Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Take time to relax and enjoy a cup of slow-cooked Hot Chocolate.

Whether you are relaxing at home after last week’s big meal or looking ahead to holiday shopping, time to put your feet up is definitely in order.

Cooks take the brunt of holiday tiredness. Take time to heal before heading out into the busy days ahead. If you will be doing your shopping online, put on the fuzzy slippers and browse cookware sites for gift ideas.

It’s the season where there are lots of good sales around. If you’re the type of shopper who likes to see and touch what you’re getting, there are lots of good local shops to do just that. I tend to do a combination of both online and local shops. Either provides a good way to look at a number of products, check prices and do research.

It’s a great time to look at slow cookers. Cooks have a number of slow cookers to choose from these days. What makes one different from other often lies in the features it provides. Don’t buy more than you need. If purchasing a gift, consider the recipients’ needs. Do they have large families? That will make a difference in whether you should buy a 4-quart or a 6- to 7-quart.

All-Clad recently provided its 4-quart slow cooker with ceramic insert for review. There are a number of features to like. The stainless exterior is exceptionally sturdy, as are the handles. It is built to last. The Keep Warm feature can be used up to six hours, and there is an auto high/low setting, which starts the cooking on high, but switches to low.

I tested several recipes, including one for hot chocolate. It cooked evenly, well and accurately as far as cook times.

The pros are obvious. The cons lie mostly in the price. I found the cooker priced from $119.95 up, pricier than many slow cookers on the market. It is available locally at Sur La Table and at a number of online websites.

Julie Kay is a columnist for The Advocate. She can be reached at