This time of year, heating up the kitchen is definitely not an option. Forget the oven; just the thought of whipping together a veggie stir-fry on the stovetop is enough to send sweat trickling down your arm.
But if all you want to do is stand in front of the freezer and let the icy air wash over you, you’re in luck: There are some seriously creative kitchen tricks that require an ice cube tray, a few key ingredients, and little else. (Nope, not even a functioning A/C unit.)
From smoothie hacks to bite-sized frozen desserts, you can make all sorts of healthy, delicious, and time-saving frozen cubes.
Scroll down for 10 (literally) cool ways to use your ice cube tray.
1. Preserved herbs in oil
Well+Good is teaming up with Today Food all summer long, and our latest genius recipe helps you prolong your fresh herbs (from the backyard, your windowsill, or the farmers’ market) by—you guessed it—freezing them. Plopping thyme, basil, mint, and oregano in an ice cube tray full of olive oil is an easy way to add flavor while sautéeing veggies once temperatures cool down. Watch the featured video above to see how it’s done.
2. Coffee cubes
Iced coffee is a summer necessity for anyone who depends on a morning caffeine boost to get going, but the rising temps make the ice melt almost immediately; before you’re even halfway done, your cup of icy joe is totally watered down. The solution? Pour an Americano into your ice cube tray. Once they’re frozen, you’re on your way to an iced latté that’s flavorful until the last sip.
Refrigerated (and expensive!) grocery store pesto won’t stand a chance next to a homemade version using fresh greens—think basil, kale, or even arugula—from the farmers’ market.
With only three ingredients (all good for you), this summer dessert is as low maintenance as they come. And yes, this is literally frozen yogurt—rather than the super sugary, not-actually-yogurt stuff you’ll see swirling out of a machine.
While slightly browned avocados probably won’t make for the perfect avocado rose, they are still a good addition to smoothies. The Greedy Vegan recommends mixing the meat of your avocados with lemon juice (two teaspoons per large avocado) in a food processor for an avocado purée that will maintain its green. After freezing them in an ice cube tray, you’ll have perfectly portioned avocado chunks to add to your favorite smoothie recipe—no peeling, de-pitting, or scooping required.
Fat bombs are officially trending (they’re healthier than they sound) and these little round energy bites deliver a protein punch for when you’re also craving something sweet. A nice benefit to using the freezer instead of the oven? You can throw ’em in there and forget about them—instead of realizing that they’re ready 10 minutes too late.
For those times when your homemade smoothie is a little too fruit-filled, reach for the ice cube tray—that is, if you’ve properly prepped. Just freeze your favorite homemade or store-bought green juice, so that you can chill your smoothie without making it watery. Plus: No more chunks of greens getting stuck in the straw!
Some flavored waters have added sweeteners that you probably don’t want to be sipping on. Chopping up your favorite fruit and freezing it in water, though, makes for a subtly sweet addition to a glass of water—or cocktail. Hydration is a major warm-weather priority.
These nut milk cubes are perfect for smoothies and coffee drinks alike. Whether you freeze a small-batch nut milk or your favorite homemade recipe, these cubes will keep your body temp down and your drinks delish all summer long.
10. Wine Cubes
Melt these boozy cubes into a tasty sauce or marinade. Or, throw some in with some sparkling water for a refreshing wine spritzer. Red, white, rose, orange—whatever you like to drink, it will freeze. Cheers to that!