Do you want to keep small amounts of pesto, herbs, lemon juice, wine, coffee or almond milk on hand so you have them ready for all your cooking needs? Grab some silicone ice trays for a quick and easy solution!
Several weeks ago I had some friends over and they opened a bottle of wine. Once they tasted it, it turned out they didn't really love it. The wine hadn't gone bad or anything like that, but we just didn't care for it as a drinking wine. I always hate to waste wine, so what do you do?? Get out an ice tray and make some wine ice cubes!!
This works for just about anything where you have "extra" when you are cooking - just pour or scoop it into the ice tray, put the tray in the freezer and you're all set. Instead of having to go to the store to buy fresh herbs or open a whole bottle of wine when you just need a little you can just open your freezer and grab an ice cube!
When I first started doing this, I used any old ice tray but then I found myself struggling to get whatever I'd frozen out of the tray so I invested in these nifty silicone ice trays from Food52 to make it super easy to remove things! The cubes are nice and big - each cube is equal to just about 2 tablespoons. If you want to freeze smaller amounts, just measure it out before you fill the tray. I often do a few full cubes and a few that are only tablespoon size.
The first thing that might have popped into your mind is "do people still use ice trays?" Well, like many of you probably do, I have an automatic ice maker. So I did have to go out and buy ice trays for this purpose. Once you realize all the things you can freeze I think you'll agree it's well worth it to get some specifically for this use!
This list of what you could freeze in these ice trays is pretty long so I've come up with my top 15 brilliant uses for ice trays. These are things I find myself needing over and over again. Get creative and let me know what other great options you come up with!!
- Pesto - This is a great way to use up your summer herbs and have fresh pesto available in the winter too. No special preparation is necessary, just scoop the pesto into an ice tray and freeze.
- Herbs - If you grow fresh herbs in your garden you probably always have them in the summer, but what about in the winter? Probably depends on where you live. And what about when you buy them at the store but don't use them all up. Instead of throwing them out, grab a bottle of olive oil, chop up the herbs before they go bad and grab an ice tray. Add the chopped herbs to the ice tray and fill the cubes with olive oil. When you need it for a recipe you can just toss the herb cube in the recipe.
- Lemon juice or lime juice - No special preparation needed for this one. Just fill the cubes with juice and freeze.
- Lemon peel - I'll cut up some of the lemon after I juice it, toss it in the ice tray and then fill the ice tray with water. I don't often use these for cooking but they are great to freshen up a garbage disposal. Just throw one down, add a little salt, turn the water and disposal on and you are good to go.
- Wine - You are definitely not going to want to use frozen wine for drinking however it's great in things you're cooking that call for a tablespoon or two of wine. It's a good way to use up the last of a bottle if you won't quite finish it before it starts to go bad.
- Almond milk - I freeze a couple of cubes of almond milk at the beginning of each week. They are great to use in smoothies. It makes them nice and slushy and you don't have to water them down with standard ice cubes.
- Coffee or espresso - I use a Nespresso maker, so if I need coffee for a recipe it's pretty easy to make a small amount. If you a "regular" coffee drinker pour half a cup or so from your morning pot into a mug and let it cool. Then pour into an ice tray and freeze. The cubes are good for smoothies or even baking.
- Tomato Paste - Most recipes don't use a whole can of tomato paste so next time you open one, fill a couple of cubes up with some paste and freeze. You won't have to buy a new can next time you're are making sauce or something else that calls for a tablespoon of tomato paste.
- Buttermilk or cream - This is one of my favorite options as buttermilk is something I don't use too often and when I do, I never seem to need a whole container. I usually make 2 or 3 cubes so I've got at least enough for the next recipe. It works in salad dressing and just about anything that calls for buttermilk or cream.
- Cookie dough - This isn't something I do too often, however it's a great option if you want to be able to make a few cookies at a time. If you use the larger Food 52 ice trays you can get about 2 cookies out of each cube! Instant cookie portion control!
- Chicken, beef or vegetable broth or stock - Instead of throwing away the last of a partially used box of stock or broth, I just pour it into an ice tray. I usually keep one tray just for broth cubes so I can tell them apart from lemon juice.
- Caramelized onions - You know how much I love these, but did you know you can freeze them? Yup, that's right. Whip up a big batch and scoop some into an ice tray for future use.
- Brown butter - I'm a big fan of brown butter, and while it's not hard to make, it's not something I do every day. So when I do, I usually make 2-3 times what the recipe calls for and pour the extra into a couple of ice cubes. Brown butter is great on roasted veggies!
- Chipotle peppers - This might seem a bit random since they are probably not something you use every day - me either. But for that time you do happen to need them for something you'll probably never use the whole can at one time.
- Egg whites - There are two ways you can do this. If you are making something that calls for more yolks than whites, you can freeze the whites to use later in omelets or pancakes. Or if you use liquid egg whites and aren't going to use the whole container before it expires you can freeze a few cubes to toss into something later. Just don't wait until the last minute - you don't want to freeze expired egg whites!
Once whatever you've added to the ice trays is frozen you can either keep the ice cubes in the tray or if you want to use the tray for something else you can transfer the cubes to a ziplock bag for long-term storage in the freezer. This means you've always got at least a few spots open in a tray when you need it! Depending on what you've frozen the ice cubes will keep for 3-6 months.
Genius ideas! I will for sure be buying an ice cube tray and putting it to good use with your list of tips!