Janice D’Arcy is away. Her posts will return next week.

I don’t believe there is one magic food, one elixir of good nutrition or a shortcut to health, but if I did, it would be homemade stock. Known to some as broth. Known to grandmothers around the world as penicillin in their chicken soup. Known in a South American proverb to “resurrect the dead.”

The author often makes vegetable stock first thing in the morning. (Casey Seidenberg)

Yes, it takes time. So why bother? Because homemade stock, whether the chicken, beef, fish or vegetable variety, offers tons of vitamins and minerals in an easily digestible form. It is truly a nutrient-dense food. Fish stock has been shown to nourish the thyroid. Vegetable broth was an ancient cold and flu remedy. Here are a few ways to take advantage of the versatility of stock.

Cook rice in it. I cook my quinoa and pasta in it, too. My kids don’t even notice that they are getting extra punches of nutrition in their meal, but I certainly do.

Make soup. Once I have the broth made, I practically have dinner ready. I just toss in some vegetables and beans, and dinner is served. No time for homemade soup? Throw stock into a ready-made soup.

Feed it to your baby. My little girl doesn’t have words yet, but she knows how to point and squeal for the stock when it’s in a bottle. I get such satisfaction watching her chug all of those vitamins and minerals.

Moisten stir-fry dishes and pastas, saute greens in it and add it to leftovers.

Whip stock instead of water into mashed potatoes.

Drink it. Whenever anyone in my household isn’t feeling well, I pour them a warm cup of broth, sometimes adding a handful of alphabet pasta to help the medicine go down.

Freeze it. I always have stock on hand for that last-minute dinner or the oncoming cold or flu.

At first, making my own stock seemed overwhelming, but now I have made it so many times that I can do it in my sleep. I often make the vegetable variety first thing in the morning. Throwing barely chopped vegetables in a pot with water does not require full consciousness, but heading into the day with a fresh pot of stock in the fridge makes me feel pretty accomplished.

Since the chicken, beef and fish varieties take longer to cook, save the chicken carcasses or beef bones in the freezer until you have enough time and enough carcasses to make a large pot.

Stock isn’t a magic potion or a miracle drug, but I consider it the next best thing. Try it!

Here is a recipe for a simple vegetable broth you can start making in your kitchen.

Seidenberg is the co-founder of Nourish Schools, a D.C.-based nutrition education company.

View Photo Gallery: These kid-friendly recipes provide healthful lunches, easy dinners and plenty of leftovers.

Related content:

Get your kids on board with going meatless once a week

Healthy fats to feed your kids

How to calm your kids for a meaningful dinner