#3 A Simplicious Challenge: Christmas – a time of waste and reflection

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.

Well, that’s Christmas done. Every year, I find it difficult to wrap my head around Christmas. To me, it represents a bundle of social norms, stigmas and problems: the disparity between the privileged (the lucky) and the disadvantaged, our obsession with consumerism and materialism, the expectations of gifts, a time of overeating and food waste, and weeks of everyone trying to catch up with their recycling and credit card bills.

All of this is tied up with our desires to make Christmas about spending time with family and loved ones, to reflect on the closing year and muse on the next, and to briefly wind down before we wind ourselves up again (at least, for those who have the luxury of holidays at this time).

Christmas is an uncomfortable clash of values, which seems to resonate with many of us, and perhaps contributes to why some spend the subsequent days feeling a little lost and listless. Anyone seen that meme floating around on social media? “The awkward days between Xmas and New Year when you don’t know what day it is, or what you’re doing with your life”?

I’m not above any of this. That’s why I feel conflicted about it every year.

My discomfort felt heightened this year, perhaps in part due to the fact that Simplicious has ensured that waste, consumerism and sustainability is always on my mind. It’s impossible to unlearn the ramifications of the way we live, and hard to ignore the bigger picture. But I guess that’s the point.

Does that all sound a bit grinchy? I hope not! Amongst all this contemplation I had my most favourite Christmas yet. My 4 year old was appalled by the mess that the reindeers made in the backyard, but happy enough that Santa ate his Vegemite toast and left him a bike. We had a big family breakfast. The adults did a Secret Santa (with a price limit) instead of buying for everyone, much to the relief of all. Then we sat around and grazed on antipasto for the rest of the day. Ok, I sat around, while my husband and my dad built things for the kids. That evening I made my husband watch Trainwreck with me (I haven’t been able to watch Love, Actually the same way since reading this review…).

The flow:

I’ve had some proud moments. I was very surprised when my crusty lettuce and shallot butts actually started to regrow in little glass jars. They are now safely ensconced in garden pots. I’ve been diligently collecting asparagus ends for stock in the freezer, and I collected a new batch of herby and veggie off-cuts to make leftovers pesto, after my last batch went mouldy. It’s a relief to have something else to do with my vegetable off-cuts other than put them in my stock bags, which were getting out of control.

Regrowing my baby cos lettuce and shallot butts!

Regrowing my baby cos lettuce and shallot butts!

On the other hand, I had some appalling cases of Christmas food waste, due to having too much food in the fridge and not monitoring what was in the back, which went bad – like a whole bag of salad leaves; and also because I left food outside in the warm weather for too long during a BBQ – while I drank too much champagne.

We found some flow in the week after Christmas. My husband and I decided to avoid grocery shopping for a week, aside from buying fresh milk, in order to eat through our Christmas leftovers and our freezer stash of meats and vegetables (and to save some money!). It was surprisingly easy, and a fun challenge to create nutritious family meals using what we had: A leftovers prawn and vegetable curry on Boxing Day, the Pizza Bread and Butter Crumble with Sweet Paprika Stem Chips (see below), pancakes with berries, chilli con carne from the freezer, fermented dosas, and pea and ham soup to use up the last of the Christmas ham. In doing this for one week, I saved around $150-$200 that I would have spent on groceries.

I’m realising that to live simpliciously is a mind-set, at least until habits are formed. When I’m ‘in the zone’, I’m all over it, and more creative. When I’m away from home for a day or two, out for dinners and other social events, I can find it hard to pick it up again. Especially if I’m hungover and just want to eat toast (that ONE time…).

The food:

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t make any of the Christmas recipes from Simplicious, because my family had already worked out what we were eating before I started this challenge. Yes, for real – I have the kind of family that plans a Christmas menu in October. So I will have to save those for next summer, or Christmas in July!

I made 16 Simplicious recipes over the last month:

  • Massaged kale (p 23): It sounds so terribly hipster, doesn’t it? But ‘massaging’ the kale does soften and make it more palatable. I used the last of my Powerhouse Dressing (p 53) in it, from last month.
  • Steak ‘n’ Five Veg (p 239): This Sunday night dinner had loads of flavour, and my husband made a little basil, garlic and oil chimmichurri-style dressing for the steak. I used the leftover veg to make:
  • Last night’s dinner with an egg stuck in it (p 256): I added peas, kale and parsley to this mishmash and used a little chicken bone broth, which I made last month. The leftover red cabbage was used for:
  • Simplicious Sauerkraut (p 337): I’m not always patient enough to massage the cabbage in sauerkraut-making, so it was a relief to find this much simpler, less-messy method!
  • The Six-Star Waldorf (p 133): This gorgeous salad uses pecans and peaches, instead of apples and walnuts, and was a beautiful light lunch! The snowpea ends went into my:
  • Leftovers Pesto (p 55): Finally, success! After my last, too sloppy batch went mouldy, I was thrilled that this one worked. I used predominately coriander and parsley stalks as my ‘herb’ base, and it worked a treat with some tomato sardines on toast for lunch.
  • Green Apple Pie Smoothie Bowl (p 72): This was a refreshing way to start a busy summer day. I used coconut kefir in place of some of the coconut milk, and I topped it with:
  • Nut Crumble (p 72): A tasty, crunchy little concoction – I used a combination of almonds and pecans. I enjoyed the remaining nut crumble with yoghurt.
  • Zucchini No-Carbonara (p 188): A very easy and tasty dinner, perfect for week-nights. I used half zoodles and half spaghetti.
  • Basic Gelatine Gummies (p 350): I love that everyone is cottoning on to these gut-healing gummies – my kids love these ‘lollies’. I made the following variations:
  • Strawberry Delight (p 351): The rosewater in these is divine.
  • Mango and Coconut Squares (p 351): Like a gummy weis bar!
  • Fermented Dosas (p 89): I made these for breakfast in the week after Christmas when we were using up leftovers, because they use only pantry supplies! Sadly, I didn’t take a photo… because I was too busy eating. I guess I’ll just have to make them again. 😉
  • ‘Pizza’ Bread and Butter Crumble (p 262): I also made this in the post-Christmas week, almost entirely from the freezer stash (frozen spinach, shredded chicken, stock, nomato sauce and cooked quinoa), with added leftover ham and peas. We served it with Sweet Paprika Stem Chips (p 260), and I LOVED the cheesy, slightly crunchy quinoa topping.
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Crackles (p 280): I made these for my two-year old’s birthday. The recipe made 18, but I made 12 giant ones because I’m a glutton. Unfortunately my rice puffs were a little old (and soft), and I didn’t use groaties, so they were more like un-crackles. But still tasted good! To finish off all the remaining vegetables in the fridge, I made:
  • Green Scraps Shakshouka (p 248): I always enjoy things sauteed in pans with fried eggs, so I loved this dish, which I made for my husband and I for lunch. It packs a veggie punch, with 4 serves per person. I used celery ends, grated zucchini, snow peas, fennel, spinach, broccoli and parsley. The olives and tabasco bring it to life.

That’s now 43 recipes down, and 263 to go. It occurs to me now that I never made the cheeseburger dim-sims I had intended to make last month, so that’s still on the agenda. I had also better give some of cocktails a go before the summer is over!

Read the previous post – #2 A Simplicious Challenge: The Battle with Laziness.
Read the next post – #4 A Simplicious Challenge: Dipping into offal and fermented sardines.

11 Comments

  1. soss says:

    I really wanted to love the nomato sauce but mine tastes like puréed earthy veg, not very pleasant, any tips?

    • Erin says:

      Oh that’s a shame! Mine didn’t, oddly – I imagine it was the beetroot that gave it that earthiness. You could reduce the ratio of the beetroot to the other veg and see if that helps? In the meantime you could use half nomato and half passata in your recipes to ‘dilute’ the flavour a little.

    • Erin says:

      Thank-you Serina, that’s much appreciated. 🙂 Certainly I didn’t waste as much as in previous years, now that I’m paying more attention to it! I always find it a little horrifying to see everyone’s recycling bins out on the street, exploding with boxes (ours included).

  2. Kirsty says:

    Erin, you are so right. Christmas is this huge build up, so full of consumerism and an over abundance of food it is scary. I have never seen so. much. food. in a supermarket as I have at Christmas. And the hams! Hoo-eee they are enormous! Hubby and I were hard pressed finishing off a baby honey ham the size of a softball 🙂 Great post. Do you have the order of your dishes from Simplicious mapped out well in advance, or do you decide nearer to the meals? Cheers, K

    • Erin says:

      Thanks Kirsty! It does seem like the supermarkets are in a competition to see who can provide the biggest hams each year. :-/ I have loosely sorted some of the recipes by season (see the nerdy database in my last post 🙂 ) but otherwise really only plan week to week as part of my usual family meal planning. Do you have the book too?

  3. Hi Erin, any tips on the gummies? I follow the recipe on the back of the packet but my 3.5tbsps of gelatine sucked up the 1/3 cup of water straight away! I had to add another 1/3 cup. I love your dedication and it’s truly inspiring.

    • Erin says:

      Hi Nancy! Thanks for your feedback. 🙂 The water is supposed to suck up the gelatine – this is called ‘blooming’ the gelatine. I find it easiest to put the 3.5 tbsp gelatine in a little dish first, and then add the water (rather than the other way around) and stir it up really quickly before it solidifies. While you’re doing that, you can have your other ‘liquid’ ingredients heating up in a saucepan (fruit, coconut milk etc), and then you add the gelatine to it in a big blob – it will melt into the heated liquid and you can then blitz it up. I hope that makes sense!

      • Ok I’ll give it another go then 🙂 The gelatin sucked the water up so quickly there were still dry bits at the bottom of the bowl! Thanks for letting me know.

  4. Loved this post! I’ve even copied this line into my stash of favourite quotes “It’s impossible to unlearn the ramifications of the way we live, and hard to ignore the bigger picture.” Looking forward to the next instalment…

    • Erin says:

      Aww, thanks Rani! I don’t think I’ve ever been ‘quoted’ before! 😀 Hope you have a fabulous long weekend at the Gold Coast!

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