Wonderful warm beverages are especially cheering during the winter months, and the microwave oven is just the appliance to create them in the shortest time.
When company comes, it's easy to concoct delicious individual servings of festive beverages if you've done a little preparation in advance. You can prepare spicy tea punches ahead of time and refrigerate them until serving. You can keep a chocolate syrup especially for hot cocoa in a jar in the refrigerator. You can even make a fluffy topping for hot buttered rum and freeze it in individual portions.
I prefer warming most beverages in individual cups or mugs rather than cooking larger amounts in big casseroles since a casserole full of liquid can be difficult to carry.
Generally, it's best to microwave no more than four cups at a time. It takes one to two minutes per cup to warm most beverages. Drinks heated on turntables will heat more evenly than those heated without. Space the cups evenly around the edges of the turntable. Don't place any cups in the middle. If heating without a turntable, place up to four cups on a large flat plate and rotate the plate manually during heating. I prefer to check the cups as they heat, removing each as it becomes hot.
Make Coffee in Advance
When preparing for a party, make a lot of fresh coffee in advance but turn off the heat as soon as the coffee is finished. As needed, you can then heat each cup in the microwave, adding brandy, Irish whiskey, coffee or orange liqueur. Depending on the drink--and the drinker--you may also add sugar and half and half or whipped cream.
Here are some make-ahead ideas for warming microwave beverages--two with alcohol, two without.
Spicy Tea Punch makes about five measuring cups of very flavorful punch. To estimate how many cups you'll need to make for a party, measure the volume of the cups or mugs you plan to serve the punch in, and multiply accordingly. To double or even triple the recipe, just increase the tea and the sugar. The original amount of spices and fruits will flavor the increased amount of punch while it stands before being reheated. SPICY TEA PUNCH
5 cups water
5 tea bags
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
6 whole cloves
2 whole allspice berries
2 sticks cinnamon
1 large orange, thinly sliced
1 small lemon, thinly sliced
Combine 2 cups water, tea bags (remove tags), brown sugar, cloves, allspice and cinnamon in 1 1/2-quart microwave-safe casserole or bowl. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 3 to 6 minutes until sugar is dissolved and tea is hot but not boiling.
Remove from microwave oven and let steep at least 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and pour steeped mixture into pitcher. Add remaining 3 cups water and orange and lemon slices. If unsure whether pitcher is heat-proof, stir remaining cold water into hot steeped mixture before pouring into pitcher.
Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight. To serve, strain punch into individual microwave-safe cups or mugs and reheat just until hot but not boiling. Makes about 5 servings. GENUINE HOT COCOA
1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon vanilla
Whisk together cocoa, sugar, honey, salt, cinnamon and water in 2-quart microwave-safe casserole or bowl until almost smooth (small lumps will smooth out as syrup is heated). Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 5 to 8 minutes, whisking every 2 minutes, just until syrup begins to boil and ingredients are completely dissolved and smooth. Cool slightly, then stir in vanilla. Pour cooled syrup into 1-quart container, cover and refrigerate.
To make each cup cocoa, stir 2 tablespoons syrup into 8 ounces milk in microwave-safe cup or mug. Microwave on MEDIUM-HIGH (70% power) about 1 to 1 1/4 minutes or until hot but not boiling. Makes about 2 3/4 cups syrup, enough for about 20 cups of cocoa.
Note: Milk has tendency to boil over. Watch carefully. HOT BUTTERED RUM
1 pound powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine powdered sugar, butter and nutmeg in 1 1/2-quart microwave-safe casserole or bowl. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes just until butter is soft.
With mixer at high speed, beat sugar-butter mixture, adding 1/4 cup cider gradually to form mixture that is stiff enough to mound when dropped from spoon. Beat in vanilla.
Spoon butter blend in heaping tablespoons onto wax paper-lined baking sheet. Freeze until very hard, then peel butter pieces from wax paper and place in rigid freezer container. Cover and freeze until needed.
To make hot buttered rum, place 1 frozen butter piece in microwave-safe cup or mug. Fill mug about 2/3 full with apple cider. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 1 to 2 minutes, stirring after half of time, until mixture is steaming hot, not boiling. Remove from oven and stir in 1 jigger rum. Makes about 22 butter pieces. TOM AND JERRY
1 quart milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 eggs, separated
Stir together 1 cup milk, 1/4 cup sugar and butter in 2-quart microwave-safe casserole or bowl. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes just until hot and all ingredients can be stirred together.
With fork, beat egg yolks until smooth. Stir briskly into warm milk. With electric mixer at high speed, beat whites until foamy, then gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and continue beating until stiff but not dry. Gently fold egg whites into yolk mixture. Pour into 2-quart pitcher or other large container. Cover and refrigerate.
To make Tom and Jerrys, stir egg mixture well. Fill microwave-safe cup or mug about 2/3 full of mixture and microwave on MEDIUM-HIGH (70% power) 1 to 2 minutes, watching to prevent boilovers, until just hot (mixture does not have to be steaming). Stir in 1 tablespoon light or dark rum and 1 tablespoon brandy. Makes enough for 6 to 8 cups.