You may think the slow cooker is reserved for turning out hearty stews on winter's chilly days. But slow your reindeer. The ultimate "set it and forget it" kitchen appliance has its place in the summer kitchen as well.

We are only weeks away from celebrating our wonderful country's independence from the likes of King George III. Let us celebrate how our forefathers didn't, but how today's Americans do, with baked beans.

Here is one of my favorite Cooking Light baked bean recipes that is definitely worth making this Fourth of July, Smoky Three-Bean Bake. We tested it and wrote it to be made in the oven, but there is no reason it shouldn't be adapted for your slow cooker.

To make it in a slow cooker, add the bean mixture to a 4-quart slow cooker instead of an 11 x 7-inch baking dish. You can cook it covered on LOW for 4 to 6 hours, and the flavors will be just as delicious as if you had cooked it in its intended appliance. To cook for a crowd, double the recipe, and it will be perfect for a BBQ.

Enjoy the summer, and let your slow cooker take the heat so you can relax with a cold drink.

Like the look of the baked beans? See more summer slow cooker recipes.