Things you're not making in your slow cooker but should

Slow cookers can be total lifesavers for busy people year-round, and you could almost definitely be using your slow cooker for more things than you are right now. While, sure, not everything is ideal when made in a slow cooker, there are tons of things that work really well in a slow cooker, you've just never thought of doing them that way before. Pretty soon your slow cooker, that steadfast workhorse, will get more use than just about anything else in your kitchen. Here are the things you should be cooking in there, but don't.

Party mixes

I don't know about you, but a lot of people view slow cooker foods as soft and soggy, but party mixes are actually a great thing to make in your slow cooker. It heats everything at a low enough temperature so that you don't have to worry about burning, but still makes sure that every single piece is coated with whatever delicious saucy seasonings you've added to the mix. Bonus: it frees up your oven, so if you're throwing a party, there's no need to stress about the timing of everything. Feeling ready to experiment with slow cooker party mixes? Try this slow cooker Chex mix from Gimme Some Oven or a slow cooker cinnamon maple Chex mix from A Kitchen Addiction.

Baked goods

Wait, what? Baked goods that aren't, well, baked, but instead cooked in your trusty slow cooker? There are many baked goods that can, in fact, work super-well in the slow cooker. Of course, things like puddings, crumbles, bread pudding, and the like all can be made in your slow cooker, so too can some of the less obvious things like cakes and brownies. Because you're not looking for crispy, crunchy finished products (like you are, say, with cookies), it works. Need more convincing? If it's good enough for Martha, it's good enough for you. Start with these slow cooker triple chocolate brownies from the Martha Stewart website. Cooking them for a bit without the lid ensure that you're not left with a soggy mess of condensation and the like on top of your brownies. Get ready to tote out your slow cooker every time you bake brownies.

Oatmeal

If you're not already cooking oatmeal in your slow cooker, you will be soon. Especially if you find your mornings are too harried and hectic for you to cook a good breakfast, making oatmeal in your slow cooker feels like a secret that's been kept from you — until now. According to Cooking Light, oatmeal cooked in your slow cooker can be cooked overnight safely, meaning there will be a warm, comforting, delicious breakfast ready and waiting for you when you wake up in the morning. You can do a bare-bones, simple recipe with just oats and water, or you can gussy it up a bit and try slow cooker oatmeal with apples and ginger from Epicurious. Bon appétit.

Stock

Stock (and/or bone broth) is an absolute perfect candidate when it comes to foods that you should try making in the slow cooker rather than on the stove. To get a good, rich stock, you really need to let it go for quite a while. Your general goal is that, once chilled, it'll be more like jelly than a liquid stock (though it likely won't get like that if you cook it covered in your slow cooker). When I make stock for Thanksgiving, for instance, I simmer it overnight to make sure that it's rich and flavorful. If you want to give it a try for yourself, start with slow cooker chicken stock from either The Kitchn or Smitten Kitchen.

Dulce de leche and other dessert sauces

Like stock, dulce de leche and other dessert sauces are pretty much the perfect things to make in your slow cooker. These sauces are made for low temperature and gradual cooking. They're susceptible to burning or scalding if made on the stove, when you don't have as much control over the temperature and can't just let them hang out. Slow cooker dulce de leche honestly couldn't be easier. All it requires is an unopned can of sweetened condensed milk and enough water to cover it. Cook that for eight hours and it's ready. After you make the most delicious dessert sauces ever (caramelized white chocolate and fudge sauce both also work well in a slow cooker), drizzle them over ice cream or fruit, into coffee, or make these pumpkin mocha cupcakes by Damn Delicious.

Bread

While any bread you make in a slow cooker likely won't be as impressive as the loaves that come out of your oven, if you're intimidated by the bread baking process or want to bake bread while you're out of the house all day, this is a great option. The slow cooker operates more like a bread machine, so if you like bread machine-made bread, you might also appreciate that which is made in a slow cooker. If slow cooker bread sounds like it's right up your alley, A Spicy Perspective's slow cooker apple butter yeast rolls might be just the place to start.

Cheesecake

Sure, making a cheesecake in a slow cooker rather than in your oven will take much, much longer than you're used to, but it won't heat up the whole house since you don't have to turn on your oven and you don't have to fuss with a hot water bath (which is often used to ensure baked cheesecakes bake evenly). According to Food and Wine, the texture of cheesecakes made in a slow cooker is also much smoother and silkier than a traditional cheesecake because it's steamed. Make sure you keep the lid on the slow cooker when making cheesecake, however, or you'll let all the heat escape. Tempted to try it out for yourself? Food and Wine walks you through it step by step. Once it's done, all you'll need to add is fresh fruit, a sauce, or another garnish — or make it even easier on yourself and eat it as-is.

Candy

Candy is super-simple to make in a slow cooker, though it may not seem like it would be. Mix nuts or seeds and whatever kinds of chocolate you'd like to in the slow cooker. Let it all meld and stir in any additional mix-ins. The options for mix-ins are endless: pretzels, peanut butter, almond butter, Nutella, caramel, peppermint pieces, other kinds of candy, graham crackers, Oreos, potato chips, and so on. Let your candy mixture set in little muffin tin liners and bam. You've made candy. Let Cookies and Cups guide you if you feel as though you need a little bit of guidance with measurements, timing, or how to make your candies. Talk about delicious — they'll be a sure crowd-pleaser.

Enchiladas or lasagna

Enchiladas and lasagna can both be a little bit difficult and persnickety in order to get dinner on the table, especially on a weeknight. Making them in a slow cooker, however, makes these challenging dishes a snap to prepare any night of the week. Lasagna is great to make in the slow cooker because you don't even have to pre-boil the noodles. All you have to do is layer everything in your slow cooker, set it and forget it. Gimme Some Oven's slow cooker lasagna is the perfect place to start. 

Enchiladas also get simplified when made in the slow cooker. Yes, you'll have to mix together the components of your filling and fill and roll the tortillas, but all of the other ingredients are simply added to the slow cooker. Then, like the lasagna, you just have to turn it on and let it go. The Kitchn has a recipe for slow cooker black bean enchiladas if you're unsure which recipe to use to experiment. Dinner is served.

Poached pears (and other poached things)

Poaching and braising are the ideal cooking techniques for which to use your slow cooker. They require cooking foods "low and slow" in a little bit of liquid (the amount depends on the cooking technique — poaching needs more) which is, coincidentally, just how your slow cooker cooks things. No matter what you're poaching (or braising) in your slow cooker, one of the most important things to remember is that your liquid needs to be super flavorful. You can poach in wine, stock, or another liquid, adding herbs, spices, zest, and other aromatics to make the liquid as tasty as possible. The flavors in the poaching or braising liquid are what will flavor whatever you're poaching or braising, so make sure it's delicious. Not sure where to start? Try Rachel Ray Magazine's spiced wine-poached pears.

Mashed potatoes

Every year on Thanksgiving, I make my mashed potatoes the traditional way, on the stove, and then add them to a well-buttered slow cooker in order to keep them warm and perfectly cooked and seasoned until we're ready to sit down for dinner. It gives you something to do early in the day when your turkey is roasting, plus ensures that you don't have a pot of potatoes taking up valuable stove space on a day when you need all the stove space you can get. 

If you don't want to have to use both a pot and a slow cooker, however, you can just do the whole process in the slow cooker. Add potatoes, water, and butter to the bowl of your slow cooker and cook them. No draining here, just season and they're done. This recipe from Nola.com will explain how it's done. Because you're not adding too much water, it shouldn't make your potatoes too waterlogged. If you let them sit submerged in water, however, they'll end up watery and a texture that you'd probably not like all that much.

Rice

Turn your slow cooker into a rice cooker by making rice pilaf in your slow cooker instead of on your stovetop. If it's a pilaf rather than just straight rice, you'll have to do some minimal sautéing in a sauté pan on your stove before spooning it all into the slow cooker, adding the rest of your ingredients, and letting it cook for a couple of hours until it's all done. Let Taste of Home show you how's it's done. Fluff it with a fork, garnish with some green onions, and serve.