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Walking into the locker room of my gym recently, I was struck by a large, laminated sign: “Avoid Holiday Weight Gain! Join us for tips on preventing the Winter Slump.”

Funny, I thought, because winter is a time for so many nourishing foods. 

As it would happen, my food associations in the colder months don’t evoke memories of cookies and cakes.  I recall, instead, soups and stocks simmering on the stovetop, batches of chili slow cooking in the crockpot and the yeasty smell of homemade bread rising in the warmest corner of the kitchen. 

Soup is something of a miracle food in its own right. It is dense in nutrients and high in fiber, making it satiating as either an accompaniment to dinner or a meal in itself. Soup is inexpensive, and it’s easy to prepare. And, it is quite forgiving – leave the pot on a bit too long and the flavors only mingle further. It’s just as easy to make a big pot of soup as a small pot, so you might as well establish a relationship with another family and swap soups one night each week. My daughter’s hot lunch program at her preschool took advantage of this notion, asking every family to bring in a big pot of homemade soup one day each week. The children were left with warm bellies as they threw on their scarves and mittens and headed out to play in the cold. Bring a pot of soup or homemade stock to a sick friend or a family with a new baby – and throw in a loaf of crusty bread. Your kindness will never be forgotten. 

My favorite winter soup is a simple take on minestrone, but uses the very best of seasonal produce:

  • 2 cups kale, chard or other winter green, finely chopped 
  • 1 cup diced potatoes or root vegetables of choice 
  • 2 large carrots 
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 large cloves garlic 
  • 3 cups cooked cannelloni beans 
  • 3 cups stock 
  • 1 tablespoon dark red miso 
  • 1/8 cup of nutritional yeast (optional) 
  • 4 fresh sage leaves 
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 
  • black pepper

Instructions:

1. Wash greens and remove any stems from leaves. Roll up leaves and cut in thin ribbons. Set aside. 

2. In a soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and briefly sauté garlic. Add potatoes, root vegetables and carrots and cook for about four minutes. Add about half the cooked beans and half of the stock. Purée remainder of beans and stock in blender, along with miso, nutritional yeast and sage. Stir puréed beans into soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix greens into soup and simmer until wilted (10 to 15 minutes). Add enough water to give soup the desired consistency. Season to taste.