New Uses for Food
Amazing new tricks for items you find in the kitchen.
Bake your cupcakes directly in the ice cream cones. Fill 24 flat-bottom cones two-thirds full with cake batter. Place the cones in a high-sided 9-by-13-inch baking pan and bake in two batches at 325° F for 30 minutes. Let cool, then frost with two 16-ounce cans of frosting. You can have your cake and eat its holder, too.
This frilly tissue paper wrap makes a birthday treat even sweeter. Cut a circle and gently gather it around the bottom of the cupcake, securing with a rubber band.
Even a starving artist eats takeout sometimes. Use the plastic top from a to-go container as a palette for mixing colors; when you’re finished, just toss.
Pack small amounts of your favorite spice (red pepper flakes, anyone?) in old Tic Tac boxes, to season food on-the-go.
More lovely to look at than the branded box from the store, but it still slides easily into the pantry for storage.
Turn rectangles of giftwrap into placemats you don’t mind getting dirty. You can even write guests’ names on the edges to designate seats.
Turn an old tray into a special serving piece with a single scrap of pretty paper. Use double-sided tape to keep it secure.
For a heat protector, slip a cork or two under a lid's handle and you'll always have something safe to grab.
Get a slow-moving drain flowing again and pour a solution of ½ cup of salt for every quart of hot water down the pipe.
Distinguishing chicken salad from tuna is no picnic. Next time you’re packing sandwiches, stretch a thick rubber band around each one and label it with a permanent marker. Divvying up lunch will be a snap.
Balance the oiliness of moisturizing makeup. Brush on a thin layer as a finishing touch.
For mess-free tea, tie a bunch of bags to a chopstick and rest it across the pitcher’s rim (use 2 bags per cup of boiling water). Brew for about 4 minutes, then lift and discard the bags.
Remove coffee and tea stains from the insides of cups by rubbing with a salted citrus peel.
These durable bags can take a beating. Fill one up and give it a whack with a rolling pin to make crumbs out of crackers, cornflakes, or candy. Remember to twist the top closed to prevent flyaways.
Buff streaks out of stainless steel with a little oil on a terry-cloth rag, then shine with a dry paper towel.
The cold, hard truth: Small ice cubes melt fast, leaving a pitcher of lemonade watery. To make long-lasting jumbo cubes, use a muffin tin. Pop them out by running the back of the tin under hot water for 30 seconds.
Fill that (clean!) old ashtray with soy sauce instead. The notches make a handy resting spot for chopsticks between bites of spicy tuna.
Eliminate sticky residue from an iron. Run the hot iron (no steam) over plain paper sprinkled with salt.
Prevent hair balls. Add ⅛ to 1¼ teaspoon to your cat’s food for easy digestion.
If dragging and decking out fresh spruce leaves you with sticky digits, pour a tablespoon of oil onto a cloth, then rub until clean. Bonus: The oil is a great moisturizer for dry winter skin.
Said good-bye to soda? Fill the mouth of a dry 20-ounce bottle with uncooked spaghetti; the opening holds enough for a hearty single serving.
Design Rothkoesque Easter eggs. Fill a jar with dye, then dip half the egg in and let dry. Dip again, but only one-third of the egg. Repeat with both ends of the egg until you have stripes in varying shades.
Need a quick refresher on how to dye Easter eggs? Watch this quick video to learn how to hard-boil an egg, then check out these homemade Easter egg dye recipes.
If you're the flaky type, cereal boxes (including the single-serving minis) can corral desk-drawer chaos. Slice off the tops and the bottoms and fill them with loose odds and ends.
Secure half-eaten bags of potato chips with a binder clip for an easy way to keep your favorite snack fresh and crunchy.
These cute patterns on cupcake liners are there one minute, gone the next—they virtually disappear in the oven. For a pretty touch, trim off the patterned edge of a large (12-inch) doily and wrap it around the cupcake liner. Seal with clear tape.
Fill emptied plastic eggs with puffed rice cereal and silver-ball cake decorations to make impromptu maracas for kids.
Form a cone with a small (5-inch) doily, secure with tape, and fill with candy and treats. The lacy server is a sweet upgrade for the next time you gather the ladies (think bridal shower) or girls (birthday party, sleepover, extra-special playdate).
Pretty and functional. Fill a hurricane vase with beans before adding a pillar candle to help keep the candle steady and minimize mess (the beans will catch the wax).
String a popcorn garland for the holidays (after a pit-stop in the medicine cabinet).
Rough commute? Slide a drink cooler over an apple to keep it from bruising in your lunch tote.
You baked the cake. Now you’re expected to frost it, too? Take a break from the sticky stuff and use a doily to stencil on a pretty sugar topping. Press a doily flat on top of a round cake and, using a fine-mesh sieve, sprinkle confectioners’ sugar liberally over the surface. Use two hands to carefully remove the doily post-dusting.
Mini marshmallows may be too small for s’mores, but they’re a sweet way to catch wayward candle drips before they hit cakes and cupcakes—because it’s not so festive to find wax in your icing.
Insert a straw until it reaches the bottom of the glass bottle. Shake the bottle, then pour, leaving the straw inside. The airflow provided by the straw breaks the condiment-stopping vacuum.
Using a pin, poke a hole in the bottom of an empty eggshell half, put it in an egg carton (for stability), and fill with soil and seeds. Once your seedling appears, plant the whole thing in the ground. The eggshell will disintegrate and nourish the soil.
When prebaking a piecrust, use beans to keep it from puffing up or shrinking into the pie plate: Line the bottom and sides of the cold dough with foil and fill to the brim with beans.
To polish silver: Wash items, then place on aluminum foil in the bottom of a pot. Add a baking-soda solution (¼ cup soda, a few teaspoons salt, 1 quart boiling water) and cover for a few seconds. The result? A chemical reaction that gets the black off the gravy boat.
If daily use of mousse or gel is weighing down your locks, add a pinch or two of baking soda to your shampoo once a week to remove product buildup. Getting squeaky-clean strands is a piece of cake.
Just flatten a banana peel and bury it under one inch of soil at the base of a rosebush. The peel’s potassium feeds the plant and helps it resist disease. Consider it a nutritional boost for you and your buds.
Use bubble wrap to save fruit and vegetables from bumps and bruises. Cut a piece to fit into the bottom of the refrigerator drawer as a pillow for your produce. Say goodbye to squished squashes or mushy mangoes.
Use a business card case to make packets of your favorite sweetener portable. You'll always have coffee your way―without a purse full of powder from torn packets.
To cut down on waiting time for hors d’oeuvres, stack a small cake stand on top of a larger one to increase your surface area for canapés or crudités and free up precious table space.
Most biscuit cutters make overly wide biscuits, anyway―more beret than top hat. Use a tomato-paste can to achieve the proper size. First, scoop out the paste and freeze it in Tupperware or a storage bag. Then remove both the top and the bottom with a can opener and wash the interior. To prevent sticking, dip the can in flour before each cut.
Remove the cellophane wrapping from the canes and form hearts by placing them hook to hook and tail to tail on a nonstick baking sheet or one lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350°F for 2 to 4 minutes (depending on the canes’ size) or until they stick together when you pinch the ends lightly. Cool thoroughly and remove with a spatula. If you want to make flat hearts with psychedelic stripes, bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
Chop leftover chocolate candy or candy corn and use in place of chocolate chips for cookie recipes.
Serve sorbet in a memorable way. After juicing (or eating) grapefruit, orange, lemon, or lime halves, scoop out and freeze the peels. Cut a small slice off the bottom to create a level surface (without creating a hole), then fill with ice cream.
Kick-start a fire with citrus peels. Leave orange or lemon peels on the counter for several days to dry out. Then use the pretty pieces as kindling in your fire pit or bonfire for a fragrant flame starter.
Catch the sticky stuff from bottles and jars in cupboards. No more shelves that require a full wipe-down after every spoonful of honey, slather of jam, or glug of olive oil.
For a dip that doesn't taste watered down, strain your yogurt before using it. Secure a paper coffee filter over the mouth of a deep cup or jar with a rubber band then pour in some yogurt. Any liquid in the yogurt will drain through the filter.
For sweet, juicy ham without the goopy stove-top glaze, pour a 20-ounce bottle of regular cola over a 10-pound precooked ham and roast for 2 1/2 hours at 350° F, basting every 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cut a hatch diamond pattern into the top, rub with a tablespoon of dry mustard, stud the centers of the diamonds with whole cloves, and pat with 1 cup brown sugar and 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs. Return to oven for 35 minutes.
If you can’t find the real deal for your message center or that game of tic-tac-toe, these candies will do the sweet talking for you. (Hang on to them until summer, when the driveway is just begging for a masterpiece by your TOO CUTE toddler.)
For a new twist on a serial dinner favorite, add a layer of crunch to plain old mac-and-cheese. Top your child’s bowl with a sprinkling of flakes (even the bits at the bottom of the bag work). It’s easier and more kid-friendly than toasted bread crumbs.
Decide how many more bites of dinner your child has to eat before being excused. Let your child roll so he’s the one controlling his fate. You'll end up with a more peas-ful family meal.
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To prevent your cutting board from sliding on the countertop, wet and wring out a towel, then lay it down for a nonskid work surface. There will be no more throwing in the towel while wrestling with your vegetables.
Steam perfect rice. Once the rice is tender, remove the pan from the heat, place a folded towel over the saucepan, replace the lid, and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes. The towel will absorb the excess moisture for great rice with no mush.
Give Easter eggs a year-round use (and save on resealable bags) by filling them with snacks like crackers or Cheerios.
Cut mushrooms into neat slivers, all without a cutting board to clean.
Slice perfect pieces of mozzarella―and cut out the mess that goes with it. The wires divide the soft cheese into equal segments without squashing it. It's a clean cut, any way you slice it.
Here’s an idea for all those eggs you hard-boiled: Use their broken eggshells to clean the hard-to-reach places in bottles and vases. Drop some crushed shells in the bottle, add warm water and a drop of dishwashing liquid, and give it a good swirl. The shells will scrape off the gunk you can’t get to, so you can save your elbow grease for the dinner dishes.
Use floss to slice soft cheese, cake, and hard-boiled eggs. (Or try it as a substitute for kitchen twine to truss a chicken.) It's hygienic, neat, and cheap. Unwaxed works best, and of course you know better than to mix mint-flavored with a vintage Gorgonzola.
To "puree" garlic hold the tines flat against a work surface, and vigorously rub a peeled clove across them. The result: A fine paste perfect for marinades, sauces, and vinaigrettes (and an end to hand washing the garlic press).
Don't have a mortar and pestle? Crack coriander seeds (shown), cumin seeds, and peppercorns with a garlic press instead. When a recipe calls for "freshly cracked" or "coarsely ground" seeds, fill the chamber of a garlic press and squeeze to crush.
If the forecast calls for iced roadways, stabilize your sweet cargo by cutting X’s into the tops of gift boxes and inserting the cupcakes. (A shirt box will hold about eight.)
Is that a blueberry or cranberry muffin? Eliminate all the guessing at your next brunch by using colorful tees to denote which is which. (Also handy when distinguishing medium-rare from medium patties at a cookout.)
To gloss the frosting on a freshly baked cake, lightly blow warm air over the top and the sides of the cake until the frosting melts a little. When it cools, the surface will stay shiny for a professional finish.
Shield a muffin tin from burned-on batter drips by laying a foil sheet across it, snipping an X over each cup, then popping in liners.
Need a pan in a pinch? Use aluminum foil. Rather than struggling to dislodge your rustic apple masterpiece from its (supposedly) nonstick pan, bake it on a cookie sheet, supporting its sides with a doubled-over strip of foil. Secure the foil with a paper clip.
When slicing messy foods like tomatoes, place the cutting board on a baking sheet. It will contain any juices, and make it easy to clean up—simply rinse in the sink.
Remove coffee or tea stains from a mug by rubbing them with a lightly salted citrus peel.
Keep your disposal smelling fresh by dropping a few peels down the drain and flipping the switch.
Serve chips, popcorn, or cookies in filters for consistent, portable (reasonably-sized!) portions.
Soothe blisters and burns by applying fresh ginger juice directly to the sore spots.
Squeeze lemons, limes, or oranges over the grater to keep seeds out of the juice.
Skip the bleach—add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of lemon juice to the wash cycle to brighter up those fading whites.
Relieve a sore throat. Cut a lemon in half. Skewer one half over a medium flame on a gas stove or an electric burner set on high and roast until the peel turns golden brown. Let cool slightly, then mix the juice with 1 teaspoon of honey. Swallow the mixture.
For subtle highlights in blond hair, simmer two sliced lemons in water for one hour (add more water if needed). Strain, then pour into a spray bottle.
After shredding soft cheese or other sticky foods, go over both sides of the grater with the pulp side of a cut lemon to get rid of any residue.
Decorate on the cheap. Fill a glass bowl with lemons for a sunny centerpiece. Or display a row of them along a windowsill.
Collect used toothpicks at a party so you don't end up with them all over your tables, seats, and floors. (Stick one in the lemon ahead of time to give guests the hint.)
Use mayo to get a deep condition at home. Starting at the scalp, coat strands with 1/2 cup mayonnaise and leave on for 15 minutes. Then rinse thoroughly.
Deodorize smelly glass jars by washing them with a mixture of one teaspoon powdered mustard and one quart warm water.
Treat yourself to an at-home facial. Mix a package of plain instant oatmeal with warm water and apply to skin. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then rinse well.
Soften cuticles easily with a couple of dabs of cooking oil. It's the quickest cure for dishpan hands.
Clear the air in a dank basement. Cut an onion in half, place it on a plate, and leave it out overnight. Once the initial salad-bar aroma dissipates, you'll have a fresh (non-oniony) atmosphere.
Build snowmen without bundling up. For a holiday party, give each child three oranges, some toothpicks, a sturdy plate, and store-bought frosting. Stick the large orange to the center of the plate with a dollop of frosting. Poke a few toothpicks halfway into the top of the fruit and spear a smaller orange on top. Repeat with the third orange, and layer on frosting, a vanilla wafer, and peppermints to make a hat. Use candy-cane pieces for arms and a nose, cloves for the eyes, and red licorice for a scarf.
Use pretzel sticks in place of wooden skewers to spear bite-size meatballs or mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes. The best part: You won't have to fish discarded toothpicks out of your planters after the party.
Prepare a stained vase for a new batch of blooms. If you can't reach the residue at the bottom, add a tablespoon of rice and a lot of soapy water, shake, and rinse until clean.
Place a wreath of pinecones or faux evergreen in a paper bag with a 1/4 cup of salt. Fold the top of the bag over and gently shake.
Clean dirt from leafy vegetables by washing them in a bath of salt water.
Perfect your pucker. Make a paste of sugar and petroleum jelly and gently brush on dry, peeling lips with a toothbrush until they are smooth.
Cut grease on hands by rubbing them with a mixture of sugar and water.
Trade frostbite funk for a more pleasing freezer scent and wipe the inside of the icebox with an extract-dampened cotton pad.
Repair hardwood floors by rubbing shelled nuts into shallow scratches. Their natural oils help hide the flaws.
Protect your hands from an extra-hot latte by stretching a wristband around the coffee cup so your fingertips don't get burned. (Your tongue is another matter, so sip with care, for goodness' sake.)
Stockpile soup by pouring extra portions into baggies, then laying them flat in the freezer. Once hardened, you can stack them up and save them for a rainy day.
Rub olive oil on measuring cups and spoons coated with sticky substances (like honey) to ease cleaning.