I remember the day we got our new-fangled refrigerator with all the latest bells and whistles, including an ice cube/water dispenser in the door. Oh joyous day! No more ice cube trays! They were unceremoniously passed off to my neighbor who had sadly not yet graduated to our level of refrigeration sophistication. Pretty ridiculous, I know. Now I realize those ordinary ice cube trays are actually a goldmine of savings. Here are some of the creative ways I have used them to put the freeze on waste and save our family loads of money and time:
1. Easy seasoning
How often are you left with a stalk of fresh parsley, cilantro or rosemary and no use for it? Instead of pitching them, just tear them up or chop. Place them in the ice cube trays with some water and freeze. When you need them, toss in the hot pan and voila! — super fast seasoning for your slow cooker or stir-fry.
2. Healthy hit of citrus
Freeze the juice and rind from fresh lemon. Utilize the very last bit of juice — that lemon didn't die for nothing. Zest the rind, too, and place it with some water or the juice in the tray and freeze. While cooking, just add a couple cubes to a veggie or pasta dish to really liven it up.
3. Frozen flavor burst
Freeze slow cooker juices (which usually get pitched) to create a tasty pop of flavor for future sauces or casseroles. Just siphon off the juices at the bottom of the pot once they've cooled and add to the ice cube trays. These make great economical replacements for broth in countless recipes and can be a delicious way to sauté vegetables (one cube is equivalent to about 2 tablespoons).
4. Toss the can, save the contents
If a recipe calls for only a couple of tablespoons of canned tomato paste, sauce etc., just add the rest to the tray. You'll be set the next time you need some for Sloppy Joes or your "homemade" tomato sauce.
5. On-the-go baby food
If you've made a giant batch of mashed peas, put the rest in the tray. When you're heading out, just pop them in a container, and by the time you've arrived you have a ready-to-go baby meal.
6. Sneaky veggie surprises for your super-picky kids
Leftover steamed broccoli and other veggies can be blended (not in the presence of your little darlings, of course), popped in the ice cube tray, and secretly used in some of their favorite foods. I drop a couple in the pot while I’m cooking chili, spaghetti sauce, soups and casseroles. They pack a healthy antioxidant punch. I've even used Brussels sprouts and the kids were none the wiser!
7. Beat the clock
If expiration dates are your kryptonite, an ice cube tray can save the day. Have a jar of salsa dangerously approaching the pitch date? Throw it in the ice cube tray! You can use the salsa cubes individually in Mexican dishes or defrost altogether on the day you make tacos. Yogurt that's nearing it’s expiration can go in the tray for a future smoothie.
8. Turn wine into ice — no miracle needed
If you didn't finish that huge bottle, don't pour it down the drain. Put it in the ice cube tray and use it for cooking wine in your favorite recipes a la Bobby Flay.
9. Coffee-house cool
Leftover coffee in our house goes right in the trays. Those little coffee cubes are perfect for homemade iced coffee and combined with yogurt cubes make for tasty coffee flavored smoothies. If you prepare them for guests, be sure to give it fancy name like Iced Coffee Shivers. They'll be wowed!
10. No-yolk savings
If you have a recipe that calls for just whites or just yolks, the unused part can go in the trays and be used at a later date for cooking or baking. If using for baking, you will need to let it thaw. But in the case of an egg white omelet, just toss them in the pan and melt as you stir.
The possibilities are limitless, and it truly couldn't be easier! No need to invest in a bunch of trays either; one or two will suffice. Once your cubes are frozen, pop them into a freezer bag and label appropriately. Wash the trays between uses. It's as easy as that! You'll be singing "Ice, Ice, Baby" all the way to the bank!
This is a guest post by Mary Jo from Denver, CO
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