5 Ways to Use Your Slow Cooker to Change Your Life (and they don’t include making a meal!)

I should start this post by saying that I think a slow cooker is a necessary part of The Empowered Cook’s kitchen.

A slow cooker is an amazing appliance. You will use it. It is worth the investment.

In winter, a slow cooker helps you make delicious curries and casseroles. In summer, it can help you make rissotto and other dishes without heating up the kitchen by using the oven.

It is also a life-saver when you are short on time. Pop all the ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning, and then dinner cooks while you get on with your day. It really is that easy.

If you want some amazing slow cooker recipes or need some inspiration – check out my Pinterest board here.

This post is all about how to use your slow cooker for things other than main meals. It is a shame to think we only use this appliance for cooking casseroles, stews and curries. It is far more versatile than we think.

I have started using my slow cooker several times a week. We use it for weeknight meals and also food prep over the weekend. And it is a fundamental part of any bulk cooking session that I do. I can then cook three things at once: a dish in the oven, a dish on the stove and a dish in my slow cooker.

The Empowered Cook shares 5 ways to use a slow cooker, that don't involve making a main meal. Your slow cooker is so much more than a pot to make dinner!

But – let’s start with me showing you 5 ways you can use your slow cooker that will change your life. Think of the time you will save. Less effort. Less clean-up.

So get that slow cooker out of the cupboard today.

And if you don’t own one – here are 5 more reasons to buy one – apart from all the awesomeness that already is a slow cooker.

#1 – Make Chicken Stock

Technically you can make any stock in the slow cooker – but chicken stock is my favourite, and the easiest (besides vegetable stock).

To make chicken stock in your slow cooker, you’ll need either a whole raw chicken or a cooked chicken carcass. This recipe will work with either. I love doing it with a chicken carcass – mainly because we love a good roast chook. So next time you have a roast, keep the carcass to make stock overnight. Don’t have time after cooking a roast? Well, you can also save the carcass. Wrap it in foil, and then into a plastic container and pop it in the freezer. Then make stock when you have the time. 

So – back to making stock.

Into your slow cooker place the chicken carcass (or the whole chicken), a stick of celery, a carrot (snapped into two, unpeeled), an onion (cut in half), a few pepper corns and the stalks of your celery bunch.

You can also add a garlic bulb cut across the middle to expose the cloves. And some parsley stalks are also a yummy addition. But these are optional. The carrot, celery and onion are the bare minimum required. 

Top up as high as you can with water. If you have it, you can also add a swig of Apple Cider Vinegar (helps to break down the bones and give you all their goodness).  

Cook on low for about 12 hours. I usually do this overnight.

In the morning, strain your stock. You can discard the bones and vegetables now – they’ve done their job.

If you’ve used a whole chicken, you’ll need to pick all the meat from the bones. This is juicy, succulent chicken that you can use for soup, sandwiches or any other recipe that calls for cooked chicken. It also freezes well. 

Once strained, you’ll be left with a couple of litres of good, old fashioned chicken stock. Store in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for 3 months. 

#2 – Roast Sweet Potatoes

This is the EASIEST way to roast sweet potatoes. No oil, minimal clean-up, and no hot oven running (good in summer!).

I use these in salads, for lunches and just as sides for an evening meal.

Plus, sweet potato is one of Ollie’s favourite foods – so we always have some of these in the fridge.

To make these in the slow cooker – take a couple of sweet potatoes (as many as will fit in a single layer on the bottom of your slow cooker). Give these a good scrub under some running water.

Pop them straight into the slow cooker – there’s no need to dry them. This is all the liquid you’ll need.

Set your slow cooker to low and cook for 6-7 hours. Check them after about 6 hours – as the time will depend on how large your sweet potatoes are. They are done when you can stick a fork through them.

Store these in the fridge for up to a week. I also freeze mine (wrapped individually) – for up to 3 months.

#3 – Make Brownies

I know. I was skeptical about this one too. But trust me. Desserts in the slow cooker can be super delicious.

The key to making desserts in a slow cooker is to use baking paper in the base – and have it long enough so that you can easily lift it out.

I have tried a few recipes – but this is the best recipe by far: Crockpot Gluten Free Brownies. The bonus is that it is grain free, egg free and vegan. But even better – it makes delicious brownies!

Give it a go and let me know what you think.

#4 – Cook Beans

We eat a lot of legumes in our house. They are cheap, delicious and versatile. Canned beans will always be in my pantry. And cooked beans will always be in my freezer.

Canned beans are cheap. But buying dried beans is so much cheaper again.

I cook beans in bulk, and then store them in the freezer in snap lock bags. I portion these into 2-cup size portions too – so that I know how much I am adding to the recipe. I will also keep a few 1 cup portions for lunches.

The trick with cooking beans is really organisation. You need to soak the beans the night before you want to cook them. This can be challenging – purely because we forget to plan ahead.

To soak your beans is simple. Pick through the dried beans, and check for any gravel or small rocks (trust me – I have found these!). Also discard any odd looking beans.

Place the beans into a large bowl and cover with water. Leave overnight.

The next morning, drain and rinse the beans. Place these into your slow cooker. Cover with water. I fill mine until the top of the slow cooker – about 2 inches above the layer of beans.

At this point, you can add some flavourings: an onion, carrot, celery, peppercorns and bay leaf. Or leave them as is. Just beans and water work fine.

I don’t add salt at this point – I find it toughens the beans.

Cook on low for approx 8 hours. I start testing around 6-7 hours. And depending on the age of your dried bean, you may need to go for up to 12 hours.

Remember to test more than one bean. Test 3 or 4. That way you can be sure that they are all soft.

Once cooked, drain them and split into portions.

Store in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.

#5 – Caramelise Onions

Who doesn’t love caramelised onions? They are super versatile – you can use them like you would pickles or chutney. They are also delicious served as an accompaniment to salads, with sausages or as part of a soup base.

But they are time consuming to make. Standing there, stirring over the hot stove.

Not any more.

Make a bulk batch in your slow cooker.

Thinly slice your onions (I do about 4 large onions at a time) and pop these into your slow cooker. Drizzle with a good slug of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Toss them to coat.

Cook on low for 10 hours.

You can stir these every now and then – but this isn’t necessary.

To reduce the liquid after 10 hours, cook for a bit longer with the lid ajar or completely off. This will give you a ‘jammier’ consistency. It can take another 3 to 5 hours. Just check every hour or so, and stop once they look and taste good to you.

Once done, you can store in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. I usually keep a jar in the fridge and then pack up the rest into 1 cup portions and freeze.

 

So – life changing? Did you know your slow cooker could be so versatile? What are you going to try first? Let me know in the comments below.

Get out that slow cooker today!

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