Think all your slow cooker is good for is cranking out pots of chili and beef stew? Think again! This versatile kitchen workhorse can be put to use for all manner of things you probably never realized. So we've gathered seven of our favorite slow cooker hacks to help you get the hang of making the most of yours.
7 things you didn't know you could do
• Fruit sauce: Combine 3 pounds of cored and sliced apples (or other fruit) with 1/2 cup matching fruit juice, a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons butter. Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or low for 6 to 8 hours. Puree or process with a blender, immersion blender or food processor to your desired level of smoothness. Optionally, stir in 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or cognac. Serve over pancakes, waffles, ice cream or oatmeal.
• Cobbler: Combine 2 pounds frozen peaches or mangoes with 1/3 cup packed brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground dry ginger, 1 tablespoon cornstarch and a pinch of salt. Top with canned or homemade biscuit dough and cook for 2 to 3 hours on high or 4 to 6 hours on low.
• Mulled cider or wine: Combine 1 gallon apple cider or 3 bottles of red wine with 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice, the zest of 1 orange peeled into long strips with a vegetable peeler, 4 cinnamon sticks, 1 tablespoon cloves, 1-inch chunk of fresh ginger, sliced, and 1 teaspoon whole allspice. Cook for 1 to 2 hours on high or 3 to 4 hours on low.
• Hot chocolate: Combine 1/2 gallon whole milk, 2 cups heavy cream, 12 ounces each of milk chocolate chips and dark chocolate chips, and a vanilla bean, split and scraped. Cook on low for 3 to 4 hours or on high for 1 to 2 hours, stirring once or twice to mix the melted chocolate thoroughly with the milk and cream.
• Chocolate-peanut butter snack mix: Combine 4 cups Corn Chex cereal, 4 cups Cheerios, 2 cups miniature pretzels and 2 cups peanuts with 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 cup smooth peanut butter. Cook on low for 3 hours, stirring 1 to 2 times per hour. Spread evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
• Oatmeal: Combine 2 cups water, 2 cups milk, 1 cup steel-cut oats and a pinch of salt in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. Add fruit, spices, brown sugar or maple syrup as desired.
• Coconut rice pudding: Combine a 15-ounce can coconut milk with 2 cups water, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, a pinch of salt and 1 cup short-grain white rice. Cook on low for 3 to 4 hours.
Alison Ladman is a chef, food writer and recipe developer for The Associated Press. She also owns The Crust and Crumb Baking Company in Concord, N.H.