Making Cooking Easier: Using Your Slow Cooker

I would agree that slow cookers can be a busy mama’s best friend some days. I get a lot of use out of mine, especially in the winter when we enjoy a lot of hot, hearty stews, soups, chili, etc. One of my favorite sites for recipes is A Year of Slowcooking. Check it out, enjoy the post and happy slowcooking!


Guest Post by Nola

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Lately I have been trying to use my slow cooker (also known as a crock pot) more. I had a basic one that broke right before my second child was born, and my husband decided to replace it with a nice 7 quart model. It even has a “keep warm” and “buffet” setting. I’ve been coming up with more and more ways to use it, so I thought I would share some ideas about getting more out of your slow cooker. Maybe you have some ideas to share too!

1. Why Use a Slow Cooker?

•    Slow cookers cook all day with no or minimal attention. Perfect for busy moms!
•    With a slow cooker, you can go out and come home to the delicious aroma of home-cooked food…and thus also avoid having to throw something together at the last minute, which means you may avoid unhealthy or expensive options, due to hunger and no time.
•    You can make supper in the morning and then avoid the rush in the late afternoon, which usually coincides with the time children need the most attention.
•    Having supper on time can be easier since it was all put together in the morning. This is much appreciated by hungry husbands and kids! Sometimes life gets crazy and supper is late due to unforeseen things that happen with the kids or whatever.
•    You can use it on tougher cuts of meat and they come out tender. I no longer even cook a roast in the oven.
•    If it’s a hot day, you can cook things without turning on the oven. Its not just a winter time appliance!
•    You can cook big batches of something without attention and then (depending on family size and size of the slow cooker) freeze some for later use.
•    You can cook in your slow cooker when the stove is occupied with other pots and pans. For me, during canning season the stove is often occupied (and I don’t want the kitchen any hotter by using the oven) and I am too tired to think about what is for supper if I have to make it late in the day. It’s a perfect option to use my slow cooker!
•    You can cook great food for having company or house guests. I often use mine when I am having family stay for a few days, since that way we can be out and about doing things and come home to supper. I have also served supper guests from my slow cooker. Its so simple and easy, and then you can have all the clean up done in the morning, and relax and enjoy your guests before and after supper. After all, having company isn’t about the food, its about the people! The slow cooker makes time for what really matters. This is my favorite way to have supper guests.

2. What Slow Cookers Cook:

Slow cookers seem to cook certain types of food best. The types of foods that cook best are those that can cook slowly all day, not things that would need very little cooking time. I have found slow cooking to be best with roasts, chicken parts, spaghetti sauce, soups and stews. I’ve also done beans, and breakfast cooked cereals. I’ve even seen recipes for desserts and hot drinks, but have yet to find healthy recipes for those. You can even adapt many recipes to the slow cooker!

Do you have a slow cooker? Are there any ways you can think of that you aren’t using your slow cooker to its full advantage? Any other ideas, favorite recipe sources, or other ideas on how to make better use of this handy kitchen appliance?

Nola is a homemaker and mother to two girls: 6 months and 3 years. She enjoys finding healthy ways to serve her family better.

Image by lindyireland

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  1. I only just bought a slow cooker and look forward to using it for meat/chicken for my family to tenderize them more than cookig in the oven (I don’t eat meat, myself). I’ve made tapioca in it and a couple batches of homemade yogurt (yum!). I have two apple trees and also plan on using the s.cooker to make apple sauce this fall.

  2. I think the thing I love most about my slow cooker is that it makes it easy to put dinner together and have the kitchen cleaned up before my husband comes home (since I was able to assemble dinner hours in advance). I love the crockpot blog as well! But I also really appreciate the cookbook- Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker cookbook. I think most of the recipes require a little tweaking, but the other information, cook times, etc. were very helpful to me when I first started cooking.

  3. How timely! I pulled out my slow cooker this morning so I could avoid the rush of cooking when my little guy gets up from his nap this afternoon. Here’s one of my favorite no-cook recipes:
    Put one whole chicken (without parts/giblets) in the slow cooker. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the chicken. Toss the lemon wedges in the slow cooker for more flavor. Throw in some whole sprigs of rosemary and thyme (or your favorite herbs). Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and pepper. No broth or any other liquid necessary. Set to cook all day and then enjoy the juiciest chicken you’ve ever made!

  4. I love to make crock pot lasagne on Sundays so we come home to a good meal. You put some sauce in the bottom of the pot, break the noodles to fit (we use Tinkyada Rice noodles, so I’m not sure how different wheat noodles would be!), add your sauce and other fillings, cheeses, veggies, etc. and layer until you’ve used up your stuff or your crockpot is mostly full. Turn it on LOW for about 3-4 hours or until you can stab a fork into it easily. (Can you tell I’m not a precise cook, but a throw it all together and cook it until it’s done cook?) I usually put it all together the night before and keep it in the frig. Pull it out and turn it on as we head out the door to church and come home to a meal with minimal kitchen insanity on Sunday. Always a good thing!

  5. I LOVE my slow cooker. I even named him “Stewy.”
    Lately I have been using mine for overnight stock and discovered that using the slow cooker in place of the oven for baked potatoes is a huge time saver.

  6. Thanks for all the extra ideas to all who are commenting! I am intrigued by the idea of doing baked potatoes in the slow cooker. How does that work?

    In my speed to get this ready for Stephanie, I forgot to add in about how to cook beans and breakfast cereals. For beans, instead of cooking on the stove,cover the soaked, drained beans with about 3 inches of water in the crockpot and cook on low for about 8-12 hours, or until done. I find the smaller amount of time is better for my slow cooker. I love how I get to avoid the inevitable mess all over my stove when the pot of beans boils over! LOL!

    For breakfast, at the Nourishing Gourmet she has a recipe that I found ( but any grain could be done in a similar way.

  7. Okay it looks like that link will not work. If you go to The Nourishing Gourmet’s home page and then look in her “breakfast and brunch category” then you will get the “crockpot whole grain breakfast cereal” recipe. Sorry!!!

  8. I love baking potatoes in my crockpot! All I do is wash, dry, and prick my potatoes; cover them in foil, and put them in the crockpot. High 3-4 hours, low 6-8 just like most recipes.. They turn out great every time!

  9. Note: I said “cover them in foil”…that means each one gets foiled just like if you were to put them in the oven.. hope that didn’t confuse anyone.

  10. What a well written post!!
    LOOOOVE my slow cooker!! Not much of a foodie though, so i just repeat things over and over 🙂

    We make baked potatos in the crockpot ALOT. I dont cover them in foil. Just pile them in there, i do add butter and salt. They come out better than the oven 🙂

    I’ll be making stew tomorrow night: Beef cubes, potatos, sweet potatos, onions, carrots…..

    Am looking forward to hearing everyone’s favorites!!

  11. How much fun this post is:) I too love my crock pot aka: slow cooker. As a matter of fact I bought a second crock pot because my first is in the process of falling apart ie: the handles are falling off:)

    Anway, the recipes here are fantastic and will be trying each of by including them in my menu planning.

    Here is something I try: slow cooking steele cut oatmeal! A fantastic way to ensure a yummy and good for you breakfast. I slow cook enough for the week. Each day I take enough out and warm up with which ever flavor we decide. My favorite is some sugar-free syrup (I am diabetic) or some dehydrated apples. Yummmmmmooooooo:)

  12. I thought I would also quickly share my favourite crock pot meal. So easy and this is the one I usually serve for guests! I often double this or add more potoates if needed to suit the people. Everyone seems to love it!

    Meatloaf in a stew

    1/4 cup water
    5-6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
    6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into pieces
    sprinkle of salt and pepper
    1 large egg, fork beaten
    1/3 cup ketchup (I use tomatoe paste)
    2 tsp beef bouillon powder (I leave out)
    1/3 cup finely chopped onion
    1/4 tsp ground thyme (I use 1 tsp)
    1/4 cup water
    1/3 cup cracker crumbs or plain rice cakes crumbled
    1 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp pepper
    1 1/2 lbs ground beef

    Pour first amount of water into 6 Q slow cooker. Add potato and carrot. Sprinkle with first amounts of salt and pepper. Combine next 9 ingredients in bowl. Mix well. Add ground beef. Mix well. Place over veggies. Cover. Cook on low 8-10 hours or high 4-5 hours. Serves 6. (Note: my slow cooker does it a bit faster time).

  13. Ok, I thought that this title said “Making cookies easier, using your slow cooker” and I though, wow, that would be a trick, I wonder how she does that?! LOL

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