Your rice cooker has hidden talents―it can make breakfast, poach fruit, even turn out risotto.
1. Make a hot breakfast.
To make oatmeal or other hot cereals, add a little less milk or water than you would for stovetop cooking (and some chopped nuts and dried fruit if you want). The "keep warm" function will keep food from getting cold and gooey―perfect for days when everyone gets up at a different time.
2. Steam vegetables.
If your machine comes with a steamer rack, use it to cook cut vegetables, tofu, potatoes, or even shrimp, fish fillets, or chicken breasts. Take out and serve as an easy, one-pot meal.
3. Make risotto without stirring.
Saute onions in butter in an open rice cooker, then add 1 part Arborio rice and 4 parts liquid (such as broth and wine). Cook for about 25 minutes in an on/off cooker or use the "slow" or "porridge" cycle if your machine has one. Mix in grated cheese and herbs at the end.
4. Slow-cook soups, beans, or stews.
Give your rice cooker enough liquid and time and it will create long-simmered dishes without scorching or boiling over (the way slow cookers sometimes can). Try split-pea soup with ham, or put beef (that's been browned on the stove) and vegetables in the cooker with tomatoes, wine, and herbs for a hearty dinner.
5. Poach fruit.
A rice cooker works for healthy desserts of fruit simmered in juice, wine, or maple syrup. Or make applesauce and other fruit sauces.