Friday, January 9, 2015

How to Make Vegetable Stock - Ten Tips

Veg Stock ready for the freezer!
Yup, its January. Here in Atlanta we are doing two things almost every day. Complaining about the cold weather, and craving soup. I love to follow the seasons in my kitchen, and as a teaching chef - January is all about soups, stews and stock. All kinds of soups and stews, from veggie to seafood, chili to chickpea. Hearty, lean, light and indulgent I make them all. Stock? That's a different story.

Sweet Potato Chili Made with the Fab Veg Stock
For years I worked on perfecting my chicken stock for the perfect "Chicken Noodle Soup Penicillin". Got it down. My beef stock was the crucial component in my luscious, cheesy French Onion Soup. Now? I only make one kind of stock. Gorgeous, rich, full-flavored veggie stock. I use it for everything. Never had one like this? You haven't made it your own, packed with the bounty of your personel kitchen style and ingredients.

I call it EEE Veggie Stock. That's Effortless, Easy and Economical - an almost effortless, super easy and definitely economical way to make the best stock you've ever tasted.

Number One
Use a gallon zippy bag that you have labeled with a "Veg Stock" and the date.

Number Two
When you go into the kitchen tonight, wash or rinse everything you are going to chop. Yes, I mean everything - even the outside of the onions and garlic. (You should be doing this anyway before you put it on your cutting board.) It doesn't have to be an ordeal, most of the time a quick warm rinse will knock off most of the dirt.

Number Three
There is a method to my madness! As you cut or chop every veggie, take the bits and ends and pieces you would normally toss in the disposer or pitch in the compost pile, and throw them in your labeled zippy bag. Everything. The ends of the potatoes, the peeling from the carrots, the tough stems of the kale. The lettuce that has gone sadly limp. Herbs that have Etc. etc. Make sure you put in some onion skin, whether its gold or yellow, purple or red. Onion skin is the secret to a beautifully colored stock. No onion skin equals grey stock. There should be no grey food - ecck. DON'T put anything gnarly in the bag - no moldy mushrooms or unrecognizable produce. Remember, you are going to eat the stock eventually.

Number Four
Toss the bag into the freezer, and serve up dinner.

Number Five
The next time you are cooking, (I'm not judging - it could be the following week:), pull the bag out of the freezer and add your veggies into the bag, (Review Tip Number Three.) Finished cooking? Toss it back in the freezer, and pour yourself a glass of wine. Heck, pat yourself on the back! You cooked, and you have saved your veggie scraps.

Number Six
Repeat as many times as it takes to fill up your zippy bag.

Number Seven
Yippee! Your bag is full. Tip the frozen veg into a stockpot and add five cups of water. Cover. Bring it to a boil, then turn it down and let it simmer for 30 minutes.

Number Eight
Let it cool long enough to handle, and strain the veggies out - those same veggies that have given their ALL to make your glorious, splendid, brilliant stock. Do you compost? If so, guess what? Those same deflated veggies who are now sad and tired can go right into your compost pile.

Number Nine
Hold hands with everyone in your house and sing Kum-ba-yah. The farmer grew the veggies. You bought them and used them to make dinner. You saved the ends and parts and made them into stock.
You've saved yourself three dollars, made the most amazing stock, and NOW you are giving the veggies back to the earth. (This probably deserves another glass of wine.)

Number Ten
Making sure that the stock does not sit out for more than two hours on the counter, (Food sanitation counts!), pour it into individual containers and put it in the fridge for up to three days, or in the freezer for up to six months. Package it anyway you want - In zippy bags, in one-cup measures, two-cup,  in an ice cube tray - whatever makes the most sense to your cooking style. Feel good. You've cooked up an amazing start to whatever soup, stew or casserole you want to make.

The Fab Veg Stock used in a butternut squash soup!
That's it. So easy, a ten year old could do it. Hey, great idea for cooking with the kids. They can choose what they want to add it to - how about your famous chicken noodle soup? They'll love it and you will too. EEE Veggie Stock. That's what I call Effortless, Easy and Economical!

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Favorite Recipe of 2014!

I received an email from a favorite chef today - it recapped her favorite 10 recipes of the year. I liked that idea and thought, "Wonder what my 2014 Friday Four readers liked most?" After a long time of extracting data, (more like 15 minutes but still - ugh), I discovered that Chocolate Quinoa Cake was the most read recipe of the year!

What's not to like? Chocolate? Cake? Nope. Even for your most die hard finicky eaters, its impossible to identify the better-for-you quinoa in the healthy indulgence. So this result didn't surprise me at all... But as I looked down the list of the next nine, I was astonished. Where was the fabulous chicken mole? the yummy sesame lime salad and the crazy good cauliflower pizza? That same pizza that slides onto our table at home at least once every couple of weeks? I went back to the data and found that the difference between the most popular, and least popular 2014 Friday Four recipe was less than a hundred views. In a newsletter with a circulation of 5,000 - not a lot of difference! So if your all time fav, standby, my-family-loves-this-recipe isn't in the list, know that it didn't make it by just a few clicks!

Here in no particular order are the REST of the top ten Friday Fours of 2014. Did your favorite make the 2014 Friday Four top ten?

Best Ever Fall Veggie Chili
Roasted Sweet Potatoes topped with Tangy Chicken Salad
Lemonade Almond Cake
Blueberry Basil Quick Jam and Cornbread Muffins
Amazing No Cream Creamed Corn
Georgia Peach Chicken Salad
Make Ahead Cinnamon French Toast
Mac and Cheese Wearing the Green
Double Stuffed Sweet Potatoes