With summer finally here, we no longer crave stews and braises. But don't stash the slow cooker for the season. It's easy to associate the small appliance with cold-weather cookery, but if you do, you are missing out.

Your slow cooker can do much more than simmer stews. In fact, it can act like a mini- oven, and allow you to make baked dishes without heating up the kitchen, like today's Crunchy Peanut Butter Granola.

Yes, indeed, you can make granola in the slow cooker. A big batch of nutty, crunchy granola would usually require heating up the oven, and your kitchen, for at least an hour. By using the slow cooker, you can keep your kitchen cool.

You will need one simple trick to make it work: You place a wooden spoon or other implement under the lid on one end of slow cooker, which will keep the lid open about an inch. That way the moisture in the granola mixture can escape, baking the granola to crunchy goodness. This works best in an oval slow cooker, which has more surface area on the bottom.

This granola is infused with peanut butter and is sprinkled with chopped peanuts. The ever popular peanut butter flavor will please you and your family.

If you are feeling decadent, toss in a handful of chocolate chips when you add the peanuts, and stir until they melt and spread a hint of chocolate throughout the granola. The peanut butter flavor also goes well with just about any fruit, from bananas to strawberries. You can get a classic peanut butter and jelly combo by adding a handful of raisins, too.

This granola is delicious over ice cream, in a yogurt parfait, or sprinkled over a smoothie bowl. You can bring it along to work or play, for an easy, energizing snack.

Peanut butter and peanuts also add a little protein to your breakfast, so that once you add some milk, yogurt or nondairy alternatives, you have a respectable meal. People with peanut butter allergies can substitute almond butter and almonds. If you are avoiding gluten, use gluten-free oats. Bob's Red Mill gluten-free oats are widely available, in the cereal section of most large grocery stores and co-ops.

Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of "Big Vegan" and "Plant-Based Meats." Find her at robinasbell.com.