Saturday, October 3, 2015

Three Ingredients, Seven Hours

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I've been running around like a headless chicken (we all know about my fall to-do-list now) and we have house guests so I'm switching things up and posting the Sunday recipe today. Tomorrow, we all get an Oh, Kaye! as our friend Kaye Barley talks about her Bouchercon plans.

My friend Caroline, who is as cheap frugal as I, was telling me her secret for delicious low-cost meals: Put Into Crockpot at Low for Seven Hours. She takes inexpensive ingredients (or cuts of meat on sale) tosses them into the pot, and goes her merry way. I asked her her meal philosophy, and got the following pointers:

1. Keep the main dish to three ingredients and...

2. ...make sides that are quick to microwave (canned or frozen veggies) or easy to boil up (potatoes, noodles, rice.) Who wants to spend more than twenty minutes on prep time?

3. Serve on nice china with cloth napkins if possible. It doesn't cost any more to make the table look good.

4. Put the money you've saved into wine or dessert, depending on your proclivity.


Boneless, skinless thighs
Jar of hot salsa
Chopped onion

Put into crockpot at low for seven hours. Serve with Spanish rice and/or a can of refried beans. Olé!


Pork chops or a pork eye of round
Can of whole berry cranberry sauce
Package of onion soup mix

Put into crockpot in the listed order at low for seven hours.  Add flour to what's in the crockpot after removing meat, turn it up to high, and stir to thicken (depending on your crockpot, it may be quicker to transfer the liquids to a sauce pan for this part.) Serve over mashed potatoes, with green beans. That'll do.


Package of beef stew meat (if you're really saving, get the chuck roast and cut it into cubes yourself)
Can of mushroom soup
Can of mushrooms (Caroline uses low sodium for both of these)

Put into crockpot at low for seven hours. Serve with mashed potatoes or egg noodles. Magnifique!

How about you, dear Readers? Do you have any three-ingredient recipes to share?


  1. Only three ingredients? Julia, your recipes all sound delicious [and so easy] . . . Keeping it to only three ingredients is a real challenge for me, but . . .

    Mix one package leek soup mixed with 1-1/4 cups water.
    Pour over three pounds cubed lamb.
    Cook on low for seven to eight hours; serve with mashed potatoes and a salad.

    With a tiny bit of cheating [three ingredients for the meat, three for the sauce], you can make chicken cordon bleu.

    Top chicken cutlets or boneless chicken breasts pounded thin with one slice of ham and one slice of Swiss cheese; roll and place in crock pot.

    Combine one can mushroom soup, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup white wine and pour over the chicken rolls.
    Cook on low for six to seven hours; serve with noodles and peas.

  2. I think I need a new crockpot--these sound great! I'm also a big fan of 'throw everything on a baking sheet, roast for 30-40 mins' kind of meals. Here's my favorite--also cheap, easy, and fast. My version of Roast Chicken Thighs Provencal:

    Preheat oven to 425F. Line baking sheet with nonstick foil.

    Put the next four ingredients into a gallon bag and shake:
    Quarter 3 lbs red potatoes
    Seed and cut 4-6 plum tomatoes into 6 wedges each
    Peel and cut 3 carrots into 1-inch chunks OR use a handful baby carrots
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    (I also add a medium onion, cut into wedges, and 2-3 cloves of garlic to this)

    Chop 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
    Chop 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary

    Arrange one package chicken thighs in center of baking pan (as if it were a platter); divide veggies equally on either side. Salt and pepper chicken and veggies to taste; sprinkle fresh herbs across all. (If you like, add 24 nicoise olives at this point).

    Roast for 35 minutes or until chicken is done. My oven usually takes about 40 mins.

  3. Oh, these sound great! I was just looking through a crock pot recipe book and they have instructions like, "First brown these ingredients," and "Make the sauce on the stovetop before putting it in the crock pot...." Why, oh why? What's the point of using the crock pot then?

  4. Oooooh - I do love my crockpot!

    I'm not sure I can stick to 3 ingredients, but I'm for sure going to try a couple of these recipes.

    Susan, I agree! that's exactly why I don't do those things. I just toss the whole shebang into the pot. (shhh, don't tell).

    My favorite is a pot roast. And smelling it while it's cooking is like a huge hug.

  5. I SO agree about the cloth napkins and good china! Makes anything fabulous.

    Agreed, agreed, Susan! BROWN the thing? Or--first, sear at high heat until crispy, then place into, no, not doing that.

    My very favorite--before I learned you had to read recipes all the way through before you made them--was when I came to the instruction:
    7. Add the béchamel sauce

    THE WHAT??

    I always worry abut laving a crock pot on while I'm gone…what about that?

  6. Diane Hale here--

    I'm still laughing about Hot Spanish Thighs--who knew chicken could be so exciting? Absolutely loved the reference to Babe in the pork recipe.

    No 3 ingredient recipe, just a tip: If you want to caramelize sweetened condensed milk, put several inches of water in the crock pot, set the unopened can in the center (I remove the label), let 'er rip for 6 hrs on high. Great for making a caramel version of Nigella Lawson's no ice cream maker ice cream.

  7. I made a three ingredient recipe in the crock pot the other day (if you don't count water and some seasoning...) I had two cups of fresh red beans from last weekend's produce share. I chopped up a couple of shallots (easier than onions and garlic), rinsed the beans, added a smoked pork hock and water to cover everything. Left on low overnight. The next morning picked the meat off the bones and put back in the pot with a little more water and some seasoning and cooked another hour or so. Fabulous. Ate the beans spread on crispy tostadas with sliced avocado and a squeeze of lime.

    I love my crock pot, but I won't bother with recipes that call for browning first. The point is it's supposed to be easy--and not mess up every pan in the kitchen.

    Hank, if your crock gets too hot on low, maybe you need a new one.

  8. I am going to share this (with credit to JRW) with a local crockpot FB group. I'm choosing Berry Good Pork,"lamb-a-leekie" and the chicken with ham and swiss.

  9. All of these recipes sound delicious and so easy. I'll need to try a few out on my husband when he's home. My standby crock pot meal is rump roast with potatoes and carrots. It is just three ingredients, too, but I brown the roast before putting it in the crock pot. What's nice about this meal is that the rump roast is a great cut of meat (you could do it with a cheaper cut), and I put is plenty of the potatoes and carrots so that I can make beef stew out of it after our original meal. When I'm making the stew, I add onion, mushrooms, sometimes corn, and lima beans (I know that not everyone is a fan of the lima bean, so you could add green beans or another bean). I also add a teaspoon of Kitchen Bouquet to give the stew a lovely color. Season how you want. You can add any vegetables you want, so it's easy to individualize the dish. It's easy peasy, with me cutting up the meat and potatoes and carrots before I put it away that first night and just add the other veggies the next meal and cook at least a couple of hours on the stove, although I'm sure you could throw it all back in the crock pot to cook. (Old habits die hard.) Remember to save the broth from the crock pot where the original cooking took place to use in the stew. Of course, you'll have to add some water to bring it up to level. Oh, and I generally would start the crock pot at around 11 in the morning on high and cook until around 6 that evening. It seemed to cook the meat perfectly.

  10. My family's favorite 3-ingredient crock pot meal is a pork shoulder roast, a jar of barbeque sauce (we like Sweet Baby Ray's), and a chopped onion. Rinse the barbeque sauce bottle with water and add to the crock pot. Cook on high until meat falls apart. Serve on buns with your favorite barbeque sides - deli cole slaw and chips, at our house!

  11. I'm with Hank on leaving the crock pot on when no one is at home...but I'm the same way about the oven, the dryer, the washer, the dehumidifier, and, occasionally, the computer. :-)
    Also, I shy away from canned and bottled sauces and soups, rather use my own herbs and spices and as many fresh veggies as possible. So 3 ingredients just aren't my style. Happy hunkering down for fall and winter, all.

  12. These all sound great and just my style. When I see a magazine article or cookbook focused on 5 ingredient recipes, I think "wow, fancy!"

  13. My go-to crockpot ingredients are a can of Golden Mushroom soup and a can of French Onion soup. These go equally well with beef or chicken, I've found. I generally throw in a handful of small red potatoes and part of a package of those ready-to-eat baby carrots. Voila, a complete meal.