Something to nibble on always makes volunteering more fun

The women in my family have passed on a legacy of volunteering. Grandma Rose was a lifelong member of Hadassah and baked thousands of cookies for the Red Cross during World War II. Grandma Margaret ran her synagogue’s gift shop (and turned a profit) for many years. Aunt Naomi turned her love of volunteering and Israel into a fulfilling career.

I only really started volunteering about 10 years ago when my first child began nursery school. It is a luxury and a privilege to be able to spend time with other committed individuals advancing a cause. I’ve been able to promote my children’s well-being and education through working in their schools, benefit the community at large by working at the public library, donate to a variety of organizations, and cook for and feed homeless people.

It’s always nice to be able to provide a little something to nibble on at volunteer meetings. Honestly, what I looked forward to at the nursery school volunteer meetings was the coffee cake. Sometimes, at invitation-stuffing parties, we meet at the dinner hour, and are treated to all kinds of wonderful appetizer foods. I’ve included some recipes that don’t take a lot of time to put together but are welcome additions at any meeting.

Baked Brie

1 sheet frozen puff pastry
1 large wedge of Brie
1 large egg, beaten
crackers and sliced baguette for serving

Roll out the pastry to flatten slightly. Place the Brie in the center of the pastry. Brush the beaten egg all around. Fold the pastry over the cheese, pressing the seams together to seal. Trim off any excess pastry. You may also use excess dough to decorate the top of the pastry. Brush the outside of the pastry with beaten egg. Place the wrapped Brie on a parchment lined baking sheet, and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Bake the cheese in a preheated 425-degree oven until the pastry is golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. Place the baked cheese on a serving platter, and surround with crackers and sliced baguette.

Danny Blum’s Guacamole

3 large ripe avocados, halved, peeled, pits removed, and mashed
1 large tomato, cored and finely chopped
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
3 Tbs. chopped red onion
3 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. fine sea salt

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Cover and allow to stand 15 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.

Mexican Wedding Cookies | Makes about 60

8 oz. unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
1 cup toasted, finely chopped pecans
2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Beat together the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until very fluffy. Beat in the chopped pecans. Sift in the flour, and stir until well blended.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake the cookies in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 12 minutes, until barely browned. Cool the cookies on racks, then roll in the powdered sugar.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to