Kathy Hester of Durham achieved what most food bloggers only dream about: She turned her blog posts into a cookbook.
Hester, 46, had been blogging only a few months when a publisher, Fair Winds Press, contacted her. Now this former professional French horn player turned web developer can add cookbook author to her resume. Her book, "The Vegan Slow Cooker," was published this fall.
Her book not only offers dozens of meatless, dairy-free recipes but also teaches people how to make vegan bouillons, seitan and vegan sausage, which are the basis for many recipes. That's good news for anyone trying to control sodium and other preservatives in vegan and vegetarian fare.
Slow cooker rich
Hester, who owns 13 slow cookers, recently answered a few questions about how she became a vegan, how she discovered the slow cooker and her cost-conscious ways.
Q: How long have you been a vegan?
Two years. But I've been a vegetarian for almost 30 years.
Q: What caused the change? (A friend's daughter was diagnosed with a dairy allergy.) I was trying to develop some recipes. I started making things dairy-free. I don't like milk ... It wasn't a huge transition for me.
Q: When did you discover the slow cooker? The first time I really used it was when I was in grad school. I moved from North Carolina to St. Louis with probably, like, $20, a giant thing of food from the (food) co-op because I worked there and the slow cooker. It was like, "Hey, you don't have any money but there's some beans." I just started cooking. In fact, I cooked for almost all my friends every night. That's when I started making recipes and feeling more comfortable about cooking.
Q: Your book is very price conscious. Does that date to being a poor graduate student?
When I was actually a professional musician, I made probably the least amount of money in my whole life ... I was awesome with money. Now I have a normal job, and I'm not so great with money, which is what happens to a lot of people. One of the big things when you say, "Have you tried eating vegan?" People say, "That's so expensive, I can't do it." ... People have this concept that certain words mean expensive. And honestly, you can eat beans and rice from all around the world and not be bored, and that's not very expensive ... One of the reasons it's about cost, too, is that my advance was not a giant advance, being a first-time author. If I have to buy Better Than Bouillon (vegan bouillon) this whole time and I'm going through two jars a week and they are $6 each, the first thing I'm going to do is make my own bouillon. It's probably $1 or $2 and it's enough for a week or two of heavy use.
Q: What led to this book?
I started to blog because the year before I was going to write down a bunch of slow cooker recipes. In my mind, I was thinking of self-publishing and I didn't do it. January came around, and I was mad at myself. I thought I'll do a blog because then I'll feel guilty. It's true. Even if it's just your best friend looking at it, you feel some sort of obligation. About four or five months into me doing my blog, the publisher contacted me ... They had been looking for someone to write a vegan slow cooker cookbook.
Q: What has been people's reactions? It's very simple. But no one ever thinks (that) you should reseason before you serve from the slow cooker like you do on the stove ... That food - both vegan and slow cooker - can be flavorful is surprising to people.