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Photo by Sara Nicastro

Darla is an an all-American Iowa girl, married to the Chief of Police and mom to an 11-year-old boy (it’s all about the testosterone at her house). Currently she works from home as an accountant and also as a silver power seller on eBay, and is the Managing Editor for Blissfully Domestic. She writes on numerous blogs, such as Sassy Homemaker and Chic Critique.

I know all of you savvy Simple Mom fans are well aware that slow cookers (such as Crock Pots) are more than just food warmers, but did you know that they’re close to a full-service station? They defrost, cook, warm, reheat and beyond.

Here are a few simple tips for getting the most out of your slow cooker:

Baked potatoes are great in a slow cooker – just wrap them in tinfoil, bake them on high, and they’ll be done when you arrive home. Throw some meat on the grill and you’ll have an instant meal.

• I use a slow cooker to thaw and brown hamburger. You do need to be home to make this work, but it saves a ton of energy as well as clean-up (and for even easier clean-up, I highly recommend slow cooker liners).  Place the meat frozen in the slow cooker, turn it on high, and come back every 30 minutes to scrape off the outside meat.  It’ll be defrosted and cooked in less than two hours. Add your remaining ingredients, and you’ll have a homemade dinner start-to-finish in just a few hours and no clean up time.

For chicken, place frozen parts in the slow cooker, checking back every 30 minutes and rotating until they are completely cooked. Add the remaining ingredients, and once more, there’s very little clean up for a full meal.

You can follow the same method for a roast as well. To keep a roast moist, use some sort of a red sauce – anything from salsa, to canned tomatoes, to Italian stewed tomatoes, to tomato sauce will work. I’m not a fan of tomatoes, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the meat was so moist and flavorful.

• Finally, add a can or two of Cream of Golden Mushroom soup to your slow cooker for a nice and simple gravy.

What slow cooker tips would you like to share? I know you’ve got some up your sleeve.

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