After two weeks of fudge and Page 72, it's time to get back to the reality of school, regular work hours, shoveling and the cold that is January.

Holiday indulgences have no place in January, just as real clothes have to replace flannel pajama pants and fuzzy slippers.

The slow cooker can be your best friend as you plan easy, family friendly meals during this stretch. These are also pantry based, which helps with the budget. And most of us keep hamburger and chicken breasts in the freezer, so you may even get by without a trip to the store.

There are two recipes, one soup, one chili; one with an Italian flair and one with chili spices.

Both prep in under a half hour and cook all day, (or all night and all day). Serve garlic bread with the soup and cornbread or tortillas with the chili, and you have a hot, delicious meal that took almost no effort.

Chances are you'll have enough left for a warm lunch at work the next day, or to share with folks who might not have a hot meal.

Enjoy! And do remember, unless you're a time traveler, in order to get to July, and then to the 2018 football season, you have to pass through January.

Colorful Slow Cooker Soup

  • 1 pound ground beef, broken into small chunks
  • 1 (28-ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
  • 2 cups pearl barley
  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Water as needed

Combine ground beef, spaghetti sauce, pearl barley, mixed vegetables, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper and garlic powder in the crock of a slow cooker; add enough water so the ingredients are submerged in liquid.

Cook on high for five hours. Adjust seasonings and thin with water as desired.

Chicken and Corn Chili

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 (16-ounce) jar salsa
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 (11-ounce) can Mexican-style corn
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans

Place chicken and salsa in the slow cooker the night before you want to eat this chili. Season with garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Cook 6 to 8 hours on low setting.

About three to four hours before you want to eat, shred the chicken with two forks. Return the meat to the pot, and continue cooking.

Stir the corn and the pinto beans into the slow cooker. Simmer until ready to serve.

(Recipes from allrecipes.com)

Follow community news editor Sally Ann Shurmur on Twitter @WYOSAS

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