Do-it-yourself projects are fun for a variety of reasons. Not only do you get the gratification of knowing you made something all on your own that you would otherwise have purchased from a store, you also have the satisfaction of knowing that the ingredients came from sustainable and cruelty-free sources. Add in the fact that you can make lots of creations out of items in your house that have outlived their original purpose and now you’ve recycled something that may have been landfill fodder. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Which is where your long forgotten, lonely little slow cooker comes in. Sure, you may be one of those people who uses the little appliance that could on a regular basis, but for many of us, it lays in wait at the back of the cabinet next to that apple peeling contraption you got three birthdays ago and the set of spring form pans you used to make exactly one vegan cheesecake. But those days are over now, because here are a bunch of fun things to do with it that will put it back into regular rotation!
It obviously goes without saying that if you’re going to be using non-food chemicals in it (like with some soap recipes, for example), it’s best to have a dedicated crock pot for these purposes. You wouldn’t want to run the risk of things you’d rather not eat permeating into that luscious bean soup recipe. With safety prioritized first and foremost, all that’s left to do is gather up some ingredients and reignite your love affair with your slow cooker.
Great as a gift or for your own personal use, making your own soap gives you complete control over the ingredients you’re putting onto your skin and, as far as those ingredients go, your imagination is the limit. You can use a recipe that calls for lye, which requires extreme caution to work with so keep that in mind, or you can go the cheater route like this recipe and grate a couple of all natural, unscented bars of soap as your base. Mix your ingredients together and let the crockpot do the work, pouring the melted mixture into molds so they’ll cool into a fancy shape.
Whip up some natural dye
You can color fabric or yarn in the crock pot using natural ingredients like turmeric, beets, coffee, tea or blueberry. Simply mix your organic material with two parts water and cook on high for an hour. Strain out the solids, add your fabric and let soak. The longer you soak, the more intense the shade will be. There’s a great tutorial with lots of plant-based recipes here.
Make breakfast…the night before
Wake up to breakfast by prepping everything the night before! Just use your favorite oatmeal recipe, like this one or this one, throw the ingredients into the crock pot and set to low for 6-8 hours. If you plan on sleeping longer than that (lucky you), a crock pot with a timer setting would be ideal here. Also, whole grains (such as steel cut oats, millet, or barely) are a must for this, no quick cooking oats allowed!
Homemade Air Freshener
Love the smell of those melty little wax cubes, but don’t love the potential chemicals used to make them? Simply mix up a batch of things that will smell amazing when heated and toss them into your slow cooker on low. We’re talking orange/lemon slices, cinnamon sticks, sprigs of rosemary, mulling spices, essential oils etc. The sky is the aromatic limit. Make sure you put some water in along with it so that the contents don’t burn to the bottom of your appliance and create a burnt smell in place of your yummy aroma.
Pro tip: Use the spices in your cabinet that are old and losing their potency. This is a great use for them instead of merely tossing them, plus you save money by not buying new spices just for the purposes of making the house smell yummy.
Natural Play Dough
Never worry about the weird ingredients in the commercially available stuff again. All you need is your favorite recipe for play dough (some even call for gluten-free flours if you’re worried about your little one taking a big bite out of it) and your crock pot. Depending on the size of your appliance, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to cook. When you’re done, use your favorite all natural coloring agents (turmeric makes a great yellow while a few drops of beet juice give you a muted, natural red) and set about building Mr. Bill in natural style!
Let’s face it, baked potatoes take forever in the oven and lots of us like avoiding the microwave wherever we can. So what’s a hungry person to do when they have some amazing, plant-based chili that is practically begging to smother some nutritious, potato-y goodness? Plan a little ahead and you could come home from work to perfectly baked spuds! Simply wrap a few large tubers in foil and place in the crockpot, setting it to low. Your potatoes are ready in 6-8 hours.
Have kids? Oh, cool, then you have about two bazillion broken crayon fragments hanging around in the art supplies box. How do they succeed in breaking them into so many tiny nubs? The good news is, all of those fragments can find new life once more! Simply put those broken pieces (with the paper removed) into the crock pot, sorted by color, and heat on high. Stir frequently until the wax has melted, then switch to low as you carefully spoon the wax into molds (silicon ice cube trays in cute shapes work well.) Be sure to use caution when working with hot wax!
Clean up tip: Once the crock pot has cooled back down to room temperature, place the ceramic crock in the freezer for a bit. It makes the residual wax much easier to chip off.
Use it as a smoker
Want to imbue your food with some smokey flavor? Use your crockpot! Just presoak some wood chips of your choice (mesquite and applewood are excellent choices) for 30 minutes and then wrap them in two layers of parchment paper. Cut a few holes in the top of the packet so that the smoke has a place to escape and place the food you’d like to smoke directly over it. Depending on the food you’re using it will take more or less time. Smoking marinated tofu, for instance, can take about 6-8 hours. Just keep your eye on it and remove it according to when you feel it’s done to your liking.
What non traditional things do you use your crock pot for? Give us your tricks and tips in the comments!
Lead Image Credit: She Knows