You might consider yourself a professional slow cooker chef, thanks to all the soups, briskets and casseroles that you can cook in your Crock-Pot. However, even the best cookbook will leave a few things out and it might surprise you to know that you can cook just about anything in a Crock-Pot. In fact, many items don't need a fancy smattering of herbs or ingredients as long as you have a machine that can keep things hot and cooking all day long.
It is easy to think of your Crock-Pot like a giant stew pot, which means you are probably used to cooking full recipes in the slow cooker. However, you can cook many single items just as easily with very little prep work. For example, baked potatoes cook wonderfully in a slow cooker; all you have to do is wrap your spuds in aluminum foil before you put them in. No fancy sauces are needed for this recipe and you will have wonderfully soft potatoes ready for stuffing, mashing or simply devouring with a dollop of sour cream on top.
Your Crock-Pot can also be used for baking. While it might seem unorthodox to cook breads in anything other than an oven, the slow cooker is actually a perfect tool for keeping breads moist and cooking them completely when you have to be away from the kitchen for the day. Some of the best candidates for Crock-Pot baking include rolls and cakes, which start with simple recipes and end with happy, full bellies.
Get back to the basics with your slow cooker by taking a whole chicken and turning it into a few delicious meals. You probably already use your slow cooker to roast pork and beef, and it is not too much different to cook a whole chicken. Rest the chicken in your slow cooker on a cut up onion or a few balls of aluminum foil, and it will be tender and juicy by the end of the day. You will easily be able to shred the chicken up for barbeque sandwiches or chicken tacos and you will have plenty of juices leftover to make up a batch of broth.
Whether you use chicken, beef or vegetable drippings, the slow cooker is the ideal way to cook up your meat or vegetable stock. Since a Crock-Pot roasts food slowly on low heat over a period of several hours, it will allow all your trimmings, bones and vegetables to cook down and blend together into a stock that is rich and flavorful. Stocks provide the base for many meals, including soups and stews as well as other main and side dishes. Use your leftover trimmings from other dishes and create stock for free with the help of your slow cooker.
Don't forget the dessert when you fire up your slow cooker; Crock-Pots are great for keeping fondue hot and bringing the whole family together. A quality model will last you for generations and keep the good meals coming year after year.