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Healthy hot drinks for cold winter nights

It is officially cold out and that means time for snuggling under piles of warm blankets with a warm cup of cocoa or piling around the fireplace with a sweet pumpkin spice latte. Ah, that sounds so nice, but you're only dreaming of these creamy drinks of youth as you sip yet another green tea with lime. Whether it's the high sugar, high calorie or off limits ingredients, you've chosen the healthier path and decided to make do. Here's a little secret: you can have rich and smooth without ever touching milk or refined sugar. Take a look.

Stop saying no to your favorite holiday coffees.

Peppermint Mocha
For a peppermint mocha, make your preferred cup of Joe, add 1/4 cup of warm almond milk, 1/4 cup of melted vegan dark chocolate chips, 1/8 teaspoon of peppermint extract and for a little fun one crushed peppermint candy.

Pumpkin Spice Latte
If you crave a pumpkin spice latte, brew a cup of very strong coffee and in a sauce pan heat 1/4 cup of almond milk, one or two tablespoons of maple syrup and a good dash of pumpkin pie spice. If you don't have the spice add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon of allspice and of ground cloves and a pinch of nutmeg. Pour the warm mixture into your coffee and voila.

If coffee is not an option, don't worry you still have delicious, warm winter cups.

Sweet and Spicy Chai
Try a sweet and spicy Chai! In a saucepan add one or two cracked cardamom pods, four whole cloves, 1/2 cinnamon stick, and three black peppercorns. Lightly dry roast them until you start to smell their flavors. Add three cups of almond or rice milk, or for a twist coconut milk, and one tablespoon of loose black tea. Bring this to a boil and then down to a simmer for five minutes. Then allow it to steep for five minutes. Strain it into a mug and add your preferred sweetener till you get the taste you want!

Traditional Mulled Cider
For a caffeine free selection, try a traditional mulled cider. Make a whole pot so everyone can enjoy all day long. In a deep saucepan mix eight cups of apple cider, three cinnamon sticks, three whole dried cloves, two cardamom pods and one orange that has been sliced thinly. Bring everything to a low boil and drop to simmer for five to ten minutes. If it's not sweet enough, maple syrup or agave nectar add a nice flavor. This can be reheated all afternoon!

There are moments when our inner child craves a winter classic!

Classic Hot Cocoa
There is no reason to not enjoy a classic hot cocoa this season. Simply heat two cups of almond-hazelnut milk in a saucepan until it begins to simmer. Turn the heat very low and add two tablespoons of organic cocoa powder, two tablespoons of cane sugar or the sweetener you prefer and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Gently whisk it all together until smooth. There are vegan marshmallows or whipped toppings if you choose, but a simple dash of cocoa powder or cinnamon on the top works well.

Read more about Cacao For Your Loved Ones.

When you don't want sweet, enjoy the savory!

A cup of warm vegetable stock not only heats up your insides but it can pump in vital nutrients and antibodies to get you through the winter. Of course any soup in a mug makes for a delightful evening sip by the fire.

Now there is no reason to limit your mug this winter. Each of these recipes can be modified and tweaked for a variety of flavors. Different non-dairy milk substitutes create different flavors as well as adding more or less spices. Have some fun this winter and entertain your taste buds without blowing your values.

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