Nothing but love for this household staple.

What a long strange winter it was thus year for the slow cooker industry. First, there was the meteoric rise in popularity of the Instant Pot, which is like a Crock Pot with a Ph.D., combining the functions of a traditional slow cooker with the added value of a Pressure Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Warmer, and more. In the week following the holidays this year, I noted no less than seven Instant Pot boxes out for recycling as I drove down my block. It was the feel-good holiday gift of the year.

Then, only a few weeks later, the bottom seemed to fall out of the slow cooker market, thanks to a certain manipulative prime-time drama making it a catalyst for disaster on its FICTIONAL show. Said show was already getting on my last nerve if you want to know the truth, and for me, this was the final straw. Villainize Big Tobacco, Big Oil, Big Pharma, even Big Tech in your heart-wrenching plot devices. But not Big Slow Cooker, the warm and fuzzy equivalent of the beagle who brings your slippers on a cold winter’s night.

I’ll shout it loud and proud: I LOVE my slow cooker! It makes my life so much easier. It simplifies entertaining. It makes my home smell delicious. AND, it can be used in more creative ways than I’ll bet you ever thought possible.

Shea butter

Surprising Use #1: Spa Day Central  

Who knew that the same appliance you rely on to make hearty stews and Game-Day chili could be the centerpiece of your next girls’ night in? Use a crock pot to warm hand towels and washcloths, and DIY beauty items like lip balm, soap, and skin-soothing lotion bars and herbal salves. Pinterest is filled with easy recipes, many of which include beeswax, shea butter, and aromatic essential oils.

Vanilla

Surprising Use #2: Household Helper

Your slow cooker is more than a chef—s/he’s a handyman/woman, too! Make your home smell springtime fresh by simmering sliced lemon, fresh rosemary, vanilla, and water. Clean jewelry with a non-toxic mixture of white vinegar and salt. You can even use it to germinate seeds and remove paint from items like furniture hardware.  (Needless to say, don’t cook a lasagna in the same crock pot you use for paint removal; they’re cheap enough to have a spare and not become ill from lead poisoning).

Molds

Surprising Use #3: Crafty Corner

When you use your slow cooker to make arts and crafts supplies for kids, you get two projects for the price of one: make the supplies one day, use them the next… and the next. Make your own play dough using ingredients like corn starch, salt, cream of tartar, hot water, and cooking oil. Dye yarn using food coloring or Kool Aid. My favorite is making crayons, because it involves giving a new life to the many nubs of broken crayon bits we manufacture in my home. Simply melt ‘em down and pour into silicone molds to reshape and resurrect.

Welch's

Surprising Use #4: Happy Hour

I’ve known for some time that you could make warm winter cocktails like boozy hot chocolate and spiked apple cider in a crock pot, or refreshing summer limoncello in an Instant Pot. I’ve even heard musings about using these appliances to craft your own beer. Then just last week, my dear Jet.com editor alerted me to the breaking news that someone is making wine in his slow cooker device. The recipe starts with Welch’s Grape Juice and appears to require a lot of patience and commitment. Personally, I’m cool with running into town and grabbing a cheap bottle, but if you’re feeling experimental, go for it!

What are your favorite easy slow cooker recipes?

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