Winter Hand Warmers

– By Andrea Gaines

When it’s cold outside and you’re dying to have something warm and tasty to sip on, it’s the easiest thing in the world to fire up the coffeemaker or microwave. But, why not take a moment this month to try something new. Winter hand warmers as easy to make as they are to enjoy, including sweet Pom-Pom Cider, spicy Brazilian Hot Chocolate or minty Moonlit Tea.

Pom-Pom Cider

For this flavorful and tangy treat, use equal parts apple cider and pomegranate juice – for a total of 1 quart. Warm the juice slowly in a crock pot or other large stovetop pot, and when it is warm to the touch, toss in the cinnamon sticks and a spice bag containing the other ingredients. Cook slowly over low heat for 45 minutes. If you don’t have cheesecloth and kitchen string for the spice bag, you can use a paper coffee filter.

Ingredients: Apple juice or cider, pomegranate juice, 6-8 cinnamon sticks, 1 tablespoon sugar, spice bag (8 cloves, 1 tablespoon Allspice, 3 star anise).

Brazilian Hot Chocolate

Chocolate pairs beautifully with so many things in a warm drink. Here we combine it with a bit of cayenne pepper, vanilla and almond extract. First, warm the milk (slowly). Then add the cream, cocoa, brown sugar, orange peel and cayenne. Stir constantly, and, when the mixture starts lightly steaming (low heat, always), blend in the vanilla and almond extract. As each cup is poured, add a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and shaved chocolate to the top.

Ingredients: 1-1/2 cup whole milk, 1 cup whipping cream, 3 tablespoons powdered cocoa, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 tablespoon almond extract, 1 chocolate bar, unsweetened whipped cream.

Moonlit Tea

White tea products are made from young tea leaves and buds. They are more expensive than most teas, but worth the adventure. Here, we’ve combined delicate white tea with milk, a sprig of fresh mint (or a drop of mint oil), and honey. Make tea as you normally would, taking care to heat up the water and slowly steep the tea to the strength you prefer. When the tea mixture is steaming slightly, add the whole milk slowly, creating a partly opaque liquid. Warm the liquid through. Crush the mint in your hands and add it and the honey, stirring slowly. Strain out the mint as you pour.

Ingredients: 1 cup per person of equal amounts of milk and water, a spring of fresh mint (or a drop of mint oil), 1 tablespoon raw honey.

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