Next time you're scanning the clearance aisle for deals, keep your eyes open for ramekin sets. These adorable yet inexpensive small dishes are best known for serving up luscious crème brulee. However, they're indispensible for all kinds of other household uses. Such as...
1. Handy serving bowls. When your smallest serving dish is too large, grab a ramekin. They are perfect for holding dipping sauces, herbed butter, lemon & lime wedges, pesto, and kosher salt, to name just a few ideas. After the meal, use them to store tiny portions of leftovers.
2. Portion control for snacks. Serve yourself little nibbles in ramekins and you have the advantage of built-in portion control. Try them for holding chips, nuts, goldfish crackers, baby-cut carrots and fresh fruit.
3. Finger food. Ideal for tiny baby and toddler meals, use ramekins to hold rice cereal, veggie purees, and finger foods. Remember: ramekins are breakable, so ensure your kids use them only at the table and with supervision
4. Pepper grinder base. Pop your pepper grinder into a ramekin
to contain those annoying stray peppercorn particles.
5. Candle holders. Ramekins make elegant and safe bases for small candles or tea lights.
6. Odds and ends storage. Toss small items such as paper clips, rings, earrings, and loose change into ramekins. Talk about terrific (and inexpensive) mess-minimizers.
7. Flower power. Planning a dinner party? Fresh flowers arranged in ramekins make impressive yet informally pretty place markers.
8. Pet chow. Ramekins make ideal food bowls for tiny pets like kittens, toy dogs and hamsters. They are much cheaper than food bowls sold at pet stores, too.
9. Shape your food. As any good foodie knows, ramekins can be used to create gorgeously presented food. Spray the inside with non-stick spray, pack with food, then gently flip food out upside down when you're ready to serve. Excellent for garlic butter and jellies, or try them for sophisticated individual risotto servings
10. Bake time. The most famous way to use ramekins: bake a luscious miniature dish or dessert. Although crème brulee springs immediately to mind, anything goes! For example, try making mini flans, mini fruit cobblers, or check out this Williams Sonoma video tutorial on gourmet-style baked eggs
No time to play the gourmet? For an almost-instant snack, try whipping up a microwave cupcake. This eHow tutorial tells you how to get your cupcake on using a ramekin, coffee mug or tea cup.