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11 Surprising Foods You Can Make in a Slow Cooker: SparkRecipes SlideShow

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11 Surprising Foods You Can Make in a Slow Cooker

By Stepfanie Romine, Staff Writer

You have a slow cooker. You love it. You can't live without it. Each week you whip up slow cooker beef roast , slow cooker pork and beans, or even a slow cooker rotisserie chicken. Notice a theme? Meat.

Everyone knows that slow cookers are the secret to fall-off-the-bones, juicy meats (and all you have to do is set it and forget it). But that this countertop appliance can cook three meals a day, sweet and savory alike, is not widespread knowledge. Read on for 11 recipes you likely didn't know you could make in the slow cooker.

Lasagna

Lasagna is a family favorite, but the traditional version requires at least 30 minutes of prep work, plus an hour to cook. Enter the slow cooker. This hands-off lasagna recipe uses no-cook noodles and takes just 15 minutes to assemble--but still has all the beefy, cheesy goodness you expect. Ready in four hours, it's perfect for weekends or days when you're home in the afternoon.

Slow Cooker Lasagna

Ham and Scalloped Potatoes

Salty ham and tender potatoes drenched in a creamy cheese sauce--it's the kind of food that makes you feel all warm and cozy inside. After a long day, this could be waiting on you--with 20 minutes of hands-on prep work in the morning.

Slow Cooker Ham and Scalloped Potatoes


Fruit Preserves

Who has time to make homemade jam on a whim? You do! This thick, slightly sweet fruit jam is fantastic on fresh bread (which you'll have time to make while the conserves simmer away in the slow cooker) and on pork tenderloin. With just five minutes of prep, you can have a quart of fresh conserve to use yourself or give as gifts!

Slow Cooker Strawberry-Rhubarb Conserve

Brown Rice & Other Whole Grains

You know you should eat more whole grains, but they also take forever to cook! Luckily, you can lean on your slow cooker to do the work for you. Sure it takes two hours of cook time, but it only takes five minutes of prep work. If you're not home two hours before dinner, ask your kids (the recipe is that simple) or set your slow cooker on a timer to start cooking when you need it to. (You can experiment with other whole grains in this recipe, too.)

Slow Cooker Brown Rice Instructions

Refried Beans

Cooking your own beans is an easy way to limit sodium and save money, but between the overnight soaking and the hours to simmer, it's quite the process. Thankfully, there is an easier way (one that does not involve a can opener.) Refried beans is a misnomer for this recipe, as the beans have not, nor will they ever be "fried." What they are is slow cooked with plenty of flavor, then mashed until creamy. Spread them on a warm corn tortilla with melted cheese and a dollop of salsa, and dinner is ready! (You can skip the step of mashing them if you prefer whole beans--and use other varieties, too!)

Slow Cooker Refried Beans


Meatloaf

Meat smells so good when it cooks, but isn't it torturous to endure the aromas when your belly is growling and dinner is an hour away? Slow cookers spare you the agony. You walk in the door, and one whiff tells you dinner is ready. Meatloaf doesn't always fare well in the slow cooker--it can end up soggy since the juices and fat have nowhere to go. This one employs an easy hack to ensure tender and juicy meatloaf with a nice crust. It's comfort food at its best, especially when served with mashed potatoes... (keep reading--you can make those in a slow cooker, too!)

Slow Cooker Meatloaf

Mashed Potatoes

OK, so these mashed potatoes do require some on-the-stove work, but it's worth it to have warm mashed potatoes that aren't dried out. This is the perfect way to serve mashed potatoes at a party or on a special occasion, like Thanksgiving, when you might need to cook the potatoes a couple of hours ahead of time.

Slow Cooker Garlic Mashed Potatoes


Steel-Cut Oats

Waking up is hard, especially on cold mornings. What if, instead of waking up to the sound of your alarm clock blaring in your ears, you awoke to the comforting aroma of apples and cinnamon? They're paired with steel-cut oats (another whole grain that takes a long time to cook), which get plump and creamy overnight in the slow cooker. This recipe needs eight to nine hours to cook, so consider it a chance to ensure a good night's sleep!

Apple-Cinnamon Slow Cooker Oatmeal

Buffalo Chicken

Chicken wings are, let's face it, addictively delicious. They're also messy and hard to make at home. Save yourself the time and energy, and make this dish instead. With only four ingredients, it's effortless, and because it uses chicken breasts, there's more meat for less work. (Cheers to not needing a wet wipe after your meal!) Serve as a sandwich with carrot and celery sticks, plus blue cheese dressing for dipping.

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken

Collard Greens

Dark leafy greens are good for you, just like whole grains. Unfortunately, they require a long cook time to become tender and tasty. Use the slow cooker to expedite the process. Eating right never tasted so good--for such little effort!

Slow-Cooker Collard Greens

Glazed Chicken Drumsticks

Oh, chicken legs. They're the only piece of meat worth fighting over. Thankfully, there's no need with this recipe--drumsticks for everyone, all coated in a sweet and tangy glaze! Just dump everything into the slow cooker, stir occasionally, and four hours later, enjoy tender, juicy drumsticks. (You might need those wet wipes for this one!)

Sticky Slow Cooker Chicken Drumsticks