One of the most pleasant surprises of the last couple of weeks is the cool evenings and even some cold and rainy nights. If you are fortunate enough to have a fireplace, they are the kind of evenings you can curl up with a warm drink, a favorite movie in the company of good friends.
Here are three warm drinks to share on a cold evening.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Lori Rossi began collecting recipes at age 14, but her real love affair with cooking started after picking up a December 1989 Bon Appetit magazine. Today, she shares her love of the kitchen with her two kids, Nathan, 13, and Nicole, 10. Contact her with a question or idea at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mulled wine was a post-college favorite I recently rediscovered - back in the day we used boxed wine and with the additional flavors in the mix the quality (or lack thereof) of the base did not bother us. This is a drink you can throw in a Crock-Pot in the morning, or a few hours before serving. It's ready when you are and ready for a crowd as well.
1.5 liter White Zinfandel
1 1/2 cups cream sherry
1/2 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
7 whole cloves
6 whole allspice
2 teaspoons almond extract
Mix all ingredients in Crock-Pot. Cover and set at low. Warm. The additional flavors are stronger the longer they are allowed to stay in the wine. Strain out spices, serve warm. Garnish with an additional cinnamon stick.
Hot Egg Nog
A traditional holiday indulgence is often eggnog. A few years back, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to hot eggnog at a friend's party.
Any doubts about hot vs. cold were quickly erased - one party guest declared it was so good "it would slap your grandma" - not that my grandmothers would have ever put up with such nonsense, and the sentiment could have been attributed in part to the copious amounts of Crown Royal added to the nog.
When making it for the family, we omit the alcohol, but the additional use of rum, bourbon or Crown Royal is an option. This is definitely the most involved of the three recipes.
Be warned, the egg whites help hold the heat in, so stirring is important so the nog does not get scalded. Additionally, be careful with those first few sips because it doesn't taste nearly as good with a singed tongue. I know.
1 quart whole milk
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salk
4 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup bourbon, rum or libation of choice
Heat milk to simmering over medium heat. In a separate bowl, mix egg yolk and sugar until light and fluffy. Add salt. Mix into the hot milk and mix well. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture thickens. Too much heat will either scald or curdle the nog. In another bowl, (I told you this was involved!) beat egg whites until stiff, gradually adding the 1/4 cup sugar. Fold the stiffened egg whites into the hot milk mixture. They will form a top layer, but fold thoroughly so the whites have an opportunity to cook.
Stir in alcohol as desired. Serve hot with a dash of nutmeg.
Dark Hot Chocolate
What would winter be without hot chocolate? I don't like mine too thick, too sweet, or weak and insipid.
Whether you drink it straight, add peppermint schnapps (or use a peppermint stick or candy cane for the same effect without the alcohol), float marshmallows in it, or mix it into a mocha, hot chocolate is the winter go-to drink of young and old alike.
Sure, I'll resort to a mix when I want more instant gratification, but making it from scratch is well worth it. I like to use a cinnamon stick as I warm it.
Want it richer? Use whole milk and dutch process cocoa powder. Lighter? Skim and regular cocoa powder. Skim milk and then a thick layer of whipped cream? Who do you think you're fooling? The new year will come soon enough. Enjoy the holidays!
1 quart milk
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (chips or finely chopped)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In saucepan, heat milk over medium heat until simmering (add cinnamon stick at this point if you wish). Wisk in cocoa powder, sugar, chocolate and vanilla. Warm until chocolate is melted and well blended. Serve warm.