This is the time of year when I really utilize my crockpot: it’s a perfect solution to busy workweeks filled with afterschool and evening sports, homework, and chill-inducing days.
Prepping soups and roasts in the morning before work may add a little time to your morning routine, but coming home to the aroma of an already cooked meal is heavenly. And though soups, stews, and roasts are often the go-to meals for a slow cooker, there are many other ways to utilize a crockpot.
- Homemade vegetable broth is probably my favorite use of a slow cooker because it is so deliciously easy and so delicious on tongues. Every time I cut vegetables, I toss the scraps into a one-gallon freezer bag. When the bag is full, I pop the scraps into the crockpot and fill it to the brim with water. Put the crockpot on low overnight (or in the morning), and you’ll have homemade vegetable broth in eight (or so) hours. Simply remove the vegetables and store the broth as desired. I tend to use broth in 12-ounce increments, so I just fill canning jars, leaving headspace, and freeze them.
- Overnight oatmeal turns the all-day cooking and aromatic evening into all-night cooking with sweet morning breakfast smells, which makes getting up just a wee bit easier.
- Amp up your morning with a breakfast casserole using shredded potatoes, eggs, bacon, veggies, and cheese. This is a nice way to handle holiday mornings, when things tend to get crazy in the kitchen. Rather than roll out individual enchiladas, layer the parts in the crockpot for an enchilada casserole. This, like some soups and stews, requires a bit of morning cooking, but is completely worth it come 5:00.
- Did you know you can make bread in a crockpot? Breakfast rolls, brownies, cake, and, yes, a loaf of whole wheat bread can all be made in a slow cooker.
- And finally, though the apple season is coming to an end: applesauce. Just core and quarter four pounds of apples, add two to four cups of water or apple cider, and cook for three and a half hours on high. Add a sweetener and spices, if so desired, and mash or blend to the desired consistency. An immersion blender comes in really, really handy for the last step. Oh, and if you or your children like mixed fruit sauces, add some peaches, pears, plums, strawberries, blueberries, apricots . . . you get the picture.