Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thrifty Thursdays #3 Top 10 Uses for Ice Cube Trays (Other Than Making Ice)

Thrifty Thursdays is a blog event created by my fried Amanda Formaro from Amanda's Cookin' blog. I've agreed to participate, so look for a frugal themed post here each Thursday.

In addition to reading my posts, be sure to visit Amanda's blog (after Thursday) for a round-up of all the thrifty home and cooking tips and recipes that came in this week from folks around the blogosphere. Visit anytime to learn how to participate too.

Thrifty Thursdays Week #3 -- The Top 10 Frugal Uses for Ice Cube Trays (Other Than Making Ice)
Sure making ice cubes in your own freezer makes green sense, as it eliminates the packaging and transportation impacts of commercially made ice. But did you know that making ice is just the beginning of the versatile ice cube tray’s uses? Click the links below for our Top 10 favorite ways ice cube trays can help you to use all your kitchen ingredients. Once your cubes are frozen, dump them into a zipper top plastic food storage bag for easy access (and to free up your trays for more freezing tasks).

You’ll no doubt come up with uses of your own for ice cube trays, and if you do, please add them to the comments section at this page and share them with everyone.

1. Leftover Coffee or Tea
Good coffee and tea is expensive, never throw out the leftovers again. Instead, freeze leftover coffee or tea in ice cube trays. Use the cubes to chill iced teas or coffee without watering down your drinks. You can also use coffee flavored cubes in coffee smoothies or to make coffee house drinks like iced mochas.

2. Leftover Wine
Never waste even a single drop of wine. If you can't quite finish that bottle of vino, freeze the leftovers in an ice cube tray. Small amounts of wine are handy for sauteeing without fat, for adding small bursts of flavor to all kinds of dishes, making marinades or salad dressings, or deglazing pans and making pan sauces.

3. Juices and Cold Drinks
If you have kids, you're probably already tired of throwing out have full glasses of juice or other cold drinks. Instead, freeze the leftovers in ice cube trays, then use them next time to chill the kid's drinks without diluting (works well in lunch time thermos bottles too). Or use the juice cubes instead of ice cubes to boost flavor and nutrition when making frosty fruit smoothies.

Freezing juice is also a good way to get use out of fruits that might be getting too ripe before you can eat them or whenever you find a good clearance at the store on juiceable produce. Squeeze juice from lemons, limes, or oranges. If you have a juice extractor you can extend this concept to all kinds of produce -- carrots, apples, tomatoes, etc., etc. Use later in cooking or for making drinks r smoothies.

In addition to serving as nutritious drink chillers, small amounts of juice, especially citrus juice, are handy for making salad dressings, marinades, or deglazing pans and making pan sauces. Use vegetable juices in soups or in place of water to add extra flavor and nutrition to rice or couscous. You can also use vegetable juice for some of the cooking liquid in beans.

4. Stocks or Broths
Many times a recipe will call for a partial can of chicken, beef, seafood, or vegetable stock. Freeze the leftovers in an ice cube tray. Even those of us who make homemade stocks will find keeping ice cube sized frozen portions handy for sauteeing small amounts of food without fat, poaching small pieces of fish or chicken for a quick healthy entree, or deglazing pans and making pan sauces. Many stir-fry recipes use small amounts of stock as one of their sauce ingredients as well.

5. Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs can add amazing flavor to a huge variety of dishes, but too often then go bad before you can use them all. Instead, chop up fresh herbs before they soil and freeze in ice cube trays (1-2 teaspoons per cube) along with a small amount of water. Pop a cube or two as needed into soups, sauces, dressings, marinades, etc. The herbs won't look as pretty as they did in their fresh state, so they won't be good garnishes, but they will still impart fabulous intense flavors.

6. Leftover Fruit
You can freeze all sorts of small portions of leftover fruits, from overripe peeled banana chunks, to berries, mango, melons -- you name it. Sometimes fruit may discolor a bit when frozen (bananas especially won't look pretty), but it works fine in smoothies -- keeping the drink frosty like a milk shake without adding fat or sugar. The small ice cubed sized portion makes it easier on your blender.

In addition to smoothies and milk shakes, use frozen fruit to make granitas, or to hold fruit for use later on in breads or muffins, fruit sauces, ice creams, sherbets and sorbets, or other recipes that don't depend on fruit being fresh.

If you have a baby, you might also puree fruit to make wholesome homemade baby food. Freeze in ice cube trays and defrost just the amount you need, when you need it.

7. Leftover Veggies
Freeze small portions of cooked veggies in order to have a handy side dish another time, to add them later to soups and stocks. I also find this tip handy for veggies like chipotle or other chiles, where you usually only a fraction of the amount that comes in a can. Freeze the rest in ice cube trays for portions that better suit a typical cook's needs.

Mashed potatoes also freeze well, and small frozen potato cubes can be handy for thickening soups and sauces, as well as to reheat and eat as a side dish for the kids.

If you have a baby, you might also puree cooked veggies (definitely NOT the aforementioned chipotles, but mild veggies) to make wholesome homemade baby food. Freeze in ice cube trays and defrost just the amount you need, when you need it.

8. Tomato Paste, Tomato Sauce, Etc.
Tomato sauce is another one of those ingredients that often comes in a can that is much larger than what you'll need for a recipe. Freezing the extra in an ice cube tray will give you small portions for the next time or two you need this ingredient. Freezing leftover tomato sauces (like marinara) is also handy. Use for quick pick ups for steamed veggies or simply cooked chicken or fish, or to dress a side dish of pasta or rice.

9. Pesto or Tapenade
Pesto sauce, made from fresh basil, garlic olive oil and seasonings, or intense tapenades (made from olives, or sun dried tomatoes), freeze well and because they're so intensely flavored, the small ice cube sized portions are usually plenty to flavor a recipe of pasta, veggies or whatever else you're imagination conjures up. Having cubes of these intense "sauces" means you're never more than a few minutes away from a flavorful gourmet meal that will taste like you spent hours on it.

Quick appetizer suggestion -- mix pesto or tapenade with cream cheese and or goat cheese for a baguette spread, top with roasted red peppers.
10. Baby Food
If your baby doesn't finish the jar, freeze the leftovers in ice cube trays. Later defrost the small amount you'll need. You can also puree cooked fruits and vegetables to make homemade baby foods. Again, ice cube trays make the perfect freezing vehicle as you'll have small individual portions.

Click here for details on making homemade baby foods.


Carrie said...

I have done the baby food one...

I hate throwing out leftovers.... Thanks for the ideas.

Amanda said...

So many great ideas Cheri thank you!!

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