- Created: Thursday, 21 April 2016 17:52
It’s difficult to put into words what it is exactly about making vegetable stock that makes me feel so satisfied. But of all the things I have cooked, baked, assembled, or concocted, the process and product of homemade vegetable stock illicit in me a feeling of contentment that is uniquely its own.
Go veggies, go!
I think ultimately it comes down to frugality and sustainability. I am always looking for ways to save money where I can, especially in the kitchen. Saving money in one aspect of food costs allows me to splurge occasionally on indulgent, but amazing ingredients at other times (vanilla beans come to mind, for instance). So making my own vegetable stock is a very budget friendly endeavor.
But even more than financial savings, making my own vegetable stock feels like such a simple way to practice sustainability – a concept which is very important to me. We use a lot of vegetables in my home and instead of tossing out stems and stumps, all of the veggie odds and ends get tossed into a Ziplock freezer bag. Every few weeks, I pull out that bag and put those forlorn vegetable scraps to good use. It is an immensely satisfying process to take something otherwise destined to be unused and discarded and rather to make something wonderful out of it. And, homemade vegetable stock is a wonderful thing! It has so many uses. You can use it in the obvious places – soups, stews, and sauces. But you can also use it in place of water as the cooking liquid for rice, quinoa, beans, and other grains and legumes. It adds a nice subtle flavor and richness to these items. You can even use it as a substitute for some of the oil in dips and spreads, such as hummus (don’t replace all the oil, but about half can be substituted with great results).
So, if you’re a tosser-outer of vegetable scraps, consider brewing up your own stock from time to time. Your budget, your ‘green’ nature, and your meals will love it!
Homemade Vegetable Stock Tips & Method
You can use just about any vegetable – just know that their natural flavor profiles will subtly flavor the stock. So, if you want a sweeter stock use items such as bell peppers, carrots, and other root vegetables. If you want a spicier stock, think of items like radishes. I generally go for a balanced flavor profile and my most commonly used vegetable scraps include carrot tops and leaves, bell pepper caps, broccoli stems, onion wedges and celery bits.
Fresh versus Frozen:
As I mentioned, I freeze my vegetable bits so that they don’t rot before use. You can also use fresh vegetables, too, and I do this when I have them to spare. When I make a batch, I often go through my vegetables on hand. If I know that there is a lone carrot or a random stump of cauliflower that isn’t going to get used before it turns bad, I’ll surely throw it in the pot with my frozen pieces. Just remember to never use vegetables that have turned bad or spoiled – they will harm the flavor or your stock.
To Season or Not to Season?
There are differing opinions about whether to salt and season a stock or not. My general modus operandi is to salt the stock sparingly, just to help bring out some of the flavors of the vegetables, but not so much that it will later overwhelm whatever dish I use it in. I have in the past added sprigs of parsley and thyme to my stock and that has been a very nice addition as well. Ultimately, you get to be creative with your flavor development here. Make the stock’s flavor as subtle or as bold as you wish!
It’s very simple. Begin by tossing your vegetables into a large stockpot. I usually add quite a bit, covering the bottom of my pot in a layer or two of vegetables. Then fill pot with water to about an inch or two below the top. If you are adding salt or other seasonings, do so now. Bring water to a boil over high heat and then reduce to a low simmer, covered. Let simmer for 1 – 1 ½ hours. Don’t cook longer than this, as the vegetables can leach out all their flavor and may turn bitter if overcooked.
Straining & Storage
When the stock is done cooking, scoop out the large chunks of vegetables and discard. Then, pour stock through a strainer and cheese cloth to get out all small bits that may have broken down into the liquid. I think a cheese cloth in addition to a strainer is essential to this process – it will really catch all the small particles floating around in there. Finally, scoop your desired amount of stock into storage containers and freeze or refrigerate. I use inexpensive food storage containers (i.e. Gladware) and store my stock in 1 cup servings. They stack nicely in the back of my freezer. When ready to use, simply defrost as many cups as you need. Of course there is no need to freeze if you use the stock within 2-3 days of making – just refrigerate it. The frozen stock can be stored for several months before using, though it is unlikely it will last that long if you cook regularly!
A Note About This Feature: Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about. Currently, the focus is on creating and creativity.
Exercising the creative part of your brain is a great IQ booster. I mean, I don’t actually have any research or statistics to present to you today to support my claim, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. I’m CERTAIN that I could find some if you really wanted me to.
But for now, I will make this claim based on my own personal experience. Because that’s valid in its own right . . . right?
As I see it, being creative provides me with a huge mental boost. Making connections, thinking of things in new ways, learning new skills – all of these activities get my little neurological synapses firing away. As someone who loves to learn and get education in various formats, I’ll also attest to the fact that exercising creativity is one of the best free (or at least low-cost) forms of education we can get. Learning in traditional environments is great, but as we get older, it’s often difficult to continue to get that sort of education. It’s costly, we have other obligations on our time and, quite frankly, at some point, you may just learn the same things over and over again.
But, being creative – picking up a cook book, following along with an online tutorial, taking a community class, getting a book from the library on DIY – these avenues for learning are generally accessible and provide endless possibilities. And I have no doubt that accessing these resources has increased my own mental capacity.
You want examples, eh? No problem. Here are a few:
You all know that I’m a knitter. I bet non-knitters don’t realize how much math can be involved in the craft – I know I sure didn’t! What happens when I see a pattern that makes a 22-inch circumference hat using size 8 needles and worsted weight yarn, with a cast-on of 96 stitches and I want to use DK weight yarn that I already own and make the hat for someone with a 19-inch head???? Math happens – that’s what!
Being able to make conversions such as these (and this is pretty basic one) is a great exercise in brainpower. I have oodles of respect for knitwear designers who create complex patterns using an amazing amount of numerical-based talent. It’s serious business. I’m quite certain this extends to other crafts beyond knitting, as well. Sewing, painting, drawing, sculpting, et cetera all can be improved by learning about other disciplines, such as mathematics and natural sciences.
Cooking has taught me so much about the world. When I’m looking at recipes and whipping up new meals, I often come across ingredients and dishes that are unfamiliar to me. My curiosity naturally kicks in and off I go to learn about these items. The tidbits and pieces of information that I have picked up about cultures, history (the history of certain foods – spices, salt, olive oil, etc is fascinating) and societies has enriched my general knowledge base time and time again. And, you’d be surprised how many trivia questions you’ll be able to answer with what you learn!
Practicing Any New Creative Skill
I’ve accessed various methods for taking courses that have taught me new skills. I’ve taken community ‘Learn to Sew’ and ‘Learn to Knit’ classes, used the Internet for online craft-related courses, and taken a local pasta making class all in the name of pursuing creative endeavors. I haven’t become an expert at all of these things and likely never will, but I HAVE put my brain to work during each event. Practicing a new creative skill, something that is generally unfamiliar to me, makes my brain work in different ways and builds new mental connections. I may not be someone who enjoys making pasta dough from scratch on a regular basis, but learning about how the ingredients in dough react to one another, to temperature, to manipulation, this increases my knowledge of science. Chemistry, my friends, was one of my least favorite subjects as a student – but teach me chemistry through food and cooking and I’ll learn more then I ever did in a high school laboratory.
These are a few examples in a whole world of creative activities that have enriched my mental capacity. A personal goal of mine is to remember that there is always more to know. There is always more that I can understand about the world and all of us in it. My creative pursuits constantly help me to both feel smarter and more knowledgeable, but also remind me that I always have more to learn.
Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food. Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie. In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts. Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you. My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined. Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you. You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try. Let’s be bold and eat good food!
There I was strolling through the store, all set to pick up the final couple of items I needed for dinner that night, when I spotted something beautiful and unfamiliar to me.
I love it when this happens.
The item I had spotted was in the bulk food section. Included among the rows and rows of bins filled with nuts, seeds, and pastas, were the bins of beans. There were your usual suspects – kidney, black, pinto, cannellini, navy – but there was also a variety I had never seen or heard of before . . . . orca beans. These beans are gorgeous. Boldly patterns of black and white swirl across the surface of these beautiful legumes, just as they do on their namesake. I took home several scoops and set about learning more about orcas (because last week, I learned the importance of research!).
It turns out that orca beans hail from Mexico. They are also commonly called calypso or yin yang beans. Through various Internet trolling, it is noted that they are a fairly rare variety and are often paired with corn or other traditional Mexican ingredients.
I decided to cook up these beans with corn, but instead of going with tried and true Mexican flavors, I was inspired by a recipe celebrating the flavors of Native America. Granted these two cuisines have a lot in common, so many of the ingredients here can be found in both. You can see the recipe that I used for inspiration here at Vegetarian Times. I followed the sage pesto portion almost to a tee (except for subbing half the oil with vegetable broth – a little trick I learned to lighten things up a bit). Then, I combined the pesto and orca beans with cooked brown rice, zucchini, corn, garlic, onion, and peppers.
I soaked my orca beans overnight and, in true food-nerd fashion, got excited peeking at them glistening in the water. They really are appealing little things! Cooking these beans was a cinch. After their fairly long soak, they only needed about 45 minutes before they were tender, ready to be drained, and added to the rest of the dish.
Interestingly, the black on the beans lightens in the cooking process, turning to a shade of brown. I found that these beans held their shape and form quite well, not breaking down as much as, say, a navy bean might do. The taste was pleasant enough, but fairly unremarkable. That’s not to say they weren’t tasty, they just didn’t necessarily stand out as exceptionally different from their bean cousins. I read one description of orca beans that commented on their potato-like taste. I suppose that I would say that they did have a somewhat starchy quality to them, which is reminiscent of a white potato, though I wouldn’t go as far to say that they tasted like potatoes (but, seriously, someone should get on that – a bean that tastes like potatoes would be amazing). I could see them working in just about any recipe that called for kidney or cannellini beans quite well, adapting to whatever spices and herbs may be added to them.
Overall, these beans were quite fun to try. They seem very versatile and I can imagine picking them up again in the future when I want a bean that will stay somewhat firm through an extended cooking process, without distracting from a specific desired flavor profile. Plus, they are visually very interesting and can add a playful appearance to an otherwise standard dish.
I know there are loads of bean varieties out there that I’ve never tried before and this gave me an excellent starting point from which to keep experimenting. I am certainly going to keep my eyes peeled to see what else pops up in those bulk bins!
Serving Suggestions: Use the recipe that I linked to above if you like. The sage pesto was quite delicious and offered a nice change from a more traditional basil pesto. Orca beans can also easily be substituted for black beans or kidney beans in soups, stews, or chili. I also imagine they’d be excellent stuffed into peppers and baked with your grain of choice and chopped vegetables.
I’m curious as to how they would work in a bean burger. My feeling about their texture and taste is that they could make a pretty fantastic vegetarian burger patty, maybe combined with oats, rice, corn, or quinoa, as well as a binder and plenty of seasoning. I might try this in the future.
Visual appeal is important in food. I knew this already, of course, but the value of it really stood out when I came across these beans. Like a child taken in by shiny objects, I was so drawn to the color and pattern of these beans that it made cooking them all that much more engaging.
Pay attention to cooking times with different beans! I had expected these to take somewhere between 1-1 ½ hours to cook, but they were done in 45 minutes! They were pretty small which may have had something to do with it. Either way, I’m lucky that I checked on them when I did, because letting them go unchecked could have led to a mushy bean disaster of epic proportions!
I could write a typical narrative here – an introduction to this recipe or a recap of the process of making them.
But I don’t really have it in me right now.
This week has been difficult. For many, many people it has been devastating.
I have read dozens of thoughts across the web on the week’s events and I have appreciated each and every one of them.
But right now, I just need some: Comfort. Calm. Serenity.
Scones do that for me. Preparing them is soothing (the cutting of the butter or butter-like ingredients into the mixture; the folding in of berries) and eating them is even better. A well made scone is one of my absolute most favorite things in the world.
So I present these scones to you today in a gesture of goodwill, because sometimes the simplest things can provide the comfort that we need most. May they nourish your body and spirit.
A whole day where the blogging world is flooded with a variety of delicious vegan recipes is one of the best days ever. This is my first time participating and I am thrilled to be able to share this recipe.
I put quite a lot of thought into what I would contribute to the potluck. I knew that I wanted to create something different from recipes I’ve featured on the blog in the past and I also knew I wanted something that would really represent who I am as a foodie. It would be a tall order to find the perfect representation of my food tastes, as I like a lot of different things for a variety of reasons, but I do feel that in many ways, this meal does it. It is full of veggies, packs layers of flavor, includes potatoes (one of the foods I find most satisfying to eat), allows for some flexibility and personal twists to be made, and it gets rolled up in a tortilla.
I love anything that can be rolled up in a tortilla. Tortillas make life better. Period.
I stand by that broad, sweeping claim. (I <3 tortillas.)
I made my own curry powder for this, which I highly recommend. It can seem daunting when you look at the long list of ingredients, but the process itself is straightforward. If you have access to a bulk spice and herb shop, consider paying them a visit. You certainly can use a pre-mixed curry powder, too, if blending your own powder isn’t your thing.
You’ll also notice that I cook the potatoes separately from the other ingredients. There is a reason for this extra step, my friends, and that is to give the potatoes a slightly crisp outside, which will lend to textural variety in the burrito itself. You could cook the potatoes differently. You could do so. BUT, you would lose the slightly crunchy, delicious potato magic that happens when you roast them in this way and who wants to lose that?
I served my burritos with a side of snap peas sautéed up with some Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, garlic, ginger, a dash of sesame oil, and sprinkled with sesame seeds. I also took leftover burritos for lunch (as I tend to do with leftovers) and they held up nicely. I would venture to say that the curry flavors may have even deepened upon sitting overnight.
I hope you try them. I hope you love them. And, I hope you find lots of goodies visiting all the Virtual Vegan Potluck dishes!
I have a feeling that I’m not the only one yearning for some sunshine, mild temperatures, and sing –songy birds flying by our open windows. I am truly a person who genuinely enjoys each and every season for what it brings. Growing up in the desert, I didn’t have much exposure to real, honest to goodness season changes like I do here in the Pacific Northwest. After nearly 5 years here, I still get excited for all the firsts of the seasons: each fresh burst of summer sun, each time I notice that the skyline has been taken over by the earthy, fiery colors of fall, every first winter morning when I realize I underestimated the cold and need to better bundle up against the frigid air, and for those first blossoms of spring.
I’ve loved the madness of this year’s winter, but am ready to shed some layers and see some color peeking out from the earth. My fingers are crossed I’ll be able to enjoy this soon.
In the meantime, I’ll eat this dish. Well, I already did eat this dish, but perhaps I shall do so again. Something about dill (one of my favorite herbs) reminds me of spring. It’s that punchy taste that sort of coats your palette and infiltrates all the senses that I love. It tastes fresh and new and full of possibilities, just like spring does for me.
Well, here you are.
I love these cookies. Mind you, these are not traditional bake shop cookies and might be quite a different experience for many cookie go-ers. Because of the oats, the texture is chunky and chewy, not smooth. I definitely can see how that could throw you for a loop if you haven’t had a cookie like this before. I happen to find the texture of them really very satisfying. They are dense and filling. They taste like a treat and feel like a hearty snack.
Speaking of taste, the banana and chocolate in these come together beautifully. Chocolate and banana are (in case you didn’t know) very good friends. I haven’t tried them with a different add-in, but I also suspect that replacing the chocolate chips with dried cranberries or blueberries would also be wonderful.
I think these taste best once cooled. The sweet from the banana comes through much clearer then. So, I know many of you love a warm cookie, but definitely wait to try some once they’ve come to room temperature for the full flavor experience.
The bonus, as I mentioned earlier, is that they really are a pretty clean, nutritious cookie option. Whole wheat, whole grain oats, banana and minimal added sugar makes for a delicious, good-for-you snack.
I made these cookies vegan by using a vegan dark chocolate chip. You can use milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate if you like. You can also easily play with the size of these cookies. I made them fairly small for a quick snack, but I think that baking them in larger portions could make for a tasty morning treat. Eat one alongside a piece of fruit, cup of yogurt, or bowl of nuts and granola and you’ve got a delicious breakfast to start your day!
I’m starting a new journey today. Or maybe it’s more apt to say I’m returning to an old one? I work in human services and for the last year and a half I’ve worked to provide services for seniors and people living with disabilities. Prior to this role, though, I worked for about 7 years in domestic violence advocacy. I loved doing anti-violence work. I have a tremendous amount of passion for it and, frankly, I thought I was pretty good at it. Plus, the women (and men, but mostly women, if we’re honest) that I got to know in my years doing that work are incredible, both co-workers and program participants. You see some amazing spirit and humanity in that work. When I left it a year and a half ago, it was one of the most difficult decisions I had to make.
I left for a combination of reasons. As much as it pains me to admit it, one of the biggest ones was money. I don’t work for money the way some people might, but I was flailing with debts racking up, student loan bills growing, and my weekly paychecks stagnantly low (I could write a tirade on the pay rates for people who do that and similar work, let me tell you). It wasn’t sustainable and I needed to make a move to keep from drowning.
So I did.
I looked outside of the field, at other focuses within human service work that might allow me to create a more stable economical platform with which to build my life on. I ended up landing the job with seniors and people living with disabilities. The financial change was significant and I’ve learned a great deal of valuable information about systems I didn’t know much at all about before, but the truth of the matter is that it doesn’t ignite the same fire in me that my old work did.
But sometimes careers take interesting turns.
The job I’ve been in is part of a larger entity (a government entity, to be precise) and one very small part of that entity is a unit that does domestic violence work. When I saw a rare opening posted in that unit, I didn’t have much expectation it would pan out, but it has. So, today, I return to familiar work, in a new environment.
My work will be less direct service than I did before and will involve more time spent supporting others who are doing direct service work. I’m pretty excited about it, really. I get to return to a field that really matters to me, maintain a sustainable income, and put a new spin on work that I feel really comfortable doing. I hope it’s not too good to be true!