#2 – A Simplicious Challenge: The Battle with Laziness

The Simplicious Challenge: I’m cooking all 306 recipes from Sarah Wilson’s book Simplicious, to see the impact it has on the way I buy, cook, consume and waste food. Read the first post here, if you missed it.

I’ve read Simplicious at least three times from start to finish over the last month (I even took it interstate, and it’s not the smallest book around), and I’m still picking up new tips and noticing little notations with each read. I was embarrassed to discover how little I know about seasonal cooking, beyond citrus-in-winter and berries-in-summer… For example, I was surprised to find out that Australian pomegranates are in season in Autumn – yet they seem to be marketed here by supermarkets more often during Spring, presumably because they are imported. As part of my own education process I’ve recommitted to buying fresh produce from a local vegetable delivery service, Vegies To Your Door, which sources local Australian produce. If it’s not in season here, they don’t have it. Plus, I like the thought that I’m reducing my food miles.

At any rate, there’s a reason why I started off the challenge with the Pretty Spring Risotto. And then the Pretty Spring Pot (pictured below). I figured I’d be safe if it had Spring in the name….

To appease both my need to feel organised and ‘on top’ of everything, and my regret at not buying 306 post-its to attach to every recipe in the book, I succumbed to my nerdy tendencies and created a giant colour-coded database in Excel which categorises the recipes and how they relate (flow) to each other.

Yes, I colour-coded the seasons. Yes, I’m embarrassed by it too.

My nerdy Simplicious database

My nerdy Simplicious database

The flow:

This past month has been an internal, childish battle with my own laziness. As I unpacked my first vegetable order, it went something like this:

Me: ‘Put the coriander in a jar of water.’
Me: ‘Nah, it’ll be right for a day. Do it tomorrow.’
Me: ‘Put the bloody coriander in a bloody jar of water NOW, because you know otherwise you’ll discover it in a week in a soggy, wilted mess at the bottom of the crisper.’
Me: ‘ERGHHHHHH. Oh, all right then.’
Me: ‘Cut the end off the carrots and blanche them for leftovers pesto.’
Me: ‘No. I’ll do it as I use them.’
Me: ‘Cut them off.’
Me: ‘Nooooo! I don’t WANT TO!’

You get the idea.

I did force myself to prepare and store all my items correctly. The coriander and asparagus went into little jars of water in the fridge (asparagus ends saved for asparagus stock, of course). The cucumbers into paper bags in the fridge. I consulted the book for all my veggies, and realised I really hadn’t been storing anything correctly except for avocados. I eyed off the sad, lonely zucchini that had been in my fridge before the shop. Resisted the urge to throw it away and grated the bloody thing to make zucchini ice-cubes (which I then enjoyed the next day in a green smoothie, so hooray!).

Once I did put in the effort to appropriately store my produce and leftovers, I enjoyed reaping the benefits. That last little spoon of chives, which would have been previously discarded, was chopped and frozen in an ice-cube tray with olive oil. A couple of weeks later I enjoyed it melted into my scrambled eggs. Just a few days ago I made the loveliest corn-cob stock with my collection of family-chewed-up corn cobs, which I used to braise some vegetables in a mish-mash bowl. The greatest no waste surprise was the sweet paprika stem chips – made using only broccoli and cauliflower stalks – but which turned into scrummy, cheesy chips, which my husband and I ate huddled in the kitchen, before the children could see.

But – there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

I failed some gorgeous peaches, which I was devastated to discover had gone mouldy in a plastic bag. I do love a peach. A bag of green beans was sacrificed after I discovered them too late (honestly, sometimes my fridge feels like the gateway to Narnia). I had a big failure with leftovers pesto – I diligently saved all my off-cuts to make this fermented pesto, only to find that it too went mouldy during the fermentation process – I think my carrot-top-to-greens ratio was out of whack and made it too sloppy. I find that the days I am stressed and busy, are the days I am less likely to be mindful with food waste.

Onto the actual food:

I can honestly say, I haven’t been disappointed yet. I committed to making a few recipes from the book each week, and I have made a lot more than that – probably because I’ve been ticking off a few ‘basics’ along the way – but also because the meals do tend to ‘flow on’ to each other, so I find myself inclined to make additional dishes to use what I have.

I made 23 Simplicious recipes over the past month:

  • The Real Greek Yoghurt (p 74): A savoury yoghurt combination (think greek yoghurt and greek salad), which was a surprisingly refreshing lunch in hot weather. Olives and pine-nuts are essential!
  • Pretty Spring Chicken Pot Au Feu (p 216): A whole chicken cooked with spring vegetables in broth, served with a poached egg. Leftover broth was bottled up and extra chicken shredded for the freezer! We also served this topped with:
  • Chicken Crackle Skin (p 204): I hate to think of all the chicken skin I have wasted, that could have made this deliciousness. It’s up there with pork crackling. And so easy to make. Ridiculously good.
  • Shredded Chicken (p 214): Made with leftover chicken from the Spring Chicken Pot, now ready to use in future dinners. The leftover broth from the spring pot also made:
  • Egg Drop Soup (264): Made using leftover broth from the Spring Chicken Pot, this made a lovely light lunch with leftover bread and sweet potato chips.
  • Nomato Sauce (p 51): An alternative to tomato passata, this sauce contains a heap of hidden veg, but tastes just like… passata (it is a much healthier version though). While making it I had wondered whether the effort would be worth it – but my kids literally ate it by the spoonful – so yes it was. The olives add a lovely depth of flavour.
  • Basic Meatballs (p 144): I made 80 raw meatballs for the freezer, and used 20 of them to make:
  • One-Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs (p 144): I was seriously impressed with this dish. Literally all in one pot, frozen meatballs, pasta and all. I used half nomato sauce and half passata, and added grated zucchini. The kids loved it and weren’t even aware of the hidden veg!
  • Homemade cream cheese and whey (p 46): I strained a small amount of greek yoghurt to separate the whey, which was frozen in ice-cube trays.
  • Sweet Paprika Stem Chips (p 260): I removed the stems from broccoli and cauliflower and made these surprisingly delicious, cheesy chips, devoured straight from the baking tray. The broccoli florets made:
  • Par-cooked ‘n’ frozen veg (p 22): Although it seemed like ‘an effort’, I steamed my leftover kale and broccoli for the freezer, to add to meals. This stash came in very handy when making:
  • Our Office ‘Emergency Tuna’ Mishmash Meal (p 136): I made this for lunch when I thought all I had was 1/4 avocado. Freezer stash to the rescue! Made using frozen kale, spinach, parboiled broccoli, peas, celery and even leftover frozen chive and olive oil ice cubes. The avocado, tuna and cheese gave it a tasty ‘mornay’ feel. I added the chewed-up corn cob to my freezer collection of chewed-up corn cobs and made:
  • Corn Cob Stock (p 43): Made using a pile of ‘eaten’ corn cobs, this stock has a gorgeous light flavour, to use for soups and to braise vegetables. I froze in ice-cube trays and my flexible muffin tray!
  • Peach and Peanut Butter Frozen Yoghurt (p 107): My new favourite summer dessert! I love peaches AND peanut butter. I discovered my husband doesn’t like peaches (you think I’d know that after 11 years), which meant more for me. It was delicious topped with:
  • Basic Raw Chocolate (p 56): I made mine using cacao butter rather than coconut oil, and have a tidy stash of ice-cube size serves in the freezer. Dangerously good.
  • Sweet Potato Nachos (p 230): I made a giant family-sized serving of these nachos, which were colourful and fun to eat. Leftover roasted sweet potato made:
  • Sweet potato and pumpkin puree (p 23): I always keep both of these purees in the freezer (I use a flexible muffin tray to freeze 1/3 cup portions, and then pop them out and store in a large zip-lock bag in the freezer)
  • Apple with peanut butter (p 120): A satisfying snack idea, which I enjoyed for dessert on one particularly snacky evening. With some leftover apple I made:
  • Apple and blackberry cardamom fizz (p 347): A tasty fermented drink that the kids loved! I used cherries instead of blackberries, and ate the slightly fermented fruit for breakfast with yoghurt and granola.
  • Pumpkin Spice Mix (p 45): Where has this been all my life!? I use a lot of cinnamon, and this spice mix takes it to the next level. I’ve been using it in everything and will have to make another batch soon. I used it to flavour:
  • Not Quite Banana Bread (p 68): I made a loaf of banana bread for the freezer stash, which includes secret parsnip (which apparently housewives used during WW2 as mock bananas, when bananas were scarce!)
  • Cooked quinoa (p 26): I stored my cooked quinoa in half cup portions in the freezer, and added it to a couple of mish-mash bowls as desired.
  • Beef stock (p 42): This was the first time I had made my own beef stock. I slow-cooked it for nearly 3 days, and when cooled, was amazed by the gelatinous texture it had (which is a sign of good stock!).

With some of these recipes I also made my own non-Simplicious meals too – quite a lot of mish-mash bowls made with par-cooked veg and homemade stock; and I used the nomato sauce to make IQS8WP Shakshuka for breakfast (yum!).

So – that’s 27 recipes down. 279 to go! In the next month I have my eye on cheeseburger dimsims (honestly I can’t decide whether I like the idea or not, but it is intriguing!), cheesecake stuffed peaches with basil (which I won’t let go mouldy this time), and a green apple pie smoothie bowl, which looks refreshing for summer mornings.

Read the previous post – #1 Cooking 306 recipes.
Read the next post – #3 Christmas – a time of waste and reflection.

18 Comments

  1. I have been hanging out for this post. So funny! Thank goodness I’m not the only one who has arguments with myself about storing veggies. Between the flow and that very impressive spreadsheet you’ve got this challenge! Can’t wait for the next instalment.

    • Erin says:

      Thanks so much Rani! Yes, it’ll be interesting to see how my motivation goes over the course of this… Whether it gets easier or whether my lazy tendencies get worse! :-/

  2. Tammy says:

    That was an absolute cracker of a read! You had me chuckling out loud. Only came across your blog because I was looking for your waffle recipe! I have also had in my head I would love to do a Julie/Julia cookup and as soon as I bought Simplicious thought this is the one!! My problem is very little freezer space but I think I can get over that by buying meat only as I need it so Freezer is only full of stock, leftovers etc…you have inspired me to start and to read more of your blog. But of course that will be after I go out for another restaurant lunch today… I mean someone has to do it don’t they?

    • Erin says:

      Hi Tammy, thanks so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful reply! I’m glad you enjoyed it. πŸ˜€ Did you know that just this week Sarah Wilson has started an Instagram challenge for those cooking their way through the book? Make sure you tag #simplicious306 if you put up photos! Enjoy your lunch out. πŸ™‚

  3. Zollie says:

    Just stumbled across your blog and am IN LOVE. I bought Simplicious in December and have not been able to get my nose out of it. I have only made a few things thus far (all amazing) and I find whats holding me back is the need to break it to my partner that I need to change the way we store food (he really is the king of the kitchen in our house)!!! I have these internal battles all the time.

    It would be great if you could email your spread sheet? I am not embarrassed, I think its fab πŸ™‚
    XX

    • Erin says:

      Hi Zollie,
      Thanks so much for the kind words. I’m stoked that you aren’t embarrassed by my spreadsheet. πŸ™‚ I’d be happy to email it to you – perhaps flick me an email at dreamingofalmonds@gmail.com and I will send it back to you. What recipes have you made from Simplicious? That does sound very tricky if the kitchen is your husband’s ‘domain’! Would he read it too? Perhaps small changes one at a time to make it less overwhelming!?

  4. Jenni says:

    I’ve just come across your Simpilicious challenge and love it! Also, being an excel loving Accountant, I love that you have publicly embraced your inner nerd πŸ™‚
    I have Simpilicious at home but, to be honest, am a bit overwhelmed by the amount of recipes in it and don’t really know where to go next. I’ve made the satay chicken (yum!), zucchini butter (not my cup of tea) and some gummies, but then I get stuck! Thankfully I’ve got the IQS8WP at the moment, but I’d like to work my way through it afterwards.
    I think my lack of freezer space is probably holding me up. I might have to sweet talk hubby for a chest freezer I think!
    I’m off to read the rest of your posts now πŸ™‚

    • Erin says:

      Hi Jenni,
      Thanks so much for your lovely comment! I understand how you feel – about being a bit overwhelmed by Simplicious. I felt that way at first too – I find it easiest just to make one or two of the ‘basics’ each week and then go from there. A chest freezer is a GREAT idea – I love mine, and find it definitely makes cooking and storing in bulk much easier! Let me know how you go!
      Cheers,
      Erin

  5. Catherine says:

    Hi Erin!

    Thank you for providing so much feedback on so many of the simplicious recipes. I have used the book at least once a week since Christmas.

    Just wondering on your take on Raw Chocolate. You said you used cacao butter. I made it last night with coconut oil and found that the first half were very oily with little taste and the second half had all the rice malt syrup in it so they were more sickly sweet.

    So I melted them all again and heated the mixture to help the RMS dissolve all the way through but the same thing has happened.

    Would the cacao butter help with this? Also do I use the same quantity? 1 cup?

    Thanks for your help!!

    • Erin says:

      Hi Catherine!

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the book too. πŸ™‚ Yes I used cacao butter – I’m really not keen on the use of coconut oil in raw chocolate. I love it for cooking and baking other things, but there’s something about the oily texture I don’t like with raw chocolate. The RMS does tend to separate a little, no matter whether you use oil or butter – from memory I think I whizzed it up in my thermomix (a stick mixer would probably also work in a saucepan), and then immediately poured it into ice-cube trays before it had a chance to separate too much. And yes I used the same quantity of cacao butter. πŸ˜€ You could start with a 1/4 or 1/2 batch to see if you like it better. Good luck!

  6. Very funny read and very honest. I love the spread sheet I can totally relate my previous life was looking after data bases so my life evolved around them. My fermented pesto went moldy as well, next time I will keep it in my pantry like I do with my other fermenting to keep it at the same temperature.
    You have done really well with making your way through the recipes, well done! πŸ™‚

    • Erin says:

      Thank-you very much, I appreciate the feedback! I had much more success with my second batch of pesto, which was delicious (I used predominately coriander). Let me know how you go next time round!

      Best wishes,
      Erin

  7. Megan says:

    Hi Erin I came across your blog whilst looking for reviews on Simplicious as was pondering whether to buy it. Its quite a daunting book but I know I need to embrace the holistic approach to food and less wastage. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Erin says:

      Hi Megan,
      Thanks so much for getting in touch! I agree, it is a daunting book – and I definitely felt that taking it slowly (like making just one new ‘basic’ a week helped), rather than feeling like I had to make ALL the changes all at once. I’m nearly a year in now and can see that it’s had quite an effect on the way I consume – but because it’s been incremental change it hasn’t felt too overwhelming. Thanks and let me know how you go! Erin

  8. Samantha says:

    Erin, you should definitely package up that Excel sheet and sell it as an e-book PDF! That’s so handy.

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