When I was querying my friends about their culinary Achilles' heels, one friend mentioned that rice had been a problem for her until she started making it in her bread machine. I was so intrigued that I pulled my behemoth bread machine up from the basement where it's been collecting dust for a few years to give it a try.

It worked! I made rice that was neither undercooked nor burnt in my bread machine. I started wondering what all my neglected appliance could make that wasn't bread. It turns out, the bread machine is more versatile than I knew.

Rice

rice This rice was made in a bread machine. (Photo: Robin Shreeves)

Let's start with the rice. The photo above is the rice that came out of my bread machine. It turned out about the same as if I had done it on my stovetop, but here's the big difference: I didn't have to pay attention to the rice in my bread machine. I put the water, rice and salt in the pan, stirred, set the machine to bake for one hour and walked away. It took longer than the stove top variety, so if time is of the essence, the bread machine isn't your best option. (And yes, a rice cooker would have similar hands-off results, but if you already have a bread machine and you don't have a rice cooker, you can skip buying another kitchen appliance.) This method works if your bread machine has a bake-only function — and, with the addition of a few ingredients, you can make rice pudding in the bead machine, too.

Jam

strawberry jam You can turn summer's bounty into jam without too much effort. (Photo: baibaz/Shutterstock)

Most newer bread machine models have a jam setting that many people overlook. If it does, the bread machine is great for small batch jam making. There are plenty of recipes floating around online for jam on the bread machine like this Simple Bread Machine Strawberry Jam that can be made with or without pectin, depending on how thick you want your jam. In an hour and twenty minutes of hands-off cooking time, you've made jam.

Hot dips

artichoke dip Can a dip like this be made in the bread machine? Why, yes, it can. (Photo: cobra photography/Shutterstock)

That jam cycle comes in handy for more than just jam. It can also be used to make warm dips like Creamy Artichoke-Zucchini Dip. After about 10 minutes of prep time, this dip is ready in an hour and 20 minutes.

Tomato sauce

hand holding tomatoes from the garden Chop them up, put them in the bread machine with a few ingredients, and you have cooked tomato sauce. (Photo: A. Aleksandravicius/Shutterstock)

This recipe for tomato sauce made in a bread machine comes out thin, but the addition of some tomato paste would help to thicken it up. In fact, you can customize your tomato sauce with whatever ingredients you want and just use the cooking directions. Swap out fresh garlic for the powdered and add whatever herbs you want. As with the jam, if you can find some bruised tomatoes at the farmers market that are marked down, scoop them up to use in this recipe.

Meatloaf

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, carrots Don't want to heat up your oven? No problem. Make meatloaf in the bread machine. (Photo: Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock)

If you've ever craved meatloaf in summer but didn't want to heat the whole kitchen by using the oven, the bread machine is a good solution. Using the quick bread cycle, you can make meatloaf. You'll need to remove the paddle from the pan before baking. If you're adding a glaze, it needs to go on part way through the baking cycle.

I saw mentions of cooking casseroles, soups and even scrambled eggs in the bread machine while I was researching, but not specific recipes. With a little experimentation, it seems the bread machine can cook a variety of dishes. Do you make anything in your bread machine that isn't bread?

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