5 Kitchen Hacks with Ice Cube Trays

Coffee cubes

EDIT: The community has spoken. Your additional kitchen hacks with ice cube trays are at the bottom of this post.

***WARNING: It’s the middle of winter, but this post is about enjoying cold things. This is because I’m a Californian. I’ll post about something hot next time.

I’m a big fan of kitchen hacks, because my work schedule is crazy and doesn’t allow me the time for anything anymore.  So I need “everyday life stuff” to be easy or it won’t get done at all, which means I especially love life hacks for the kitchen. This week, my recent favorite kitchen hack involves creative uses of ice cube trays.

Basically, one hot day while in my kitchen I had a bit of a semantic breakthrough: ice cube trays don’t need to be used for ice. As soon as I started focusing on the word “tray” instead of the word “ice”, ice cube trays became hugely more useful to me. Who knew that you can put more than just water in those suckers? So, I hiked over to my neighborhood 99 Cent Store and picked up an extra few trays on the cheap.

Now here’s what I’m freezing these days:

1) Coffee Cubes

I’m a high-energy guy naturally, but I’ve admittedly become a straight-up coffee addict in the last three years of owning my own business. Caffeine is now purely a productivity drug to me. I don’t do that yuppy “ritual” of nursing artisanal roasts in a sentimental mug for hours whileI wistfully staring out a french window and sighing through a calm smile. I’m too gaddam busy for that Oxygen Channel crap. I drink coffee because otherwise I will stop working and sleep instead. Living in California usually leaves me preferring iced coffee over hot brews. The problem is, adding an ice cube to my hot coffee waters it down, and I don’t like cutting my drugs. So what do I use to ice my coffee? More coffee. Any time I make a pot of coffee, I pour any leftovers brew directly into an ice tray and stick it in the freezer. That way, the next time I need a fix, I can have it without sacrificing purity.

DIRECTIONS:
Pour unused (but still fresh) coffee from your pot into ice cube tray, filling each space.
Put ice cube tray in freezer until coffee cubes are frozen.
Add coffee cubes to freshly brewed coffee to “ice” it without watering it down.

2) Milk Cubes

I started freezing milk cubes once I realized how awesome it was freezing coffee cubes (see #1 above). To be honest, there’s not a HUGE difference between adding a cube of frozen milk to your coffee than just adding refrigerated liquid milk, but you can exactly control the proportions of milk you use each time (avoiding the dreaded “over-pour” from the milk carton).

DIRECTIONS:
Pour milk into ice cube tray, filling each space.
Put ice cube tray in freezer until milk cubes are frozen.
Add milk cubes to freshly brewed coffee instead of liquid milk to “ice” it.

3) Olive Oil Spice Cubes

This right here is some handy stuff: freeze perfectly proportioned individual cubes of spiced olive oils for almost all of your cooking needs. In case you’re wondering, olive oil’s freezing point is at about 10 degrees farenheit, which is 10 to 15 degrees warmer than most American freezers — so yes, your olive oil will freeze solid into cubes just like water, and it’s taste won’t be affected during the thawing process. Even the “basic” oil-only cubes are handy, but you can have better tasting food with almost no extra work by adding in some simple spices. There’s a farmers market a couple blocks away from my house, so I can usually get a hearty handful of fresh herbs and spices for around a dollar each — well over 50% cheaper than buying dried herbs at a supermarket.

DIRECTIONS:
Pour olive oil into ice cube tray, filling each space.
Sprinkle in desired amount of herbs into each oil-filled space.
Put ice cube tray in freezer until oil cubes are frozen.
Place 1-3 oil cubes into a heated pan next time you want to sautee something.

4) Juice Cubes

This one’s probably the most fun item on this list, especially if you have kids around during hot weather. Take your favorite fresh fruit juices — my favorites are orange juice, carrot juice, or pineapple juice — and make your own mini popsicles with them. After you pour your juice in each tray space, rest a toothpick or half of a popsicle stick in the juice. It won’t stick straight up, who cares. Let that sweet thang freeze for about a half an hour, then suck on some fruity goodness (I wrote that sentence and now I refuse to reword it).

DIRECTIONS:
Pour juice into ice cube tray, filling each space.
Place toothpick or half of a popsicle stick into each juice-filled space.
Put ice cube tray in freezer until juice cubes are frozen.
Suck on juice cubes.

5) Pudding Cubes

This one’s probably the most difficult on the list for me to actually make, because pudding is obviously too delicious to let “set” and “finish” before sticking your finger in the bowl. But if you have that magical self-control to actually make pudding, it will pay off here. Make your pudding, and put some of it in an ice cube tray. I prefer chocolate but any flavor will do. Similarly to the Juice Cubes in #4, place a toothpick or half of a popsicle stick in each space. Once it freezes, you’ll wonder how you lived in the summer this long without doing this every night.

DIRECTIONS:
Pour pudding into ice cube tray, filling each space.
Place toothpick or half of a popsicle stick into each pudding-filled space.
Put ice cube tray in freezer until pudding cubes are frozen.
Suck on pudding cubes.

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Everything below here was contributed by my readers:

6) Chicken Broth Cubes

I make chx broth cubes from the left over open boxed broth and then store them in a zip lock bag and drop flavor cubes into veggies, rice etc.” – Fran

7) Cauliflower Sauce Cubes

Just wait until you move beyond ice cubes… We make a huge batch of cauliflower sauce every so often and freeze it in double-serving portions. It reheats perfectly well and tastes obscenely good on pasta for a lazy dinner.” – Jaclyn

8) Pesto Cubes

“…same as the olive oil…my basil plants produce way more than I can use at once so I make pesto by the pound and freeze it into ice cube trays. use only what you need, keep the rest in a container in the freezer!” – Chelsea

Do YOU have any kitchen hacks that involve ice cube trays? Give me your ideas in the comments.

Max

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