An Opportunity to Give Back to First Responders

Penfield Ambulance will be opening up their base from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and providing food and drink for first responders, honor guard and military attending calling hours and the funeral in Webster. They will be accepting food donations Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. -- no monetary donations will be handled. Penfield Base is located at 1585 Jackson Rd, Penfield, NY, 14626.

Any food/beverage item will be appreciated. All donations will be accepted and distributed to various locations hosting out of town responders.

I think this is a great way to show our support for these people who do so much for our community.

Volunteer Opportunities at Receptions for Fire Fighters

So four firefighters get up in the middle of the night before Christmas Eve to battle a fire in the next town over from me. A psycho opens fire. Two firefighters dead, two wounded. And then the fire fighters can't fight the fire until they know it's safe, so seven houses burn to the ground.

Since I heard the news, I have wanted to “do something” and I know that others feel the same way. My usual impulse in sorrowful times is to feed people, and I found an opportunity to do so.

The Hampton Inn at 878 Hard Road in Webster will be hosting a number of receptions for visitors in town as well as any family members that may want to gather. They will be held 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to noon Saturday; 10 a.m. to noon Sunday; and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday. These dates and times came from a great Facebook Page called Prayer and Support for Webster Firefighters, and I also called the hotel to confirm. The hotel welcomes volunteers to help serve, as well as donations of food or beverages. The phone number to call to volunteer and/or donate is (585) 671-2050.

A tasteful gift idea

Tasteful Additions in Pittsford
Every year I try to find something thoughtful and a little different for hostess gifts, teacher gifts, or small gifts for friends. Some years I’ve made gifts from the kitchen. Other years it’s been a favorite new CD.

This year’s gift: nice balsamic vinegars, olive oils and salts, which I purchased at Tasteful Additions in Pittsford.

Tasteful Additions sells small size bottles of their vinegars and oils; that size does not appear on their website. A pair can be combined into a nice gift box. I think it’s nice that the recipients won’t have large bottles of an unusual ingredient to use up, but can have fun experimenting with them. Thus far, they’ve been very well received.

I like that these gifts can support everyone’s New Year’s resolution to eat healthier. The olive oils are heart healthy and add flavor to even ordinary dishes. The balsamic vinegars add zip to veggies and fruits.

Diplay at Tasteful Additions
A selfish reason for shopping for these gifts: it’s fun! You can taste all of the products. Tasteful Additions has cubes for dipping into the oils, vinegars and salts. The staff will even give suggestions for what flavors work well together. I was surprised at how much thicker the balsamic vinegars are than their grocery store counterparts, and even bought a bottle of white balsamic vinegar for myself.

Another place with a similar approach is F. Oliver’s. I visited their Park Avenue location earlier this year, and purchased their Tuscan Blend olive oil. I love it -- it has added a great herbal note to ordinary weekday dishes as well as for dipping bread. It is almost gone.

It’s hard to know what gifts people will appreciate, so I fall back on the adage of giving gifts you’d like to receive yourself. These definitely fit the bill.

(This also appeared in my blog for the Flavors of Rochester website.)

Flaky Nut and Honey Rugelach

Do you ever get into those baking streaks where you make something over and over again until you get the perfect recipe? My friend, Marie, made a pie every single day for I don't know how long until she got her crust just right. My friend, Anna, always has a "best of" cookie baking project going on. My latest obsession is Rugelach.

Rugelach are crescent-shaped pastries that are Jewish in origin. They have a tender cream cheese dough, and are filled with a variety of yummy things, and shaped into crescents. Usually, they are little cookies, but I've local coffee shops serve great big croissant-size versions of rugelach.

My favorite local rugelach are served at the Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters store in Pittsford Plaza (shown above). The pastry is rolled super thin and filled with a cinnamon and nut filling. The rugelach are tender and nutty and cinnamony and not super sweet.

During last year's Christmas cookie baking, I made a few different rugelach -- all cookie sized -- in an effort to make something like the Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters version. I didn't succeed in replicating it, but I ended up with something I like almost as well. Instead of having a tender cream cheese dough, it was flaky like a croissant. I'll keep trying to replicate the Finger Lakes Coffee version, but in the meantime, this version is also excellent.

Nut and Honey Rugelach
Recipe by Emma Christensen, originally published in The Chicago Tribune. For additional filling ideas, go to her original post.

Prep: 45 minutes
Chill: 2 hours, 20 minutes
Bake: 20 minutes
Makes: about 64 cookies

Note: This recipe can be halved or doubled as needed. The rugelach can be stored in an airtight container for three days or frozen for up to three months.

2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 package (8 ounces) cold cream cheese, cubed
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg yolk
1 batch filling, see recipes below
Confectioners' sugar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a food processor; scatter cream cheese and butter over the flour. Pulse 10 to 12 times until coarse crumbs form.

2. Whisk together the vanilla and yolk in a bowl; pour over the butter-flour mixture. Pulse continuously until the dough starts to clump together and form large curdlike pieces. Turn the dough out onto the counter; gather the pieces into a ball. Divide into four portions; flatten each into 1-inch thick disks. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

3. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the counter and rolling pin with powdered sugar. Take one disk of dough from the refrigerator; let it warm on the counter, 1-2 minutes. Roll the dough from the center out into a circle about 1/8-inch thick. Don't worry if a few cracks form near the edges. Use more powdered sugar as needed to prevent sticking.

4. Spread the filling evenly over the surface of the dough. Slice the dough into 16 wedges, like a pizza, using a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Roll up each wedge, beginning at the wide outer edge and moving inward. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Make sure the tip is tucked underneath.

5. Refrigerate cookies on the baking sheet, 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare remaining batches. Bake until the cookies are golden-brown, 20-25 minutes. Cool on the sheet, 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack.

Nut filling: In a food processor, grind 1 cup walnuts and 1 cup pecans until they break into tiny crumbs, 30 to 40 pulses. (Be careful of over-processing and making nut-butter.) Combine the ground nuts in a bowl with 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) melted butter, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

- I did not receive any free product or compensation from any of the businesses mentioned in this post.
- A version of this post appears in my blog on the Flavors of Rochester website.