Slowly Simmering Hot & Sour Soup

or crock pot cures for colds and cold days

Well, the slow cooker has become a permanent fixture on our counter top these days.  Between still adjusting to life with baby girl, to lower energy due to the Winter months, to colds and other health issues weighing us down, it has become the essential tool in our kitchen at least twice a week.  There are only so many vegetarian options to make that appeal to all of us, and my system is still not prepared for meat to be a big part of my diet, so it came time to expand my horizons and try something new.  I don't have many Asian inspired dishes in my everyday repertoire so I thought that might be a good place to start.  Now, I do not generally have a well stocked pantry for Asian style dishes.  For the most part I tend to do stir fry or panko breaded variations when exploring this realm and they do not require a whole lot.  Because of this, the cost of this experiment was a bit more than it will be in an ongoing basis.  Now that I have the essentials on hand (sesame oil, seasoned rice vinegar, white pepper, Sriracha and extra soy sauce) I only need to pick up mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts to make this happen on any given weekday.  I generally have chicken/vegetable base on hand already, along with ground ginger.

This can be prepped the night before and just tossed together in the morning so it makes a great dish for busy days.  It is also excellent as a freezer meal, either toss all the ingredients together raw in a large freezer bag so it can be a dump and go meal or cook and freeze in smaller portions (just don't add in noodles until reheating, they do not freeze well).

3 cups stock (chicken or vegetable base)
2 cups water
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 can bamboo shoots
1 can water chestnuts
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
a dash of ground white pepper (if you have it)
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Sriracha and/or soy sauce for finishing

optional add-ins: 1 cup cubed firm tofu, 1 bundle of udon noodles, or 1 bundle of rice noodles

Hardware: slow cooker (crockpot)

1. Rinse and dice up the sliced mushrooms (you can leave them larger if you want, but I prefer them to be even smaller).  Drain the bamboo shoots and slice lengthwise.  Drain the water chestnuts and cut in half.  Add all the vegetables to the slow cooker and stir to combine.  (If you are including tofu, add that in at this time too)

2. Add in the sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and spices.  Pour the stock and water over top.  Stir all the ingredients together so they can begin to get acquainted.   It looks very full at this point in my 5 quart slow cooker but it does cook down as the mushrooms shrink.

3. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

4. If you are using udon or rice noodles, add those in during the last 30 min or so of cook time and make sure to stir well as they soften.  Serve topped with a drizzle of Sriracha for a little more spice or soy sauce to balance the spice.

Sadly I still have not resolved my photo limit issue, but when I do there will be photos.  I apologize for the lack of visual evidence.  

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