Slow cookers have gotten a bad reputation over the years for creating boring and bland meals using heavily processed foods and sauces. But not anymore. Slow cookers have undergone a makeover, and top-rated chefs are using them and sharing their delicious recipes.

Newport Beach's own chef Deborah Schneider of Sol Cocina has a new cookbook out called "The Mexican Slow Cooker." Sure to delight fans of both Mexican food and slow cookers, this book is chock full of Schneider's amazing Baja delicacies, like mole, enchiladas, carnitas and more. For an up-close demonstration of her slow-cooking techniques you can meet Schneider at What's Cooking at the Library on Sept. 22 at the Central Library. Her book will be available for purchase and personal signing. Information on tickets for this event, which includes the demonstration and tastings, can be found at http://www.newportbeachlibrary.org.

Did you ever think of using your slow cooker to make risotto or polenta? Michele Scicolone shows you how easy it is with her "Italian Slow Cooker." Dazzle family and friends with homey Italian dishes that you can whip up with little prep time but taste like you spent hours in the kitchen.

Popular Food Network star Sandra Lee has made her name with her semi-homemade shows and cookbooks. Sandra's shortcuts help the busy cook prepare nutritious and delicious meals in less time but without skimping on flavor. She's also dedicated to helping the home cook save money, and in "Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Money Saving Slow Cooking: 128 Quick-to-Cook Meals" she combines both her time and money saving techniques to create delicious meals sure to please the entire family. Everything from appetizers to desserts are offered in this colorful volume.

The folks at Fix-it and Forget-it have the same idea as Lee, and have created a line of slow cooker books filled with delicious recipes. One of their most popular volumes is "Fix-it and Forget-it 5-ingredient Favorites." Using five ingredients or less, these recipes are a surefire way to create comforting favorites using less time than you would imagine.

It seems like everyone's looking to cook a bit healthier these days, and slow cooker expert Judith Finlayson's "The Healthy Slow Cooker" will help you do just that. Finlayson uses fresh veggies and whole grains to create nutritious and delicious meals the whole family will enjoy, and without having to spend hours in the kitchen.

Cooking for a crowd? Think that you can't create elegant gourmet dishes with a slow cooker? Beth Hensperger shows you just how easy it is in "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Entertaining." She explains just how versatile the crock pot really is and how to use it for fondue, punch and many more party pleasing favorites.

America's Test Kitchen set about discovering the best slow cooker recipes around, and collected them in "Slow Cooker Revolution." Easy and delicious recipes that have been thoroughly tested with helpful hints from the chefs in America's Test Kitchen make this a book every cook should have in their kitchen.

Most Americans own a slow cooker. Why not take yours out, dust it off, and get started creating some of the easiest and best tasting meals your family has ever had? Check out the Newport Beach Public Library's extensive cookbook section for even more great ideas.

CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public Library. All titles may be reserved from home or office computers by accessing the catalog at http://www.newportbeachlibrary.org. For more information on the Central Library or any of the branches, contact the Newport Beach Public Library at (949) 717-3800, option 2.