9 Surprising Dishes You Didn't Know You Could Make In Your Slow Cooker

March 3, 2017
slow cooker bread

Your slow cooker is great for cooking hearty, meat-focused mains and warming soups. (Try one of these easy slow-cooker recipes.) But that's not all the time-saving machine can do! Your slow cooker can also make desserts, snacks, bread, and yogurt. Here are 9 surprising recipes for your slow cooker that go beyond casseroles, or even dinner.

vegan farro risotto
Christopher Testani
Vegan Farro Risotto with Fennel, Peas, and Greens

TOTAL TIME: 3 hours 30 minutes
Serves 6

1 can (13.5 ounces) light coconut milk
1 cup pearled farro (use this quick guide for cooking grains)
½ cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth
½ cup dry white wine
½ small yellow onion, diced
1 small fennel bulb, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cup trimmed and chopped dandelion greens
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
¼ cup finely chopped toasted walnuts

1. Combine milk, farro, broth, wine, onion, fennel, oil, thyme, and salt in a 6-quart slow cooker.

2. Cover and cook on high until farro and vegetables are tender, 3 to 4 hours. Stir in greens and peas, cover, and continue cooking until greens are wilted, about 20 minutes. Serve topped with walnuts.

NUTRITION (per serving) 307 cal, 8 g pro, 38 g carb, 8 g fiber, 4 g sugars, 14 g fat, 4 g sat fat, 465 mg sodium

butternut squash swiss chard lasagna
Christopher Testani
Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Lasagna

TOTAL TIME: 3 hours 20 minutes
Serves 6

15 ounces part-skim ricotta
1 large egg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups chopped Swiss chard (about 1 small bunch)
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
9 lasagna noodles
1 small butternut squash, peeled, sliced into 1/8" half-moons (Check out the easiest way to cut and prepare a butternut squash.)
1½ cups grated Fontina
¼ cup grated Parmesan

1. Combine ricotta, egg, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl. Transfer ½ cup of the ricotta mix to large bowl and gently fold in chard. Set aside.

2. Coat 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Spread ¾ cup of the tomatoes on bottom. Top with 3 noodles, breaking as needed to fit. Spread ½ cup of the ricotta mix over noodles, then layer in half of the chard mix. Layer half of the squash over chard mix, overlapping to fit. Spread 1 cup of the tomatoes over squash; top with ¾ cup of the Fontina. Repeat, beginning and ending with noodles, reserving some Fontina and ricotta mix for top.

3. Top with remaining ¾ cup tomatoes. Dollop remaining ricotta and Fontina over lasagna. Cover and cook on low 2½ to 3 hours.

4. Remove lid and sprinkle with Parmesan. Replace lid, turn off slow cooker, and let sit 15 minutes before serving.

NUTRITION (per serving) 388 cal, 23 g pro, 37 g carb, 3 g fiber, 7 g sugars, 16 g fat, 10 g sat fat, 1,035 mg sodium

curry spiced nuts
Christopher Testani
Curry Spiced Nuts

TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 35 minutes
Serves 20

6 ounces raw cashews
6 ounces raw almonds
6 ounces raw pecan halves
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
4 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons honey
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne

Combine all ingredients in 6-quart slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and cook on high, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp, 1½ to 2 hours. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet and spread in even layer to cool and dry. Transfer to airtight container.

NUTRITION (per 1 oz serving) 180 cal, 4 g pro, 6 g carb, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugars, 16 g fat, 3.5 g sat fat, 50 mg sodium

homemade yogurt
Christopher Testani
Homemade Yogurt

TOTAL TIME: 3 hours + sitting/chilling time
Serves 8 for regular, 4 for Greek

½ gallon whole milk (not ultrapasteurized)
½ cup plain low-fat yogurt

Add milk to 6-quart slow cooker. Cook on low 2½ hours. Turn cooker off. Cool, covered, until instant-read thermometer registers 110 degrees, about 3 hours. Whisk in yogurt, cover, and wrap cooker in towel. Set in warm place until yogurt thickens, 8 to 12 hours. Chill and serve. Refrigerate up to 30 days.

Line fine-mesh sieve with 3 layers cheesecloth; set in large bowl. Transfer cooked yogurt to sieve. Let liquid whey drain until yogurt reaches desired thickness, at least 4 hours. (Save whey to use in smoothies.) Chill and serve. (If you're not into making your own, remember these 4 tips when buying Greek yogurt.)

NUTRITION (per 8 oz) REGULAR: 158 cal, 8 g pro, 13 g carb, 0 g fiber, 13 g sugars, 8 g fat, 4.5 g sat fat, 116 mg sodium GREEK: 220 cal, 20 g pro, 9 g carb, 0 g fiber, 9 g sugars, 11 g fat, 8 g sat fat, 65 mg sodium

whole grain bread
Christopher Testani
Whole Grain Bread

TOTAL TIME: 2 hours 20 minutes
Serves 10

2 teaspoons honey
1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup rye flour
⅓ cup steel-cut oats (What's healthier: steel-cut oats or rolled oats?)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Line 6-quart slow cooker with parchment and coat with cooking spray.

2. Stir honey and yeast with 1⅔ cups lukewarm water in small dish until yeast dissolves. Let stand 10 minutes; yeast should be bubbly and foamy.

3. Combine flours, oats, and salt in large bowl. Stir yeast mixture into dry ingredients until dough forms. Transfer to lightly floured surface and knead 3 or 4 times, until dough is cohesive and smooth. Form into ball.

4. Place dough in slow cooker, cover, and cook on high until instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 200 degrees, 2 to 3 hours.

5. Position rack 6 inches from broiler and prepare broiler for high heat. Place bread under broiler until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes per side. Cool completely, slice, and serve.

NUTRITION (per serving) 150 cal, 5 g pro, 32 g carb, 3 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 1 g fat, 0 g sat fat, 193 mg sodium

cranberry apple butter
Christopher Testani
Cranberry Apple Butter

TOTAL TIME: 5 hours 10 minutes
Serves 48

4 pounds apples, peeled and diced
3 cups (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup apple cider
½ cup honey
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon nutmeg

1. Combine all ingredients in 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on high until apples are tender, about 4 hours.

2. Transfer to blender, or use immersion blender, and puree until smooth.

3. Transfer mixture back to slow cooker and continue cooking on high until thick and jamlike, 1 to 2 hours.

4. Store in airtight container up to 30 days in refrigerator.

NUTRITION (per 2 Tbsp) 36 cal, 0 g pro, 10 g carb, 1 g fiber, 8 g sugars, 0 g fat, 0 g sat fat, 1 mg sodium

italian sausage broccoli rabe strata
Christopher Testani
Italian Sausage + Broccoli Rabe Strata

TOTAL TIME: 4 hours 10 minutes
Serves 8

1 small loaf (8 ounces) soft Italian whole wheat bread, cut into 1" cubes, left out overnight
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small bunch broccoli rabe (about 8 ounces), cut into 1" pieces
1 pound mild Italian turkey sausage (casing removed), crumbled
1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan + extra for garnish
10 large eggs (When buying eggs, make sure the carton says these 3 things.)
2 cups 1% milk
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper

1. Line 6-quart slow cooker with foil, leaving generous overhang on all sides, and coat with cooking spray. Spread half of the bread in bottom and sprinkle with half of the garlic. Layer in half of the broccoli rabe and half of the sausage, followed by half of the Parmesan. Repeat layers once more.

2. Whisk eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and pour evenly over ingredients in slow cooker. Using back of spoon, firmly press down on layers, submerging in egg mixture. Cover and cook on low until puffed and slightly firm to the touch, 3½ hours. Turn off slow cooker, remove lid, and let sit 30 minutes.

3. Use foil overhang to carefully remove strata from slow cooker and transfer to cutting board or platter. Slice into wedges and serve, garnishing with Parmesan if desired.

NUTRITION (per serving) 334 cal, 28 g pro, 18 g carb, 2 g fiber, 6 g sugars, 16.5 g fat, 4.5 g sat fat, 973 mg sodium

pear cardamom crisp
Christopher Testani
Pear and Cardamom Crisp

TOTAL TIME: 3 hours 45 minutes
Serves 8

3 pounds pears, chopped
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup pecans, chopped
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup cold unsalted butter, diced
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1. Stir pears, cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, and 2 tablespoon of the flour in a large bowl. Coat 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray and add pear mixture.

2. Combine oats, pecans, sugar, butter, salt, and remaining 2 tablespoon flour in a medium bowl and sprinkle over pears. Cover and cook on high until pears are tender, about 3 hours. Remove lid and cook on low until top is crisp, about 30 minutes. (Worried about sugar? Try one of these 3 low-sugar desserts.)

NUTRITION (per serving) 316 cal, 4 g pro, 45 g carb, 8 g fiber, 24 g sugars, 16 g fat, 4 g sat fat, 65 mg sodium

lemon pudding cake
Christopher Testani
Lemon Pudding Cake

TOTAL TIME: 2 hours 15 minutes
Serves 4

½ cup sugar + extra for dusting, if desired
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, separated
⅔ cup plain low-fat yogurt
Juice and zest of 1 large lemon
Fresh pomegranate arils and whipped cream, for serving (Here's why you should steer clear of the fake stuff.)

1. Butter and lightly sugar four 6-ounce ramekins. Whisk sugar, flour, and salt in small bowl and set aside.

2. Combine egg yolks, yogurt, and lemon juice and zest in a mixer. Beat on medium until well combined. Reduce speed to low. Slowly add dry ingredients until just combined.

3. Beat whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into batter.

4. Divide batter among ramekins. Arrange in 6-quart slow cooker. Add enough water to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Cover and cook on low about 2 hours, until cake springs back when pressed. Remove and cool slightly. Invert on plates. Serve with pomegranate and whipped cream.

NUTRITION (per serving) 216 cal, 6 g pro, 35 g carb, 0 g fiber, 28 g sugars, 6 g fat, 3 g sat fat, 185 mg sodium

The article 9 Surprising Dishes You Didn't Know You Could Make In Your Slow Cooker originally appeared on Prevention.