Most home cooks will agree that even the best-laid recipe plans can sometimes go awry. While there are some days you dream up a recipe and are able to execute it perfectly on the first try, other times, no matter what you do, you just don’t end up so lucky. Even if you memorize a recipe by heart, watch your favorite chef cook that self-same recipe on YouTube, go out and spend money on quality ingredients and supplies, and give yourself ample time to execute your dish, sometimes the Powers That Be will still descend upon the kitchen and turn your culinary masterpiece into a disaster. It happens.

Cooking, while rewarding, can also be one of the most frustrating undertakings of your day. We get it. Luckily, there are a number of different genius vegan food tips and hacks that will aid you in your day-to-day culinary adventures, and at least take some of the guesswork out of your cooking. Here are five of our favorite food hacks, plus some accompanying vegan recipes to accompany them, that will help you ensure you’ll never spend any time over the stove only to end up phoning it in for take-out again.

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1. Use the hole in your pasta utensil to portion out serving sizes

You know that one bizarre spoon-spork hybrid you have in your utensil drawer? Some people call it a “spaghetti” spoon; some people call it a pasta server. It looks like a ladle, only it has a hole in the middle of it and little prongs to help it latch onto cooked pasta. For a long time, we just assumed the hole in the middle of the spoon was decorative, rather than functional, but it turns out we were mistaken: that little hole is actually there to help you measure out your pasta portions!

It’s simple: however many dry noodles fit inside the spaghetti spoon’s hole make up a single serving. You’ll never make too little (or way too much) pasta again, provided you’re using spaghetti noodles or a similarly long, thin stranded variety of pasta. Macaroni is another story.

Test out the hack by making this simple 10-ingredient Lemon “Parmesan” Pasta, or the delicious eight-ingredient Creamy Cauliflower Fettucine pictured above.

2. Use your colander to aid in your noodle-draining conquests

We’re all about any tip that will help you minimize food waste and mess in the kitchen, which is why we’re eternally in debt to Twitter user @Daibella, who shared their genius pasta-draining technique with the Twittersphere early this October. All you need is your perfectly-portioned cooked spaghetti (which you learned how to do in step one) from above and a colander.

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Once you’ve cooked your spaghetti, rather than trying to aim and deposit your boiling pasta liquid and the noodles into the colander (which often results in scalding hot water spattering around everywhere, and the loss of a handful or more of pasta), instead place the colander on top of your boiling pot of water, and then flip the combined-contraption over in the sink to strain. Remember to wear oven mitts or use pot holders while you do this — cookware can get extremely hot!

Try this trick out with all different kinds of pasta! We recommend the Easy Mushroom Stroganoff above because it’s such a cozy meal, but we also love this recipe for Toasted Mushroom Macaroni, as well as this Penne in Creamy Beet Sauce With Shiitake Bacon.

3. Multitask with your muffin tin

What’s in a name? If you hear the word “muffin tin”, you might automatically assume that the name of the kitchen appliance tells you all you need to know — that it’s designed to help you execute delicious muffins! However, with a little creativity, a muffin tin can be used for so much more. Souffles, mini-cheesecakes, portable sushi cups, oatmeals, and more can be baked and crafted within a muffin tin.

Overnight oats, meet your match: the muffin tin. If you like the ease and portability of overnight oats, why not just bake your oats in a muffin, and grab em on the go? Try it out with these Savory Kale Oatmeal Cups.

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If you’re someone who’s pressed for time in the morning and therefore thought quiche was off the menu, think again! The Chickpea Flour Quiches pictured above will allow you to eat vegan quiche any time, any place.

For the sushi lovers out there, Ahi Sushi Cups are the muffin-tin recipe for you, while lovers of fusion will enjoy these Baked Potato Samosa Cups. We also wouldn’t say no to these Veggie Loaf Bites when we were craving healthy comfort, or these Baked Mac and Cheese Bites for a late-night snack!

4. Ditto with your ice-cube maker

Ice cube makers can serve a multitude of culinary purposes, so get creative! You can use them to enhance refreshments by infusing a standard ice cube with different fresh ingredients, for one thing — check out this feature on How to Make Flavorful Ice Cubes for ideas.

Ice cube trays can actually serve as a basin to store full recipes. This “Instant” Homemade Frozen Turmeric Tea is made from pineapple juice, fresh turmeric and ginger, lemon juice, and a pinch of cayenne pepper, and then stored in an ice-cube tray. Pop one out whenever you want the tea.

Love morning smoothies but hate having to prepare them every morning? Then just prepare these Smoothie Ice Cube Concentrates for Make-Ahead Breakfast.

You can also use your ice cube maker to make the Herb and Garlic-Infused Olive Oil Pods pictured above. They’re easy to prepare, help reduce food waste, and can be used in any recipe in place of standard olive oil.

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5. Enjoy Plant-Based Buttermilk in Minutes

We know, we know… if you follow a plant-based diet, you know that traditional butter and milk are two ingredients that are off the table. Buttermilk is an ingredient commonly used in Southern cuisine, and for lovers of various comfort food recipes, buttermilk really makes the dish feel authentic. Don’t worry, however — it’s relatively simple to make vegan buttermilk that really mimics the real thing. All you need to do is add one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to one cup of any non-dairy milk. Stir, let your mixture sit until it curdles, and then pat yourself on the back — you’ve achieved vegan buttermilk!

Make the Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls pictured above in celebration of your new how-to knowledge, and then use some vegan buttermilk to whip up these Crispy, Crunchy Cornmeal and Pepita Onion Rings — they’re sure to be a crowd pleaser!

Make sure to check out our other Tips & Hacks for continuous vegan inspiration!

We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!

Lead image source: Easy Mushroom Stroganoff

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