Slow cookers are great for chili and stew that simmer all day long, letting the flavors meld together as they mingle for hours and hours. These are foods that benefit from cooking slowly. But your slow cooker doesn't have to be so limited in its use. Try one of these other tasty slow cooker recipes:

Meatless healthy slow cooker meals

Healthy slow cooker meals with meat

slow cooker chicken tacosChicken, taco seasonings and some salsa make for some tasty shredded chicken in the slow cooker. (Photo: msheldrake/Shutterstock)

  • Easiest Chicken for Tacos or Burritos: Chicken breasts, a custom blend of spices for taco meat, and a jar of good salsa are all you need to make chicken that you can shred for all kinds of Mexican meals.
  • Slow Cooker Pork Loin in Apple Cider, Mustard & Thyme: Not only is this recipe easy, it will feed you for several nights. This makes enough for two to be served as a roast one night, shredded another night and then perhaps made into Hot and Sour Soup plus the filling for a side of dumplings.
  • Slow Cooker Honey Chicken and Vegetables Un-Kabobs: The ingredients for this recipe, which uses whatever vegetables you have on hand, were originally meant to be grilled as kabobs, but instead they go into the slow cooker. The finished result is great served over rice.
  • Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic: To really make this easy, you'll want to buy already-peeled garlic cloves. A whole chicken is cooked with garlic, which turns sweet and mellow during the slow cooking process. To keep up the healthy meal theme, serve this with the white beans below instead of a potato side dish. You can cook the beans a day ahead if you have only one slow cooker.

Side dishes to accompany your meal

slow cooker applesauceApplesauce can be made in the slow cooker with just apples and a little bit of water. You don't even have to core or peel the apples. (Photo: Marie C Fields/Shutterstock)

If you have a second slow cooker at home, you can slow cook a side dish at the same time you're slow cooking your meal.

  • Applesauce: There's nothing but apples and a little bit of water in this recipe. It's so easy, you don't even have to peel or core the apples. It's so good, everyone will call it awesomesauce. Try it on the side of the pork loin recipe above.
  • Slow Cooker White Beans: Soak dry beans overnight right in the crock of the slow cooker (turned off). In the morning, add the remaining ingredients and you'll have a protein-packed, healthy side dish for dinner. Serve with the Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic above.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.