New Year, New Intentions

12 months, that's how long it's been since I made a post here on Dandy Dishes. For those of you who have continued to come to this site and make my recipes, thank you! You have inspired me to keep this little blog going.

Anyone who has ever tried their hand at running a blog can tell you, it's a commitment. If it was just as easy as cooking dinner and writing a couple of words about it everyone would be doing it. But the real bloggers, the nutty ones like me who are crazy about food, spend hours researching recipes and testing things out in their kitchen. They use their poor families like lab rats and are constantly obsessing on how to make their favorite meals better. They make their family wait for 10 minutes after the food has been cooked so they can set up their tri-pod and try to take the best picture possible to post on the web. They attempt to post multiple times throughout the week and spends hours courting other bloggers to help develop their reputation. I guess what I am trying to say is, it's a process and you better love it to do it. And to those who have done it, and done it well, and my hats off to you!

The truth is I am just like many of you, working 40+ hours a week and most nights just trying to get something on the table. My best dishes are typically the ones that required the least amount of thought and time to get on the table. Needless to say, the SLR isn's readily available and by the time I'm done cooking all I can think of is putting the food in my belly! But at the end of the day my true passion is food, and I enjoy sharing it with you. So after multiple requests from my friends and family, who are no doubt tired of seeing Instagram pictures of my dinner on Facebook, I'm back to give this whole blogging thing another try.

I still follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to my diet but multiple comments and emails from you guys have shown me that I need to show a little more diversity. I am a firm believer in the Primal lifestyle, if you would like to read more about Primal eating and what it's basics please read this. But in an effort to give you guys more variety I'll start sharing with you some of my favorite 'cheats'. Homemade Marshmallows, Chicken Pot Pie, Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes with Kale Cream Gravy...sound good to any of you? I promise to post as frequently as I can, and if I'm too hungry to grab the SLR I'll snap a quick Instagram pic to share.

Again, thank you to each one of you for stopping by, commenting and sharing my recipes with your friends. You have given me an outlet to share my love of food with the world, and that's pretty darn cool ;) I hope you enjoy the new look of the site and come back to share your thoughts, comments and recipes with me soon.


Skillet Breakfast

I've never been much of a breakfast person, my whole life I have pretty much been content with just eating a banana and some yogurt to start my day.  Then I met the boy and everything changed.  This man is SERIOUS about his breakfast, to the extent that he starts asking what I’m making the coming weekend on Wednesday.  The first thing I am greeted with on Saturday morning is not “Good Morning my lovely wife” it’s more like “So um, what’s for breakfast?”  More times than not it’s usually just eggs and toast for him and some sort of omelet or frittata for me.  But one of his favorite things is skillets; deep fried hash browns, sausage, runny eggs and cheese is the sort of thing that is right up is alley.  So when I saw this pop up on my reader the other day I knew it had to be made, and finally I could join in eating it!

I made a couple changes to the original just so I could use what I had on hand, and I encourage you to do the same.  After all, recipes should be the starting point for making things your own.  I can’t wait to try this with some caramelized red onions or chorizo or even bacon.  The possibilities are only as big as your imagination so have fun with it.  Either way when you fry up sweet potatoes in any kind of pork fat the end result is going to be amazing!

Skillet Breakfast
Serves 2 really hungry people

1 tablespoon oil (coconut, grapeseed, etc)
1 lb breakfast sausage
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 eggs
Fresh grated cheddar cheese
Handful of fresh chopped parsley
Hot Sauce (and as you well know, I highly recommend Sriracha)
In a large cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat.  Add the sausage and break into pieces until browned and caramelized.  Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and reserve for later.

Toss the diced sweet potatoes into all that yummy sausage grease and season with salt and pepper, add a little chili powder if you’re feeling adventurous.  Cook until potatoes are fork tender.  Be careful not to burn the potatoes before they become tender, if need be cover the skillet with a lid and allow to steam for about 3 minutes.

Add the sausage back to the pan and combine well.  Make four little wells in the pan for the eggs.  Crack each egg into the wells and season with salt and pepper.  Cover with a lid and cook until the tops of the yolks are just set, about 3 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the heat and top with fresh grated cheddar cheese and fresh chopped parsley.  Give each person 2 eggs, a spoonful of potatoes and sausage and douse the entire thing with hot sauce.  Enjoy!



Fagioli con Salsicce (Beans with Sausage) Soup

This time of year is usually perfect for soups and stews, however lately here in the sunshine state the weather has been more like burgers and salads!  With highs ranging in the upper 70’s and low’s hanging around the mid 50’s I've felt more like barbecuing then soup making.  So for my friends and family in the North, this one is for you!

Depending on what side of the Primal fence you’re on, you may or may not occasionally indulge in legumes.  MDA has offered their opinion on the matter and I too believe an occasional indulgence is just fine.  Plus, in my opinion, they provide a texture and thickness to the soup that you just can’t achieve without them.

This is probably my hands down favorite soup recipe, this one is a close second, but when it comes to something hearty and full of flavor it simply can’t be beat.  Sweet Italian sausage, tender cannelloni beans, fresh rosemary and a ton of garlic make this dish packed with flavor and pure comfort.  Carb lovers can boil up some ditalini pasta and serve alongside with some crusty bread but I prefer mine topped with fresh grated parmesan and a good glug of extra virgin olive oil.

Fagioli con Salsicce (Beans with Sausage) Soup
Serves 4-6

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 small onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
10 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
4 cups homemade chicken stock
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 cans cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons sherry (optional)

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy bottomed pot.  Add the sausage and sauté, breaking apart into small pieces until browned.  Remove sausage from the pan and reserve for later. 

Add the last tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and toss in the chopped onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Create a little space in the center of the pan and add in the tomato paste, allow to cook for about 3 minutes or until caramelized.  Add in the garlic, rosemary and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant. 

Return the sausage to the pot and add the chicken stock, tomatoes, sherry (optional), bay leaves and beans to the pot. If you like a thicker soup, add one can of beans to the pot and crush the other with your hands into a paste.  The crushed beans will help make the soup thicker and give it a more creamy texture.  Reduce heat to low, partially cover and allow to cook for 20 – 30 minutes.  Remove the lid and adjust the seasoning with salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Serve in a large bowl topped with fresh parsley, parmesan cheese and a glug of good olive oil.



Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

Hello there strangers!  To say it’s been a while would be an understatement.  These past 2 months have been quite the ride; with extreme highs and devastating lows.  But I can say that it has made my relationship with my new husband more loving and stronger then I knew possible.  Both sides of our families have had to deal with tragedy and sickness as well as a number of our close friends; however our most devastating time came earlier this month when we had to make the decision to lay our 12 year old Boston Terrier Boomer to rest.  He became ill around Thanksgiving and his condition only worsened.  Any pet owner can tell you how hard it is to lose an animal, but those of us without our own children feel like we’ve lost a son or daughter.  I take comfort in knowing his spirit is always with us and I look forward to turning on my computer every morning just so I can see his smiling face.  Rest in peace Boomer boy…

Now on to the food part of the blog, which is why you are all here to begin with right?  I’ve featured meatballs on here before and they prove to be one of my most searched recipes to date.  But dare I say these are even better.  Made with a mix of ground chuck, pork and sweet Italian sausage, they are full of flavor yet still surprisingly light.  I like to throw on a pot of my favorite tomato sauce before I begin making these so that by the time the meatballs are done baking the sauce has simmered long enough to develop its flavor.  I then marry the two and let it simmer, covered, in a heavy pot all afternoon.  The meatballs then become even more tender and the sauce turns into something almost magical.

I brought these to a New Year’s pot luck served with grated parmesan and fresh chopped parsley with a side of rolls for the carb lovers…the idea, mini meatball sliders.  They were an instant hit and no one could believe they were Primal.  And for us non-grain eaters, just pop a toothpick in each one and dive in.  Trust me, they’re amazing!

Meatballs and Tomato Sauce
Makes 3 dozen

To make the sauce
1 28oz can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1 onion, peeled and chopped in half
4 tablespoons of butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

Add the tomatoes, onion and butter to a large heavy bottomed pot and simmer, covered, for at least 30 minutes.  Discard onion, salt and pepper to taste.  You can also add fresh chopped oregano or basil to finish.

To make the meatballs
1 lb ground chuck
½ lb ground pork
½ lb sweet Italian sausage
3 cloves minced garlic
2 eggs
3 handfuls of pecan meal (around 2 cups)
Fresh chopped parsley and oregano, about 2 tablespoons of each
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

I prefer to make these in my mixer but they can also be done by hand.  Preheat your oven to 350.  Add the meat, garlic, eggs, herbs, and seasoning to a large bowl.  Mix gently and then slowly add one handful of pecan meal to the mix at a time.  The idea here is to only add as much pecan meal as you need to make the mixture hold together.  If using a mixer, when the meat begins to cling to the paddle you’ve added enough.  Be careful not to over mix.  In the end you will end up using anywhere from 1 ½ cup to 2 cups of pecan meal.

Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and place a cooling rack on each.  Lightly spray each of the cooling racks with cooking spray so the meatballs don’t stick.  Form the meatball mixture into uniform 1 inch balls (a cookie scoop is great for this) and place onto the greased cooling racks.  Pop the racks into the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

Transfer the meatballs to the pot with the sauce making sure the sauce covers them completely.  Depending on how large or small you make your meatballs you may have some left over.  If that’s the case you can either add another can of crushed tomatoes to the pot or, if you’re like me, freeze them individually on a baking sheet and save them for later.

Serve these on top of shredded zucchini pasta or just eat them alongside a hearty green salad.  Carb lovers can toss them with spaghetti or turn them into sliders or hoagies.  Either way this is sure to be a dish all diets can enjoy.