Whether it's an enjoyable walk through a frosty landscape or skiing fresh snow-covered slopes, time spent outdoors is one of winter's best perks. And even if you're out having fun from sunup to sundown, a hearty, home-cooked meal can be waiting for you when you return. Deliciously healthy soups and stews are the kind of comfort meals that actually taste better when simmered all day in a slow cooker or made a day or two in advance, refrigerated, and reheated with a little extra broth or water. Best of all, these recipes provide whole-food essentials — complex carbohydrates, complete proteins, and healthy fats — needed to replenish your body after an active day. So enjoy winter, knowing you have one of these warm-you-up meals at the ready.
Serves 10-12 / Packed full of vegetables, this superhearty soup gets a delicious boost from fresh fennel. Stores well in the fridge for easy reheating. If you use a slow cooker, toss everything together except the cabbage, kale, beans, and tomatoes; add those during the last 30-45 minutes of cooking. Serving tip: Serve with rustic bread and hot cranberry-grape juice laced with nutmeg.
Serves 4 / Rich, earthy flavors make this quick-cooking soup a welcome treat after a day outdoors. Prep tip: Make ahead and reheat, or prepare ingredients the night before and toss in a pot at the end of the day for a satisfying soup in 15 minutes. Serving tip: Serve with whole-grain cornbread and hot green tea.
Serves 8 / Ingredient tip: Instead of using refined pearl barley, add whole-grain goodness with hulled barley, which retains its germ and bran. Prep tips: This stew becomes thicker the next day; add broth or water when reheating. If you use a slow cooker, combine everything except peas and cook on low for 8-10 hours; stir in peas during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Serves 6 / Ingredient tip: Leg of lamb is a leaner cut; if you prefer, use lamb stew meat or shoulder roast. Prep tip: If you have a slow cooker, simply combine all ingredients and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Serving tip: Pair with apricot couscous and hot mulled red wine.
Serves 6 / A chic blend of toasted hazelnuts and cauliflower yields a nutty, rich soup. Serving tip: Great with oven-warmed whole-grain rolls and mugs of hot cocoa.
Recipe developer Kris Wetherbee never met a root vegetable she didn't like, especially in a soup. She writes about food, travel, and the outdoors from her home in Oregon.