Hello my dears, will you do me a favour? Preheat your oven to 400°F. While you're at it, start slicing some leeks while we catch up.

I was feeling pretty good about my preparedness for the coming holiday season this whole year-end business, that is, I was until a friend sweetly pointed out that as of today, there were a mere six days left until our merriment begins. How'd that happen?

Their math must be wrong. Let's see, 24-18 equals ... oh.

Shoot. No such luck. We're almost at the count-the-days-on-one-hand stage, people.

Before I go on, how are those leeks coming? All sliced? Take a second and put a skillet on to heat with a knob of butter in there. When that's melted, toss in your leeks and stir them around so that everybody's friendly.

Where was I? Yes, there's a lot going on. I'm particularly giddy to report that Menu for Hope is off to a rip-roaring start. We've just hit the $20,000 mark, with fingers crossed that the momentum continues through the second half of the campaign.

And we've got some happenings that should help in the momentum department, first off let me extend my thanks and welcome to the kind folks at EAT Magazine, who have donated another raffle item to our efforts. "Taste of British Columbia" brings together a variety of offerings from producers from this gorgeous province, including Untamed Feast’s delicious dried wild mushroom products (Forest Blend), locally grown roasted hazelnuts from Butler Hazelnut Farm, Vista d’Oro Farm’s Turkish Fig with Walnut Wine, a ½ lb. bag of Mile 0 Roasters Niagara Blend, Gathering Place’s Organic Rooibos Tea, and two chocolate bars from organicfair. To bid on their item, enter code CA12, when donating.

There are lots of new raffle items being added every day; be sure to keep checking the worldwide listing for the most up-to-date information.

Speaking of donations, we've got a brand spankin' new donation form for you; it lists all raffle items available worldwide, with a simple widget alongside that tallies your bids. To see it in all it's point-n-click glory, click here.

Oh! Back to the leeks. How are they doing? Are they all loopy and lithe yet? No? Okay, we've got a few more minutes to go.

More news. Remember way back in June when I said I'd be in the summer issue of UPPERCASE magazine? Well, Janine was kind enough to extend the invitation for me to write for them again. I'll be in the Winter issue, out in January 2010, talking about Maple Walnut Caramel. It's the recipe that started my recent walnut fixation.

While we're on the subject of UPPERCASE, a first look at the cover for the issue was recently available for subscribers to their newsletter. I'm sort of in love with it. I think you will be too.

The leeks should be looking about there by now - give them a poke with your spoon. They should be soft and sweet, still green and brightly fragrant. Good stuff, we're ready to go.

Now this is probably only exciting to me, but I've finally settled on what I'm making for the savoury portion of our Christmas breakfast. As you might have surmised, those scrummy leeks play a big part in the deliciousness to come this December 25th's a.m.

I have been looking for a partner to the Breakfast Bread from Donna Hay from years ago. A steadfast presence our menu that's focaccia in feel, but with a biscuit method for the base. A thick, spongy dough lays beneath a Christmassy landscape of wilted spinach and oven-dried tomatoes, with a crowning snowdrift of Gruyère to cover all. This is a bread that I start thinking about in the fall, when the last of the tomatoes are coming off the vine and I'm drying and preserving them in oil in eager anticipation of their winter debut.

Whatever arrives alongside that bread has to be a humdinger of a dish.

Enter the wonderful Lusia Weiss, with exactly what I was looking for. The Baked Eggs in Cream she introduced last week are, as she says, adorable. And boy are they tasty.

From the softly-set egg that is lush and dreamy, to the supple leeks hiding underneath the whiteness, it's ridiculously easy to get all swoony about this recipe. What's even more brilliant for my needs is that I can cook the leeks the night before, so they're ready and waiting come Christmas morn; crack an egg and spoon over some cream, in to the oven they go. En masse, everyone's taken care of.

If I'm being honest, the presentation of the individual ramekins was of specific appeal. Not only does this recipe allow you to cook for many with minimal fuss, it also allows for some greedy indulgence. A fleet of these little darlings on the table looks abundant and generous, but to each is own means that nobody has to share.

With all the support we've had for Menu for Hope, a moment of mine-all-mine gluttony can certainly be overlooked. You've all earned it.

CAMINO'S EGGS BAKED IN CREAM

A multiplied rendition of Camino's original, via The Wednesday Chef. Luisa's advises cooking the leeks longer than in the original recipe, and I am not one to argue. A cluster of oil-packed dried tomatoes nudged up against the yolk added an appreciated acidity.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 4 leeks, cleaned and the white and light green parts sliced thinly
  • Salt
  • 2 sprigs thyme, leaves roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs parsley, leaves roughly chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or coffee cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Grilled or toasted bread slices to serve

METHOD

With a rack set in the middle, preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

In a small sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks, along with a splash of water and a pinch of salt. Cook until the leeks are tender, around 10 minutes. Stir in the herbs. Divide the herbed leeks among four small dishes or ramekins, flattening the vegetables out slightly to make a nest for the eggs.

Crack one egg in the middle of each dish. Add enough cream to just over the white, then season with salt and the freshly-ground black pepper. Set the dishes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until the white is set, between 8 to 12 minutes. Serve immediately, with the grilled bread.

Serves 4. Or really 2, as you'll want seconds. Trust.

Now the fun begins. Ring the bell, the bidding is open.

In case you haven't heard, I am the proud host of the Canadian contribution to this year's Menu For Hope Campaign. Today's the day that this amazing worldwide event goes live, with monies raised going to benefit the United Nations World Food Programme's new initiative, Purchase for Progress.

Here's how it works. Food bloggers from around the globe have rallied together to offer a spectacular array of items upon which to bid. If you see something that catches your fancy, simply follow the instructions below to donate to the campaign. For each $10 donated, you get one bid towards the item of your choosing.Bidding will be open from today until December 25, 2009. Once bidding has closed, winners will be chosen at random and announced on Chez Pim on January 18, 2010.

The master list for all Menu for Hope 6 bid items is available here, and a direct link to the donation site is here. Regional lists are being hosted by Shauna, Helen, David, Ed and Alder. For the goods on the Canadian listings, please read on.

Note: these are the items hosted by Canadian food bloggers, but that does not necessarily mean that they are only available to Canadians. Most are available for international bidding, those items with shipping restrictions are noted at the end of the specific listing.

But before we get into all of that, one last thing. Thank you to the friends who offered and organized items to be put towards this worthy cause, for devoting their time and effort to making this campaign a success. And thanks to you for reading, for your past support and for considering supporting again this time around.

Thank you. We really mean it.

CA01: The Latest Books from Canadian Celebrity Cooks

Courtesy of: Whitecap Books and seven spoons

This four-book bundle features the latest titles from well-known Canadian cookbook authors and celebrity chefs.Fresh with Anna Olson, by the star of the Food Network Canada show by the same name, offers recipes for vibrant, seasonal meals. Chef Michael Smith has compiled his favourite recipes in his new book The Best of Chef at Home, sharing his passion for the "everyday comfort food his family craves." Erik Akis returns with the latest in his Anyone Can Cook series, this time with a focus on celebrations. To round out the collection, Ken Kostik keeps both budget and quality in mind with his book The $10 Gourmet. (Shipping to North America only.)

CA02: Windows on the World and Wine Book Bundle

Courtesy of: Whitecap Books, Sterling Epicure and seven spoons

This three-book bundle includes titles from some of the most knowledgeable experts in wine. For Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 25th Anniversary Edition, Kevin Zraly travelled to "eighty wine regions in twenty countries, tasting more than 4,000 wines and meeting 500 winemaking professionals." 500 Best-Value Wines in the LCBO 2010 is a guide to the wines offered by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, with straightforward reviews and suggested food pairings. And finally, Had a Glass 2010: Top 100 Wines For 2010 Under $20, $25, AND $30 lives up to its title, with recommendations for wines at a range of prices to suit just about every taste. (Shipping to North America only.)

CA03: My Favourite Things

Courtesy of: seven spoons

I have filled a gift box with some of my most favourite things; the cookbooks I've been reading lately and the beautifully-designed items that inspire me every day. The winner will receive two of my cookbook picks from 2009, a selection of stationery (including papery goodness from simplesong design and The Beautiful Project, a copy of Uppercase magazine, and maybe a vintage treasure or two. To top it off I'll bake up a batch of cookies, just for you.

CA04: Herriott Grace Handcrafted Mortar and Pestle

Courtesy of: Lance and Nikole of Herriot Grace and forty-sixth at grace

This mortar and pestle set from Herriott Grace, made especially for Menu for Hope, will most surely become a treasured heirloom. Each piece is hand-turned from a single piece of maple wood, without joints or glue. The mortar boasts a beautiful black grain with pretty markings throughout, while the pestle, from the same tree but higher on the branch, is slightly lighter in colour. The pair are joy to hold and a pleasure to use, fitting snugly in hand with a smooth, shiny finish. The mortar measures 4 inches at the rim, and 2 1/2 inches at its base; the pestle length is approximately 3 1/2 inches.

CA05: Grazing

Courtesy of: Julie of Dinner with Julie

This revised and updated edition of Julie Van Rosendaal's best-selling cookbook Grazing provides grazers, party hosts and snackers with ammo against the vending machine, comfort when they need to relax and help when they need to feed a crowd. These delicious dishes are easy to make and low in fat, without ever compromising taste.

CA06: One Smart Cookie

Courtesy of: Julie of Dinner with Julie

For most, the thought of a low fat cookie is impossible. However, in the second edition of One Smart Cookie, Julie Van Rosendaal shows us that cookies and other sweets can still taste great even when they are lower in fat. Julie is certainly an expert in the field of low fat baking through her own successful low fat bakery as well as her diet-free weight loss of 165 pounds. Julie also shows you how to make your own favourite recipes healthier through helpful tips on substituting ingredients. Embrace your Inner Cookie Monster!

CA07, CA08, CA09, CA10: Fresco 24-centimetre Professional Grade Stainless Steel Frying Pan

Courtesy of: Fresco and Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess

A stainless steel 24-centimetre frying pan from Fresco, designed by celebrated Canadian Chef Mark McEwan (North 44, Bymark). With a heavyweight aluminum core that promotes rapid and even heating, this pan will be an everyday essential in your kitchen. Four pans are available; please choose one prize code when bidding. (Shipping within Canada only.)

CA11: Comfort and Restoration with Brownies

Courtesy of: Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict

Coming home to this package, donated by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict, will be a welcome treat when you want to regain your energies after a hectic day. Along with two caffeine-free Roobios teas from Distinctly Teas (Evening Fireside and Chocolate Supreme), you will be sent a lidded Paderno 33x 23-cm/9x13-inch non-stick baking pan and the dry ingredients for one batch of Nick Malgieri's fabulous Supernatural Brownies. All you need to do is add butter, eggs and vanilla ... and of course heat. The full recipe will be included.

CA12: A Taste of British Columbia

Courtesy of: EAT magazine

EAT editors have assembled a prize package bursting with food items from the province of British Columbia, including the Farm Folks/City Folks 2010 calendar, a 20g bag of Untamed Feast’s delicious dried wild mushroom products (Forest Blend), locally grown roasted hazelnuts from Butler Hazelnut Farm, Vista d’Oro Farm’s Turkish Fig with Walnut Wine, a ½ lb. bag of Mile 0 Roasters Niagara Blend, Gathering Place’s Organic Rooibos Tea, and two chocolate bars from organicfair. Web Editor Rebecca Baugniet has also thrown in a signed copy of her latest cookbook.

To Donate and Enter the Menu for Hope Raffle

Here's what you need to do:

1. Choose a bid item or bid items of your choice from our Menu for Hope main bid item list.

2. Go to the donation site at Firstgiving and make a donation.

3. Please specify which bid item you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per bid item, and please use the bid item code. Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a bid item of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02 - 2xEU01, 3xEU02.

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Got it? Good. Now, ready, steady, go!

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I am proud to say that I am the Canadian host for this year's Menu for Hope, the annual campaign to raise funds in benefit of the United Nations World Food Programme and its Purchase for Progress initiative.

It's a simple idea with extraordinary results; from December 14-25, we will be holding a worldwide raffle full of amazing, wonderful, one-of-a-kind prizes related to food, travel and wine. Each $10 donated will count as a bid towards the prize of the donators choosing. The more you give, the move chances there is to win, with the proceedings going straight to the United Nations.

Easy peasy. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, we need those prizes.

If you are a food blogger, a producer, an artisan with a food related work, a publisher or restauranteur, we are looking for your help. Please consider donating a prize to be put up for raffle, one that you believe would garner at least twenty bids at $10 each. We are relying on your help in making this year's campaign a success.

If you’d like to participate, please send your prize information (plus two images 75×75 thumbnail and 200×200px) to your local host so that they can give you a prize code (important!) and more instructions on what to do for the Menu for Hope launch.

Here are your local hosts for this year's Menu for Hope:

US: West Coast (If you are closer to SF than you are to NY then you belong here.)

Shauna of Gluten Free Girl and the Chef (glutenfreegirl[at]gmail[dot]com)

US: East Coast

Helen of Tartelette (mytartelette[at]gmail[dot]com)

Europe *and* the UK

David Lebovitz (david.lebovitz[at]yahoo[dot]com)

Canada

Tara of Seven Spoons (tara[at]sevenspoons[dot]net) - that's me!

Asia Pacific, Australia, New Zealand

Ed Charles of Tomato (gastrotom[at]gmail[dot]com)

Our special Wine Blog Host

Alder of Vinography (alder[at]vinography[dot]com)

Event Co-ordinator (lots more information here)

Chez Pim

For those unable to donate a prize, we still could use your help. Please consider passing on this information to anyone you might think interested, or spreading the word on our own site. Of course, you can also bid for prizes, so check back on December 10 for further details!

Help us help the World Food Programme end world hunger.

Note: Please check back often for further information on prizes, bidding and the campaign's progress. I'll also be elsewhere with updates.

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My goodness, it has been five times already. Five times Pim has rallied the food blogging community together, the first time in aid of those effected by the catastrophic tsunami that hit Southeast Asia on Boxing Day 2004. In each of those five times her campaign, Menu for Hope, has grown exponentially - last year we managed to raise over $90,000 for the United Nations World Food Programme. An astounding number of dollars offered in help, to be sure, as well as an astounding testament to the generosity of our online community and the impact we are able to make when we work together.

This year, I am once again proud to be involved through a prize donation. What's this about prizes you might ask? Well, this is how Menu for Hope works - food bloggers, food producers, publishing companies and many more organizations donate prizes to be put up for raffle. Raffle tickets are then sold, at the low, low price of $10 each, for each of those prizes. These virtual tickets are then compiled, and at the end of the campaign a winner is chosen at random, with the results announced at Chez Pim. Easy peasy, no?

Further details on Menu for Hope, and answers to frequently asked questions are available on Pim's site.

I know that this past year has been a difficult one for many, and our global economic crisis has many of us feeling unsure about the future. If you are unable to participate in this year's campaign, it is wholly understandable and I only ask that you might pass the word onto anyone and everyone you believe might be interested. For those of you that feel that they can spare the money to donate, I thank you.

Now, I said something about prizes - must get back to that. In partnership with the fine folks at Whitecap Books, I am happy to be donating two bundles of cookbooks, all from Canadian authors (see below for summaries and cover images).

The first, prize code CA06, is a wonderful set of two cookbooks in celebration of all that Canada has to offer. Taste of Canada by Rose Murray is an epicurean love letter to the country, with thoughtfully-chosen recipes that reflect the scope of our cuisine. It is a beautiful book, with elegant and evocative images and an obvious affection for its subject matter. The second book is great guide to treasures from your local wine shop, The 500 Best-Value Wines in the LCBO 2009 by Rod Phillips.

CA07 is a collection of books from authors who have all participated in the "Seven Questions With..." series from this site, and have all reached some level of celebrity in the Canadian culinary scene. Anna Olson of Canada's Food Network has brought together a fantastic collection of recipes for the home cook, full of family favourites with a modern twist; truth be told, it is a book I have kept in my kitchen since I got it. Dominique and Cindy Duby, true masters of pastry and sugar, let us in on their recipe for the perfect crème brûlée (along with 50 sweet and savoury variations) in their book of the same name. In Marty's World Famous Cookbook, Marty Curtis reveals the secrets of his famous buttertarts, and many of the favourites from his popular cottage country café.

A full list of prizes being donated by Canadian food bloggers is available at our regional host site Hooked on Heat. My thanks to the wonderful Meena for all her hard work.

So, now that I've tempted you with all this fabulous stuff, here is how to contribute:

Donation Instructions

1. Choose a prize or prizes of your choice from our Menu for Hope at Chez Pim.
2. Go to the donation site at First Giving and make a donation.
3. Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code.
For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02.
4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.
5. Please allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

CA06: The flavours of Canada

CA07: Great recipes from famed authors

  • Courtesy of Whitecap Books and seven spoons, a three (3) cookbook prize bundle with the latest books from famous Canadian authors; In the Kitchen with Anna ($29.95 CAD) by Food Network Canada's Anna Olson , Marty's World Famous Cookbook ($29.95 CAD) by Marty Curtis of the popular Bracebridge, Ontario café that bears his name, and Crème Brûlée ($19.95 CAD) by Dominique and Cindy Duby, acclaimed pâtisiers and chocolatiers.
Permission to print cover images also courtesy of Whitecap Books.

I do not believe any one of us could come up with words to sufficiently express our awe and gratitude for those who contributed to the success of this year's Menu for Hope campaign. In an astounding increase of 50% over last year, Pim has reported a final tally of $91,188 to benefit the United Nations Food Programme.

So kudos are deserved to those who organized the event, cheers to those who participated with some amazing prizes, and finally thanks to all those who were generous enough to bid. Last, but surely not least, congratulations to Eriko Frank, the recipient of a box of treats from yours truly. Please contact me at sevenspoonsbaking@gmail.com so that we can organize the details.

All the best to all of you, what a brilliant effort!

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Blackberry jam thumbprints have been a popular tradition for us. For further information on Menu for Hope 4, a worldwide list of prizes and full bidding details, please see yesterday's post.

I am a person who gets completely caught up in anticipation. I love the planning, the preparation and underlying sense of excitement that comes with any special occasion or event. There is a specific feeling to that time, a buoyancy of spirit that carries us through our days.

As one would assume then, this is the time of year that I hit my stride. November kicks off with a spate of family and friend birthdays, then leads into Diwali; December begins with more birthdays, rushes into the holidays and we are brought, breathless, to the New Year. Did I mention that we have five more birthdays to celebrate in January?

It is a blur of celebrations and smiles; a time when somewhere in between all the tinsel and merriment we take time to reflect on the greater gifts, the intangible ones, we have received throughout the year. I think it is this realization of how truly lucky I have been that gives me an extra push as we move through the season.

The lists are made, I am actually looking forward to wrapping, and the menu for our holiday meal is shaping up quite nicely. The last thing to do is probably my most treasured, and that is my holiday baking. After the five birthday cakes I have done in the last month, the switch to cookies marks a change of pace and a turn towards tradition. My offerings, for the most part, remain the same from year to year; half as a nod to the past and half in response to the requests of the recipients.

Today I am thrilled to add another name to my holiday list - yours. In support of this year's Menu for Hope campaign, I am offering a box of homemade goodies to the winning bidder. I will provide you with a list of treats, both savoury and sweet, and the choice is yours. And if you are extra nice, I may throw in an extra surprise or two. Shipping will be included, unless restricted by law.

Bidding may only give you a chance at winning, but it guarantees a little bit of joy to someone in need this holiday season. What is more worthy of celebration than that?

To bid, go to Firstgiving; the code for this prize is CA02.

As foodies/food bloggers/food lovers, we frequently talk about the soul-satisfying moments and memories we associate with meals. And it is at this time of year that we put aside those thoughts to instead turn our attention to feeding the body and the souls of those less fortunate.

Today marks the start of Menu for Hope IV the annual fundraising campaign created by Pim of the ever-charming Chez Pim. This year's event is in support of the UN's World Food Programme, specifically fthe school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa. There is a wealth of information available at Pim's site, as well as a truly beautiful, haunting photo essay from participants in the programme.Here is the full list of instructions, come back tomorrow for further details on my specific donation, though I've included a teaser at the bottom of this post:

To Donate and Enter the Menu for Hope Raffle

Here's what you need to do:

1. Choose a prize or prizes of your choice from our Menu for Hope above

2. Go to the donation page at First Giving to make a contribution.

3. Please specify which prize you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code.

Each US$10 donation will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. E.G: A US$50 donation may be two tickets for UW99 and three tickets for CA02.*.

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Check back on Chez Pim on Wednesday, January 9 for the results of the raffle.

Thanks for your participation, and good luck in the raffle!

* N.B: Canadian tax laws prohibit charitable donation receipts to be issued by registered Canadian charities for raffle or lottery tickets. The UNWFP is a U.S.-based charity; should any donation receipts issued, you will need to seek professional advice regarding applying them to your Canadian income tax return.

I have donated a rather delicious prize (hint: code CA02) prize, but more on that tomorrow. To whet your appetites so to speak, here are the roundup lists of all the prizes available:

• The main Menu for Hope IV campaign page on Chez Pim to browse the global prize list
• The Canadian Menu for Hope IV page on The Domestic Goddess

Buy now, buy later, buy often. Give the sentiment of the season, give joy, give health. Give.

As promised, here is a taste of what I'll be offering for this year's campaign:

More details, and entreaties, tomorrow!

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