied - and energized.
6 to 8 servings (makes 9 cups), Healthy
Adapted from "The Perfect Blend," by Tess Masters (Ten Speed Press, 2016).
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more as needed
• 3 cups homemade or no-salt-added vegetable broth (see related recipe)
• Two 14.5-ounce cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, plus their juices
• 1 1/2 tablespoons peeled, minced fresh ginger root (from a 3-inch piece)
• 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
• 1 1/4 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch chunks (4 cups)
• 8 ounces broccoli florets, chopped (3 cups)
• 4 ounces (1 large bunch) Swiss chard, stalks removed, leaves cut into ribbons (4 cups)
• 1/3 cup almond butter
• 1/2 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro, plus small sprigs for optional garnish
• Flesh of 1 medium avocado, cut into thin slices, for garnish
• 1/2 cup sliced raw almonds, for garnish
Pour the oil into a large pot over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt; cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft, 5 minutes.
Stir in the broth, tomatoes and their juices, the ginger, crushed red pepper flakes and sweet potatoes. Increase the heat to high; once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, so the liquid is bubbling gently. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook the stew, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are just fork-tender, about 15 minutes.
Add the broccoli; cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the chard and almond butter. Cook just until the chard is wilted, 5 minutes. The stew should be creamy. Stir in the chopped cilantro, then taste and add more salt, as needed.
To serve, divide among bowls. Top with avocado slices, almonds and cilantro sprigs, if desired.
Nutrition | Per serving (based on 8): 190 calories, 6 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 300 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 10 g sugar