Most people associate cooking with a slow cooker with making dinner. Toss in some meat, veggies and seasonings in the morning, and you can come home to a hot, home-cooked meal ready to eat. What you may not realize, though, is that the versatile slow cooker is ideal for making a hearty breakfast as well. Prepare the ingredients the night before, set the cooker on low and in the morning you can have a filling and healthy breakfast even when you're in a rush.
Because slow cookers cook with low, moist heat, it’s ideal for cooking large amounts of oatmeal or homemade cereal. Warm up a cold winter morning with some creamy oatmeal prepared in the slow cooker. The night before, mix 1 cup of dry old-fashioned oats (not the quick cooking variety, unless you want very mushy oatmeal) with 2 cups of water and a dash of salt and cook on low for 7 to 9 hours. You can cook the oatmeal plain, and add brown sugar, honey or other toppings in the morning, or mix the toppings in before cooking. For example, a cup of chopped apples and a pinch of cinnamon added before cooking give a sweet flavor to the oatmeal.
If you approach your slow cooker like an electric casserole dish, suddenly a whole new world of breakfast possibilities arises. Almost all of your favorite oven-baked casseroles can be cooked in the slow cooker, and if you cook in a large slow cooker, you can double or triple the recipe to feed a crowd. Try layering browned sausage, cheese and veggies and pouring eggs beaten with a few tablespoons of creamy dressing over the layers; cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or overnight for an omelet style casserole. Experiment with different additions to the casserole, such as cubed bread -- a great way to use up bread that’s about to go stale or the heels that no one wants to eat -- or frozen hash brown potatoes.
It may seem unusual, but it’s possible to bake bread in your slow cooker. The moist, warm environment of your slow cooker is ideal for rising yeast breads, and you can cook your favorite quick breads in the cooker as well. Depending on the recipe, you can either cook the bread right in the crock, or fill a loaf pan with the ingredients and place that pan in the crock, surrounded by water. When you set the slow cooker timer, remember that one hour on high is equal to two and half hours on low. If you use low heat, you can set the slow cooker to cook bread overnight and wake up to a fresh, warm homemade treat in the morning.
When you’re hosting a brunch and need to keep food warm, your slow cooker can do double-duty. Turn the cooker on low and fill it with scrambled eggs, breakfast meat or anything else you need to keep warm. Try filling a small, one quart slow cooker with maple syrup for pancakes and waffles, for example. The steam heat of the slow cooker keeps food moist as well, preventing the dry eggs or pancakes you often find at breakfast buffets. Just pay attention to how long you leave food out; eggs, for example, should not be kept warm in a slow cooker for more than two hours or the chance of bacteria increases.
An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer on topics including lifestyle, education, and business. She is the author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), and her work has appeared in Lewiston Auburn Magazine, Young Money, USA Today and a variety of online outlets. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.
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