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4 ways to make more than just soup in your slow cooker

By Carolyn Malcoun, November 5, 2010 - 12:34pm

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If I had to choose the one kitchen appliance I couldn’t live without, it would definitely be my slow cooker. I turn to it on the busiest days to prepare a healthy meal when I don’t have the time to—I can fill it in the morning with some staples like beans, broth, whole grains and whatever vegetables I have on hand, and arrive home to a hearty meal that’s ready to eat.

Related: Easy Slow-Cooker Soups and Stews

Plus it saves me money because it makes inexpensive cuts of meat meltingly tender. I save up to $78 a year if I replace 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast ($4.99) with 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs ($3.49) once a week for a year.

Related: 6 Ways to Save $2,997 a Year on Food

While slow cookers may be known best for flawlessly turning out rich stews and hearty soups, they cook other types of dishes quite well—everything from breakfast to dessert. Here are some of my favorite untraditional slow cooker recipes.

Related: 20+ no-fuss slow-cooker recipes
Slow Cooker Recipes to Help You Shed Pounds

Apple Confit
Dessert from a slow cooker? Heck, yeah! This is like applesauce but better—you cook it down until the apples are tender but not falling apart. It’s one of the best entertaining desserts out there because it takes little of your time and barely any of your attention. Just top it with low-fat vanilla ice cream and a sprinkling of toasted walnuts. Or have it for breakfast with low-fat yogurt and granola or muesli for breakfast.
Related: The best and worst apples for cooking and eating

Barbecue Pulled Chicken
This fanciful reinterpretation of pulled pork uses chicken and lots of tomato sauce. Serve on crusty whole-grain rolls with sliced jalapenos, sliced red onions and some sour cream.
Related: More Delicious Chicken Recipes for Your Slow Cooker

Overnight Oatmeal
Here is an easy way to serve a crowd a hearty breakfast before facing the elements for a day of winter sports. You can assemble it in the slow cooker in the evening and wake up to a bowl of hot, nourishing oatmeal. The slow cooker eliminates the need for constant stirring and ensures an exceptionally creamy consistency. It is important to use steel-cut oats; old-fashioned oats become too soft during slow-cooking.
Related: More Hearty Whole-Grain Breakfast Recipes

Barley Risotto with Fennel
Here is a convenient alternative to a traditional stovetop risotto. The gentle, uniform heat of a slow cooker allows you to cook a creamy risotto without the usual frequent stirring. This one uses healthy, fiber-rich whole grains—either barley or brown rice—seasoned with Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and oil-cured olives.
Related: Mushroom & Wild Rice Frittata and More Recipes for Rice

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve cooked in your slow cooker? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Carolyn Malcoun, Food Blog, Dinner, Family meals, Kitchen tools

Carolyn Malcoun
A graduate of New England Culinary Institute and University of Wisconsin with a degree in journalism, Carolyn pairs her long-standing love for food with writing as EatingWell's senior food editor. Carolyn’s culinary interest is rooted in her childhood; she grew up making thousands of Christmas cookies every year with her mom and picking leaves off bunches of parsley to make tabbouleh with her dad. Away from the kitchen, Carolyn enjoys seeking out rare craft beers and exploring the outdoors with her husband, young daughter and dog.

Carolyn asks: What’s the most unusual thing you’ve cooked in your slow cooker?

Tell us what you think:

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