Archive for Cookbooks

Dirty Food

If you do a search for the hashtag #cleaneating on Instagram, you’ll find over 45 Million results. 45 Million! It would appear that we are obsessed with the concept. What is the concept, though? It feels like it’s one of those things that’s become so big, nobody really knows what it actually is. 

The concept of “clean eating” is really based around focusing on a diet high in whole foods. That means limiting your consumption of foods that are processed. The result is that you have a diet high in nutrients, plants and fibre, and low in sugars and processed fats. This is a good thing, right? Trashy Cookies JVR

Of course, and it’s how I try to eat most of the time. 

BUT–I like big butts and I cannot lie–if it’s been raining for three weeks and I’ve had a shitty day, I’m not curling up to eat my feelings with a big bowl of raw vegetables. Sorry, I’m just not. I want a Burgoo Grilled Cheese, gooey and crispy on the edges, and a pot of tomato soup to dip it into. 

Saucy Pudding Cake

Comfort food–the food that makes us happy–is the food of celebrations, of coziness, and this food is very often the opposite of clean. It’s chocolatey, and melty and oozy and fatty and sweet. 

And I think it’s wrong to deny yourself the full on hedonistic pleasure that kind of food brings.

This is the whole concept behind Juile Van Rosendaals’s (@dinnerwithjulie) new cookbook, Dirty Food. It’s unapologetic. Food is joy and celebration and sharing, and these recipes all focus on the messiness and joy in life. Because, let’s face it; life is seldom simple, it’s not often black-and-white. There’s nothing wrong with salad on a daily basis, but sometimes you just need a good grilled cheese. 

In Dirty Food, you’ll find recipes that will make people happy. Waffles, biscuits, gooey cinnamon buns. Lots and lots of carbs… tacos, sloppy joes, smashing burgers. 

Garlic Toast Crumb Spaghetti

I tested a bunch of recipes from this book, and they were all pretty delightful. There are a few more I still want to try (whipped Feta, yes please), though I’ll leave the meat ones to the meat-eaters (but appreciated the veg hack on the tacos). I mostly made desserts; I tried the Trashy Cookies, the Dirty Blondies and the Saucy Pudding Cake (which reminded me of the boxed mix we used to bake as kids). I also made the Toast Crumb & Garlic Spaghetti, which is an ode to carbs (I served a very healthy Kale Caesar on the side, okay???). 

I think the thing I love the most about this book is how Julie’s personality shines through. When you write cookbooks, you’re in a kind of box. You’re constrained by your subject matter, by the style guide… but Julie self-published Dirty Food and there’s something about it that feels like she’s right there with you in your kitchen, getting messy. It’s just plain fun. 

Trashy Blondies

Dirty Blondies

For some years now, Julie’s blondies have been my go-to. Blondies are basically brownies without the chocolate, and you can customize them lots of different ways. This one has a chocolate swirl, and I added a touch of coffee liqueur to mine as well. 

(recipe courtesy of Julie Van Rosendaal’s Dirty Food)


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda 
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 1-2 tbsp cocoa


  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. 
  2. When melted, pour into a bowl and stir in brown sugar, egg and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda and salt, just until combined. 
  3. Line an 8″x8″ square pan with parchment or butter well. and put the cocoa in a shallow dish. Scoop up large spoonfuls of batter and dip the side of the spoon into the cocoa, and then drop the batter into the pan. The idea is to get cocoa splotches randomly throughout your batter. Spread with a spoon or offset spatula, and draw lines or swirls through the batter with a skewer or a toothpick to create a fun effect. 
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden and starting to pull away from the edges. Allow to cool at least slightly, then cut into 12-16 squares. 

Cookbook Review: Vegan Meal Prep

Meal prep is having a hot moment. I’m guessing it all started way back with the mason jar salad, but it’s only continued to grow in popularity, especially with those loving the Keto or Paleo diets. 

I am, personally, a big fan. The reality of my life is that, like many of you, I’m busy. I work, I have a kid and I attempt to have a social life. That doesn’t always leave time for cooking elaborate meals, so I tend to focus on dinners, especially, that come together in under 30 minutes: stir fries, pastas, tacos, veggie burgers.

The other reality of my life is that, if I don’t pre-plan, I often don’t eat at all, or I don’t eat healthy. I’ve been known to survive on peanut butter sandwiches, or Tim Horton’s bagels. So planning a week’s worth of meals in advance seems like a smart thing to do. 

What I dislike about most meal prep plans is the lack of variety. You make a bunch of stuff at the beginning of the week, and then you eat that same thing all week. As a girl who gets bored easily, this can be a challenge. I look at that salad I’ve been eating all week on Thursday, and suddenly a peanut butter sandwich is looking good. So, I appreciate the time meal prepping saves me, and I appreciate that it means I eat healthier, but I hate being bored.

I recently got a copy of Robin Asbell’s Vegan Meal Prep cookbook, published by Robert Rose

The first thing I love about this cookbook is that it has 5 weeks of meal prep plans, and not one meal is the same during the week. Boredom problem: solved! 

The meal preps are laid out: every meal you’ll eat for the week, as well as a comprehensive shopping list, and a list of tasks to do on prep day. 

One thing to love about this cookbook is that it’s for real eaters. They might be vegan, but this is not delicate diet food. You won’t been eating a plate of leaves and twigs. The recipes are hearty; stews, soups, pastas, handfuls of sandwiches. You will not be going hungry on this meal prep plan. 

I also love how Asbell incorporates savoury ingredients into places you’d not expect them. Sweet potato, for example, is a heavy hitter in this book, and I’m really okay with it! They show up in breakfasts, desserts, and of course in the regular ways, too. Quinoa also plays a starring role in many sweet as well as savoury dishes. What I’m saying is, Asbell is creative, and doesn’t rely on tofu as the main ingredient. 

I made quite a few recipes from this book: Sweet Potato Chickpea Cakes, Matcha-Glazed Pistachio Blondies, Blueberry Breakfast Squares, and Korean Mock Duck Lettuce Wraps

Sweet Potato Chickpea Cakes

Sweet Potato Chickpea Cakes: reminded me a lot of a fritter or a falafel, only made with sweet potatoes. Now, again, I’m a big fan of the yam, so I have no problems with this! I ate this all week on the side of a salad, and enjoyed them. I’d make these again. 

Matcha Glazed Pistachio Blondies

Matcha-Glaze Pistachio Blondies: I have a bit of an issue with the name. To me, a blondie needs to include having the fat (usually butter, but we’re being vegan here) melted down on top of the stove with sugar. So I don’t know if I’d technically call this a blondie, but whatever you wanna call it, I really liked the recipe. It was quite tasty, and the matcha glaze gave it a nice punch at the end. 

Blueberry Breakfast Squares: for some reason, in my head, I expected these to be more of an oaty granola-bar texture, but it tasted more like a banana bread with blueberries. 

Korean Mock Duck Lettuce Wraps

Korean Mock Duck Lettuce Wraps: let me just say, before reading this cookbook, I’d never heard of mock duck. I live in Vancouver, we have a huge Asian population and tons of Asian supermarkets, but this one got by me. I found it in a can at my local Asian supermarket, and it is basically seitan, but it’s been marinated and cooked in such a way to resemble duck. I enjoyed this recipe, though it was the most expensive of all the ones I tested. One thing to watch out for with this recipe is that store-bought kimchi may not be vegan. They often add fish sauce or the like to add to that salty, funky flavour. You may want to make your own

So, wanna eat better? More healthy? Save time? Then, yes! Vegan Meal Prep is for you! 

« Older Entries Recent Entries »