By Louise Whiteside

Spicy chilies, comforting chowders, slow-simmered budget cuts of beef. If you’re a slow cooker devotee like me, you’ve mastered many of the talents of your electric slow cooker. You’ve come to appreciate the convenience of dumping a medley of meat, potatoes and vegetables into the vessel of your cooker in the morning and coming home to a fragrant, home-cooked meal eight or nine hours later. You know how to blend zesty spices with tomatoes and meat, creating slow-cooked, sweet and tangy old-world spaghetti sauces.

But did you know that you might be missing out on some of the other versatile features of your slow cooker? Yes, you’ve been serving up your delicious bean and ham soup for years, but you could be unaware of some of your cooker’s less apparent uses.


Dips and Hot Drinks

Try entertaining your friends and family (with two free hands), while a warm and savory cheese dip or a hot-spiced cider await your guests’ enjoyment.

Breakfast and Brunch Dishes

For weekend company, how convenient it is to serve a creamy egg-based strata or a sweet, cinnamon-flavored French toast bake straight from your cooker.   Slow-cook your meal two or three hours beforehand, then relax and enjoy your visitors with no stress.

Slow-Cooker Desserts

I have often tantalized my friends with a delectable “Triple Chocolate Mess” cake, baked in my slow cooker. Served warm with vanilla ice cream, this concoction is a rich delight. I’m often asked, “But did you really make this in your slow cooker?”  Bread puddings, cheesecakes, crumbles and mousses, who would guess they’re slow-cooked?


(Note:  You’ll find many more recipes in the references listed below.)


Chili-Cheese Taco Dip 

1 lb. ground beef

1 can chili without beans

1 lb. mild, Mexican (Velveeta-style) cheese, cubed

Brown beef, crumble and drain.

Combine beef, chili and cheese in slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low setting for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Serve warm from cooker, with taco or tortilla chips.

Makes 10-12 servings.


Slow-Cooker Hot Cider 

3  3-inch sticks cinnamon

2 tsp. whole cloves

1 tsp. whole nutmeg, or 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/2 gallon apple cider

1 cup sugar

2 cups orange juice

1/2 cup lemon juice 

Tie spices in cheesecloth or place in tea strainer; place in slow cooker.

Add cider, sugar and stir well.

Cover, simmer on low setting 1 hour.

Remove spices.

Stir in orange and lemon juices.

Heat 1 additional hour.

Serve from cooker, on low setting.

Makes 10 1-cup servings.


French Toast Bake 

12 slices raisin bread

6 tbs. butter, melted

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

4 eggs

2 cups milk

2 tbs. maple syrup

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Spray cooker with nonstick spray.

Cover bottom of cooker with 3 slices bread.

Combine melted butter, cinnamon and brown sugar and mix well.

Layer bread slices and melted butter mixture in cooker,

ending with butter mixture.

Whisk together eggs, milk, maple syrup and vanilla; pour over bread in cooker.

Cover, cook on high heat setting for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, until puffed and set.

Remove lid and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with more maple syrup or powdered sugar on the side.

Makes 6 servings.


Triple Chocolate Mess” Cake 

1 package (18-1/2 oz.) chocolate cake mix

1 (3.9-oz.) package instant chocolate pudding mix

1 pint sour cream

1 small bag (6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup oil

4 eggs

1 cup water

Spray cooker with nonstick spray.

Mix together all ingredients until smooth.

Pour into cooker.

Cook on low setting for 6-8 hours.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped topping.

Experiment with a few new ideas. You may find that your slow

cooker’s lesser-known uses can make your entertainment more elegant

and your everyday life more simple.


Haughton, Natalie. Slow and Easy: Fast-Fix Recipes for Your Electric Slow Cooker.

Hoboken, N.J., John Wiley and Sons, Inc. (2009) 

Murray, Barbara M., R.N. Crock-It. Johnson City, Tenn., The Overmountain Press (1995) 

Ranck, Dawn J. and Phyllis Pellman Good. Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook: Feasting With Your Slow Cooker.   Intercourse, Pa., Good Books (2000)





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