Kitchen Hacks: I Can Make This in That?

by Mikey Rox on 14 September 2012 6 comments

When the buzz started building around Pinterest early this year, I was hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. The last thing I needed was another social network in my life. But I have to say — Pinterest is a revelation. I make a new recipe that I’ve posted to my boards almost every night of the week, and I’ve learned lots of cool life hacks that have saved me time and money. One of the neatest parts of Pinterest is finding new ways to use old things — specifically in the kitchen. Here are some of my favorite finds using what I have laying around for something entirely unexpected. (See also: Another 36 Uses for Tin Foil)

Buttermilk Ice Cubes

When I buy a carton of buttermilk, I use a cup or two, and the rest spoils in the fridge. To make your buttermilk last so you can enjoy every last drop, fill up an ice tray with the leftover liquid, freeze it, and thaw it when you’re in need. Each cube equals about two tablespoons of liquid. This is also a great way to preserve fresh herbs in olive oil.

Freezer Jam

Love fresh jam but hate the time-intensive process of cooking and canning? Freezer jam is the solution to that problem. The process is easy. First, wash, hull, and stem the fruit; then mash it in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine sugar and pectin until well blended. Add the pectin mix to the fruit and let it stand for three minutes. Pour the mixture into jars, screw on the lids, and let it stand for 30 minutes before putting it into the fridge or freezer. The resulting jam can be stored in the freezer for up to a year and lasts in the fridge for up to three weeks.

Slow-Cooker Bread

My dad bought my mom a bread machine for Christmas one year. She made three loaves, then put it in her special cupboard where appliances go to die. Waste of money. If she had known how to make slow-cooker bread — using the Crock-Pot she already had — my dad might’ve used that extra money to win big at the casino and buy me a new car. But I digress. To make slow-cooker bread, put a pound of ready-made refrigerated or fresh dough in the pot and bake it on high for an hour or so, checking it for doneness — by sticking a toothpick in it — at the 45-minute mark.

Tin Can Cake

Instead of rinsing out the tin can from which you just emptied corn and tossing it in the recycling bin, hold on to it — so you can make the cutest individual cakes ever. The instructions for making a tin-can cake are exactly the same as any other vessel – wash it, grease it, fill it, bake it — except the resulting mini-cake is far and away more adorable.

Mason Jar Smoothies

Did you know that most standard blender blades screw onto a Mason jar perfectly? When you want to make a smoothie without dirtying the blender and a glass from which to drink it, prepare the ingredients in a Mason jar, screw on the blender blade, pop it onto the blender motor, and puree away. You can use this hack for lots of other blendable items like salsa and dressings, too. Now they go from blender to fridge with nothing to clean up until the jar is empty.

Canning Lid Eggs

If you like egg sandwiches, you probably grapple with the issue of how to get scrambled eggs to be the exact size as your English muffin or biscuit. Mason jar lids are the answer to keeping the runny liquid contained, so the eggs stay the round in shape, just like the sandwich rolls.

Muffin Pan Hard-Boiled Eggs

Tired of wasting time waiting for water to boil? To make easier-than-ever hard-boiled eggs, place fresh eggs in a muffin tin in a 325- to 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. In the pan, the eggs won’t bump into each other from vigorously boiling water, so premature cracking is almost nonexistent.

Bell Pepper Dip Cups

Don’t pull a separate bowl out of the cabinet for your veggie dip. Instead, cut the top off a bell pepper, hollow it out, and serve the dip in this fresh, colorful, edible bowl that Mother Nature made.

Peppermint Bark in a Silicone Mold

I love, love, looooove this idea — and I can’t wait to make this peppermint bark in a silicone mold for my annual holiday party this year. Use a snowflake (or other festively shaped) silicone mold to make homemade bark or chocolates by filling the mold with melted dark chocolate, followed by white chocolate, then topping with crushed candy canes. They look like something you’d pay a pretty penny for at a chocolate shop, but I bet they’ll taste much better because you made them. 

Pumpkin Beverage Cooler

Cut a large pumpkin in half, hollow it out, and fill it with drinks and ice. Easy breezy. Your guests will be impressed.

What common items are you making in unexpected contraptions? Let us all know in the comments below.

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Guest's picture
Nancy

Personally, I use powdered buttermilk. However, I do use the ice cube tray for freezing all sorts of other things. Left over Enchilada sauce, canned diced green chilies, coconut milk, lemon and lime juice, beef and chicken stock. But I hadn't thought of fresh-herb cubes--thanks for the tip. Also, I love the tomato paste in a tube because you can squeeze out just the amount you need, but it's too expensive. I generally use the cheaper canned variety but invariably have some left over that I don't want to waste. So I dab tablespoons of it onto wax paper, put it in the freezer, and then plop the frozen mounds into a freezer bag.

Guest's picture

I absolutely LOVE pinterest! I have made quite a number of delicious recipes that I've found on there (homemade Snickers bars, anyone?) and agree that there are endless ideas on how to use, re-use, and misuse different items for incredibly inventive and helpful uses. The best thing's I've used it for have actually been beauty products; face wash, teeth whitener and hair masks.

Guest's picture
Jen

Peppermint bark in silicone molds... what a great idea! I've been making it for the holidays for at least the last 20 years and I have never thought of doing this. I will be trying this for sure in December :)

Guest's picture
Halleycomet

For really good date nut bread use the cans that spaghetti sauce comes in---that fairly cheap stuff that sells at Walmart for about 1.00$ ---they are tall and lined with white smooth material that lets the bread come out without sticking. Make sure the BOTTOMS are the kind you can get off with a CAN OPENER!!!!! Not the rounded over type! Grease the cans and fill between 1/2 and 3/4 full, place on a cookie sheet (Upright) and bake. This will cause the bread to be a nice tubular shape and the tops--oh those TOPS!!!!!!! We fight over who gets the tops!

Slice off the top level with the can top---use a bread knife---and then turn can over and use can opener to cut the bottom off the can. Then use the can bottom to push the rest of the bread thru the tube. This lets you slice nice even slices of any thickness by using the edge of the can as your guide!

You can bake any kind of fairly dense bread in these. If you have any left over batter you can use cup cake pans with or without liners--and get tops that are almost as good as the can version.

Make sure you use the baking pan underneath tho as these can sometimes drop over the sides as they rise.

Mmmmmm--Cream Cheese and Date Nut Bread!!!!!!!

Guest's picture
Guest

I would have to advise against cooking anything in tin cans. They are lined with plastic that contains BPA, which can leach into food, ESPECIALLY when heated.

Guest's picture
Frankie's Girl

A better and faster idea for perfect round scrambled eggs... spray a little non-stick cooking spray inside a coffee mug (microwave safe), crack egg into it, and scramble with a fork. Microwave for 90 seconds to 2 minutes (depends on your microwave power) and pop out onto plate. It fits perfectly on english muffins, and you can add a bit of shredded cheese as well and you don't have to wash up a pan.