Monday, August 29, 2011

Homemade Vegetable Broth

For many years I purchased organic vegetable broths. These broths can run over $4 for about a quart of liquid. Many are high in sodium and even the ones labeled as "low sodium" have more sodium than I prefer to consume. I could have switched to a cheaper brand, but I would forgo the organic vegetables and gain filler ingredients. I'm not going to say which brand, but this is an ingredient list from a very popular vegetable broth label:
Vegetable Broth (Made from Water and Concentrated Juices of Celery, Celeriac, Onion, and Cabbage), Carrot Juice Contains Less than 2% of: Salt, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Flavoring, Vegetables (Carrots, Onions, Celery), Dextrose, Monosodium Glutamate, Yeast Extract, Sugar, Potato Flour, Citric Acid, Disodium Guanylate, Disodium Inosinate, Soy Lecithin, Celery Extract (Soy Lecithin), Dehydrated Carrots.
I am not interested in the high fructose corn syrup, MSG, sugar, disodium guanylate, or disodium isonate. Last I heard vegetable broth just contained vegetables. I was also confused as to why the broth was made from juices rather than cooking down the vegetables. No, this is certainly not an option for me!

Then it dawned on me that I could make vegetable broth for FREE (well, besides the cost of the water). We have been composting for years and so it is no more work to set aside our vegetable tops, bottoms, and skins. I just save them in the fridge until I gather enough for a large pot. I keep out vegetables that I think will overpower the broth, such as beets. I love adding adding ginger root skins and lemon peel for added flavor! I do not add any salt to the broth.

Many of my friends have asked me to explain how I make my virtually free vegetable broth. Here it is!

Homemade Vegetable Broth
  • Tops, bottoms, and skins (enough to fill a large soup pot)
  • Water
  • Fresh or dried herbs (optional)
  • 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
Place the tops/bottoms/skins in a large soup pot and fill with water just to cover the top of the vegetables. Place in herbs and bay leaves. Heat over medium high and bring to a boil. When the contents boil, turn down to a low simmer, and cover with a vented lid. If you don't have a vented lid, tilt the lid so that some of the steam can escape. Let the broth simmer for about 45 minutes. When 45 minutes is up, you will have a rich dark broth. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool. When cooled, strain and store. The broth will last about two weeks in the fridge. For a longer life, place in the freezer and defrost when needed. Don't forget to compost the strained vegetables!

And there you have it- virtually free and healthy vegetable broth! The broth will last about two weeks in the refrigerator or for several months in the freezer.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Letters for Violet

As I have mentioned in previous posts, this is the year of babies for many of our friends. Two weeks after co-hosting the shower Craig and Rebecca, I co-hosted a shower/potluck for Jessie and Tim. I plan to blog about the shower later, but I need to get my hands on pictures first. In the meantime, this blog is about part of the baby gift.

Jessie and Tim are expecting a baby girl at the end of September and I wanted to make something special. Since meeting this lovely couple, we have become extremely close. Jessie is the long-lost friend that I had been searching for, but never knew I was missing. When I met her, I felt an instant connection and it didn't take long for us to get to know each other. I was so ecstatic for the two when they found out that Jessie was pregnant. This was their dream come true and I instantly knew they were having a girl (no one believed me)! :-)

Well, as luck would have it the tests showed that Jessie was in fact carrying a little girl and her name is Violet. As part of the gift, I thought that letters would be fitting. Jessie is like me and isn't a fan of pink, so I wanted to keep these letters relatively pink-free (I'm pretty sure Tim isn't a fan of pink either)! When I thought about the letters, I considered that the two like the outdoors and animals. So, I decided to create letters with a cartoon outdoor theme including friendly looking bugs and birds.

In hindsight there are some aspects of the letters that I would have changed, but overall I'm pleased with how they turned out. Jessie and Tim seem to really enjoy the letters and that makes me happy! Someday little Violet will learn to spell her beautiful name and she can use my letters as a guide.

Congratulations Jessie and Tim!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto

I have posted about risotto before and felt that it was worthy enough for another post. To me, risotto is comfort food. When I think of it, I think of a cold winter night and a steaming hot bowl of vegetable risotto to warm me up. Why would I have a post about this now? Well, it also works as a summer dish as so many vegetables are in abundance during this time of the year.

One of my recent creations was a mushroom and asparagus risotto. Risotto sounds complicated, but is simple to make. It just takes a little bit of time, but once you have the method down it is easy to do. I got out the homemade veggie broth (a post about that to come in the near future) and got to work.

Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 4 shallots, chopped
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 2 c of crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 Tbs chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbs of basil (fresh or dried is ok)
  • 1 Tsp chopped rosemary (dried)
  • 4 c of homemade vegetable stock
  • 1 c of Arborio rice
  • 1/4 c white wine
  • 1/4 c pine nuts
  • Ground black pepper
Place the oil in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until slightly soft, about 3-4 minutes. Then add the asparagus and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and herbs and saute about 3-4 minutes, enough for the mushrooms to get soft. Remove from the pot and set aside.

In the meantime, heat the vegetable stock in a separate pan. Make sure not to boil the broth, but get it hot. Using the pan that you used for the vegetables, place the remaining tablespoon of oil and heat to medium-high. When heated, add the rice and stir until it begins to brown lightly. Begin to add the stock one ladle at a time (about a half a cup). Allow the rice to absorb the broth completely before adding another ladle of broth. Make sure to stir frequently so that the rice does not stick. Before adding the second ladle, add the wine and continue the process. It should take about 35 minutes until the broth is fully absorbed and the rice is creamy.

While cooking the rice, heat a small pan on over medium heat and add the pine nuts to the dry pan. Make sure to stir the nuts constantly so that they brown evenly. It should take about 3 minutes. When the pine nuts smell fragrant and they are toasted, remove them from the heat.

Now that the rice is finished, add in the vegetables and stir. Sprinkle in the toasted pine nuts and ground pepper and stir. Serve with a little fresh parsley on top.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Shower Celebration for Craig and Rebecca

2011 has been the year of babies, especially among my friends. Five of my friends and my sister-in-law are due/have given birth this year. So many babies and with that comes baby showers. You might be surprised to know that I actually like baby showers. I tend to prefer showers that include both the Mom and Dad-to-be and have coed guests. I find it fun to have the male perspective at these things, it adds a bit of excitement!

Two of my cute pregnant friends- Jessie and Rebecca

Two weekends ago, I had the honor of co-hosting a shower for two close friends- Craig and Rebecca. We met them years ago at a walk for climate change. We were attracted to them through their adorable boxer mix, Rosie. Once we pet Ms. Rosie, we were hooked and spent the rest of the day with Craig, Rebecca, and Rosie. Through the years, we have fostered a close friendship and I was so happy for the two when they announced that they were pregnant. They are caring and sweet people and I wanted to celebrate them!

On the day of the shower, they were blessed to have about 40-some friends and family to help welcome their bun in the oven. It was a lovely, hot day! Thankfully, we decided to have the shower indoors. I'm not sure that 105 would have been bearable. Also, my cupcakes would have melted!

Rebecca and Craig opening presents

I worked with Rebecca's sister to make this day special for the parents-to-be. We had food, games, decorations, and presents. I was in charge of all of the food and the cupcakes. Per Rebecca's request, the event was all vegan. This worked out well for me, since I'm vegan. :-) The food was a hit and I was glad to be able to show folks that vegan food can be delicious and filling. I was especially proud of my gluten free/vegan cupcakes. Guests could hardly believe that they were sans animal products and gluten.

My gluten free, vegan cupcakes were a hit!

It is about a month away until they will welcome their new little boy and I couldn't be happier for the two of them. They deserve all of the joy that their new little boy will bring them. Congratulations Craig and Rebecca!

This weekend I'm co-hosting another shower (potluck style) for Jessie and Tim. Blog post to come soon.