Cool Cubes: simple no strain ice adds real, natural life to your water


This post includes recipes for orange-basil sorbet and my friend Michelle's delicious Summer H2O, as well as numerous suggestions for flavored ice cubes. We've all heard the facts: approximately 70.8% of the earth is comprised of water; our bodies are made up of 65% water. In other words, water is as natural to life as is imaginable. So essential, the life-water relationship transcends way beyond the realm of puns and analogies (no flippant 'bread and butter' comparisons here...Ok, except for this one). So why is there such a market for less -than- natural water products? What's worse, producing these  is unsustainable, lending to waste and pollution, and ironically, a dangerously reduced clean water supply. But I don't mean to proselytize here.  By now we've all been exposed to the statistics, and are clued in to alternatives to bottled water.

Of course, every once in awhile a product comes along that just totally hits the spot and is amazing. For me, one happened on me this weekend, when my incredible, resourceful, treasure-finding friend (and awesome editor) Meghan brought this drink to a pool party: R.W. Knudsen Sparkling Essence. (If you're interested, go to for store locations; at about $4 for a four-pack, they aren't exactly cheap, but worth the splurge for a try). They come in lemon, mint, blueberry and cucumber flavors. I tried the blueberry (awesome!) and the cucumber (surprising...and so good), and they were thirst-quenchingly refreshing. Plus, they're in recyclable containers and all natural. But  I'm not writing this just to sing praises for a product I unexpectedly fell in love with (not that I'm above one, in case any Knudsen people happen to wander into my little blog!). These elegant little sippers made me wonder whether, water lover that I am, it might be worth toying with home-made flavor enhancement sometime.

My friend Michelle is a true inspiration: she's an exemplary role model as a mother, businesswoman, nutritionist, athlete, wife and friend. This past spring, her life was turned upside down emotionally, as she underwent an extended series of tests to determine whether or not she had cancer. After a period of extreme stress (which Michelle controlled with her usual poise and grace), and invasive, major procedures  including lung surgery, in the end she received joyfully good news: the worrisome mass was removed, and it was not cancer! Since the experience, already health-conscious Michelle was even more focused on clean eating. In addition to drinking iced green tea by the pitcher these days, here's one of her standby staples:

Summer H2O (courtesy of Michelle Brouillet-Halloran, Ohio)

1 pitcher of water

3 sprigs of mint

1/4 cup thinly sliced, peeled ginger

Mix all ingredients and let stand in refrigerator.

I've tried this, and it's lovely. After making it, I wanted to experiment more, but I didn't really feel like collecting multiple pitchers, or even glasses, in the fridge, plus I also wanted an assortment for sampling.  In another post, I mentioned freezing herb slurry in ice cube trays for later use. It's also a well-known fancy touch to add flavored (or even primarily decorative) ice cubes, such as raspberry, to drinks at showers and other occasions. So, I decided to try filling my ice cube trays with various concoctions. Once I got started, I couldn't help marveling at how unoriginal this experiment really was. Yet at the same time, it was original for me. Why hadn't I done this before? So simple,  and you can mix up a range of flavors to cater taste to individual or mood. Plus, it was a great way to experiment further with my fresh herbs without using up much of anything.  I did boil hot water for this, aiming for an herbal infusion effect AND a clearer cube (less air in the hot water, apparently), but that may not be necessary.  Of course, you could also just put the same ingredients in water and chill for similar, flavorful results. In fact, for stronger flavors, that may be the way to go, but I just wanted ice...what can I say? I tested with friends by putting two cubes in each glass and adding just enough water to cover. I also used seltzer water for a sparkling version (I know, bottle contradicts the main idea, but it's a big bottle for more of a special occasion effect. Club soda or tonic water would work, too). See what I tried below. Fill each tray cube with the approximate ingredients, fill with the boiled water, let sit a few minutes and freeze.

1) Orange-basil: Squeeze an orange wedge about 1/4 way in each cube, and sprinkle with torn fresh basil (I used spicy globe basil for this one).

I had written a recipe for orange basil sorbet for Natural Solutions and was really pleased with the results, so I wanted to go for that taste sans the sugar. Watch out that the basil doesn't overpower the orange.

Here's the sorbet recipe, in case anyone's interested:

Tangy orange-basil sorbet. In a large saucepan, combine 2 cups fruit-only or sugar-free orange                  marmalade, 2 cups fresh orange juice, and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until smooth and syrupy. When cool, stir in ¼ cup finely chopped sweet basil. Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer directions. Freeze.

2) Grape: 1 peeled, thinly sliced grape

This one was really mild, but nice. Next time, I might squash a grape slice a little.

3) Cilantro-lime: 1 squeeze fresh lime juice with about 1/2 teaspoon chopped cilantro

Unique. I liked it, but not overly.

4) Cucumber basil: fill cubes about 1/4 way full with thinly sliced seeded, peeled cucumber and top with torn fresh basil

Like with the Knudson's, surprisingly refreshing taste! Highly recommended, especially if you're growing cucumbers in summer!

5) Lemon-mint: fill cubes about 1/4 high with fresh squeezed lemon and torn mint

Really went down well, especially with seltzer water. Mint is strong--you don't need a lot.

6) Blueberry-mint: 1  partially mashed or thinly sliced blueberry and a torn mint leaf

Anything with the mint seems to go well. Plain mint , too!

Here's what I want to try next: Citrus mix, ginger-peach, strawberry peach, pear, lemon raspberry...let me know your ideas and favorites!