Outside freezing and want to warm up?

Nothing hits the spot better after shoveling the driveway, or on a more fun note, an afternoon of sledding or cross-country skiing, than a piping hot cup of hot chocolate brimming over with soft, gooey marshmallows, or a cup of spicy, Russian Tea.

Following are a few hot chocolate variations, both made from scratch or from pre-mixed powdered versions, a Swiss mocha coffee, as well as a Russian tea concoction, and hot cranberry cider that while brewing also serves as a natural potpourri, filling the entire house with a wonderfully delicious aroma.

Try them all and enjoy.

Until next time, from my house to yours, happy cooking!

Fluffy Hot Chocolate

8 tsp. sugar

4 tsp. baking cocoa

4 cups milk

1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a saucepan, combine the first four ingredients. Cook and stir over medium heat until the marshmallows are melted, about eight minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Ladle into mugs and top off with a few more marshmallows, if you like. Serves four.

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Maple Hot Chocolate

1/4 cup sugar

1 tbsp. baking cocoa

1/8 tsp. salt

1/4 cup hot water

1 tbsp. butter or margarine

4 cups milk

1 tsp. maple flavoring

1 tsp. vanilla extract

12 large marshmallows

Combine sugar, cocoa and salt in large saucepan. Stir in hot water and butter and bring to a boil. Add the milk, maple flavoring, vanilla and eight marshmallows. Heat through, stirring constantly, until marshmallows are melted. Ladle into mugs and top with a marshmallow. Serves 4.

Cocoa Mix

2/3 cup cocoa

2/3 cup Cremora

4 c. nonfat dry milk powder

1 3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

Mix together well and store in airtight container. Add 1/4 cup to mug and fill with boiling hot water.

Swiss Mocha Coffee

1/2 cup instant coffee

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup coffee creamer

2 T. cocoa

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Add to hot water in desired strength.

Russian Tea

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup Tang

1/3 cup instant tea

1/4 tsp. cloves

Powdered lemonade mix for two quarts

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

Mix dry ingredients and store in an airtight container. Add two-three tablespoons in a mug of boiling hot water. Stir and serve with a whole cinnamon stick for garnish if you like.

Hot Cranberry Cider

3 quarts unsweetened apple juice or cider

1 quart cranberry juice

2 to 3 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick

Combine all the ingredients in a large kettle and bring to a boil. Cook for five minutes, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the cloves and cinnamon stick and serve hot.