Kitchen Hacks: I Can Make This in That?
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.
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.
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.