Recipe: Chocolate Truffles (Topped with Bacon, Sprinkles, Coconut, and Cocoa)

Today I’m going to ask you to consider candy making. Hear me out! Right now you’re looking at these pictures thinking I did something fancy and difficult. But I didn’t really. These truffles are insanely simple. So much so that I actually don’t want to show you how, because I like the thought of these truffles looking hard won. But, let’s be real, you could do this in your sleep.

Onward, to candy!

Domestocrat’s Chocolate Truffles (makes 25 truffles)
1 cup semisweet chocolate (I used chocolate chips)
1/2 tsp. espresso powder
1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. Lyle’s Golden Syrup
Toppings of your choice – I used bacon, coconut, chocolate sprinkles, and cocoa powder

All you need to make truffles is chocolate ganache. And all you need to make chocolate ganache is this recipe.

To begin to make the ganache, melt the chocolate chips over medium heat in a double boiler. When the chips have melted, remove the bowl from the heat. Next, add the espresso powder, cocoa powder, cream, vanilla, and golden syrup to the bowl.

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With the bowl off the heat and the rest of the ingredients added, stir slowly to combine until the ganache is uniform and smooth. Cool on the counter for 20 minutes or so then place the chocolate ganache in the fridge for 5 hours or the freezer for 3.

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You’ll know when the ganache is ready because it will be set and hard; it will be firm to the touch and will hold its shape when scooped.

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Scoop out 1 teaspoon ganache pieces and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. When all of the ganache is used up, roll the pieces into uniform balls. I like to dip my fingers in cool water before rolling in my hands that way they won’t stick as much and won’t melt the ganache as quickly.

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At this point you are ready to roll the ganache balls in whatever toppings you like! Because they are slightly damp the toppings will adhere easily. The toppings I used were bacon, coconut, chocolate sprinkles, and cocoa powder. While rolling be sure to use your fingers to press on the larger pieces like bacon and coconut. An assembly line set up works best here.

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Eat immediately (because how can you not) or store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days. These truffles are a must for your next party (also because they are a total make-ahead). Everyone will think you slaved over them but I will keep this our little secret!

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Recipe: The Best Ever BBQ Beans

Beans are one of my favorite foods, not to mention go-to side dishes. They are obviously very good for you – what with all the protein and fiber, as well as macronutrients, vitamins and minerals, and phytochemicals. I also love beans because they are so versatile and there are so many kinds! I love black beans in tacos, cannellini beans in soups, garbanzo beans in salad, kidney beans in chili, a blend of beans in homemade veggie burgers – the list goes on and on!

Here is my latest bean creation – a new side dish staple in our house and instant summer BBQ classic.

Domestocrat’s Best Ever BBQ Beans (adapted from Bobby Flay’s recipe, makes 6 servings)
12 oz. package of bacon
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1.5 cups shredded carrot
1.5 tsp. crushed garlic
Two 15 oz. cans of pinto beans
1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
1/2 cup water
3/4 tsp. dried italian seasoning
Salt & pepper

Begin by heating a large pot over medium heat. Cut up the bacon into 1″ pieces and cook until the fat begins to bubble and the edges start to brown. Toss in the onions, carrots, and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent, the carrots are tender, and the bacon is all browned up.
Sidenote – If you want to make this recipe with less bacon fat I have two alternatives before you add the veggies to the pot: 1) Carefully skim as much fat as you want out of the pot with a large metal spoon, or 2) Cook the 1″ bacon pieces in a separate saute pan until they begin to bubble/are just starting to brown, then with a slotted spoon add the bacon to the large pot, and then augment with any additional bacon fat you want to use.

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While those ingredients are cooking together, rinse the beans. You can also add the spices/seasonings to the pot at this point as well.

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When the veggies/bacon are done, add the beans to the pot. Pour in the BBQ sauce and the water. The water is used to loosen up the BBQ sauce so if yours is particularly thick or thin, feel free to adjust to use more or less accordingly. Drop the heat to low, cover with a lid, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the beans are done give them a taste to gauge the seasonings and adjust to your preferences.

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Eat immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. These beans actually get better as they sit so you can totally make them a day ahead of a party or barbecue. I love this recipe because it’s hearty, sweet and savory, filling, and a great compliment to classic summer dishes like burgers and corn on the cob.

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Recipe: Classic Blueberry Muffins

Summer means berry season! Time to get your fill of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries, gooseberries, huckleberries, marionberries, and raspberries. I really don’t enjoy turning on the oven when it’s 90+ degrees in late July but I would do it for these muffins. They are moist, sweet, and filled with delicious blueberries.

Domestocrat’s Classic Blueberry Muffins (adapted from Cooking Classy, makes 9 muffins)
1. 75 cups flour (I used King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. ground flax seed
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 up canola oil
1/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
1/4 cup greek yogurt
2 eggs
1.5 cups fresh blueberries

This recipe couldn’t be simpler. Using the muffin method, combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients in another bowl, and then slowly mix the wet into the dry until the batter comes together.

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Scoop the dough into a muffin tin that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Take a few extra blueberries (or reserve some at the outset) and top each muffin with them. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes.

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Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan, and cool completely at room temperature on a wire rack.

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Enjoy for breakfast with a mug of tea or for as a snack with a glass of milk. Really, these muffins are delicious and hearty at any time of day. They are also totally portable and can be made ahead of time. They will keep in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap or in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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Working Port Cruise of Boston Harbor

Boston is one of my favorite places of all time – and I’m not just saying that because I have lived here all my life! It’s full of history and culture, has gorgeous weather, is super walkable, mixes green space with waterfront with parks and city life all in one, has excellent restaurants, and is just a beautiful place to call home.

One of the best places to see all of the splendor, appeal, and style of Boston is from Boston Harbor. In June the Boston Harbor Association hosted us members on their free ‘working port cruise’ which went through Boston Harbor, Chelsea Creek, and the Lower Mystic River. We learned all about up and coming industry, property and real estate development, and environmental preservation from local advocates and key stakeholders in Boston.

All aboard!

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A view of the Tobin Bridge from the Inner Habor:

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The skyline views of Boston from the Inner Harbor are some of my favorite vantage points of the city:

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The Coast Guard patrol flew over head which was pretty cool.

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The Coast Guard has a base in the North End, right in the Harbor, that supports all Coast Guard stations and personnel in New England, New York, and northern New Jersey.

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A beautiful view of downtown including the Customs Building and Old South Meeting House:

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It just so happened that on the day of this tour the first of three tall ships visiting Boston this summer was docked in the Charlestown Navy Yard. This is the Spanish Navy’s Juan Sebastian De Elcano ship – it is a four-masted ship, a topsail schooner, and is the third largest Tall Ship in the world. The ship serves as the official training vessel for the Spanish Navy.

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Of course the main attraction in the Charlestown Navy Yard has always been the USS Constitution (see on the right below), however it’s dry docked for repairs and restoration until 2017.

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We saw plenty of really cool ships and sailing vessels while we were out on the water. I love the style of these boats, they are so classic.

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As we headed down into Chelsea Creek a representative of the Chelsea Creek Action Group narrated with information about what the group is doing to turn the creek into a thriving, environmentally friendly, and economically prosperous waterway. This group of residents has worked tirelessly on community clean ups, creating more green spaces, and fighting against pollution.

For decades, Chelsea Creek has been, and continues to be, the region’s energy corridor, with tankers bringing home heating oil, transportation fuel, and aircraft fuel to storage facilities along the waterway. Ships also bring road salt (see below on the right) which is used by more than 200 municipalities and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

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In 2012 the Chelsea Street Bridge underwent a huge $125M renovation, replacing the previously unsafe bridge with this modern, 450 foot vertical lift bridge. It was amazing to see this bridge in action – it just lifts straight up when ships need to pass underneath!

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There was a huge oil tanker unloading petroleum in the Global Revere Terminal on Chelsea River. This thing was massive!

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In 2003 the Condor Street Urban Wild park in Chelsea was converted from an old industrial site to an urban wild with walking trails and green space.

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From Chelsea Creek we turned around, sailed under the Tobin Bridge, and headed down the Mystic River.

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On the Mystic River, there are several industrial work sites: Distrigas’ LNG terminal, Schnitzer Steel’s metals recycling facility, Massport’s Boston Autoport, and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Wind Technology Testing Center.

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A massive GDF Suez tanker was unloading at the Distrigas’ LNG terminal, so our trip down the Mystic was cut short for security reasons.

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The boat turned around and headed back into Boston Harbor.

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Lovely view of the ICA from the Harbor:

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The two hours on the tour went by super fast. We learned so much about local restoration projects, environmental preservation, burgeoning industry on the waterfront, and the investment in infrastructure going on in this area. The local representatives narrating the tour were invaluable. It was definitely one of the best tours I have been on in Boston and it’s not even open to the public. I kind of love that though, the event was attended by residents and locals who are invested in the Boston Harbor Association and being part of the community supporting these changes.

After the tour we got off the boat and walked around a bit in the Financial District on our way back to the train.

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We stopped in the new Kane’s Donuts downtown location. What better way to end this adventure then with a delicious donut!

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Recipe: Loose Leaf Tea Arnold Palmer

Summer is the right time for Arnold Palmers. It’s the perfect summer drink because it’s cold, refreshing, and light (and can totally be made boozy too).

I recently went a little nuts at David’s Tea to treat myself for getting a poster accepted to an academic conference in November. TREAT YO’ SELF! I don’t know what kind of nut treats them self to tea and not something ultra fancy but it made me happy and that’s what treat yo’ self is all about. At David’s Tea I bought five new teas (including the one I used in this recipe, Pom Tango) and a cold brew iced tea pitcher.

Domestocrat’s Loose Leaf Tea Arnold Palmer (makes about 8 servings)
For the tea:
Your favorite loose leaf tea (I used David’s Tea Pom Tango)
A few cups of ice
For the lemonade:
2 lemons
1 lime
For the simple syrup:
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar

My new cold brew iced tea pitcher.  Isn’t it purty?

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This David’s Tea pitcher is made of BPA-free Tritan, holds 67 oz., lays flat for easy fridge storage, and has a fine nylon infuser core which comes apart for easy cleaning.

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The David’s Tea Pom Tango tea is made of black tea, dried pomegranate, and dried mango. It’s sweet, fruity, luscious, and has a really mellow flavor.

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To make the Arnold Palmer start first by making the tea. The instructions on this pitcher, and with basically all cold brew iced tea, are to add your tea to the infuser, fill the pitcher halfway with hot water (roughly 200 degrees), steep for 10 minutes, top off with ice, and that’s it! You can leave the infuser in the pitcher to steep to your desired strength and flavor. I steeped mine for probably 25 minutes.

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While the tea is steeping, make the simple syrup. The standard recipe for simple syrup is usually one part water to one part sugar. I used a little less than one part sugar because I didn’t want to syrup to be too thick. You can make it either way you like. Simmer the water and sugar over medium-low heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Pour into a mason jar (or any airtight container), cool to room temperature, then store in the fridge for up to a week.

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While the tea is steeping and the simple syrup is cooling, squeeze the lemon and lime juice into a glass. Pro tip: when hand squeezing juice I prefer to cut the citrus lengthwise. It’s so much easier to juice that way!

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When the tea has finished steeping, the simple syrup has cooled, and the citrus has been juiced, gather all of the ingredients together. Pour the lemon/lime juice into the pitcher and top off with ice.

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I added the simple syrup each time I poured myself a glass of the Arnold Palmer, rather than right into the pitcher. I wanted to control the amount in my drink and it was super easy with a separate mason jar of syrup. Just put as many spoonfuls of simple syrup that you want into your glass first, then top with the Arnold Palmer. I used about 3-4 teaspoon per cup.

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Garnish with a little lemon and extra ice cubes and enjoy this summery, sweet, special treat!

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(Products listed on my blog are never sponsored; I am in no way paid, given free samples, or told to say anything you just read. I have posted about David’s Tea products because I went out, purchased these items myself, and want to share my thoughts in a candid and informative way.)

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Recipe: Single Serving Chocolate Chip Pancake

Sometimes I want a pancake. Just one though! I don’t want to make a whole batch then realize I need to do something with the leftovers. I know I can save them for later but my craving for pancakes is usually fleeting once I’ve had one. I know I can freeze them too but I never go back for them. I knew there had to be a single serving pancake recipe out there to avoid this entire dilemma and, of course, my girl Joy The Baker had my back.

Single Serving Chocolate Chip Pancake (adapted from Joy The Baker, makes 1 huge pancake or 2 regular sized ones)
1/3 cup AP flour
1.5 tbsp. oats
1 tbsp. ground flax seed
2.5 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp. greek yogurt
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp. canola oil
3 tbsp. mini chocolate chips

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This recipe couldn’t be simpler. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add in the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.

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When the batter is done, add in the chocolate chips. I like minis here because they appear in every bite of the finished pancake and I find they don’t burn as easily.

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Warm up your griddle over medium heat, spray with non-stick spray, and pour on the batter. This recipe will make one giant pancake or two smaller pancakes. I went with two smaller pancakes because I was worried the middle wouldn’t cook through on a mega one. Flip when small bubbles have formed all around the edges of the pancake (1-2 minutes). Cook on the other side until golden brown and the batter is fully cooked (another 1-3 minutes).

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Serve up with your favorite toppings – syrup, butter, whipped cream, powdered sugar, etc. Enjoy with some strong tea and a side of fruit (or coffee and bacon, whatever, the possibilities are endless). Enjoy!

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Recipe: Broccoli & Bacon Summer Salad

Summer, glorious summer. It’s the time of year that you don’t need to spend daydreaming about BBQs and beach days, you can actually go do them! But you definitely need the right foods to accompany you. Think easy, quick, light, low maintenance, crowd pleasers. This recipe hits all of those things. It’s healthy (broccoli), light (greek yogurt instead of mayo), quick (takes like 15 minutes to whip together), and crowd pleasing (because bacon).

Domestocrat’s Broccoli & Bacon Summer Salad (yields 10 servings)
3 broccoli crowns, trimmed and cut into small florets (roughly 4 cups)
12 oz. package of bacon, cooked
1/2 red onion, minced finely
1.5 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups greek yogurt (I used fat free)
4 tbsp. granulated sugar
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Begin by prepping the broccoli (wash and trim into small florets), bacon (cook up and cool on a paper towel), and onion (mince finely).

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When those three ingredients are all set, toss them in a big bowl (I made this whole dish in a big tupperware for convenience).

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Next, prep the dressing! Mix the yogurt, sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. Stir until smooth and thoroughly combined.

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Then – super simple – pour the dressing over the broccoli/bacon/onion and toss to combine.

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The last step is to incorporate in the cheddar cheese. I do this after the dressing has been added to the salad because I find that adding the cheese beforehand tends to create clumps.

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Again, mix together until the salad is uniformly dressed and the ingredients are evenly distributed.

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That’s it – serve up and enjoy! This salad will keep in a tupperware container in the fridge for 3-5 days. The longer it sits the better it gets (the raw broccoli flavor mellows). This salad is perfect for any BBQ or just to have as a dinner side – it’s fresh, crisp, and super tasty.

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