As you are reading this post today, the chances are that it is cold outside is true for most areas in the United States. Believe it or not, even down here on the Gulf Coast the temperature was 17 degrees this morning. If just looking out the window makes you shiver, the best way to battle freezing temperatures outside is to warm yourself up on the inside. How do you do that? Foods that keep you warm will make a huge difference in your ability to stay cozy through the winter.

Here are some of the best foods for doing just that.

Hot Drinks

It might seem a little too simple, but you can sometimes overlook the obvious answers. Holding the mug is warming enough, but the hot liquid into your system gives you instant internal warmth. Tea, warm apple cider or hot cocoa are favorites.

Soups And Stews

When the temperature dips, a hearty soup or stew with lots of well-cooked root vegetables and spices will warm you up.

Whole Grains

Eaten hot, whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats, barley, buckwheat, millet, etc) give you instant warmth along with complex carbohydrates to give your body the energy and fuel it needs to keep warm.

Spices

Cinnamon and other spices boost your metabolism which generates body heat. Include more spices in your meals, even just a little bit sprinkled on top. Cumin, coriander, turmeric, cloves, paprika, pepper, nutmeg and allspice are other good ones to incorporate as well. Fresh or ground ginger is another great spice to warm you up. Try using it in salad dressings, soups, cookies or muffins.Try ginger tea. Not only does it help warm you up, but it boosts your digestive and immune systems to keep you nourished and strong in the face of winter bugs.

Here are some dinners to warm you up.

Italian Beef Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into cubes
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 26-28 oz container of canned Italian plum tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups lower-sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1/2 lb small new potatoes, cut in half
  • 2 large or 3 small carrots, sliced 1/4-inch-thick
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Directions

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Place 1/4 cup flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle beef with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper; dredge in flour. Add half of the beef to the pan; sauté 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan to a bowl and set aside. Repeat procedure. You may need a little more oil, if the meat starts to stick to the pan.

Add onion; sauté 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté another minute, stirring constantly. Add wine to the pan and bring to a boil, scraping pan. Return meat to the pan. Add tomatoes and next 5 ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover and stir in mushrooms, sliced carrots and potatoes. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour or until meat is very tender, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, basil and parsley.

Lasagna Rolls

Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 spinach or plain lasagna noodles
  • 4 ounces provolone cheese, shredded (1 cup)
  • 4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely shredded (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup lowfat milk
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 Recipe Bolognese Sauce, below

Directions

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside on kitchen towels. In a small bowl combine provolone and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses; set aside.

For bechamel sauce:

In a small saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, stirring until combined. Add milk all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in basil, lemon peel, salt and pepper. Cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spoon 3/4 cup of the Bolognese Sauce into the bottom of a 3-quart rectangular baking dish.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the bechamel sauce onto each lasagna noodle. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture over the bechamel sauce on each noodle. Spoon 1/3 cup of the Bolognese Sauce onto each noodle. Roll up noodles and arrange in the prepared baking dish, seam side down.

Spoon the remaining Bolognese Sauce over the noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese mixture. Cover baking dish with foil. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until heated through.

Bolognese Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 cup onion, chopped (1 large)
  • 1/2 cup carrot, finely chopped (1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup red sweet bell pepper, chopped (1)
  • 1/4 cup celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Two 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 16 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine or beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil, or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh marjoram, or 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup evaporated canned whole milk (not sweetened)
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Directions

In a Dutch oven cook sausage, onion, carrot, sweet pepper, celery and garlic over medium heat until meat is brown and onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Drain off any fat.

Stir tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, herbs, salt and black pepper into meat mixture. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

IUncover and simmer 10 minutes more or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in milk and parsley; heat through.

Fall Vegetable and Orzo Casserole

Vegetarian Orzo Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound orzo pasta
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 small bulbs fennel, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small red onion, julienned
  • One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, mix together panko, 2 tablespoons olive oil and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Divide butternut squash between two baking sheets, spreading in an even layer. Drizzle each baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the oven and roast until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook for 5 minutes; drain and transfer to the bowl with the squash.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Transfer fennel to the bowl with the squash and orzo.

Return skillet to medium heat and add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, garlic, crushed red pepper and 1 cup water;  simmer 8 minutes. Transfer mixture to the bowl with the orzo, squash and fennel. Fold in sage, cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer orzo mixture to a 3-quart baking dish; cover and transfer to the oven. Bake for 15 minutes; uncover and sprinkle top with panko mixture. Return baking dish to the oven and bake, uncovered, until panko is toasted, about 10 minutes more.

Barley Soup with Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 leeks, white and pale green parts, chopped
  • 3/4 cups chopped carrots
  • 3/4 cups chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups pearl barley
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken broth

Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup dried Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley, plus 1/2 cup chopped parsley for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a large, heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and garlic and saute until very soft, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and wine, stir to combine and cook for 4 minutes. Add the barley and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the barley is tender, about 45 minutes.

To make the chicken meatballs:

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a bowl, combine the chicken, Parmesan, bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons parsley and the 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and stir to combine. Roll into one inch meatballs and transfer it to the prepared sheet. Bake until the meatballs are cooked through and no longer pink in the center, 10-12 minutes.

Add the meatballs to the soup, stir in gently, and simmer for ten minutes. Garnish soup with the 1/2 cup parsley before serving.

Healthy Chicken and Dumplings

Ingredients

Serves 4.

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 5 medium carrots, cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup (spooned and leveled) all-purpose flour
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons lowfat milk
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas

Directions

In a Dutch oven (or a 5-to-6-quart heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid), heat butter and oil over medium. Add onion, carrots and thyme. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Whisk in 1/4 cup flour and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly; season with salt and pepper. Nestle chicken in pot; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes.

To make dumplings:

In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 3/4 cups flour, dill, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. With a fork, gradually stir in the 1/2 cup milk to form a moist and soft batter. It should be just a little thicker than pancake batter and should easily drop from the tip of a spoon. (Add additional 2 tablespoons milk if too thick.) Set aside.

Stir peas into pot. Drop batter into the simmering liquid in 10 heaping tablespoonfuls, keeping them spaced apart (dumplings will swell as they cook). Cover, and simmer until chicken is tender and dumplings are firm, 20 minutes.

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