In the Pantry: Cool Ice Cube Tray Tricks That Can Save You Time and Money

A recent study said that globally, 1.3 billon tons of food is discarded annually. How much food do you waste because you're not sure how to save it for later use? This week on In the Pantry, Aida Mollenkamp shows off cool ice cube tray tricks that can help you save money and do your part to reduce unnecessary food waste.

Red wine. "The first thing that you could be saving are liquids," says Mollenkamp. "For example, if you opened a good bottle of red wine and you don't want to throw it out, you could put it into the ice cube tray [and] freeze it up." Cold drinks like sangria could be chilled with cubes of wine instead of water. And if you have a recipe that requires braising or a sauce that calls for red wine, just add a few wine cubes.

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Coffee. Instead of pouring an unused pot of coffee down the sink, pour it in ice cube trays and freeze it. The next time you want iced coffee, just add a few cubes to your hot coffee or espresso instead of water cubes. "That way, the iced coffee doesn't get watered down," says Mollenkamp.

Buttermilk. Ever cook a dish that requires a small amount of buttermilk and then wonder what to do with the leftover liquid? Just freeze it in ice cube trays. You could defrost the cubes before using them in baking mixes like pancakes or muffins, or just add them frozen to cream-based soups. Mollenkamp estimates that each cube of buttermilk is about 2 tablespoons.

Mollenkamp also shared her tips for saving "flavor boosters" -- little bits of flavor that you add to dishes to amp up their taste.

Tomato paste. Place unused tomato paste in ice cube trays and freeze. Use the cubes when making braises, soups, and pasta sauces.

Pureed herbs and greens. Purée extra kale, chard or spinach and store it in ice cube trays. "You could do the same thing with parsley or mint. And for the kale and chard, if you're doing something like making a smoothie, you could use those cubes." As for herbs, add them to any dish, like a soup or sauce, that's already warm and the heat will melt the ice cube.

Pesto. If you have a bounty of basil, make a batch of pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays. "Pesto is one of those things that when you're making something and you're not sure exactly what it needs in terms of flavor, try just popping one of these pesto cubes into the pan and you'll see how much flavor they release," says Mollenkamp.

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Ice cube trays also come in handy for making bite-size desserts. "This way you can have well portion control when you have a sweet tooth," says Mollenkamp. An easy way to use ice cube trays for dessert is to make miniature popsicles. Use leftover fruit juice and when the liquid is half frozen, place a popsicle stick into the cube and then return the tray to the freeze until the cubes have hardened. "This is really great for little kids, so that they have a little bit of a dessert without having to have a whole popsicle," she says. If you want to up the ante on your bite-size sweets, check out these two easy recipes that produce gorgeous desserts.

No Bake Cheesecake Bites
Makes approximately 18 servings

8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup heavy cream
4 ounces milk chocolate, melted
1 cup graham cracker crumbs

Instructions
Put cream cheese in blender with sugar, vanilla, and cream and process until smooth. To assemble using an 18-cube ice cube tray, add one teaspoon of melted chocolate to each cube and place in freezer until chocolate hardens. Add one tablespoon of cream cheese mixture to each cube, and then top with graham cracker crumbs.

Pound Cake Ice Cream Bites
Makes approximately 18 servings

2 cups frozen raspberries
¾ cups sugar
Juice from one half lemon
1 pint ice cream, any flavor, at room temperature
Pound cake cut into cubes that can fit in ice cube tray

Instructions
Place raspberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a blender and purée to create a sauce. To assemble using an 18-cube ice cube tray, fill 1/3 of each cube with raspberry purée. Place in freezer until sauce hardens. When ready, add about a tablespoon of ice cream to each cube, and then top each cube with pound cake.

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