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The Neatoshop

14 Awesome Ice Cube Trays

The Neatoshop
The Neatoshop

1. Star Wars

Fun fact: By adding just a touch of grape juice or purple food coloring to your Darth Vader ice cubes, you can ensure that your beverage comes to the Dark Side as the ice starts to melt. Papa Vader would be proud.

Of course, if you refuse to let your beverage join the Dark Side, there are still plenty of Star Wars ice cube trays for you to choose from. Be a rebel with Millennium Falcon cubes, see if your X-Wing ice can take out the tiny defect in the center of the massive Death Star cube, chill out with everyone’s favorite beeping Droid, or see if you can help Han escape his icy carbonite prison before you need a refill. Who knew ice cubes would be the key to reliving the best moments of one of the greatest film franchises in history? Best of all, there don’t seem to be any Jar Jar ice cubes in this galaxy or the next.

2. Chess Pieces

Are you such a chess master that even speed chess has started to seem dull? Then raise the stakes with this ice version—take too long to move and your king will literally start to melt away. Just remember to use a waterproof board or your playing area will be as short lived as your pieces.

3. Alphabet

This alphabet ice tray is perfect for all the Boggle and Scrabble fiends out there. Just pop out a few letters and figure out all the words you can spell in your drink before your letters melt away into illegible shapes.

4. Crystal Ice

These cubes might not come in an unusual shape, but the design ensures that ice from these trays will form the same way it does in the great outdoors: The impurities get pushed to the bottom of the cube so you can have perfectly clean and clear cubes every time.

5. Pi & Science

Want an appropriate way to cool down after making a dozen pies on Pi Day? Then grab some Pi ice trays and turn your post-Pi Day cocktail into a mathematical celebration. If you really want to crank your scientifically geeky cocktail to 11, you might want to grab this Cool Science tray as well that comes with such classics as the infinity, square root, and sigma signs.

6. Ice Ice Baby

If you love terrible early 90’s one-hit wonders and goofy puns then you’re bound to love the Ice Ice Baby Ice tray that references one of the stupidest songs ever made while describing exactly what it is making.

7. Abominable Ice Men

Was your favorite part of Disneyland always the Abominable Snowman in the Matterhorn? Well then, relive those memories without leaving home by letting an Abominable Ice Man move into your freezer to help you cool off your favorite beverages.

8. Shark Fins

If the first thing you think of when you hear the word shark is the unforgettable theme from Jaws, then bring some of the classic film home to your freezer. Just remember, if someone starts screaming that there’s a shark in their glass at your next cocktail party, you don’t need a bigger boat—you just need to cut that person off for the night.

9. Skull and Crossbones

Avast, ye pirate-loving geeks. Sure you can’t get much ice on board your favorite vessel, but when you’re on shore, you might as well get as much Vitamin C as you can to help you fight off that scurvy. And there’s no better way to cool off a pineapple, orange juice and rum concoction than with a few ice cubes that resemble the most famous Jolly Roger flag.

10. iPhone Apps

If you’re such a die-hard Apple fan that you have a hard time using anything that doesn’t reflect the genius of Jobs, then you can finally start enjoying your iced water again. Just add in a few of these iCubes that are based on apps on an iPhone and enjoy your tech-tastic beverage.

11. Superheroes

Whether you’re a DC or Marvel fan, you can make your drinks infinitely much more super with nothing more than the logo of your favorite superhero. Choose from Batman wings, Superman’s S or the Marvel tray that features Captain America's shield, Iron Man's mask, The Thing's head, and Hulk's fist. Just try not to add gamma radiation to your ice cubes—the process of making a superhero in real life is drastically different than what you see in the pages of your favorite comic.

12. Dinosaur Bones

You don’t have to be an archeologist to dig these cool dino bones. While this triceratops and T Rex skeleton won’t end up in a museum, they probably will be a lot more refreshing than those actually discovered underground.

13. Ice Attacks

If you own Agent Mulder’s “I Want to Believe” poster and consider your vacation to Roswell a “pilgrimage,” then there’s no better way to cool down after an invigorating period of sky watching than with a nice cool drink filled with UFO and meteor ice cubes.

14. Aliens

Of course, if you expect our first encounter to result in violence and death, then you might prefer your alien ice cubes to reflect the classic Aliens franchise. If so, enjoy these ice trays bearing the likeness of the famed aliens and their eggs

Do you guys have some cool ice trays you’re particularly proud of, or do you tend to stick with cubes like the rest of us?

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Live Smarter
Buying a Cast-Iron Pan Is the Easiest Way to Improve Your Cooking
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iStock

You can stock your kitchen with every type of modern slicer, dicer, and immersion circulator you want, but the piece of cooking equipment that comes most highly recommended by chefs has been around for centuries: the cast-iron skillet. Like the name suggests, this essential cooking tool is molded from molten iron and coated with a protective seasoning. The result is a durable, versatile piece of cookware that’s perfect for making everything from dump cakes to sunny-side up eggs.

If you’re used to steel or aluminum frying pans, cooking with cast-iron may sound intimidating. But don’t let horror stories of skillets tarnished by dishwashers or a few hours in the sink turn you off: The metal does require some special knowledge to maintain, but what you get in return is well worth the effort. “You can cook practically anything with it,” Dominique DeVito, author of The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook, tells Mental Floss. “It’s definitely a kitchen staple.”

So what is it exactly about cast-iron that entitles it to a spot on your stovetop? Here are some points to consider.

DURABILITY

Iron is prized by engineers for its high-tensile strength, so you can bet it will hold up to whatever you throw at in the kitchen. But the metal does have one crucial weakness home cooks need to be aware of: water. Iron combines easily with oxygen, which is how you get iron oxide or rust. When iron is exposed to water, that liquid mixes with gases in the air to create a weak carbonic acid. The acid corrodes the iron, and the oxygen in the water bonds with the newly dissolved iron and forms iron oxide. While it won’t necessarily poison you, rust isn’t something you want flavoring your dinner.

Fortunately, keeping your skillet rust-free is easy to do. All cast-iron pans need to be seasoned before they’re ready to hit the stove. To season a pan, you can coat it with a thin layer of neutral fat like vegetable oil and heat in the oven. During the frontier days, DIY seasoning was the only option for cast-iron owners, but today most pans come pre-seasoned.

The difference between an unreliable skillet and one that’s built to last usually comes down to the quality of the seasoning. DeVito recommends cast-iron products from Lodge, which has been making cookware in the U.S. since 1896. “They put out a nice finished product that’s consistent and smooth,” she says. “It becomes something that you have an expectation about. I know that every time I go to my Lodge, it’s going to perform.”

But even well-seasoned cast-iron benefits from a little extra care from time to time. Before re-seasoning a skillet, DeVito suggests wiping it clean of any grease or caked-on food that’s left over from whatever you cooked last. Instead of scrubbing it with a soapy sponge, she washes her pan with hot water and a brush. Tough plastic works well for this, as well as chain-link metal that you can use like a hand towel to wipe down the pan. After she cleans it, DeVito likes to dry her cast-iron by placing it over low heat on her gas stovetop for a few minutes. Once it’s dry, she rubs it with a quarter teaspoon of vegetable oil using a paper towel, lets it sit over low heat for a few minutes more, and then wipes off the excess oil with another dry paper towel.

While it may not fit into your regular dishwashing routine, treating cast-iron cookware correctly pays off. A well-maintained pan is tough enough to withstand super high heat, meaning you can start cooking a dish on the stove and finish it in the oven in the same pan. The iron itself will endure any type of utensil you use on it, whether it’s a wooden spoon, metal tongs, or a plastic spatula. And if you ever damage the skillet’s seasoning or allow it to rust, it can be restored without too much trouble. “Ideally, you should be able to hand it down to your kids,” DeVito says.

HEALTH BENEFITS

Cast-iron offers health benefits beyond the nutritional value of the food it cooks. The first is a healthy dose of iron added to your meals. If you have an iron deficiency, like close to 10 million people in the U.S. do, your doctor may recommend incorporating more meat, beans, and leafy greens into your diet. In addition to eating iron-rich foods, you could also try preparing more meals in a cast-iron skillet. As the metal heats up, small amounts of iron leach out and enrich your food. The is especially apparent with acidic, higher-moisture ingredients like applesauce and tomato sauce. The iron you get is definitely not enough to replace dietary iron, but it’s a nice bonus if you’re looking for more ways to sneak the nutrient into your meals.

With cast-iron, you know the only thing being added to your food is an essential mineral. Nonstick Teflon pans, on the other hand, are made from substances that aren’t safe to be eaten. (Though you don’t really need to worry about these chemicals contaminating your food unless you’re really abusing the pan.) If your cast-iron is seasoned well enough, it will produce the same nonstick effects as Teflon without the unwanted chemicals.

And that brings us to the final health benefit: Cooking with cast-iron requires less oil than conventional pans. Because oil is already baked into the cast-iron’s exterior, you don’t have to worry about meat and vegetables getting stuck to the surface. You can either add a small amount of oil or no oil at all so you don’t end up adding more fat to your dinner than necessary.

COOKING QUALITY

Even without the industrial strength and bonus minerals, the cast-iron skillet would still be prized by cooks for the incredible effects it has on food. This is because of the way it reacts to heat. Iron is much thicker and denser than materials like copper and aluminum, so it takes longer to heat up. But once the metal has been heated through, it packs a lot more thermal energy than most metals heated to the same temperature. All that harnessed energy is the key to achieving crisp, golden-brown sears on foods like steak, hamburger patties, eggplant, and scallops.

And just as cast-iron takes a while to get hot, it’s also slow cooling down. That means that once you’ve left your pan to sit over a raging burner or in a screaming-hot oven for long enough, you can trust it to maintain that heat, even after filling it with cold or room-temperature ingredients. The cooling effects food has on other metals is one of the most common culprits that leaves foods pale and flabby rather than brown and crunchy.

Even when a hard sear isn’t your end goal, a cast-iron skillet is often still the best tool for the job. The versatile design makes it a great option for baking, shallow-frying, and sautéeing. A few of the items DeVito likes to cook in her cast-iron include cakes, pies, cornbread, eggs, hash browns, bacon, and vegetables. “I use it for a lot of things, like reheating leftovers and improvising with whatever I have in the fridge,” she says. “You could put a lid on it and cook rice or pasta in there—you really could put almost anything in there.”

COST

With so many desirable qualities, you may expect a cast-iron pan to rank up there with other rite-of-passage kitchen items in terms of price. But it's actually easy to find a cast-iron pan for less than other pans that don’t perform as well or last as long. Lodge, the brand DeVito recommends, has 10-inch skillets available for around $25 on Amazon. You can find fancier cast-iron pans from brands like Le Creuset selling for over $150, but when it comes to this kitchen essential, simplicity is hard to beat.

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The North Face's New Geodesic Dome Tent Will Protect You in 60 mph Wind
The North Face
The North Face

You can find camping tents designed for easy set-up, large crowds, and sustainability, but when it comes to strength, there’s only so much abuse a foldable structure can take. Now, The North Face is pushing the limits of tent durability with a reimagined design. According to inhabitat, the Geodome 4 relies on its distinctive geodesic shape to survive wind gusts approaching hurricane strength.

Instead of the classic arching tent structure, the Geodome balloons outward like a globe. It owes its unique design to the five main poles and one equator pole that hold it in place. Packed up, the gear weighs just over 24 pounds, making it a practical option for car campers and four-season adventurers. When it’s erected, campers have floor space measuring roughly 7 feet by 7.5 feet, enough to sleep four people, and 6 feet and 9 inches of space from ground to ceiling if they want to stand. Hooks attached to the top create a system for gear storage.

While it works in mild conditions, the tent should really appeal to campers who like to trek through harsher weather. Geodesic domes are formed from interlocking triangles. A triangle’s fixed angles make it one of the strongest shapes in engineering, and when used in domes, triangles lend this strength to the overall structure. In the case of the tent, this means that the dome will maintain its form in winds reaching speeds of 60 mph. Meanwhile, the double-layered, water-resistant exterior keeps campers dry as they wait out the storm.

The Geodome 4 is set to sell for $1635 when it goes on sale in Japan this March. In the meantime, outdoorsy types in the U.S. will just have to wait until the innovative product expands to international markets.

[h/t inhabitat]

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