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TIP OF THE DAY: Ice Cubes For Valentine’s Day…And More Uses For The Ice Cube Tray

Valentine Ice Cubes

Valentine Ice Cubes

Heart Ice Cubes

Flower Ice Cubes

Pesto Ice Cubes

Frozen Lemon Juice

[1] and [2] Red and pink layered ice cubes (photo courtesy Ocean Spray). [3] Add some pomegranate ice cubes (here’s how from Kelly Elko).[4] Flower ice cubes: small flowers make a big impression (here’s how from Martha Stewart). [5] More ways to use an ice cube tray: save pesto (photo courtesy P&G Every Day) or [6] lemon juice (photo courtesy Food Network).

 

These days, many people enjoy refrigerator-freezers with built-in ice makers.

But here’s a reason to hold on to those old-fashioned ice cube trays. In addition to party ice cubes, you can also use them to make granita—and much more, as you’ll see on the list below.

Because we’re days away from Valentine celebrations, how about some special ice? You can’t get these from a mechanical ice-cube maker!

RECIPE: LAYERED VALENTINE ICE CUBES

Ingredients Per Ice Cube Tray

  • 1 ice cube tray
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed (substitute frozen blueberries)
  • 1/3 cup Ocean Spray Blueberry Juice Cocktail
  • 1/2 cup Ocean Spray White Cranberry Juice Drink
  • 1/2 cup Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE 4 blueberries in each of 16 ice cube cups. Add about 1 teaspoon blueberry flavored juice. Freeze at least 1 hour or until solid.

    2. ADD 1/2 tablespoon white cranberry drink to each cup, atop the frozen blueberry layer. Freeze 1 hour of until solid.

    3. TOP with 1/2 tablespoon cranberry beverage. Freeze at least 1 hour or until solid.
     
    OTHER VALENTINE ICE CUBES

    Don’t have time or desire to layer ice cubes? These are much easier:

  • Aril ice cubes (photo #3): just water, pomegranate arils and a heart-shaped ice cube tray.
  • Berry ice cubes (photo #4): make them with water or pomegranate juice, in regular or heart-shaped trays.
  • Flower ice cubes (photo #5): Add small flowers to water. If you’re using them in drinks, be sure the flowers are organic (otherwise they have pesticides).
  • Plain red or pink hearts: Add red fruit juice or pink lemonade to heart or conventional ice cube trays.
  •  
    MORE USES FOR ICE CUBE TRAYS

    Certain foods are easier to pop out if you have silicone ice cube trays; others work better with a lever pull in an old-fashioned metal tray.

    Once whatever you’re making is frozen, you can transfer the cubes to a freezer bag for storage. Here are some ideas to try.

    Drinks

  • Chill beverages without diluting them. Make ice cubes with leftover coffee, tea, coconut milk, juice, etc. (freeze tomato juice for Bloody Mary’s).
  • Similarly, smoothies! Freeze fruits and vegetables to pop into the blender.
  • Make pretty ice cubes. Add berries, fruits, citrus peel, etc.
  • Deconstruct cocktails. For example, for a Piña Colada, try adding frozen pineapple juice and coconut cream cubes to a glass of rum.
  • Jell-O shots!
  •  
    Desserts & Snacks

  • Make dessert bites. An ice cube tray is great for making miniature desserts, from fancy (chocolate-covered cherries) to casual (mini Rice Krispies Treats).
  • On-a-stick. From frozen cheesecake to juice pops and yogurt pops, you can make something different on a stick every week.
  • Make your own Chunkys & PB cups: Melt your chocolate of choice, blend in nuts, seeds, raisins or other dried fruits; and set in the fridge. For peanut butter cups, layer melted chocolate and peanut butter and refrigerate until set.
  • Make chocolate squares. Fill the compartments partially, so you end up with bite-size chocolate tiles. Add whatever you like to flavor: spices, coconut, etc.
  •  
    Cooking

    For the first two: Once your cubes are frozen, pop them from the tray into a resealable freezer bag. For precise measures, determine in advance what the tray compartments hold.

  • Freeze extras and leftovers: From lemon juice and stock/broth to wine and bacon fat, you’ll have the perfect size to pop [frozen] into soups, stews and sauces.
  • Freeze herbs. Hard herbs like oregano, sage, thyme and rosemary defrost better than soft herbs like dill and basil. Pack the ice cube trays with 3/4 herbs and 1/4 olive oil. Toss a cube directly into the pan to season eggs, sauces, etc.
  • Freeze garlic and ginger. First, purée them before adding them to the compartments. This also works with pesto (as is—no additional work required).
  • Freeze buttermilk. Buttermilk is pricey, and a recipe often requires just a quarter or half a cup. Freeze the leftover buttermilk; you’ll need it again soon.
  • Make sushi. It’s hard for amateurs to hand-form nigiri rice beds. Fill the compartments with seasoned rice, pop them out and lay the fish or other toppings onto them.
  •  
    More Uses

    There are household uses, from homemade detergent cubes to starting seedlings. Just look online!

     

    HISTORY OF THE ICE CUBE TRAY

    Before the advent of the ice cube tray, ice for drinks and similar purposes was chipped from large blocks with an ice pick.

    An American physician, John Gorrie, built a refrigerator in 1844 to make ice to cool the air for his yellow fever patients. The refrigerator produced ice, which he hung from the ceiling in basins to cool the hot air.

    Some historians believed that Dr. Gorrie also invented the first ice cube tray in its current form. He is known to have given his patients iced drinks to cool them down.

  • The Domestic Electric Refrigerator, produced in 1914 by Fred Wolf, contained a simple ice cube tray.
  • By the 1920s and 1930s ice cube trays were commonplace in refrigerators.
  • The first flexible ice tray was launched in 1933, invented by Guy Tinkham. Silicone was still decades ahead; Tinkham’s tray stainless steel, with points that would eject the ice cubes.
  • The first rubber ice cube tray was launched by Lloyd Groff Copeman, also in 1933. Five years earlier, he had noticed that slush and ice flaked off his rubber boots, and set about designing different types of rubber trays.
  •  
    Ice Cube Trivia

    You may have noted that commercially-made ice cubes are completely clear, while homemade cubes from the fridge are cloudy in the center.

     

    Metal Ice Cube Tray

    Popping Out Ice Cubes

    [6] The old-fashioned metal ice cube tray with a removable divider (photo courtesy West Elm). [7] Silicone trays make it easy to pop out the cubes.

     
    Cloudy ice cubes result when the water is high in dissolved solids. Commercial ice-makers use purified water, with cooling elements on the bottom. The cooling process allows any bubbles to be washed away from the top as the cubes grow larger.

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Cheese Grotto

    If someone on your gift list is very serious about cheese (such a person is a turophile, Greek for cheese lover), consider the Cheese Grotto.

    Think of it as a cheese humidor, to protect precious cheeses instead of cigars.

    Everything old is new again. Cheese Grotto is based on a very old design, used to keep ripe cheeses in peak condition for generations. There’s nothing like it in the modern marketplace.

    Designed by a cheesemonger, Cheese Grotto creates a perfect environment for wedges and uncut wheels to thrive. It keeps cheeses at their optimal stages of ripeness.

    In other words, it keeps precious (costly!) cheeses in a state of stasis, maintaining their ideal ripeness for a longer period.

    We’re not talking about supermarket swiss, mind you, or cheeses that you plan to consume the same day; but of artisan cheeses that sell for $25.00 a pound and up: cheeses you want to savor, a bit a day.

    WHAT’S WRONG WITH PLASTIC WRAP?

    Most cheese counters wrap your cheese in plastic wrap. That’s just to transport it home.

  • Cheese needs to breath (i.e., air flow), which means plastic wrap isn’t good for them.
  • Cheese needs humidity, the biggest challenge with home cheese storage.
  •  
    After you get home, cheese experts recommend re-wrapping the cheese in special cheese wrapping paper.

    While cheese wrapping paper is an improvement over conventional kitchen wraps—and is certainly less expensive than the Cheese Grotto—it isn’t nearly as effective (which is why cheesemonger Jessica Sennett created Cheese Grotto in the first place).

    Cheese Grotto solves the air flow and humidity problems with a humidor environment fostered by a clay brick that is briefly soaked in water. It releases moisture into the confined space of the Grotto.

  • For short-term consumption, you can leave the cheese at room temperature, keeping Cheese Grotto on the counter top.
  • For longer-term storage, it fits easily into the fridge (it’s 12 inches deep, 8.5 inches tall and 7 inches wide).
  •  
    Cheese Grotto has two adjustable shelves and holds 3-6 cheeses, depending on the size of the wheels or wedges.
     
    WHERE DO YOU GET ONE?

    The Cheese Grotto, handmade to order in Virginia, is $350. That includes optional engraved initials and shipping.

    The materials are made from wood and other components that are natural and environmentally friendly.

    Order yours at CheeseGrotto.com.

     

    Cheese Grotto

    Cheese Grotto

    Cheese Grotto

    [1] and [2] For the true cheese connoisseur, the Cheese Grotto (photos courtesy JRennet). [3] What the professionals have (a cheese cave at Murray’s Cheese).

     

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: GelPro, The Most Comfortable Kitchen Mat

    Along with tidings of comfort and joy, give real comfort and joy with a GelPro Mat.

    It’s a super-cushy and comfortable floor mat, so amazing that we not only have one front of our kitchen sink and stove; we also have one in the bathroom. We don’t know how we’d live without it.

    We almost always have aching legs, knees, feet and/or back and find that GelPro is the most cushy and comfortable mat we can stand on.

    A panacea for the aches, it’s shock-absorbing, non-skid and easy to clean. Almost everyone who has passed through THE NIBBLE kitchen has purchased one. Once you stand on one, you have to have one. At least one!

    Even people with no aches and pains get a lift from standing on them. It’s the difference between standing on hard flooring and standing on pillows. You just don’t get tired standing on these mats.

    The mats are available in a variety of sizes (from 20″ x 36″ to 9′ long!), colors and and designs, plain to fancy. They start at $99.95, depending on size and design.

    Whatever the price, trust us: We’d pay anything for the comfort our GelPro mats provide.

    They also make life more comfortable in the fitness room, garage, grill area, laundry room and workbench.

    Whomever you give one to will be thanking you for a long time.
     
    EXTRA SPECIAL COMFORT AND JOY FOR THE HOLIDAYS:
    20% OFF & FREE SHIPPING

    Head to GelPro.com.

     

    GelPro Kitchen Mat

    GelPro Kitchen Mat

    No matter how long you’ve been standing, a GelPro mat turns the floor into the cushiest pillow. Several sizes and numerous colors and designs are available (photos courtesy GelPro).

     

      

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    PRODUCT: Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Containers

    Are you thrilled with your current food storage containers?

    Is there some improvement that you’d like?

    Take a look at the new Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage System: It has it all.
     
    WHAT YOU GET

    This new line of storage containers sets a standard in fabrication and utility. We’re so excited about the Brilliance line. Nothing has been left out!

  • Freezer To Microwave: Maximum flexibility.
  • Fridge to Table: Salads and other refrigerated foods don’t need to be moved to serving bowls.
  • Stain Resistant: No staining from red sauces and oils. The containers stay brilliantly clear, like glass.
  • BPA-Free: They’re made from state-of-the-art Tritan® plastic with a sleek modern look. Made in the U.S.A.
  • Splatter-Resistant Microwaving Vents: The easy click-on lids are a dream.
  • Unique Lid Design The air is sucked out of the container when you click the closures.
  • Dishwasher Safe: Also, highly scratch- and ding-resistant and durable.
  • Space-Efficient Design: The modular units stack perfectly.
  • Leak-Proof Guaranteed: Carry soup and other liquids with no concerns.
  • Odorproof: Store garlic and onions with no aroma leakage. The containers will be odor-free after washing.
  •  
    FIVE SIZES

    There’s everything from mini, to to store cut garlic and onions, to large, which holds the contents of an entire pot of stew.

  • Mini: .5 cup
  • Small: 1.3 cups
  • Medium: 3.2 cups
  • Medium Deep: 4.7 cups
  • Large: 9.6 cups
  •  
    VERSATILITY

    Here’s what Brilliance lets you do better:

  • Organize: You easily see all contents.
  • Efficiency: Stackability optimizes space in the fridge, freezer, pantry and on the countertop.
  • Transporting: Carry your lunch, baby food, etc. Bonus: The containers are very lightweight!
  • Pantry Storage: They’re airtight and stackable. Store nuts, dried fruit, flour, etc.
  • Marinating: They’re 100% leak-proof and airtight.
  • Entertaining: They look great on a buffet or at the table.
  • Gifting: Fill with cookies or foods, and a great container remains when the nibbles are gone.
  • Earth-Friendly: No need to use disposable plastic wrap, storage bags, foil or other landfill.
  •  
    WHERE TO FIND BRILLIANCE

    The containers available at major retailers nationwide, including:

  • Amazon
  • Bed, Bath & Beyond
  • Target
  • Walmart
  •  

    Rubbermaid Brilliance

    Rubbermaid Brilliance

    Rubbermaid Brilliance

    Rubbermaid Brilliance

    [1] Store anything, beautifully. [2] The 100% leak-proof design lets you transport soups, dressed salads, anything. [3] An airtight solution for marinating. [4] The containers are a permanent gift, after the cookies are gone (all photos courtesy Rubbermaid).

     
    Prices range from $4.99 for an individual unit. The largest set, 22-pieces* (11 bases, 11 lids) is $64.14 at Amazon, which carries three different sets plus open stock (individual pieces).

  • A starter set, 1 medium and 2 small containers, is $14.99.
  • An 8-piece set (1 large, 1 medium, 2 small containers) is $38.86.
  •  
    If your goal is to better organize in the new year, treat yourself. The result: Brilliance!

    Discover more at Rubbermaid.com.
     
    ________________
    *Confusion alert: Manufacturers and retailers often call what consumers would think of as an 11-unit set as as 22 pieces, counting the bases and lids separately.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pour-Over Coffee At Home

    Chemex Coffee Maker

    Chemex Coffee Maker

    New Chemex Brewer

    [1] The 1941 Chemex design, represented at the Museum of Modern Art and other museums (this photo is from the Brooklyn Museum Of Art). It’s $49.99 at Bed, Bath & Beyond. [2] A freshly-dripped carafe of coffee (photo courtesy ZeteDesign.Wordpress.com). [3] The latest Chemex design, which adds a handle for easier pouring, was actually one of the original designs before the streamlined design was chosen. It’s $43.50 at Williams-Sonoma.

     

    Waiting at a coffee bar recently, we overheard a customer watching her pour-over dripping into the cup. She said to the barista: “I wish I could do this at home!”

    You can, it’s easy, and a lot less expensive than the pour-over, which took four passes from the barista.

    In fact, in our youth…
    …there were no specialty coffee bars (your take-out choice was Dunkin Donuts or a deli or diner),
    …coffee at home was limited to a percolator or instant coffee, and
    …people chose either Folgers or Maxwell House, but
    …coffee aficionados made their coffee in a Chemex carafe with their favorite ground beans, usually from the supermarket although the real connoisseurs got mail-order beans from specialty shops.

    If they were lucky, they lived in a town with a specialty coffee and tea shop, with loose beans and packaged coffee from around the world.

    We were lucky: We lived in New York City, which had McNulty’s Tea & Coffee, established in 1895 and still located at 109 Christopher Street in the West Village (and still not open on Sundays).

    A visit to McNulty’s was a trip back to another age. Today, the journey is accented with modern coffee makers and gadgets that didn’t exist at the time.

    But the aroma is still the same: an exotic mingling of the many aromas of coffees and teas from around the world, kept in large glass canisters. There were burlap sacks of beans and chests of tea with stenciled markings from far away lands. The brass scale was also from the 19th century.

    Amid the tea and coffee was one ultra-modern brewing apparatus: the Chemex drip coffee maker.

    THE HISTORY OF POUR-OVER (DRIP) COFFEE

    Pour over, also called manual drip brewing or the drip method, is a fashionable new term for an old, low-tech method of coffee brewing.

    Ground coffee is added to a ceramic or plastic cone that sits in a paper filter atop a glass carafe, ceramic pot, coffee cup or other receptacle. The Chemex system eliminates the need for a cone by creating a carafe with a narrow neck that holds the filter.
     
    Melitta, The First Pour-Over

    The pour-over technique was invented by a German housewife, Melitta Benz, in 1908. Displeased with the grittiness and murkiness of coffee as it was then prepared, she devised a paper filter from a sheet of her son’s notebook paper, and set the filter into a brass cup into which she punched holes for the coffee to drip through.

    The commercial version was made in ceramic (today available in ceramic or plastic). As anyone who has used a Melitta drip brewer knows, it became a great success for its superior brew.

    Fast-forward a few decades, to inventor Peter Schlumbohm, a Ph.D chemist who had immigrated to the U.S. from Germany. He developed and sold his patents focused on heating and cooling systems, the thermos bottle and dry ice manufacturing among them.

    In 1941, he released the Chemex drip coffee system with the coffee filter placed in a glass carafe.

    Like the Melitta, the filter was filled with ground coffee and hot water, which drip-drip-dripped into the carafe.

     
    Like the Melitta, it wasn’t the fastest cup of coffee around, but people with palates applauded the superior flavor. If you liked good black coffee, drip coffee was the way to go.

    Its Bauhaus style design, elegant in thermal glass from Corning, received a big endorsement from the design community and was featured on the cover of the Museum of Modern Art’s “Useful Objects in Wartime” bulletin, making it “the official poster-child of [the] new emphasis on undecorated, functional simplicity [source]. It is included in the design collection of the Museum.

     

    The Next Revolution In Home Coffee Brewing

    In 1971, the first electric drip coffee maker to hit the consumer market, Mr. Coffee, revolutionized how many Americans brewed their coffee. Adios, percolator; bienvenidos, Mr. Coffee.

    Mr. Coffee engendered shelves full of electric drip brands, which remained paramount until the Keurig single-serve beverage brewing system and the proliferation of K-Cup options too hold. In 2002, some 10,000 units were sold to offices, replacing the Bunn system and the need to clean the coffee pots and drink coffee that had been sitting on the burner for too long.

    Consumers loved the Keurig system, and by 2006, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters had acquired a stake, signed up leading coffee brands for the K-Cups

    Gosh, has it only been ten years?
     
    THE RETURN OF POUR-OVER

    While the Melitta, Chemex and other pour-over apparatuses remained a niche product, our first experience with the modern pour-over took place in 2006 in San Francisco, where the line of customers stretched around the block to get a cup from Blue Bottle Coffee.

    As our job is to know what’s new and wonderful in the world of food and drink, we waited for some 25 minutes. Sure, it was a good cup of coffer, but we didn’t do it again.

    And we didn’t have to: The trend proliferated, and soon there was enough drip coffee in our own neighborhood to eliminate the line wait.

    Which brings us to the present: pour-overs at home.

    You can still buy a Melitta, and an improvement on it, the Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Water Tank Good Grips.

    The water stays hot in the mini-tank instead of in an open filter. All you need is add ground coffee and hot water—no paper filter.

    The set (photo at right) is just $15.99 at Oxo.com
     
    Drip Tips

    Drip coffee requires a particular technique to ensure that your brew is as good as Blue Bottle’s.

    Here are Blue Bottle’s drip coffee-making tips.

     

    Pour Over Coffee Oxo

    Melitta Ceramic Coffee Maker

    [4] It’s easy to make pour-over coffee at home with this $15.99 system from Oxo. [5] The modern Melitta system is $29.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond. You can also buy a $3.99 plastic cone to brew a cup atop your own cup or mug.

     

      

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