As we arrive in the dead of winter, one look out the window will reveal we are surrounded by ice and snow. But instead of locking the doors and wishing for summer, you can use the outdoors as inspiration for cooking.
There are plenty of ways to use ice in recipes, from freezing garnishes into ice cubes to adding food coloring to make colorful cubes to using fun-shaped trays for a celebration or party.
To make crystal-clear ice cubes like those in restaurants, boil distilled water and make small cubes.
You can skip the water altogether and freeze juice, lemonade, iced tea or flavored drinks to add flavor to another drink or keep it from getting diluted when it melts.
If you want to avoid thinking about the cold weather, you can add a taste of summer to your cold days. Popsicles, cold drinks and smoothies go well with beach blankets and inflatable balls for a summer-like celebration.
Or you could embrace the snow instead. After a snowfall, you can use fresh, clean, white snow and make your own snow cones. They are colorful, sweet and, best of all, easy.
To make the syrup, just place two cups of sugar and 3/4 cups water in a pan and bring to a full boil. Remove from the heat and stir in a package of unsweetened powdered drink. Cool to room temperature, then place in the refrigerator until chilled. Then simply pour the syrup over the snow in a cup or paper cone.
If you're hesitant to use snow, simply crush ice in a blender. Adding a little water can help smooth the cubes into snow cone-worthy pieces.
There are plenty of other ways to incorporate ice into your cooking, from fine dining -- wine-flavored cubes with oysters -- to desserts.
Here are just a few other options.
Items to freeze into ice -- ideas include fruit slices, cherries or mint
Ice cube trays
Fill trays about half full with water. Place on level surface and add garnish, then freeze. Then add flavor to water, soda or cocktails.
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 lemon, juiced
2 cups white sugar
4 cups milk
In medium bowl, stir together lemon juice and zest with sugar until smooth. Stir in milk. Pour into a 9-by-9-inch dish and place in freezer, stirring once when it begins to harden, until firm for two hours; or pour into ice cream maker and use as directed.
5 cups boiling water
4 (2g) bags green tea
1 cup white sugar
1 16-ounce can of frozen lemonade concentrate
1 16-ounce can of frozen orange juice concentrate
2 cups brandy
1 2-liter bottle lemon-lime carbonated soda
Steep tea in 2 cups boiling water for 10 minutes. Place remaining three cups of boiling water in a 9-by-13-inch pan. Stir in sugar until dissolved. Stir in lemonade concentrate, orange juice concentrate and brandy. Remove teabags and stir tea into mixture. Freeze overnight.
To serve, scoop desired amount into glass, then fill glass with lemon-lime soda and stir.
Fancy Oysters with Mignonette Ice
1 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
24 oysters, in shell
Combine vinegar, wine, shallots, sugar, salt and pepper in large bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour mixture into shallow dish; freeze, uncovered, for about three hours or until firm. Flake ice mixture with a fork.
Shuck oysters, discarding top shells; run knife under meat of oyster to release. Place half shells on a serving platter lined with rock salt. Spoon 1 teaspoon of the mignonette ice onto each oyster. Serve immediately.
1 1/2 cups sparkling wine or champagne
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon or lemon and/or grapefruit zest
1 1/2 cups fresh grapefruit juice
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
Put champagne, sugar corn syrup and zest into saucepan. Bring to a vigorous boil so sugar completely dissolves. Remove from heat.
Strain into stainless steel bowl, add the grapefruit juice and lemon juice. Cool completely. Use ice cream maker to finish.
3 pints half and half
3 cups brewed coffee, cold
2 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Mix cream, coffee, sugar and vanilla together in a freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze until solid (at least three hours). Defrost for one hour, break apart with fork to create slush-like consistency.