vegetarian hot and sour soup

When I’m sick, I crave hot and sour soup.  Since we’re smack in the middle of cold season, I am surely not the only one out there with a nasty bug — so it’s the perfect time for me to give you all this recipe for vegetarian hot and sour soup.

Traditionally, hot and sour soup has a pork or beef base; however, I feel as though earthy dried mushrooms and silky pieces of firm tofu make this soup “meaty” enough.  This soup did a fantastic job both in clearing my head and lifting my spirits.  The heat from the ginger and pepper cleared my head and sinuses like a charm!  It’s so easy to make that I could put it together easily even though I was still really drowsy from my cold medicine. Just a ton of veggies, some herbs and spices, and before I knew it, I was back in bed, all snuggled in blankets and slurping this yummy soup.  It was so good, I ate it for three meals in a row!

Now I feel super, this soup is not only delicious, but it’s overflowing with vitamins and antioxidants from all of the veggies.  Whether you’ve caught a bug or not, heat yourself up a big bowl of hot and sour soup tonight. 

With love,

1 oz. dried mixed mushrooms
8 cups water
3 tablespoons sherry cooking wine
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 pound extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Pure sesame oil, for serving

Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with 2 cups of boiling
water. Cover and allow to sit for at least 1/2 hour. While mushrooms
reconstitute, prepare the other ingredients.
Remove the mushrooms from the hot water and reserve the liquid for the soup. Slice the mushrooms thinly.
In a soup pot, combine the remaining 6 cups of water with the
reserved liquid from the mushrooms and the sliced mushrooms. Bring to a
gentle boil over medium-high heat. Add the sherry, vinegar, soy sauce,
salt, ginger and tofu. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer uncovered for about
10 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with about 3/4 cup of hot
broth from the soup pot until cornstarch is dissolved. Pour the mixture
back into the soup pot, stirring to distribute. The soup should thicken
slightly. While stirring constantly, drizzle the beaten eggs into the
hot soup. Add the scallions and white pepper and cook for another minute
or two.
Serve hot with a drizzle of sesame oil on top.


dairy free hot chocolate

As I said in my post on my peppermint hot chocolate, I am planning on making a big batch of hot cocoa to share with my family on Christmas morning.  However, my mom (like many of my readers), is lactose intolerant.  Just because she can’t drink milk, doesn’t mean she should have to miss out on the heart warming, molten chocolate goodness of drinking hot chocolate on Christmas.  After trying several recipes, I came up with a formula for lactose-free hot cocoa that is (dare I say) even better, than it’s milky counterpart thanks to the addition of hazelnut spread.
With love,

1 cup water
4 oz. good quality dark chocolate
2 tablespoons dairy free chocolate hazelnut spread
1/8 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract (optional)

Heat the water in a medium-sized saucepan.

Once the water is warm, whisk in the chocolate, sugar and hazelnut spread, stirring until
melted and steaming hot. For a thick hot chocolate, cook at a very low
boil for about 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Be careful and keep an
eye on the mixture, as it may boil up a bit during the first moments. Whisk in the peppermint extract and enjoy while hot.

peppermint hot chocolate

Thank goodness the world didn’t end yesterday — I was worried I wouldn’t get to share this peppermint hot chocolate with you.  But we are all here, safe and sound, so lets celebrate with some steamy hot cocoa, shall we?

Winter is always hard for me — I get chilly really easily, and long for the sun of Southern California.  I have come up with various coping mechanisms over the years to get myself through the nippy winters here. Starting in late October, I spend my mornings in front of a sunlamp at my make-up table.  Last year, the chill in the air got so bad, that I ended up wearing 2 pairs of leggings under my jeans.  Not only did I look a little bulky, but it was a bit awkward to explain to my friends in the locker room…

One of the (less embarrassing) things that gets me through the winter is warming my hands with a big, cozy mug full of something steamy — especially when that something is this peppermint hot chocolate.  This is nothing like the stuff that comes in the packet.  This is an entirely different breed — like drinking smooth, melted chocolate, with the invigorating and refreshing kick of peppermint.

I absolutely love making hot chocolate the old fashioned way.  Not only does it taste a million times better, but slowly stirring a big pot of chocolate over the stove is strangely therapeutic.  To make this peppermint hot cocoa, I slowly melted luxuriously bitter, dark chocolate into steaming milk and enhanced it with a bit of peppermint extract.  This cup of hot chocolate is rich and deeply flavorful, but also strangely light and refreshing from the peppermint. I.e. it’s light enough to top with heaping clouds of freshly whipped (peppermint!) cream, chocolate dipped marshmallows, and even some crushed peppermint bark!

I am planning on brewing up a big pot of this for my family with brunch on Christmas morning. If you are having guests over, you could even set up a “hot chocolate bar” where guests could top their steamy mugs with the topping of their choice — the possibilities are endless!

With love,

2 cups milk (use whole milk for a richer taste, but any milk will work)
5 ounces (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, (best-quality), finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

1. Heat the milk in a medium-sized saucepan.
2. Once the milk is warm, whisk in the chocolate, stirring until
melted and steaming hot. For a thick hot chocolate, cook at a very low
boil for about 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Be careful and keep an
eye on the mixture, as it may boil up a bit during the first moments.  Add the peppermint extract.

Serve warm with the following toppings.

Peppermint Whipped Cream 
 *double or triple as necessary

2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place a metal mixing bowl and metal whisk into the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Place the sugar into the mixing bowl and add the whipping cream.
Whisk just until the cream reaches stiff peaks. Add the extracts and whip for a few more seconds. Store any unused portion
in an airtight container for up to 10 hours. When ready to use, rewhisk
for 10 to 15 seconds.

Peppermint Bark:

I use Paula Deen’s recipe, it is simple and lovely.

Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows

Dark Chocolate, finely chopped
Candy Canes, crushed
wooden skewers
Melt the dark chocolate.
Have crushed candy canes set
aside in a bowl.
Skewer and dip the marshmallows into the chocolate covering the marshmallow as much as you like then before the chocolate hardens, sprinkle crushed candy canes onto
the pops. Pop into the freezer for a few minutes until the chocolate hardens.