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posted: 8/22/2012 7:10 AM

Frugal living: New uses for ice cream scoops

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An ice cream scoop is an essential kitchen tool. If you use it solely to scoop ice cream, you're missing out on getting full use of the perfectly portioned servings from this frugal-favorite item.

Here are a few ways to use your ice cream scoop:

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Mounded side dishes: Think: rice, macaroni dishes or mashed potatoes. Bring that school cafeteria concept into your home.

Perfect pancakes: An ice cream scoop makes it easy to pour pancake batter onto your griddle. It's less messy, and all of your pancakes will be of consistent size. One reader, Margery from Canada, shares:

"I put my ice cream scoop (a spring-loaded model) to good use for faster pancakes and muffins in the morning. I spray the muffin tins with Pam cooking spray and then, using the scoop, I portion out a drip-free glob of muffin batter, perfectly sized for a standard muffin cup. I have also been using it to make the most perfectly proportioned little circles of buttermilk pancakes. There are no drips, and everything is measured precisely so the pancakes don't run over the edge of my electric nonstick griddle; nor do they run into one another and become distorted.

I use my small mini-scoop for meatballs, too." For freezer meatball recipes, visit frugalvillage.com/forums/oamc-homecanning-freezing-preserving/40163-freezer-meatball-recipes.html.

Cupcakes: Much like using it for muffins, you can use a scoop to make cupcakes, too. Not only can you scoop the batter and pour it into your baking cups, but you can you scoop frosting onto each cupcake after they've cooled. This makes it easier and less messy for kids to help frost the batch.

Cookies: Use an ice cream scoop when making drop cookies. Bake them immediately or flash-freeze the cookie dough balls and transfer them to freezer bags to bake later. One reader, S.B. from Pennsylvania, shares: "I use an ice cream scoop for perfect cookies! Everyone always comments on how nice they look.

Hamburger patties: Using an ice cream scoop, scoop patty portions onto wax paper-lined baking sheets or cutting boards. Flatten. Top with more wax paper and repeat. Freeze as-is. Later, when frozen, cut the wax paper, leaving it attached to the frozen burger patties, and transfer to jumbo freezer bags.

Removing seeds: Use a big scoop to clean out a pumpkin or a small scoop to scrape out vegetables such as butternut squash or green bell peppers.

Stuff it: Use a scoop to stuff peppers or to scoop out chicken salad or meat spreads for sandwiches.

Ice cream treats: You can portion scoops of ice cream and freeze ahead of time for a party. Another reader, Gina from Ohio, shares: "Make ice cream balls on a stick by using a small ice cream scoop. Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Insert a wooden craft spoon into each, and place in the freezer."

Digging: Ice cream scoops make fun beach/sandbox toys for kids. Pack one in your beach bag. Kids can use them like a shovel or as a mold. Use one for repotting houseplants or to dig in your garden, too.

• Sara Noel owns Frugal Village (frugalvillage.com), a website that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. Send tips, comments or questions to Sara Noel, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106, or sara@frugalvillage.com.

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