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5 ways to use your slow cooker in the winter

For me, winter is a time that is defined by two words: comfort and cozy. I prefer to hunker down for the cold months and try learning a couple of new things. That is how I found myself in a slow cooker frenzy and boldly declaring, “I will never use another device again”. The convenience of one-pot meals and the diversity of use make the slow cooker one of my favorite cooking tools. It is slow to warm up, but once it does, things get hot. That is why I am presenting you with five great ways to use your slow cooker to turn up the cozy this winter season.

Dessert for breakfast?

I love warm oatmeal in the winter to kickstart my day. The rich nuttiness of the oats with some milk and a bit of brown sugar are undefeated against a cold winter morning. A slow cooker is best for cooking steel-cut oats that are a bit denser and can keep the chewiness after being cooked over a long period. On average, you will want to use 3 ½ to 4 cups of liquid for every one cup of oats depending on the size of your cooker and your desired texture.  For the liquid, you can use water or any of your favorite kinds of milk. I prefer a mix of almond milk and coconut milk. After that, it is just choosing your toppings! From classics like pecans and raisins to items like carrot and coconut chips, oatmeal allows you to mix and match to your heart’s content. Don’t forget to throw in a sweetener of choice and a few herbs or spices like cardamom or nutmeg. Get creative and try something new. Check out this overnight slow cooker carrot cake oatmeal recipe by Kate Dean from I Heart Eating and try a little dessert for breakfast this winter.

Beans will make you dance

COVID brought on a lot of changes for everyone. For me, given the extra time I had at home, I decided to transition into a vegetarian lifestyle. What this meant was experimenting with new recipes and very often, beans. Cue the slow cooker. Over the last year, I have tried a variety of slow cooker bean dishes from chili to stew. Now, when I think about a go-to slow cooker meal, I immediately think of a warm chickpea coconut curry! This dish is a staple in my meal plan, popping up every couple of months. The rich curry flavor always transports me to another, much warmer, place, and in the dead of winter, that is where I want to be. Served on a bed of rice or with a side of naan bread, this dish is all comfort. I often pair mine with some garlic roasted green beans or oven-roasted broccoli. To get your curry on, pick up some potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, ginger, and coconut milk. Again, thanks to the one-pot meal idea, all you have to do is prep the veggies and dump them all into the pot. Check out this chickpea coconut curry from Vegan Richa.

Dessert for Dessert

Oatmeal and bean stews are easy to imagine when you think about a slow cooker meal. But did you know that your slow cooker can also make a variety of desserts and types of bread? That’s right, brownies, focaccia, French toast, and cakes can all be prepared in a slow cooker. As a big fan of dessert, slow cooker puddings and pies have been an exciting new way to cook some of my favorite sweets. I find that cooking with a slow cooker means that burning my baking is much less likely thanks to the slow cooking time. I also love that using the slow cooker frees up the oven for other tasks, which comes in handy during the busy Christmas baking season. Making dessert in a slow cooker is a bit more involved than a one-pot meal. You still need to prep the ingredients outside of the pot as you normally would, but then you can stick it into the pot to cook. Try out these easy slow cooker cinnamon buns from Sally’s Baking Addiction!

The after, after party

After a long winter day, I like to end my night with a hot beverage and cozy up with a good book. While I often choose a cup of tea, sometimes I like to change things up. Hot toddies mulled wines, and boozy hot chocolates are all beverages that help warm me up while I wind down. These are also all drinks that can easily be prepared in a slow cooker! I mix mine at lunch which guarantees an after-dinner serving time that is still hot out the pot. With slow cooker beverages, we can return to the one-pot meal idea and get creative with mix-ins. Want to try a mint hot chocolate, or ginger-spiced mulled wine? You can easily adapt any base recipe with your favorite flavors. Just stay open to the possibilities and adjust along the way. Stay warm with this mulled wine recipe from Gimme Some Oven.

Hygge for all

All the dishes that have been presented will keep your belly warm and that serotonin flowing. But to create that real winter hygge (a Danish word meaning a quality of coziness and comfort that creates a feeling of contentment or well-being according to dictionary.com) you need to set the scene. While your slow cooker can make food items, it can also make candles, lotion bars, and soaps! That’s right, you can set the scene for your winter wonderland with these DIY household items. When creating a non-food product in your cooker, you will want to be sure to use a liner where possible to avoid cross-contamination and for easy clean-up. These are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased online or from the kitchen aisle in your local grocery store. I love candle-making. They make great gifts, are pretty easy to make, and they smell great! Soaps and lotion bars are also great gift ideas and allow you to exercise your creative side. Check out these DIY slow cooker candles from Hello Glow.

I hope these ideas inspired your inner chef and you get a chance to try out some of these slow cooker recipes this winter. Good luck and have fun!