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?
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.
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.
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.
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
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- When melted, pour into a bowl and stir in brown sugar, egg and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda and salt, just until combined.
- 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.
- 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.