Choose Your Own Adventure Vegetable Broth

If I had to pick the most useful ingredient for meal-prep, it would probably be vegetable broth. I mean, I wouldn’t exactly advise limiting yourself to one ingredient for meal-prep, because then, by definition, you wouldn’t be meal-prepping, but let’s keep this theoretical.

What’s great about vegetable broth is that it’s an efficient way to add flavor to most dishes. Instead of playing the what-spice-should-I-grab-from-my-hard-to-reach-spice-shelf game (relatable), you can count on vegetable broth to add that tastiness. Sure, you might need to add some salt or pepper after putting in the broth, and maybe a sprinkling of some other spices, if you feel like getting a little fancier. But that’s easy, right? Most of the flavor will be coming from the broth, so if you’re feeling particularly lazy (and we all have those days), you can probably get by without adding any spices.

You can use vegetable broth as a base in soups instead of water to create more flavor. It can be used as a healthier alternative to soup consomme, which tends to contain a lot of salt and/or sugar (I know, right? It surprises me too). You can also elevate your grains by cooking them in vegetable broth. I have a friend who thought she didn’t like quinoa, but then, she tried my quinoa, which I cooked in vegetable broth, and she realized she actually does like quinoa. So basically, vegetable broth can change lives… are you impressed?

In case you’re not convinced about the wonders of vegetable broth yet, consider this: You can make your own vegetable broth – and it doesn’t even require spending extra money on ingredients! So this is literally a nothing-to-lose situation.

HERE’S HOW:

Step One: SCRAPS

Instead of trashing your turnip ends, save them.
Instead of composting your carrot peels and tops, save them.
Herb stems can be saved, as can broccoli butts and cauliflower heads.

You get the idea. Over the course of a week, save all of your vegetable scraps in a bag or container in the fridge. When you are ready to make your soup, fill a large bowl with water, and clean the scraps by allowing them to soak in the water for at least 15 minutes. Don’t skimp on this part, or you’ll have dirt in your broth! I usually put a few drops of vegetable wash in the water for this step to help facilitate the cleaning process.

NOTE: Be conscious of how many bitter vegetables are in your scrap pile. For example, Brussel sprouts can work in broth in moderate quantities, but having too many can cause your broth to take on a bitter taste.

ANOTHER NOTE: You can save scraps that are over a week old – just be sure to put them in the freezer so they don’t spoil!

Step Two: SIMMER

Once the scraps have soaked, use a strainer to drain out the water from the bowl. Rinse the scraps with cool water before transferring them to a large pot.

Add water to the pot until the scraps are covered by about 2 inches of water. The more water you add, the more diluted the broth will be; the less water, the more concentrated.

Bring the pot to a boil and then lower it to a simmer. Allow the pot to simmer for at least one hour, stirring occasionally. Feel free to add salt or pepper if you’d like.

NOTE: For an extra-flavorful broth, you can sauté an onion in the pot before adding the scraps and the water.

Step Three: SEPARATION

After the broth has simmered and appears darker in color, remove it from the heat. After the broth has cooled (about 30 minutes), separate the scraps from the liquid. I’m sure that there are fancy soup strainers made for this very purpose, but I don’t have one, so I used a ladle, which worked out fine.

Step Four: STORAGE

You can store the broth in a container in your fridge. You can also freeze some. Note that the broth will only stay fresh for five to seven days in the fridge, so factor this in when deciding how much to freeze.

Here are some pictures to guide you throughout your cooking process. I know that they are not the prettiest, but when have you ever seen vegetable broth and marveled at its beauty?

IMG-4821
Broth should appear dark in color when ready.
IMG-4822
These are my leftover scraps after I removed the broth from the pot. Some of the scraps that I used include carrot peels and tops, extra celery, leeks that would have gone bad, parsnip bits and broccoli ends.
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As per a tip I read in Real Simple magazine, to maximize freezer space, freeze your broth on a cookie tray in a plastic bag. You can freeze multiple bags of broth using this method and stack them after they’re frozen for easy storage. Trust me when I say that your roommates will thank you for this. This clever trick also works for stews and soups.
IMG-4824
I sectioned off some broth to put in the fridge so that I could use it in my cooking throughout the week.

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