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Be Nice

Dec 11, 2014

Last month in observance of Thanksgiving, social media abounded with declarations of thankfulness. Friends, family, acquaintances and businesses showed appreciation for what they had been blessed with (and some of what they weren’t).

Entering December, the trend has moved to Random Acts of Kindness. ‘Tis the season for giving, and I am lucky to be surrounded by so many thoughtful, kind people who are willing to share those blessings for which they so recently gave thanks.

Charitable donations increase exponentially as Christmas nears. There is just something about the twinkly lights, tins and trays of sweet goodies, ugly sweaters and the knowledge of God’s amazing love for mankind that opens our hearts and wallets. Organizations share lists of their financial and material needs, and we happily comply. News organizations and Facebook overflow with photos of Angel Tree donations, food pantry collections, winter coat drives and great big checks held by smiling charity leaders.

I polled a group of elementary students for their Random Acts ideas. Of course, they had grand plans for what they would do if money were no object. Cure cancer. Feed the children. Provide laptops and books to give everyone everywhere the opportunity for education. Save the hurt and starving animals. Help the homeless. Buy PS3s for all their friends.

But it was their quiet compassion that grabbed my heart. Holding a door open for another was one of their top responses for a simple act of giving. Smiling at everyone you meet was a concept of good will that made me, well, smile. Singing for a grandmother that loves music and making cards for assisted living residents showed respect for our elders. Doing chores without grumbling and sharing pencils with classmates and toys and video games with siblings hinted that these kids also recognized the importance of responsibility and compromise. And I loved the simple response of “be nice.” Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all could be nice?

So I’m trying to take a cue from these outstanding kids and simply “be nice” this holiday season (and beyond). Of course, I am still practicing giving in any way that I can to support my favorite charities and organizations, but BE NICE is my daily mantra.

Perhaps I will be nice with a tray of Grand Marnier Truffles. Grand little sweet bites will make the taste buds sparkle like the holiday lights. Sharing creamy, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate with just a hint of a bright, citrusy, orange flavor would be so nice.


Grand Marnier Truffles

(adapted from Barefoot Contessa)

1 pound semisweet chocolate (Choose a good brand. Chocolate chips work, but aren't the best option.)

1 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons Grand Marnier (or orange extract)

1 tablespoon prepared coffee (Not a coffee drinker? Grab a cup to go or skip it, but coffee does enhance the chocolate flavor.)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I shouldn't have to remind you to use REAL vanilla, right?)

cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and/or finely chopped nuts (pecans are nice)

Finely chop the chocolate.

In a double boiler with simmering water, combine the chopped chocolate and heavy cream.

Stir frequently until the chocolate is fully melted and combined with the cream.

Add the Grand Marnier, coffee and vanilla.

Stir to combine thoroughly.

Set aside for about 2 hours at room temperature for chocolate to firm up (or pop into the fridge for a shorter period of time).

(At this point, I have been known to get distracted and forget about the truffles. The chocolate can set in the fridge for a day or so and be brought to room temperature {softened, but still holding its shape...a fudge-like consistency} when you have time to roll the truffles.)

Prepare the coatings by pouring cocoa (I really like Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate for this), powdered sugar and ground nuts (use one or all) into individual shallow bowls.

Spoon small mounds of chocolate from the mix and using your hands roll into balls. (I prefer slightly smaller than walnut, but go big, if you like.)

Roll the chocolate balls into the coating of your choice to cover completely.

Store in refrigerator (will keep for weeks), but serve at room temperature for the full chocolaty-orange flavor. Makes at least 60 truffles.

Fran Hill has been blogging about food at On My Plate since October of 2006. She, her husband and their two dogs ranch near Colome.

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