Winter Warmers

Four cozy recipes to take the chill out of winter


By the time January and February roll around, days are cold, wet, and often dreary. We tire more easily and can feel depleted without the energizing effects of the sun. Many seek escape to warm and far-off places. But a simple way to embrace our long winter is to spend a little more time in the kitchen, cooking warming meals that not only heat up the body, but uplift the spirit. I’ve found there’s nothing more nurturing during the cold months than tending a stew, simmering stock from scratch, baking a loaf of bread, or simply making a pot of soup.

The act of creating a wholesome meal can be incredibly healing and restorative, not only on a physical level, but on a soul level. Time spent in the kitchen can be relaxing and meditative. Simple kitchen tasks, if we allow them, can bring us back to the present, grounding our being and calming our mind. At the end of a busy day, this rejuvenating ritual can give us newfound energy while the aromas wafting from the kitchen revive and delight the spirit. The best part is that this energy can radiate throughout the whole house, affecting our environment and those around us.

Here are four bone-warming, mood-brightening recipes to help get us through the rest of winter with grace. Each is simple and quick to make, while making good use of heat-producing ingredients like chilies, ginger, spices, roots, tubers, and mood-boosting citrus. Before you begin cooking, light a kitchen candle to signify the end of your workday — a gentle nudge to switch gears.

Spicy Miso Ramen with Chili Roasted Salmon

Serves 2 | Cooking Time 30 minutes

This quick-and-easy meal is bursting with flavor. The addition of miso makes the broth not only simple to make, but gives it great flavor and depth. It’s thought that miso was first introduced to ramen in Northern Hokkaido, where colder weather called for a bolder, heartier version of the classic bowl. This version is lightened up with salmon instead of pork and heated up with chili paste.

Salmon and Shiitake Marinade

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1–3 teaspoons garlic chili paste
  • 6 ounces salmon, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced

Miso Broth

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons white miso paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Hondashi granules, more to taste
  • 2 baby bok choy, sliced thin, lengthwise
  • 3 scallions, white part only (save the rest for garnish)
  • 4 ounces fresh ramen noodles, cooked according to directions
  • Garnish: scallions, soft-boiled egg, chili threads or flakes, chili paste, crispy scallions


Preheat oven to broil or 400°F.

Stir the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and chili paste together in a small bowl. Brush the marinade over both sides of salmon and shiitakes and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Broil 6–8 minutes or until salmon is cooked to your liking. Set aside.

Cook the noodles and make the broth. Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium pot. Add miso and Hondashi and stir until combined. Add bok choy and scallions, and wilt. Turn heat off or keep at a very low simmer. Taste, adjust heat, and add salt or chili paste if you like.

Divide the noodles between two bowls. Top with salmon and shiitakes. Arrange bok choy around the noodles, and ladle the flavorful broth overtop.

Garnish with the options of your choice.

Mexican Minestrone

Serves 2 | Cooking Time 30 minutes

This simple, humble, rice and bean soup is made easy with the use of basic pantry ingredients. Brothy, spicy, and flavorful, it’s perfect for days when you are feeling under the weather. Keep it vegan or add meat. Infused with Mexican spices, the earthy soup comes alive with zesty lime, fresh cilantro, and spicy jalapeño.


  • 1–2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, rough chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/8–1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste, or one diced tomato
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup rice (basmati, jasmine), rinsed really well
  • 1 can pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Garnish: sour cream, avocado, lime wedges, sliced jalapeño


Heat oil over medium-high heat in a medium pot or Dutch oven. Add onion and sauté, stirring constantly 3–4 minutes until golden and fragrant. Add garlic and sauté 2 more minutes, turning heat down to medium. Add all the spices and tomato paste, and toast 1 minute, stirring.

Add broth and rice. Make sure to rinse and drain the rice well beforehand. Add the beans, bring to a boil, cover, then turn heat to low and simmer 15 minutes or until rice is cooked through and tender.

Add salt and a generous squeeze of lime juice. Taste, and adjust salt, lime, and heat.
Garnish with the options of your choice.

Notes: Don’t be tempted to add more than 1/2 cup of rice or to cook the jalapeño in with the soup — it will get too spicy. Add the jalapeño as a garnish. If you want to add meat, add 1 cup of cooked meat (chicken breast, ground beef, etc.) right at the end.

Moroccan Carrot Soup

Serves 6 | Cooking Time 40 minutes

This cozy soup is infused with warming ginger and cinnamon. Orange juice adds an unexpected brightness, while cayenne kicks up the heat.


  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 fat shallots, or one onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 8 ounces potatoes, rough chopped
  • 1 apple, rough chopped
  • 2 cups veggie or chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup orange juice (or juice form 2 oranges)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, more to taste


Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add shallots and sauté over medium-high heat until tender and golden, 3–4 minutes. Turn heat to medium and add ginger and garlic, and cook for 2 more minutes, until golden and fragrant. Add carrots, potatoes, apple, stock, and water.

Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until carrots are fork tender.

Let this cool, then blend in batches in a blender until very smooth, and place back in the pot. Add coconut milk, orange juice, salt, honey, and spices, and stir to combine, while reheating over low heat.

Taste, adding more salt or cayenne if you like.

Chicken Laksa

Serves 2 | Cooking Time 30 minutes

This coconut curry noodle soup hails from Malaysia and is made with flavorful laksa paste, a blend of lemon grass, ginger, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and chilies. The warming coconut broth is the perfect vehicle for rice noodles and your choice of chicken, shrimp, or tofu.


  • 1 fat shallot, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
  • 1/3–1/2 cup laksa paste, plus more to taste (available at Asian markets)
  • 2 cups chicken broth or stock
  •  8 ounces raw chicken breast, cut in half, lengthwise (or substitute shrimp or tofu)
  • 1 can coconut milk (not light)
  • 4–5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2–3 teaspoons fish sauce
  • juice from one large lime
  • 4 ounces cooked rice noodles
  • Garnish: bean sprouts, cilantro, fresh Serrano chili, lime wedges, Asian hot sauce


In a medium, heavy-bottomed pot, sauté the shallot in oil over medium heat until golden and fragrant. Add laksa paste, and cook for 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a gentle simmer. Add chicken and continue simmering for 10 minutes, covered. (If substituting shrimp or tofu, you won’t need to cook as long.) Give the chicken a quick shred with two forks, right in the pot. (If the chicken is not tender, cook for a few more minutes.)

Add coconut milk and lime leaves, and simmer on low for a few minutes.
Stir in the turmeric, fish sauce, and fresh lime juice. Taste. Add more fish sauce for depth, more lime for acidity, or more laksa paste for heat and flavor. Find the balance you like.

Divide the noodles between two bowls and pour the laksa overtop, dividing the chicken. Top with the garnishes of your choice.

Sylvia Fountaine, author of Feasting at Home blog, is a Pacific Northwest chef, recipe developer, and food photographer. Find more of her work at

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