Rustic Dinner RollsAs I mentioned a couple of weeks ago during the New Year’s round up posts, I’ve gotten a lot more into bread baking the past year. One thing I had the opportunity to make yet was crusty breads. To achieve that crusty effect, most recipes require a “sponge”, which usually is made the night before you plan to bake the bread. Which, of course – I never seem to have my act together enough to plan ahead for that.

We were having soup for dinner last week, and I wanted some French-type rolls to go along with. But, it was cold and rainy – really wasn’t feeling going to the store. So, I turned to my cookbook for inspiration. Cook’s Illustrated had a recipe for dinner rolls that claimed the crunch of a crusty roll, without the time commitment. It was a few more steps than your standard yeast roll recipe, but I was pretty sure the finished product was going to be worth it.

The rolls were airy and chewy on the inside, with a nice thick crunchy crust. This will definitely be my go-to bread when I want something with a little more body than a traditional yeast dinner roll. The batch made enough for one dinner’s worth for us, as well as another meal’s worth that I stuck in the freezer for a rainy day.

Navy Bean Soup

For a good chunk of my life, I was completely turned off by bean soup. Come to think of it, I was pretty much disgusted by all beans. Silly little girl. I’m happy to report that in the past couple years, beans have become a staple in my kitchen. I like to keep bagged dried beans on hand for meals like this, but also canned beans for a quick meal or side dish.

This navy bean soup is the first instance in which I “saw the light” in regards to how awesome beans can be. We were on a cruise, enjoying lunch in the dining room, and navy bean soup was one of the starter courses for the day. I tried it, and loved it. The flavor and texture just won me over completely. Not to mention how hearty and filling it is. Isn’t it funny with all the fancier things on the menu that day, I remember the humble bean soup? It definitely left an impression.

Anyways, I finally “borrowed” the Carnival cookbook from my mom (she’ll probably never see it on her bookshelf again), which has their navy bean soup recipe. After Christmas we were all kind of burnt out on ham leftovers, so I threw the bone into the freezer and took it out last week to make this soup. But, if you don’t have a ham bone laying around, then a smoked ham hock would work just fine. It doesn’t get much more filling, heartier, or economical than a big bubbling pot of bean soup folks!

Bacon Stout Chocolate Cheesecake

Okay, okay – hear me out. I know what you must be thinking – bacon on a cheesecake? What the what? But just trust me, it works, especially since its beer-candied bacon. I first got this idea for a cheesecake at my favorite place for inspiration, Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats. In the spring months here on Delmarva, they have a restaurant week. If you are a restaurant in the area and would like to participate, you can offer a 3-course meal to your patrons for $30 a person.

We’ve been to a few places, as it’s always fun to try something new, but we always end up back at Dogfish. There’s the amazing beer, obviously. But, the food is always awesome – as well as the service. It’s a great place to go with the kids, with fun activity menus to keep them busy. They even make their own homemade birch beer! They source as many local ingredients as much as possible, displaying the farms proudly on a chalkboard. Sam and his wife Mariah (founders of Dogfish Head) are the nicest people in the world. We’ve seen them in there many evenings where their family was enjoying dinner with friends, or just hanging out – and Sam chatted with Jon about homebrew for a while. They also host our local homebrew chapter, Delmarva United Homebrewers, at the brewpub in the winter months. Which, is just another notch on their lipstick case of coolness in my book.  Okay, I digress…let’s just say that I love them, and everything that they stand for.

The cheesecake was on their prix fixe menu that night as a dessert choice. Of course I couldn’t resist, and I’m eternally grateful that I didn’t. They used their Chicory Stout in the batter, which led to a  denser cheesecake than I was accustomed to. It definitely stuck in my mind, and I always wanted to recreate it at home. Enter Jackie, who posted a chocolate stout cheesecake on her beer blog a while back. I knew it was  going to be the perfect base for this monster. And, it was. I added a bit of the beer-candied bacon to the batter, as well as to the top (along with some hot fudge sauce to make it easier to adhere). Just enough to make you think – Oh, bacon! And the pretzel crust? Insanely good, and seemed to retain a better crunch than your standard graham cracker variety.

Desserts are often overlooked at Super Bowl parties – but this is one that is most definitely notable. Make this, and you’re sure to be the talk of the party. Or with it in hand, will get you into any party you like! Who’s going to turn down a bacon stout chocolate cheesecake with a pretzel crust? #nobody

Classic Hot Fudge Sauce

Hot fudge has to be one of my favorite things on this planet. On ice cream, drizzled over cake or brownies, mixed into milk – you name it, I love it. Sadly, I’d always relied on the kind from the jar to get my fix. But, as with some of my other favorite store-bought items, I wanted to learn to make it at home.

I came across this recipe right before Christmas, and made it for Andrew’s teachers at school – along with some peanut brittle. It’s everything that hot fudge sauce should be. Thick, smooth, and chocolaty. The best part? It only uses 3 ingredients, all of which are pantry staples in my home.

I’m still trying to decide if this is a good thing, or a bad thing…