Random Acts of Kindness

A pathetic plant (a choisya?) at our house. Should I plant it? Give it away? Or throw it away?

I consider myself a “plant person,” and, admittedly, we have more plants around here than normal people need. Some plants are in the ground, some are in pretty decorative pots, some are in their nursery pots, still waiting to be planted, and, sadly, some are near death AND still in their nursery pots because I’ve had them so long. But I do occasionally get on a Marie Kondo kick and want to get rid of unnecessary things. When that happens we put our unwanted plants out on our little dirt street with a “FREE!” sign.

Today I heard someone walking up our front, creaky, wooden steps and then walking back down, without ever having knocked. I went to the front window, a little puzzled, and caught a glimpse of our neighbor from down the street, walking away from our house. When I opened the front door, there was a thank-you card and a bag of Lindt Lindor Chocolate Truffles.

Our neighbor’s oh-so-sweet and random act of kindness was a little “thank-you” for all the plants she’s acquired from our “FREE” spot. And for being good neighbors (I’m humming Mister Rogers’ “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” as I type this).

If you haven’t figured this out yet, I’m a pretty cynical person. So when I looked up “random acts of kindness” and was bombarded with list after list after list of icky sweet things we might do, I almost lost my enthusiasm for the concept.

Chalk encouraging words to runners and bikers on their path.”

Give your husband a coupon for ‘You Get To Pick the Movie Night!'”

Pay for the car behind you in a drive-thru.”

Draw a picture for a friend.”

“Return a grocery cart.” (really – does this qualify as an act of kindness?!)

This may be the silliest: “Hide money in random places for strangers to find.”

So, I decided to turn to friends and family for better examples or ideas of what random, special things they’ve done or received. Here’s what I got back:

Dropped off loaves of homemade sourdough bread for a bunch of Brooklyn friends

Posted a glowing Yelp review for a favorite massage spot in SF which has struggled during the pandemic – and whose owner is older and “tiny but so strong and sweet and lovely and good.”

Received some Magnolia cupcakes (for those of you who aren’t in NYCthat’s a yummy bakery) as a surprise for me and my workers – from co-workers in another store.

Wrote and mailed a little note, remembering the one-year-anniversary of a special get-together

The best thing I can take credit for is recently retrieving a can of tomatoes off a very high shelf at the Sonoma Market for a short lady. I was especially pleased with myself, because it usually works the other way around. This was a short lady helping a very short lady. I felt empowered and kind at the same time.

NYC’s Magnolia Bakery’s Red Velvet Cupcakes (to make your own Red Velvet Cupcakes to give away, try our recipe)
This list from the UK’s Mental Health Foundation isn’t all bad – even for us cynics.

Our recipes for today offer two possibilities: you can make the candy – pralines or halvah, package them prettily, and offer them up to someone special as a random act of kindness (highly recommended) – or you can make them and eat them yourself for fear that someone might take your kind gesture wrong. See today’s Andy’s Corner for more on that.

Halveh

Halvah

Cooked candy can be tricky to get to set up right; that’s why this uncooked halvah recipe is so appealing; plus, it’s d-lish and different. Adapted from David Lebovitz who adapted it from Reem Kasis – who wrote The Arabesque Table

  • 1 c powdered sugar
  • 1 c plus 2 T whole milk powder 
  • 3/4 c tahiniwell-stirred before using (Soom is a good brand)
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 4very coarsely chopped pistachios (or peanuts, cashews, or – yum – cocao nibs.)
In a medium bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and milk powder. Add the tahini and vanilla and continue to stir until the mixture starts clumping together.  Then use your clean hands to knead the mixture until it comes together into a smooth, dough-like round that’s not sticky.  (note from Ann: I found that it was still crumbly at this point and ended up adding a tad more tahini, though Lebovitz cautions you to not add too much more or the halveh will be too soft to serve). If the halveh feels too wet or sticky, add a bit more powdered milk.
 
Line a 3 cup glass or plastic container of any shape with a sheet of plastic wrap that goes inside the mold and up and over the edges. Smooth out any wrinkles as best you can and put the pistachios in an even layer on the bottom. Press the halvah mixture into the mold and smooth the top.  Cover with the plastic wrap overhang and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.  Cut into small squares for serving.
Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 
Louisiana Pecan Pralines – after several failed attempts

Louisiana Pecan Pralines

If you don’t often make candy (and I don’t), this recipe can be challenging.  In fact, I ended up re-cooking the praline mixture 2 additional times, adding a little more milk each time before I finally got the right consistency for the candy to set up.  A candy thermometer definitely helps. Recipe adapted from Bayou Cook Book by Thomas Holmes, Jr., published 1974.

  • 2 c white sugar
  • 1 c dark brown sugar
  • 1 cube of butter (8 T)
  • 3 c pecans – whole – but if they’re super large, chop them a little
  • 3 T corn syrup
  • 3/4 c milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Combine all of the ingredients – except the pecans – in a saucepan and cook and stir until the mixture forms a soft ball when a dab of it is placed in water (about 235°F-240°F on a candy thermometer).  Remove from the heat, stir in the pecans and beat by hand until the mixture begins to lose its gloss.   Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper and let cool completely.  When storing, always place parchment paper underneath the pralines to avoid sticking issues.  Pralines will keep up to a week in a tin and will also freeze well.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

2 Comments

  1. tricia53 says:

    Great post — and introductory email! My parents sang Sugartime (and taught it to us kids) on car trips, along with lots of other golden oldies. And of COURSE I still have my charm bracelet! And now you have my mouth watering for pralines!

    Like

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