The following is a guest post from 17-year old Mary Katherine from Mountain View, CA who has been participating in the Show Your Plastic Trash Challenge since October of last year and has done an incredible job reducing her plastic waste. See her trash challenge posts here. Recently, she started her own blog called The Plastic-free Chef to share her strategies for cooking with less plastic.
My name is Mary Katherine and I’m 17. I love to cook. I love everything about it (except cleaning). I do most of the cooking in my house. My quest to banish disposable plastic from my life began in August in the toilet paper aisle of Safeway. My mum was going on about the wastefulness of the plastic wrap around the toilet paper. Something just changed all of a sudden for me. My mum always talked about plastic packaging, but we didn’t really do anything. Truth be told, I was apathetic and ignorant of the problem. Sure, we brought reusable bags to the store and bottled water was banned from the house. But I suddenly realized we needed to be doing more.
After we got home, I spent a couple hours researching online for solutions to the plastic problem. I found a lot of resources, but my favorite one was Beth’s blog. Since then, I’ve been working to eliminate disposable plastic from my house. The most challenging area has proved to be the kitchen. But with the help of homemade cloth produce bags, the bulk aisle in Whole Foods, the farmer’s market, Straus dairy products and Cowgirl Creamery cheese, I’ve been able to eliminate most of the plastic from my kitchen. That said, here is one of my favorite plastic-free recipes. This is a staple in my house.
Homemade Vegetable Broth
Vegetable broth is something that always comes in plastic. Whether it’s a tetra pak or a plastic lined can, you’re producing plastic waste either way. Bouillon cubes may seem like a reasonable alternative. They’re wrapped in foil and come in a paper box. But they’re highly processed and kind of expensive. Not to mention they still produce waste. I’ve found that the best option is to make it yourself. To make vegetable broth, I collect vegetable scraps in a bowl in my fridge until I get a good amount.
You can use whatever vegetable scraps you like. Some I use frequently are:
- the tough green parts of leeks that aren’t good to cook with
- onion peels
- celery tops
- carrot tops and peels
- broccoli stems
- cauliflower cores
- cabbage cores
- potato peels
- beet peels (they turn your broth magenta though)
- parsnip tops and peels
- tomato skins and cores
- wilted herbs from the fridge that didn’t get used up
Once you’ve collected enough scraps, empty the contents into a large pot. The pot I used is eight quarts.
Add enough water to almost cover the vegetable scraps. Don’t add too much water though. Your broth won’t be very flavorful if you do this.
Bring to a boil and lower the heat a little. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the flavor is strong enough for you. If you cook it too long it will taste bitter. Add salt to taste if you like. I happened to be baking a squash while I was making the broth. It oozed some juices, so I added them to the broth as well.
When my broth was finished, it looked like this:
Take out as many cooked scraps as you can and discard them. My apartment complex has a community compost pile and garden, so that’s where mine end up.
After this, strain the mixture into a clean glass container. I used a Straus milk bottle.
Enjoy! The broth will stay good for four or five days in your fridge. You can also freeze it for a few months, but make sure to leave enough space for it to expand so the glass doesn’t break. For more plastic free cooking ideas, check out my cooking blog: http://theplasticfreechef.com/