#7 A Simplicious Challenge: Embedding new habits

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.

It has officially been six months since I started this challenge (where did that time go!?). My husband has finally stopped complaining about Simplicious living on the kitchen bench. 😀 Which is a relief, because it will probably be there for another year!

It was very generous of Sarah Wilson and her Manager Jo Foster to invite me to contribute to a blog post on Sarah’s blog a couple of weeks ago, to share some of my favourite Simplicious dishes (so far), as well as some of the things I’m learning along the way. Plus, I’ve cracked the 100 mark! I feel like I’m starting to make a dent in this enormous cookbook.

Last month, I wrote about the broader choices I make as a consumer, both food and non-food related, and reflected on this in Sarah’s post as well. I’ve written a few times in the past about working towards making more responsible consumer choices, but without allowing it to cause me anxiety, as was the case 18 months ago. This struggle seemed to resonate with other people who read the post, who commented and wrote to me that they had also struggled with similar things.

My way to deal with this is has been to make small changes, a little at a time, allowing the new habits to ’embed’ themselves into my life and routine, before moving on to the next one. And I don’t beat myself up for not being perfect – which is fortunate, since I am SO FAR from perfect! At the moment, the list of things I would like to change is bigger than the list of things I have changed. But I’m getting there, and proud of the small changes I’ve achieved so far. Part of this has been a pretty big mindset shift to generally buy things more mindfully, rather than just for the sake of it.

I think it’s also important to talk about capacity for change. That’s why I feel we should try to avoid judging other people for the choices they make. I’m quite privileged to have the ‘space’ to think about these issues and make some changes. Even though we keep to a fairly structured family budget and make choices and sacrifices in the way we spend money, we aren’t struggling to make ends meet. So I have the luxury of being able to spend a little more to buy an ‘ethical’ brand of toilet paper, or the odd organic chicken, or local eggs at $7 a dozen. Many people don’t get that kind of wiggle room.

But it’s not just about money either – I’m lucky that I’m not really under any emotional stress at the moment. I get stressed, sure – managing work, study and parenting; slogging through my never ending to-do list – but otherwise, I don’t have much to complain about. I have other friends who are facing significant and ongoing life challenges (not just of the ‘first world problem’ variety). My friend and I were recently chatting about these blog posts, and she pointed out that consumerism isn’t even on her radar at the moment, given everything else she has going on. Bloody fair enough, too.

My capacity does have limits as well (I guess that’s why it’s call capacity). I’ve used disposable nappies for both my children, and I dread to think about the thousands of dirty nappies that are now sitting in landfill. The idea of me using cloth nappies has become symbolic – of the possibility of having a nervous breakdown. Between working, studying, parenting, chauffeuring my children around, running a house – endless washing, budgeting, cleaning, cooking from scratch, etc etc – the idea of adding shitty nappies to that mix is the final straw in my exhaustion. I know there are many parents out there who use and wash cloth nappies, and good on them. But it’s beyond me at the moment. I actually looked into nappy services in Canberra – those ones that deliver clean cloth nappies in exchange for your dirty ones – but there don’t appear to be any (if I’m mistaken, please let me know!).

Please don’t judge me. Let’s talk about the positive habits instead! 😀

Below are a few of the very simple habits I have been able to embed, in addition to the ones I’m picking up through Simplicious. But really, I’d LOVE to hear from others, either here or on social media, about the everyday strategies you use to buy better or waste less.

  • Monday night ‘Scratch’ nights: My husband and I have been doing this for years – I’m not even sure why we called them ‘scratch’ nights. Maybe because we would be scratching around in the cupboards looking for something to eat? At any rate, it has evolved to become a regular weeknight. I tend to grocery shop on a Tuesday, so on a Monday night we leave the ‘meal plan’ open, and come up with something to use up all our leftover veggies and other bits and pieces. Tonight it was minestrone soup. Sometimes it’s omelettes, or a stir-fry, or fried rice, or a pasta. Or eggs.
  • Re-using jars: Rather than recycle jars, I put them in the dishwasher and then keep them. I have a rather large collection now, so I might have to give some away. I use large coconut oil jars to keep granola, ferment vegetables, steep lemons in vinegar (for cleaning), and hold flowers. The old caper jar was perfect for making vanilla extract (see below). I also use jars for smoothies, to transport food into work, or make overnight oats and chia puddings. They are also good for gifts – fill with granola, or nuts or spice mixtures.
  • Saving half my (decaf) coffee shot: My coffee machine makes a double shot, but that’s too strong for me. I use two cups, and save the second shot for the following day. Then I just warm it up in the microwave and add freshly steamed milk.
  • Saving the rubber bands from bunches of herbs, asian vegetables and bunches of asparagus: I stick them in a ziplock bag in my kitchen drawer, and they’ve come in handy a number of times. Who wants to spend money on rubber bands!?
  • Returning my egg cartons: I buy fresh, local eggs from Majura Valley Free-Range Eggs. Whenever I go past I usually grab about 4 dozen (we eat a lot of eggs!), and I always keep the empty cartons to return on my next visit so they can re-use them.
  • I don’t throw things out: But I’m the opposite of a hoarder. What is that? A purger? I regularly declutter and remove things I no longer use or need, including books I think I’m unlikely to read again. But I don’t throw them out – I give them away through local charities or Freecycle, or occasionally sell them. Once I even gave away a bag of half-used groceries through Freecycle. (That was when I was culling all the stuff with added sugar from my cupboard!)
  • I buy my toilet paper, tissues and paper towel online from Who Gives a Crap, and it gets delivered straight to my door. Perfect for the lazy ethical consumer.

I’d really love to hear some of the things you do to reduce waste or buy better. Please let me know in the comments, send me an email or comment on social media!

The food:

It was a ‘longer’ month this time, so I managed 21 recipes:

  • Recalibrating Pork Meal (p 234): I made a family-sized dinner of this meal, which Sarah says she enjoys after she’s had too much sugar. It hit the spot, and I found the process of cooking it strangely therapeutic too – the browning of pork chops and bits of sweet potato. We had it with the recommended glass of organic red wine and it was awesome. 😀
  • Pink Beet and Goat’s Cheese Toastie (p 84): I’m really enjoying the different toasties in this book (making a change from my usual avocado, ham and cheese), and this one with goat’s cheese was delicious. I added spinach and basil.
  • Misomite (p 54): I found myself with a very ripe random avocado, so I thought I’d give this one a go! It was easy to make with the miso paste, and surprisingly ‘vegemite-y’. I used it to make:
  • Misomite in a cup (p 120): As a ‘light’ lunch which was very filling in the end, thanks to all the good fats from the avocado. I used cos lettuce leaves and added cherry tomatoes.
Misomite in a Cup from Simplicious

Misomite in a Cup from Simplicious

  • Never-Ending Vanilla Extract (p 45): I used an old caper jar which was the perfect size to make this simple vanilla extract. I had run out of vodka so used the suggested alternative of white rum, and it smells divine. It takes four weeks though before it’s ready, so I haven’t tried it yet!
  • Salted Caramel Cardamom Coffee (p 73): A delicious concoction made with vanilla and cardamom. Sarah’s idea is that this is for those who ‘shouldn’t be drinking coffee’, as the coconut oil lengthens and softens the caffeine hit, and the cardamom neutralises the over-stimulating effects. But my confession: I used decaf, so I can’t speak to whether this works. It was tasty though. I omitted the coconut oil and used regular steamed milk.
  • ‘But the Kitchen Sink’ Breakfast Mince (p 82): A recipe from Jo Foster, Sarah’s manager, who has had more mince recipes dedicated to her on Instagram than anyone else, ever. My husband often asks for this family-friendly, veggie packed meal. I made a double batch for dinner to serve with rice, and had leftovers for breakfast the following day with an egg.
  • Vata Balancing Bowl (p 133): I made these for my mum and I one Friday for lunch, using leftover shredded lamb from the freezer. We both enjoyed them. You should have seen her face when I stood up in my chair to take a photo! I served them with:
  • Sweet Potato Chips (p 133): Honestly, I’m not sure I will ever get tired of sweet potato.
  • Superfoodie Lasagne Cake (p 140): A very fun take on a lasagne, using rice paper sheets in a round cake tin (a good option for those who are gluten-free), as well as nori sheets, turmeric and pumpkin puree. The cheesy cauliflower sauce was a revelation – I will definitely be using that in place of regular old ‘white sauce’ in the future.
  • Skillet Fish ‘n’ Superslaw (p 162): I knew I’d enjoy this, as we’ve had it a few times on the IQS program. It’s so easy to throw together as it uses prepackaged coleslaw mix.
  • Mushroom, Thyme and Hazelnut Porridge (p 64): I rate the savoury porridge! Cooked in vegetable stock with onion, it was a filling and warming start to the day, served with an egg. I also used this to enter Miss Marzipan’s fun Game of Thrones Instagram Feature, which you can read more about at her blog, or in my Instagram post. I used the leftover porridge to make:
  • Golden Porridge Wedges (p 253): Except mine didn’t work. 😦 The mixture was too sloppy. But my husband did enjoy eating the reheated leftovers. I’ll try again another time!
Mushroom, Thyme and Hazelnut Porridge from Simplicious

Mushroom, Thyme and Hazelnut Porridge from Simplicious

  • Slow-cooker Zucchini and Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Pudding (p 62): I knew I’d like this one. 😀 I made this for dessert, and enjoyed the leftovers for subsequent breakfasts, and snacks. And more desserts, topped with coconut kefir and berries.
  • Chopped Salad Pickle (p 334): This is a fabulous way to use up leftover vegetables and doesn’t require any special ingredients – just water and salt. Another good use for the coconut oil jar. I used radish, cauliflower, green beans and carrot. They’re still fermenting, so I’ll have to keep you posted!
  • Choc-Beet Allspice Truffles (p 270): I enjoyed these a lot more than I thought I would – they are rich and creamy, and easy to make. I made some of these as part of my mother’s birthday present, along with:
  • Turkish Delightfuls (p 272): Very moreish! The kids loved them too. They look fancy but are surprisingly easy to make. Mine went a strange colour when I added the gelatin, so I added a touch of rose-coloured food dye, which I didn’t even realise I had in my cupboard… Into the box of chocolates also went:
  • Raspberry Ripe Bites (p 273): I’ve made these before and they are delicious – just like the ‘real thing’ 😉
Choc-Beet Allspice Truffles, Raspberry Ripe Bites and Turkish Delightfuls from Simplicious

Choc-Beet Allspice Truffles, Raspberry Ripe Bites and Turkish Delightfuls from Simplicious

  • Simplicious Sprouts in a Jar (p 352): Every time I saw this recipe in the book, I’d cringe. I wasn’t looking forward to making them. I’m not sure why, I just had this idea that it would be complicated. BUT IT’S SO MUCH FUN. I made mung-bean sprouts, and had a big sense of achievements when they started growing little tails! Plus, no fancy equipment. A jar. A chux. A rubber band (salvaged from a bunch of asparagus). Very little fuss. I added these to my:
  • Nori Roll in a Bowl (p 132): This may be my favourite abundance bowl so far! I used cauliflower rice, although mine was more like cauliflower mush, but it didn’t matter. It is essential to serve it with the delicious:
  • TMT Dressing (p 53): This was SO YUMMY, I was literally eating it by the spoonful. A dressing based on tahini, miso and turmeric, it was like a satay sauce with more bite. Very nice. I left out the water for a thicker dressing.
Nori Roll in a Bowl, with TMT Dressing and Simplicious Sprouts, from Simplicious

Nori Roll in a Bowl, with TMT Dressing and Simplicious Sprouts, from Simplicious

That’s 117 recipes down, and 189 remaining. I didn’t get around to the beetroot cheesecake this month, so I’m hoping to do that this month instead. As the weather cools off I’m also looking forward to some slow-cooking action.

Read the previous post here – #6 A Simplicious Challenge: Let the lady bleed in peace!

Read the next post here – #8 A Simplicious Challenge: A Simplicious holiday (and hot chips)

17 Comments

  1. Gary Lum says:

    I like to keep the rubber bands from herbs and things to keep batches of rechargeable batteries together is sets of two or four depending on the device that requires them.

    • Erin says:

      Gosh sorry Elissa, I just came across your comment (very belated!). I’ve been living an IQS lifestyle (real food, low sugar) for about 2 years now, so in that sense, cooking from Simplicious aligns well with the way I eat anyway. Having said that, I have noticed huge health benefits over the last 2 years since transitioning to this lifestyle, both for me, and also my husband and the kids. It’s certainly made a big difference to our quality of life. 🙂

  2. I also have a jar problem…I took a whole bunch into work a while ago, and they had new homes within minutes!!

    I love the idea of embedding new habits and doing what you can. The all or nothing mentality is a recipe for stress & anxiety.

  3. Kirsty Young says:

    Erin, I love that you are so dedicated to work your way entirely through a single recipe book. I have a ton of recipe books, but only ever try a few things. Same with magazines, that’s why I have stopped buying mags (although a few sneak in from Lifeline book fairs). I especially like your habit of collecting rubber bands from produce. Tell me , do you know why asparagus rubber bands are purple? I have no idea. I am currently doing a ‘purge’ of unworn clothes to charity, and putting aside excess kitchen doo-hickey’s and thing-a-mijigs for a garage sale in the future.

    • Erin says:

      Thanks so much Kirsty! I have to admit I was worried at the start that I might get bored of cooking from the same book – which is silly really, since it actually means I’m constantly trying out new recipes! I hadn’t actually noticed that all the asparagus rubber bands are purple… I will now though. 🙂 That’s a great way to declutter – certainly beats throwing things out, if someone else can get use out of them.

  4. Jenniferso says:

    You are amazing! You work, study, bring up children, are erudite… The list goes on. I have been on a LCHF for 3 years. I find your blog so so well presented & inspiring. Well done. Hope I eventually can do the same.

    • Erin says:

      Thank-you Jennifer, that’s very kind of you to say! I don’t feel particularly amazing – I generally just feel like I’m muddling through… I’ve just had a look over your blog – it looks really interesting, I’m looking forward to having a closer read.

  5. superfitbabe says:

    I think that it’s really nice that you’re trying this challenge out because a lot of people can’t afford to make these super complicated meals and HAVE to be careful about not wasting food and have to re-use the same items to make the same recipes. Sometimes it’s actually really good if you want to get to your goals because nothing is really complicated and you are forced to eat on a budget! Anyhow, I think all of these recipes look absolutely amazing! The superfood lasagna cake looks EPIC.

    • Erin says:

      Thanks so much for the lovely feedback! Yes I absolutely agree that many people are already in this situation – the book gives some really useful ideas for using up bits and pieces that might otherwise go to waste. Like leftovers pesto!

  6. I love how the recipes roll into each other – inspired

    Erin l admire your “capacity” you’ve taken this opportunity & have so much capability to do all of this – wearing so many hats – inspiring …

    PS where do you get the energy from!

    • Erin says:

      Thanks so much Sarah. I got to have a quick look at your blog yesterday – I’ve got it earmarked to go back and read in more detail! To be honest, I’d say I don’t have much energy at all… I probably shouldn’t be wearing so many hats. I just find it hard to choose which one to take off! 🙂

      • Thank you for taking the time to look it’s really appreciated Erin – wearing different hats is the fun bit – continually changing them not so much it can be exhausting for sure – look forward to seeing you finish wearing the “Sarah Wilson” hat x

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