I’ve been telling myself Punxsutawny Phil’s 2018 prediction will pay off with milder summer temps. But it’s 39 degrees and threatening rain on this Fat Tuesday morning, and I’m done believing that lie.

Anybody else daydreaming of daffodils? And bluebonnets? And New York strips fresh off the grill with perfectly pink centers?

Whatever visions of spring things dance in your head, we’ve several weeks more of sniffle inducing temperature swings, with enough “wintry mix” spells to justify a good book, a warm fire, and PJs all day.

Without cold sandwiches. Or boring hotdogs. And nobody even wants them leftovers.

When easy underwhelms, and the usual dining out rotation has worn thin (and because this one, at least, can only take so much Mexican, barbecue, and pizza delivery), what’s a good go-to? Errbody’s gotta eat, and between homework, extra curriculars, and next day prep, I’ll be darned if I’m serving up something from time consuming scratch each night.

Soul warming soups for the CrockPot, simple to prep, easy on the budget W-I-N.

Turkey chili is my longtime standard, but favorites can become less so absent variety.

One twist worth a try is this White Bean Chicken Chili, originally published in Raising the Torch, a cookbook my mother helped produce during her volunteer service with the Jefferson County Medical Alliance (Jefferson County, Alabama). I totally cheat, skipping right over the stock prep, and it still turns out delish. Eat, freeze, and repeat, all the better with a side of homemade jalapeno cheddar corn muffins.

Another new favorite is this Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Crumbled Pancetta, courtesy of Diet Doctor. I’ve made it with half the butter and cream cheese (reflected in below recipe), and it’s just as tasty (while making my daily MFP entries all the better for those calories saved).

White Bean Chicken Chili
4 skinless chicken breasts
4 cups chicken stock
1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp Tabasco
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
1 cup half and half
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
3 15 oz cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 4 oz can mild green chiles, chopped
1 cup (4 oz) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Saute chicken breasts per Kitchn method. Once cooled, chop and set aside.
Saute the chopped onion, bell pepper and jalapeno chile in the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan over moderate heat until tender. Add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low. Add the butter and heat until it foams. Whisk in the flour, chili powder, cumin, Tabasco, cayenne pepper, salt, and white pepper. Cook over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until the flour begins to turn golden brown, stirring constantly. Add 2 cups of chicken stock. Stir in the half and half. Simmer for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, green chiles, remaining stock, and chopped chicken. Cook over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes. Garnish to taste. MFP Entry: White Bean Chicken Chili, 1 cup serving = 398 cals.

Cauliflower Soup with Crumbled Pancetta (original recipe courtesy Diet Doctor)
4 cups chicken stock
1 bag frozen chopped cauliflower
4 oz cream cheese
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 oz butter
salt and pepper
1 pkg pancetta, diced
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 oz pecans
Reserve 1/3 cup frozen cauliflower and set aside. Boil remaining cauliflower in chicken stock until soft. Sauté the reserved cauliflower and pancetta in butter until crispy. Add nuts and paprika powder towards the end. Set aside the mixture and save the fat. Add cream cheese, mustard and butter to boiled cauliflower. Mix with a hand blender to desired consistency. The longer you blend, the creamier the soup. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve the soup in bowls, and top with the pancetta and cauliflower crumbles. MFP Entry: Creamy Cauliflower Soup, 1 cup serving = 358 cals.