Ok, maybe not life-changing, but certainly attitude-changing.
A few weeks ago, I made chicken stock for the first time, using pretty much only ingredients that I would have otherwise thrown away.
I think I threw in a chicken carcass, some carrot peelings, a couple ribs of celery that were past their prime, and half an onion that I had cut up a while ago. I looked up a recipe for a "Bouquet Garni" from The Joy of Cooking and threw in whatever herbs I had that matched (probably parsley, thyme and some peppercorns, since that's what's usually in the house).
I simmered it for 3 or 4 hours, strained it through my colander, then through an actual strainer.
And it looked like this:
I did manage to strain some more of the herbs out of it after I took that picture, but it was amazing even with those little pieces in there. And this time around, I tied all the herbs together in a square of cheesecloth, and it wasn't a problem. I froze it in ice cube trays and used it anytime a recipe called for chicken broth or stock. Delicious. And nearly free. And way easier than I originally thought. You really can't mess this stuff up.
I made another pot yesterday, and I still can't get over how I was paying $1/can for this stuff, on sale! And I can pronounce all the ingredients in the homemade version, which, by the way, is way lower in sodium. Oh, and I've used one of those rotisserie chickens from the grocery store to make this, with equal success, so you don't have to cook whole chickens to do it.
This is the closest I could get to an actual recipe. Seriously. Don't feel any need to follow this to the letter.
Basic Chicken Stock
1) Place chicken carcass in large, deep pot. If you remove as much skin as possible, you won't have to skim as much fat off later.
2) Add cold water to cover.
3) Bring to a boil. If any fat or scum rises to the top and you feel like it, skim it off. Sometimes I do; sometimes I forget.
4) Reduce heat and add quartered onion, chopped celery and carrots, about [1 t. each dried parsley and thyme, 3-4 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf and 1 clove garlic]. Tie bracketed ingredients together in 1 small square cheesecloth or a coffee filter for easy removal.
5) Simmer for 3-4 hours. (Joy of Cooking says to simmer uncovered, but I usually partially cover it.)
6) Strain. How fine your strainer is will determine how clear and "pure" your broth is. Since we use it mostly in recipes and don't eat it as soup, I just strain it through a regular colander (which removes the chicken pieces and veggies).
7) Skim the fat off the top before using. (This is easier to do once the stock has been refrigerated, as the fat rises to the top and solidifies. It will even stick to your spoon if you use a metal one.)
Waste not, right?