Fourth Annual Menu for Hope and ice cream (updated).

It’s back! Last year’s Menu for Hope raffle raised more than $60,000 for the UN World Food Programme. We hope to beat that record by raising even more money for the same program, and this year the money has been specially reserved for the school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa. Pim has posted amazing pictures taken by the residents of Lesotho themselves with donated disposable cameras. Here is even more information on the details of the Lesotho program, Menu For Hope, and where the donated money will go.

Menu for HopeFood bloggers worldwide are donating food and food-related packages, tours, and treats for lucky winners of the Menu For Hope raffle. The full prize list and links to the regional hosts are at main host Chez Pim. Kalyn’s Kitchen is once again coordinating the central United States prizes, which includes Bon Appegeek’s six-part ice cream maker package (UC04).

Ice Cream Maker Package – UC04

My personal policy is never to offer a prize unless I’ve tested and used it myself. Last year I offered a pasta maker for knocking out burglars and, uh, making pasta. The first part of Bon Appegeek’s six-part prize this year (ships to the U.S. and Canada only) is a White Cuisinart ICE-20 1-1/2-Quart Automatic Ice Cream maker. I’ve used the same model for years. It has churned out this azuki bean ice cream and the rich vanilla bean ice cream pictured here and has never failed my taste buds (I can’t say the same for my waistline). It can also be used to knock out burglars, and the chilled canister can ice bruises should you accidentally conk a beloved family member on the head instead.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Wait, I lied. I’ve never tested or used David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop, the second part of this prize package. Why not? Because I couldn’t buy cookbooks for myself this year, that’s why. If I’d known that David would release a fabulous ice cream book that the food blog world would go crazy over, I would have made an exception ahead of time, but noooooooo. So this book has been on my wishlist for months while everybody else has been happily using and loving it. Now you can too. And as of January 1, 2008, I WILL TOO. Stupid 2007 new year’s resolutions. It’s been a tough year for me, let me tell you.

UPDATE: The third part of this prize is free ice cream! If you’re planning a trip to Paris in 2008, David Lebovitz has generously offered to take the winner and a guest out to famed Parisian ice cream maker Berthillon for ice cream. (And while he didn’t explicitly offer this, if I were you I’d pick his brain for all the best places in Paris to eat and shop, assuming you can stop moaning over the famous ice cream. If anyone knows where to score the best food, it’s him!) Thanks, David!

Ice Cream Maker PackageThe fourth part of the prize is a small jar of hand-raked Fleur de Sel culled from my precious small stash. This is the celebrated sea salt of France. I’m a big fan of Fleur de Sel, and it’s important if you want to make, say, this Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream recipe. This is your chance to try the salt and see if you like it. It’s also fabulous over braised cabbage and sprinkled on roast beef. There’s about five tablespoons or a heaping quarter cup in the jar.

Wait, I lied again. The fifth and sixth parts of the prize are two items I’ve never used but suspect are pretty awesome. This soft-handled Calphalon ice cream scoop looks like it can slice its way through even the hardest ice creams, and this bottle of Kahlua chocolate—that’s right, Kahlua and chocolate together in one bottle—looks luscious. No doubt you could mix up this sinful combination yourself, but until then, you’ll have it right there waiting for you to drizzle it all over your homemade ice cream . . . assuming I don’t drizzle it onto my own ice cream first. Bid fast, people! I’m only human!

This prize package’s code is UC04. Shipping is limited to the United States and Canada. Please feel free to ask any questions about the prize in the comments. More information on the raffle and the charity are at Chez Pim and Kayln’s Kitchen. Good luck everyone, and happy bidding.

How to donate and enter the raffle

1) Choose a prize(s) of your choice here.

2) Make a donation at First Giving.

3) Specify which prize you’d like in the “Personal Message” section of the donation form. Write how many tickets you want per prize and use the prize code. Each $10 buys one raffle ticket good for any one prize. (For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02.) Of course you may donate without entering the raffle if you wish.

4) If your company will match the donation, please check that box and fill in the information so that we can claim the corporate match.

5) Please check the box to allow us to see your email so that we can contact you if you win. Your information will remain private. Check Chez Pim January 9 for results.

Upended.

After the worst Midwestern winter I’ve seen since the 1970s when I was only a wee oblivious non-cooking tot, spring has finally come. Many people like to put flowers in bottom-heavy glass vases to celebrate. Like so.

Lilies in vase

I prefer rolling pins. They don’t need water, they never wilt, and when was the last time flowers ever made you a pie? Rolling pin storage has caused me misery until now. This system beats storing them on top of my dusty refrigerator where the trolls and spiders live. It will do until I win the lottery and have enough wall space to hang them out of the way next to the solid gold pins that I’m sure I’ll buy for my sexy new personal chef, Raoul.

Rolling pins

I am, perhaps, prouder of this idea than I should be. Back to spring cleaning. I’ll be sure to let you know if I find something else to store vertically instead of horizontally.

Spoon swoon.

A friend sent me a Supergeek apron for my birthday. I simply cannot imagine why. It’s like she doesn’t know me at all.

Supergeek apronToday’s thoroughly ungeeky post is about my measuring spoon problem collection. My first set of measuring spoons were made of weak, easily melted plastic held together by an equally weak plastic ring. (They now serve lowly but useful duty inside my flour and sugar canisters for quick measuring.) When I started baking more I eventually upgraded to heavy stainless steel spoons. Then I decided that a spare set of spoons never hurt. A spare spare set didn’t seem to hurt either. Additional specialty measuring spoon sets hurt even less.

Some spoons magically appeared as if by spontaneous generation or, more likely, illicit measuring spoon sex. A dip into cocoa powder might have provided the right aphrodisiac, but I suspect that the spoon nookie started between a couple of spoons I may have used for Cognac and Amaretto (but not Frangelico because that monk outfit kills the mood, unless it was with that kinky slut, Chambord). Drunken sex always produces interesting results. It’s the only explanation for how I could possibly have a 1/3rd teaspoon, which, the one time I needed it, I forgot I had it.

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SpiceStanding

I love clever spoons. The narrow spice spoons reach into the slenderest jars. The self-supporting spoons let me measure ahead of time without wasting another bowl for mise en place, which is impractical for clingy ingredients like oil and honey anyway. A spritz of cooking spray on the spoon usually lets the gloppy stuff slide right out. Free-standing spoons (similar set here) are especially handy for having oil ready while stir-frying or cream of tartar ready while beating egg whites.

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BabySalt

Here are deviations from the usual. The baby medicine dropper and tube, though not spoons, work well for extracts and other small liquid measurements. I cut the handle off a cheap plastic 1/2 teaspoon to store it inside my container of fine canning salt, the salt I prefer to use for baking because it disperses so well and is free of iodine and anti-caking additives. Bending the handle makes it a bit easier to grab and also makes it free-standing.

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2 Tablespoons2 teaspoons

Off-sizes and 2 tablespoon coffee scoops always sucker me into buying, especially when one spoon can do the job of two. A 3/4 teaspoon? Take my money! Please! But even spoons that do the job of only one spoon, like the 2 teaspoon pictured above, have irresistible appeal. You can use it only once instead of twice! Half the labor! All-Clad makes an off-size set that I purchased at Williams-Sonoma.

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1/31/2 Tablespoon

The 1/3rd teaspoon is a rarity; I’ve never seen another. I keep the 1/3 teaspoon and 1/4 and 1/8 teaspoons on a ring out of the way since they’re so seldom used. (The teaspoons and their variations take up one large mug and the tablespoons and their variations take up another.) The half tablespoon is not as rare but still hard to find. It’s useful when you need 1 1/2 teaspoons of something.

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MangledPointy

Tragedy! I mangled a tablespoon in my garbage disposal. The grinding, the splatters, the screams—they haunt me yet. It still measures fine. What a trooper. The pointy spoons recently joined my collection. They’re perfect for getting that last bit of peanut butter out of the jar. Also, it’s fun to use them. “Cool! Pointy!” I need to get out more. The pointy set included a 1 1/2 tablespoon, another rarity.

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AdjustableRetro

I never use these adjustable spoons except maybe for sugar for tea, but even then they aren’t especially useful because I don’t like to stir with them. They seem like a good idea but can’t do liquids, are a pain to clean, and grains of sugar and flour work their way into the sliding mechanism. I bought them out of guilt. If there’s anything keeping the direct-sales companies like Pampered Chef, Mary Kay, and Tupperware going, it’s guilt. You can’t not buy from your friends. It’s not cool. This is why I stopped making friends.

The flat retro spoons are similar to the colored set Alton Brown sometimes uses on Good Eats. They’re charming but not terribly accurate because of the wide, shallow bowls. However, that very shape inspired me to buy them. While they’re not good precision baking spoons, these spoons are so flat that you can bypass the messy extra knife and spread jam and cream cheese directly on your bread, squooshing the bread into the bowl of the spoon to scrape out every last bit. They’re also easier to lick clean, an important consideration when you’re eating Nutella and find your tongue strength dying on the deeper spoons. Of course if you don’t worry about your weight and never measure out your decadent toppings, you can glob the food onto your bread willy nilly with a butter knife, lucky you. I don’t want to hear about it.

Shallow

You can see from this collection that I emphasize function over form. Pretty square, heart, and colored measuring spoons catch my eye but not my wallet. Some day someone will invent the perfect measuring spoon—one that is beautiful, free-standing, narrow enough for spice jars, pointed for scraping jars, strong-handled, available in many off-sizes, and flexible in the bowl so that I can rub its contents directly all over my toast. (I’ve seen spoons with flexible silicone bowls, but they aren’t nearly as flexible as I need.) When that day comes, I can give most of my old spoons to charity so that poor people can bake too, albeit less effectively than I can. That’s my dream. Call me the Mother Theresa of measuring spoons.

I also have a measuring cup collection, a baking pan collection, and a citrus juicer collection, but I won’t go into those now. That would just be…geeky.