5 Reasons You Should Use a Slow Cooker in Summer

Crock-Pot BBQ Chicken Sandwich
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Oh baby, it's hot outside! Who wants to even think about the stove or oven when you could be cooling off at the beach or pool? Grilling is always a good answer to the question, "What's for dinner?" But even that can start to get old after a while. So, then what? Try dusting off your favorite winter kitchen accessory — the slow cooker — for some summer fun.

I gave away my old slow cooker years ago, but recently bought a new one because I realized how handy they really are: time saving and a nice way to mix up your meals when you're tired of your usual summer fare!

Although I agree the thought of beef stew or a hearty soup isn't terribly appealing in July, there is so much more to explore with slow cookers in summer.

Turn Off the Heat

If you start to sweat just thinking about preheating the oven when it's 95 degrees outside, a slow cooker can step in to save the day. As long as you do a bit of advance planning, you can roast a chicken, cook a pot roast or bake some beans, a frittata or even a cake. Just remember to plan your menu early in the day so you get a good start. Most slow cooker recipes take anywhere from two to eight hours, but the bonus is that they're hands off and heat-free.

Cook It Once and Eat All Week

With all the fun plans you've made, summer is just way too short to be stuck inside cooking! Use the slow cooker to cook a few pounds of chicken breast on Monday and shred it to use in chicken tacos; on Tuesday, make Asian stir-fry; and on Wednesday, make chicken salad. Cooked chicken lasts for three to four days when refrigerated properly, so you might even be able to squeeze out a Thursday meal of barbecue pulled-chicken sandwiches from that one day of cooking! Less time in the kitchen can make summer feel just a little bit longer.

Breakfast Is Ready

A hearty breakfast saves the day when the kids have long days at camp, or your agenda involves a full schedule of hiking, biking or swimming. Step aside cold cereal, because slow-cooker breakfasts (such as egg-and-vegetable frittata, baked oatmeal with fruit and nuts, or even huevos rancheros casserole) are where you'll find the long-lasting fuel. As a bonus, you can prepare these breakfast meals the night before and they'll be ready to grab and go when you are.

Dessert Can Be Healthier

Enjoy fresh summer fruit by slow-roasting stone fruits and fresh berries with a few slices of fresh ginger or a vanilla pod in the slow cooker. Skip the chocolate syrup and sprinkles — top frozen yogurt with an amazing summer fruit compote.

Save Money and DIY

Pre-cooked, packaged and frozen whole grains are a great time saver, but why not try making your own? Cook several cups of longer-cooking grains, such as wheat berries or farro, in the slow cooker, cool on a cookie sheet and freeze in freezer bags. Instant whole grains!

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Anne Danahy
Anne Danahy, MS, RDN, is a wellness dietitian and nutrition communications consultant who specializes in women's health and healthy aging. She blogs at Craving Something Healthy. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.