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Think all your slow cooker is good for is cranking out pots of chili and beef stew? Think again! This versatile kitchen workhorse can be put to use for all manner of things you probably never realized. So we've gathered seven of our favorite slow cooker hacks to help you get the hang of making the most of yours.

Seven things you didn't know you could do with your slow cooker

Fruit sauce: Combine three pounds of cored and sliced apples (or other fruit) with 1/2 cup matching fruit juice, a pinch of salt and two tablespoons butter. Cook on high for three to four hours or low for six to eight hours. Puree or process with a blender, immersion blender or food processor to your desired level of smoothness. Optionally, stir in one teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or one tablespoon vanilla extract or cognac. Serve over pancakes, waffles, ice cream or oatmeal.

Cobbler: Combine two pounds frozen peaches or mangoes with 1/3 cup packed brown sugar, one teaspoon cinnamon, one teaspoon ground dry ginger, one tablespoon cornstarch and a pinch of salt. Top with canned or homemade biscuit dough and cook for two to three hours on high or four to six hours on low.

Mulled wine or cider: Combine one gallon apple cider or three bottles of red wine with 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice, the zest of one orange peeled into long strips with a vegetable peeler, four cinnamon sticks, one tablespoon cloves, one-inch chunk of fresh ginger, sliced, and one teaspoon whole allspice. Cook for one to two hours on high or three to four hours on low.

Hot chocolate: Combine 1/2 gallon whole milk, two cups heavy cream, 12 ounces each of milk chocolate chips and dark chocolate chips, and a vanilla bean, split and scraped. Cook on low for three to four hours or on high for one to two hours, stirring once or twice to mix the melted chocolate thoroughly with the milk and cream.

Chocolate-peanut butter snack mix: Combine four cups Corn Chex cereal, four cups Cheerios, two cups miniature pretzels and two cups peanuts with 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 cup smooth peanut butter. Cook on low for three hours, stirring one to two times per hour. Spread evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Oatmeal: Combine two cups water, two cups milk, one cup steel-cut oats and a pinch of salt in the slow cooker. Cook on low for four to six hours. Add fruit, spices, brown sugar or maple syrup as desired.

Rice pudding: Combine a 15-ounce can coconut milk with two cups water, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, a pinch of salt and one cup short-grain white rice. Cook on low for three to four hours.

-- The Associated Press

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