5 Surprising Ways to Use a Slow Cooker

Mandy Major

slow cooker

When it comes to slow cooking, hearty meats and stews typically get all the attention. But your slow cooker can do much more-and without much effort from you-so take advantage. From breakfast to dessert, casseroles to condiments, there are plenty of unexpected items you can make with this low-and-slow method. Read on to discover five unique ways to put this convenient countertop appliance to work. Photo by: iStock

Egg Casserole

Yes, egg dishes are great to make in a slow cooker. When prepped with the right amount of liquid, they turn effortlessly light and fluffy in a few hours-what better treat is there to wake up to? George Duran, celebrity chef, ConAgra Foods spokesperson and author of Take This Dish and Twist It, regularly uses his slow cooker for egg casserole, which he preps the night before. If you plan to sleep beyond the 5- to 6-hour cook time, Duran recommends adding an additional 1/2 cup of half & half to the recipe. This way, the casserole can be left cooking up to 8 hours and you can get a full night's rest. Get George Duran's Slow Cooker Egg Casserole Recipe.

See 75 delicious ways to cook eggs.

Homemade Ketchup

As the mother of 10- and 14-year-old boys, personal chef and nutritionist Diane Henderiks, RD, needs to have ketchup on hand. But she isn't a fan of the high sugar and sodium count in store-bought brands. "It's so processed and has all those preservatives," she says. As an alternative, she makes big batches of her own blend in a slow cooker. "It's so easy, and you can control the ingredients," she says. Even better: It can be prepared overnight and stored in basic Tupperware or glass jars for several months in the fridge. Freezing is also an option: Just spoon out the condiment into plastic take-out quart or pint containers, close securely and freeze up to six months. Get Diane Henderiks' Simple Crock Pot Tomato Ketchup Recipe

Fruit Compote

QVC host and resident foodie David Venable says many people mistake a slow cooker for a wintertime appliance. "But it's really a year-round staple," he says. "Keep your slow cooker handy for parties and potlucks in the spring." One of his all-time favorite recipes for the warmer months is fruit compote, which can be used for breakfast or brunch (on oatmeal, pancakes or waffles) or dessert (with whipped cream or ice cream). His recipe uses canned fruit for convenience, but you can swap in fresh fruit if you prefer. Get David Venable's Spring Fruit Compote with Cinnamon Recipe (listed 13th from bottom of page) Check out these irresistible treats.

Bread Pudding

Think your slow cooker is just for savory foodstuffs? Think again! Slow cooking works wonders with dense desserts. "A slow cooker is key to developing flavor and moistness, so bread puddings are outstanding when prepared in one," says Sheila Miller, project manager at Campbell's Kitchen. "Warm and rich, they can easily be dressed up with fresh whipped cream or ice cream." She also recommends using a slow cooker for creamy rice puddings, kugels and cobblers. "The best part about slow cooking dessert is that you can put everything together before your guests arrive and let the slow cooker do all of the work. And after dinner, you have a scrumptious, comforting dessert to serve and practically no cleanup." Get Campbell's Kitchen's Slow-Cooked Chocolate Cappuccino Bread Pudding

Whole Roast Chicken

Roast chicken is a family favorite, but running a super-hot oven for 60-plus minutes is far from ideal when the weather warms up. Instead of roasting along with your bird, skip the stove and opt for the slow cooker, which contains heat better than an oven and doesn't hit as high a temperature. Linda Eckhardt, cookbook author and editor of EverybodyEatsNews.com, recommends prepping the chicken as you would for the oven: Layer the bottom of the cooker with olive oil and chunked vegetables (onions, carrots, garlic, celery) and rub the chicken with spices of your choice. Set it on high for the first 30 minutes, then switch to low and let it cook for 7 to 8 hours. To get that delightfully crispy skin you get in the oven, Henderiks recommends removing the slow-cooker lid for the last half hour.

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Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.

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