This time of year we naturally tend towards hearty soups and stews. The French have their cassoulet, the Chinese eat their snake soup in the winter. As Paul Pitchford says in his seminal Healing with Whole Foods, "cold and darkness drive one to seek inner warmth."
But besides the thermal warmth of a hot stew, according to Chinese medicine certain foods have actual warming properties and accelerate your sluggish energy when the temperatures are cold (such as snake soup, but no recipe for that here, although we ate it when we lived in Hong Kong many years ago). Paul Pitchford talks about the benefits of salty and bitter foods in the winter, and my acupuncturist reminded me that this is the time of year for bone broths and warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.
Save the bones or bony back when you make chicken or get some beef bones, and simply put them in a big pot of water with some carrots, celery and onions and simmer for a long time, even over night. Right now I have a whole bunch of chicken necks cooking on the stove to make a soup base (found two bags in the freezer from my last chicken order from the farm). Or better yet, for a richer broth roast the carcass or bones in the oven with some vegetables before cooking.
These broths are delicious as is, or make a great base for all kinds of heart warming and hearty soups. And why not invite a few friends over to share your soup and shake off the winter doldrums?