As a purist (hey, I make my own butter), I love making stock. However, I work full time and then freelance almost full time, making time a scarce commodity. So, I have discovered a company that has done the work for me--Better than Boullion.
I discovered this product on QVC. At the time, you received three jars of the paste and a cookbook. I don't believe it's available on QVC anymore, but most grocery stores seem to carry it--at least in upstate New York.
Many flavors are available, including chili, beef, pork, ham, vegetable, clam, and my favorite, chicken. The paste easily dissolves in water, and the flavors are to die for. They really do taste and smell as though you've been cooking all day. Most are either low or no fat, and the sodium count is extremely low--no more eating a salt shaker with a little bit of flavor added. One word of caution however. Start with an amount LESS than what is recommended on the label. The flavors are so intense that the suggested amounts can be a bit too strong. If you're making something like soup, that's easily remedied by adding more water, but it's still best to start out on the cautious side. After all, it's easier to add more than to remove excess.
As I mentioned, my favorite is the chicken base. One of my favorite weekend meals is chicken soup--with or without the noodles. With the intense flavor of the base, you really don't even need the chicken, and more often than not, that's how I prepare the following.
1 tablespoon butter
1 rib celery, chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons Better than Boullion chicken base
1 carrot, sliced thinly
1 cup frozen spinach
1 cup egg noodles (optional)
1 scallion, chopped finely (optional)
In the butter, saute the celery and onion only until translucent (do not let them get any color). Add the water, chicken base, and carrot. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered until the vegetables are just about tender. Add the spinach and noodles if desired, and continue to simmer until the vegetables and noodles are done. Before serving, add the chopped scallion for a bit of a crunch.
Keep in mind that this recipe can be adjusted very easily to accommodate a large crowd. No one will go away disappointed. To quote Rachael Ray--this one is "yum-oh."