It's been a long time since Kathy Hester has eaten meat — 32 years, to be exact — and the chef and author is all about using her three decades of plant-based expertise to help others learn the lay of the land.
Hester is the woman behind the blog Healthy Slow Cooking and the author of numerous books. Her newest, The Easy Vegan Cookbook, is all about the basics and offers an array of easy recipe options for plant-based eaters: drunken sweet potato barbecue, applesauce spice cake, maple-walnut sausage patties, and dozens of other dishes.
The chef and author spoke with New Times about vegan misconceptions, newbie cooks, and omnivore-friendly options.
New Times: What inspired you to write an easy vegan cookbook?
Kathy Hester: I like to show people that it's not hard to eat vegan in the modern-day world. People think that cooking in general is harder than it is. I love to teach people easy recipes they can use over and over again. It makes it so much easier to eat well if you cook at home.
A lot of people think vegan cooking is more difficult than traditional cooking. What do you say to that?
That's a big misconception. It really takes no more time to cook a homemade meal with beans, grains, and veggies than it does to cook a meat-based meal. I think people compare apples and oranges by looking at how easy it is to use convenience foods or get take-out compared to make a from-scratch meal. But you need to remember that there are lots of vegan convenience foods that you can buy just about anywhere now. You don't have to make everything from scratch to eat vegan anymore, unless you want to.
What tips do you suggest for newbies who are interested in cooking plant-based dishes?
First off, be patient with yourself. It takes a little time to get used to any change. I would get a couple of basic vegan cookbooks, like The Easy Vegan Cookbook or The Great Vegan Bean Book. If you're learning to cook for the first time, start with a few things that you can have on the table quickly. For busy evenings, I love to make a stir-fry, pasta, or a burrito. The only difference is that my dinner will be full of beans and veggies!
What's your number one time-saving kitchen trick?
If you think of your freezer as an extension of your pantry, it can make cooking so much easier. In addition to being stocked up on ready-to-cook vegetables, you can cook and freeze extra beans too! I also like to store some chopped onion, peppers, and sliced mushrooms for evenings that I don't have time for chopping.
What recipes from the book are particularly omnivore-friendly?
My spouse is not vegan, so I think most of what I make is easy for anyone to eat. With that said, I think omnivores would love the cauliflower po'boy, falafel "pitza," one-pot veggie vodka sauce pasta, and, with fall coming, everyone will want to try my sweet potato frozen latte.
What's your all-time favorite vegan meal?
Honestly, it's hard to pick just one. I love anything Indian, especially dosas. But I love simple soups with a hunk of homemade oat bread.
Creamy Mexi Mac
gluten-free, soy-free, oil-free options
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil (or sauté in water)
- ½ cup (80 g) chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups (298 g) chopped bell pepper
- 1 can (15 oz [425 g]) black beans rinsed and drained or 1½ cups (258 g)homemade
- 1 cup (154 g) corn kernels
- ½ cup (120 g) vegan enchilada sauce
- 1 cup (165 g) vegan grounds,
- Cauliflower Mexi Mince (page 18) or store-bought crumbles
- 1 cup (240 g) Carrot Cashew Chez (page 24), vegan cheese or premade vegan nacho cheese sauce
- ¼ cup (60 ml) unsweetened nondairy milk
- ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- ½ (13.25 oz [375 g]) box macaroni pasta (*use gluten-free), cooked per directions on box
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and bell peppers and sauté for about 5 more minutes until the peppers soften.
- Turn down the heat to medium and add all the other ingredients to the pot and mix well. Cook until heated through.
Per serving with oil: Calories 494.7, protein 19.6 g, total fat 13.7 g, carbohydrates 79.1 g, sodium 86.4 mg, fiber 11.5 g.
Carrot Cashew Chez
gluten-free, soy-free, no oil added
Makes about 2½ cups (603 G)
- 1½ cups (194 g) cashews
- 1½ cups (192 g) chopped carrots
- 1½ cups (355 ml) water
- ¼ cup (59 ml) unsweetened nondairy milk
- 2 tablespoons (10 g) nutritional yeast
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
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- Add the cashews, carrots, and water to a saucepan. Bring to a boil; then turn heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the carrots are soft.
- Add the cooked mixture and the rest of the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. You will need to stop a few times and scrape the mixture from the sides. If you’re having trouble getting it smooth, add more nondairy milk, one tablespoon (15 ml) at a time.
Per ¼ cup (60 g) serving: Calories 120.3, protein 4.3 g, total fat 8.4 g, carbohydrates 8.5 g, sodium 18.5 mg, fiber 1.4 g.