Chances are you’ve only used ice cube trays to freeze water, and that’s cool, but this under-utilized kitchen tool has a lot more potential when it comes to healthy eating and reducing food waste.
Not only can you use ice cube trays to capture ingredients at their freshest (adios, powdered garlic) but you can also use them as a portioning tool as most hold about one tablespoon per well. Ready to get freezing?
Here are 10 smart ways to fully appreciate your ice cube trays.
Don’t let homemade pesto go to waste. Instead, freeze it into individual ice cube-sized portions. Once the pesto fully freezes, pop out the cubes and store them in an air-tight bag or container to free up the tray. Then, when a pasta dish, roasted vegetable, or egg recipe calls for pesto, simply pop the frozen cube into a pan to defrost it.
2. Tomato paste
As luck would have it, many recipes call for just a tablespoon or two of tomato paste. Instead of tossing what’s left over or freezing it in a big chunk in the can, separate the extra paste into individual portions. Coat an ice cube tray with non-stick spray and scoop one tablespoon of tomato paste into each well. Use the cubes as needed to add flavor and depth to soups, sauces, and casseroles.
Tired of using dried herbs when a recipe calls for the fresh version? Freeze fresh basil, cilantro, parsley, mint, and other herbs. Fill an ice cube tray about three quarters of the way with chopped herbs, then cover with water, oil, or broth. While the herbs’ appearance will change, their flavor will not.
4. Minced garlic or ginger
There’s nothing fun about chopping up garlic and ginger every time you want to add aromatics to a dish. The next time a recipe calls for ginger or garlic, chop the whole garlic bulb or ginger root, and freeze whatever you don’t use in an ice cube tray. Most recipes don’t call for large amounts of these ingredients, so consider using a smaller tray to create smaller portions. Add some oil or water to the well so the chopped pieces bind together. Once frozen, store the cubes in an air-tight bag or container in the freezer. Incorporate the flavorful cubes into soups, stews, and veggie dishes.
5. Lemon and lime juice and zest
Fresh lemons and limes are great, until they sit in the fridge too long and dry out. Squeeze out the juice when the citrus fruits are fresh, and then freeze it in an ice cube tray. Use the cubes in main dishes, or use them to flavor cocktails, water, and seltzer. You can also save the zest of the citrus fruits, by filling the ice cube well with the shredded rind and adding a bit of the juice to hold it together.
To prevent the buzzkill that is diluted coffee, freeze cooled, freshly-brewed coffee into cubes. Toss them into home-brewed iced coffee for a morning glass of Joe that won’t get watered down by regular ice.
The same principle applies here: Watered-down wine (or warm white wine for that matter) isn’t exactly ideal. Avoid diluting your vino by using wine cubes, or add frozen wine cubes to homemade sangria.
Bought too many eggs? Freeze them before they go bad. Scramble whole eggs or egg whites, then freeze in an ice cube tray. When it’s time to use them, take out as many cubes as you need, thaw them in a refrigerator, and cook them up as soon as they have defrosted.
9. No-bake energy bites
For a healthy snack or a not-too-filling breakfast before a morning workout, opt for no-bake energy balls. Whip up a batch, and freeze the leftovers into an ice cube tray. This will help them last longer, and they’ll be a cold and refreshing treat that’s easy to take on the go.
10. Single-serve desserts
Need a little something to satisfy your sweet tooth? Freeze single-serve desserts into separate wells based on the recipe’s serving size. Before dinner, pop one out and let it defrost a bit in the refrigerator while you eat, then enjoy it after your meal is over. Bonus: Because the dessert stays in the freezer, it’ll be out of sight and out of mind.