The slow cooker is such a misunderstood appliance. So many people, after receiving one as a wedding present, promptly hide it in the back of a cabinet (or even worse, on a dusty shelf in the basement), figuring that it's only good for soups and stews and heavy dishes made with cream soups. (And then there's cleaning the darn thing!)
But the slow cooker is capable of so much more. Plus, it has the power to rescue a crazy weeknight from drive-thru or pizza delivery. (And about the clean up? There are now specific products, like Reynold's Slow Cooker Liners, that can make it easier.) So haul it out, find a place on the kitchen counter for it, and try some of these:
1. "Rotisserie" Chicken
If you love the idea of a slow-roasted chicken but don't have time to tend the oven during the day, put the whole chicken in the slow cooker. Seriously! Get the how-to here. Even better, the leftovers can be used for sandwiches in lunch boxes the next day.
You don't even have to boil the noodles first. Get this recipe for Slow Cooker Kale & Butternut Squash Lasagna from Kara at The Foodie Dietitian Blog here. Serve it with a bagged salad and you're done.
3. Baked Potatoes
A baked potato bar is a quick weeknight dinner solution. You can make the potatoes in the slow cooker—they cook all day while you're doing something else. Then let everyone load their potato with the toppings of their choice. Get the instructions from TheKitchn here.
4. Refried Beans
If homemade refried beans seem too labor-intensive, you haven't tried them in the slow cooker (you don't even have to soak the dried beans first!). Get the recipe from Lisa at 100 Days of Real Food here. Spoon the refried beans into tortillas, sprinkle with cheese, and serve with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.
This is in regular rotation at my house in the fall for side dishes, snacks, and lunch boxes. I swear it tastes like warm pie filling straight out of the slow cooker–and I don't even add any sugar! Get my simple recipe here.
Save time in the morning by having a hearty, hot breakfast ready to go when everyone wakes up. Here's a recipe for Crockpot Blueberry Pie Steel-Cut Oatmeal from Alexis at Hummusapien here.
What's YOUR favorite dish to make in the slow cooker?
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. You can follow her on Facebook Twitter Pinterest, and Instagram. She is the author of Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.