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The Readymade DIY Vase You've Been Throwing Away

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Flowers and candles make bang-up, reliably handsome, easy to assemble centerpieces, but they are very much one trick ponies. You can't reuse wilted, rotting flowers or melted candle wax—though if you have any suggestions for how to do so, I'm all ears—which is why it's worth looking around for centerpiece staples that will have a purpose after the meal has been cleared away.

The obvious choice? Cans!

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Photo by Lela Rose

Even in the dead of winter, you are probably finding a way to cook with tomatoes by using big cans of them. Event designer Lela Rose uses the 28-ounce cans as vases for clusters of wildflowers at summer parties, but you could just as easily stuff them with leafy ferns or branches this time of year. As for the tomatoes themselves, she turns them into a big batch of spicy ginger tomato jam, which she then sends home with guests in little jars as a party favor.

Whether you freeze the leftover tomatoes, send them packing, or ready them for dinner, the cans—especially the kind with graphic, punchy labels—make rustic, realistic additions to table decor. Try it at your next dinner party, and pour the canned tomatoes into one of these impossibly easy meals:

Braised Chicken Thighs with Tomato and Garlic

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Andy Ward & Jenny Rosenstrach's Pork Shoulder Ragu

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Penne alla Vodka

Penne alla Vodka by DueSpaghetti

Eggs in Spicy Minted Tomato Sauce

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Barbara Lynch's Spicy Tomato Soup

Barbara Lynch's Spicy Tomato Soup by Genius Recipes

Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Farro for Winter

Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Farro for Winter by Nicholas Day

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Pizza Dough + Margherita Pie

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Pizza Dough + Margherita Pie by Genius Recipes

Best Ever Turkey Chili

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Eggplant Parmesan

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Hunter's-Style Chicken

Hunter's-Style Chicken by lastnightsdinner

Tags: centerpieces, table design, entertaining