#13 A Simplicious Challenge: A very Simplicious Christmas

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.

Another Christmas and New Year’s Eve gone! Isn’t it nice to be away from the weirdness that was 2016… Did you see 2016 made into a horror movie trailer?

I’m really excited about getting into a new year, but I did also have one of the nicest holiday periods. Not because we did anything particularly exciting, but just because I got to share in the magic of the holiday season with my kids, I guess. I enjoyed the lead-up during December just as much as the day itself – putting up the Christmas Tree with my boys, visiting the local Christmas lights (though I can’t help but wonder about their electricity bills!), and sitting down to our advent calendar. Each year, my grandparents send us a Jacquie Lawson Advent e-Calendar, which my kids love, and is a fun alternative to the chocolate calendars (not that I have a problem with those, but they last only a sugary second each day!). These advent calendars are set in quaint English villages, and each day the kids get to see a new ‘scene’ from the village, or decorate the village’s Christmas Tree, make a snowman, decorate a wreath; watching their creations gradually make the village more festive over the month. It’s cute, and a little magical.

In my small immediate family we’ve been refining our gift-giving process over the last few years to something less stressful and less expensive. It used to be an extreme present-opening extravaganza where we would all buy for each other. Then we tried putting a spending cap on it. Now, we (the adults) do a simple Secret Santa, and my husband and I give gifts to our kids and a couple of close friends. For each other, we either spend the money on a dinner date or buy each other a couple of small, useful items (like Campari, which always comes in handy  😀 ), or something we particularly want – this year I asked for Clementine Ford’s book Fight Like a Girl, and some tea. I always buy him a new multi-pack of undies (and some biscuits and a new wallet, this year)! 🙂 Essentially though, I’ve realised it’s much easier if we’re just upfront with each other about what we need or don’t need.

My Secret Santa this year was my Mum, and she got me the most thoughtfully sustainable gift. It came in a calico bag. Individual items were wrapped in blue tea-towels (because I do love a blue tea-towel). Fair trade dark chocolate, organic tea, a stainless steel water bottle, a charity pot of lotion, and a little notebook. It was excellent.

The food:

I made 21 recipes over December (well, it is the season for eating!):

  • Grilled Caesar on the Barbie (p 173): I intended to take a photo of this one, which my husband cooked on the BBQ, but then I was having too much fun at karaoke and didn’t come home on time. 🙂 It was really good though – the grilled baby cos lettuce was a bit of a revelation!
  • Party Polenta Cakes with Popping Topping (p 292): I made these as an after school treat for the last day of school. Unfortunately my son came home from school with a bag of lollies from his teacher, so he was less interested in my cupcakes. However, my toddler enjoyed them and I thought they were nice! Popcorn on a cake is an excellent idea. We used the:
  • Supercharged Coconut Frosting (p 56): A lovely sweet frosting that lasts the distance and keeps in the fridge.
Party Polenta Cupcakes with Popping Topping from Simplicious

Party Polenta Cupcakes with Popping Topping from Simplicious

  • Vegan Mince Meat (p 186): This mince meat alternative is made from cauliflower, and is surprisingly GOOD. It comes out with a nice smokiness, that I think would be awesome in a taco. We had ours on the:
  • Lebanese Roll Pizza (p 186): When I told my husband making pizza from broccoli, topped with vegan minced meat, he was like:  😦 But this ‘pizza’ was tasty and cheesy. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a pizza, as you can’t pick it up by hand – call it a slice to avoid disappointed family members.  😉
  • Vietnamese Turkey Pancakes (p 150): I can assure you, I did NOT think these pancakes would work! But they did, and had a surprisingly good flavour. I loved this dish.
  • Cacao Cayenne Pecans (p 312): What a gorgeous Christmas snack! I love pecans. I made a batch of these and divvied them up as little gifts.
  • One Totally Messed-With Christmas Cake (p 315): This cake smelled amazing, thanks to all the lovely spices, nuts and chocolate. It came out a little dry (more like pudding than cake) but was delicious warmed up with some double cream.
  • Totally Gaudy Christmas Tree Cheese Ball (p 302): So, my tree didn’t work. My mixture wasn’t set enough, possibly because I used homemade cream cheese instead of store-bought. But it made a delicious dip all the same, and everyone loved it on Christmas Day!
  • Sugar-free Glazed Christmas Ham (p 308): This. Is. So. Good. I could eat this all year round. I couldn’t get pork neck so used a small 1kg ham. It was very easy and the marinade was beautiful, and it came out in a lovely high gloss. We served it with:
  • Pickled Festive Red Slaw with Caramelised Ruby Grapefruit (p 309): This slaw made a nice change from a regular slaw or salad, with it’s festive red colour. One of my family members can’t eat grapefruit so I used orange instead.
Sugar-free Glazed ham from Simplicious with Festive Slaw

Sugar-free Glazed ham from Simplicious with Festive Slaw

  • Baked Stuffing Loaf (p 305): We made this delicious vegetarian loaf a couple of days after Christmas and it was the perfect way to fill up on some delicious vegetables. We used cauliflower, sweet potato and celery in ours, so it was quite sweet. The mushroom sauce was divine. We served it with:
  • Shaved Sprouts and Pecorino Salad (p 305): Easy and delicious. My toddler stole all the pomegranate seeds for himself!
  • Stuffing ‘n’ All the Best Bits Salad (p 308): This substantial salad was delicious a couple of days after Christmas – we used the last of our leftover Christmas ham in place of pancetta and served it as a side to ribs. This would make a lovely side dish warmed up in winter too.
  • Beet that Popstick Salad (p 191): I made this one for lunch for my husband and I, and we were both pleasantly surprised by the sweetness of the salad – the thinly sliced raw beetroot was delicious marinated in olive oil and vinegar. The popsticks though were a little too tart for us!
  • Onion Curry Dosa (p 89): Mmm, delicious. I love dosa. We served it with watercress sauce and used the leftover sauce to make:
  • Watercress Sauce and Some Eggs (p 176): The watercress sauce was such a gorgeous pale green colour, I think I expected it to taste like a cross between baby spinach and basil pesto (despite an absence of basil! And baby spinach!). Unfortunately it was quite bitter. I reminded myself that it was extremely nutritious. 😀
Beet that Popstick Salad from Simplicious

Beet that Popstick Salad from Simplicious

  • Da Clean Bee’s Knees (p 310): I wasn’t sure I’d be keen on this cocktail, as the Cultured Mule I tried last summer was too tart for me. But it was quite good, especially as an aperitif. I added a touch more rice malt syrup. The thyme infused it with a lovely subtle flavour.
  • Pomegranate and Coconut Vodka Popsticks (p 324): I wasn’t particularly keen on this one – it was made with gelatin which gave it an odd texture. But the rose-water was a nice flavour.
  • Margarita Popsticks (p 326): A tangy, creamy after dinner treat – I didn’t have any tequila so used Bacardi rum instead, and it was quite good.
  • Chocolate and Red Wine Creamsticks (p 326): Delicious! Like a chocolate paddle-pop for grown-ups. The small amount of red wine and spices adds an earthiness to the chocolate ice-cream. I added pecans to the melted chocolate topping.

So, 241 recipes down now, and 65 to go. Crazy! On the agenda in January is a little fermenting – sauerkraut and lemon and turmeric tonic-ade; as well as the green smoothie cake, and the lettuce soup… Happy 2017 everyone!

Read the previous post here – #12 A Simplicious Challenge: My Ikea Moment.

Read the next post here – #14 A Simplicious Challenge: REDcycling, cold soup and an enormous beetroot cheesecake.


  1. Only 65 to go…so proud of your Erin!

    Oh and reading about your Christmas present from your Mum made me smile. It’s so heart warming when someone knows you well enough to choose the perfect gift, blue tea towels and all.

  2. Jenni says:

    Great post as usual Erin! I love that your mum gave you such a thoughtful gift! Gorgeous 😊Every year my Mum gets me things that just aren’t me…it’s like she doesn’t even know me!

    • Erin says:

      Hi Jenni,
      Sorry I didn’t see this comment sooner! My WordPress notifications aren’t working very well at the moment…. I am lucky that my Mum and I are very close and spend a lot of time together – and we like a lot of the same things which probably helps! Do you and your mum have very different tastes?

      • Jenni says:

        That’s so lovely! Mum and I are close and very similar in some ways but worlds apart in others. She really doesn’t seem to understand my interest in living cleaner or support it which is disappointing. I hope that one day she’ll realise it’s not a ‘phase’ and take it seriously!

      • Erin says:

        Ah yes – I wonder if it’s a generational difference too? Hopefully the benefits that you and your family experience in the longer term will also speak for themselves!

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