If you happen to follow me on Twitter, lately you have seen me gushing a lot about @darrenstravels. The owner of that twitter handle is my hero, and lucky for me, he also happens to be my uncle.
|@darrenstravels (aka "Uncle D") My hero|
As Darren went on to his career in radio, and later television, he moved away. I've always missed him since he moved, but at the same time, proud of who he was and what he was doing. When Sis and I took Mom to Paris for her 60th birthday a couple of years ago, we convinced D to come along and join us for a few days - and we had a blast. As a television producer in Toronto, he was always working incredibly long hours, and vacations were always short, but travel has always been one of his passions. A few years ago, he made it even more of a priority, taking short trips to New York City whenever he could, and training for life-changing treks like his climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. Still, at a certain point in life, a handful of brave and incredibly smart individuals realize that we don't get to live forever, and decide to take life by the horns and go off to actually *live* their dreams. My Uncle Darren is one such individual. There is a price for all of this, however, and I don't just mean airfare. He's purged himself of almost all belongings, ended a withering 23-year relationship, left his two beloved dogs, sold his home and quit his job - things few of us would have the guts to do - all so he can go and Live The Dream. For the first time since he was 14, he is now officially Unemployed, not to mention Homeless.... scary things to be when you're 50. Still, this is part of what it costs to follow your dreams.
(for those of you who crave a little adventure without the sacrifice, you can live vicariously through Darren by following his blog on rtwtravels.com)
So, a little more than a year ago, he began planning his Round The World Adventure, a two year journey to go around the world and see and do all of the things he has always dreamed about. A 17-day bike tour through Vietnam, bungee jumping in New Zealand, working in an Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka, and participating in as many of the countless cultural festivals around the world as he can.... these are just a few of the things he has on his agenda for the next two years. Thankfully, the boy who is "chasing summer" for the next two years is kicking off his journey with 10 days freezing his butt off to hang with us here in Edmonton. (lucky for him, the -33 cold snap ended before he arrived! but he's still freezing...)
|Bon Voyage! Have some Coconut Cake!|
In addition to taking a full day off work just to hang with my uncle (because some things in life are more important than spreadsheets and paperwork. No, make that ALL things in life...), I also baked up the desserts for his Happy Birthday & Bon Voyage fête last weekend. What were his requests? My Coconut Cake (aka my "When Harry Met Sally Cake), because he loves coconut, and his favourite dessert: Sticky Toffee Pudding. Done and done! Into the kitchen I go!
|My hugs in luggage tag form|
So, to my darling uncle... Thank you for being such an important part of my childhood, and my adulthood, for walking me down the aisle on my wedding day, and for every time you made me laugh until my cheeks hurt. Thank you for being my hero and my inspiration. I love you with all my heart. To quote E.E. Cummings.... "I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)". Go live your dreams......
Oh yeah - and Thank You for including one winter destination and freezing your butt off just so we can all wish you Bon Voyage in person. XOXOX
|Sticky Toffee Pudding Send Off|
Sticky Toffee Pudding
from Cook's Illustrated
250g (1 1/4 Cups) whole dates, pitted, cut into 1/4-inch slices
180ml (3/4 Cup) warm water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
178g (1 11/4 Cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder1/2 teaspoon salt
150g (3/4 Cup) brown sugar, light or dark
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
60g (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
113g (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter
200g (1 Cup) brown sugar, light or dark
180ml (2/3 Cup) heavy cream
1 tablespoon rum
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon
For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 8-inch square baking dish and set it in large roasting pan lined with clean towel. Bring kettle or large saucepan of water to boil over high heat.
Combine half of dates with water and baking soda in glass measuring cup (dates should be submerged beneath water) and soak for 5 minutes. Drain dates, reserving liquid, and transfer to medium bowl. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in another medium bowl.
Process remaining dates and brown sugar in food processor until just blended, about five 1-second pulses. Add reserved soaking liquid, eggs, and vanilla and process until smooth, about 5 seconds. With food processor running, pour melted butter through feed tube in steady stream. Transfer this mixture to bowl with softened dates.
Gently stir dry mixture into wet mixture until just combined and date pieces are evenly dispersed. Pour batter into prepared baking dish. Add enough boiling water to reach halfway up sides and cover pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until outer 2 inches develop small holes and center has puffed and is firm to touch, about 40 minutes. Immediately remove dish from water bath and set on wire rack.
For the toffee sauce: Meanwhile, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in brown sugar until smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and mixture looks puffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Slowly pour in cream and rum, whisk just to combine, reduce heat, and simmer until frothy, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover to keep warm, and set aside.
Liberally poke top of pudding with paring knife or wooden skewer; pour toffee sauce over pudding and allow the sauce to be soaked up by the sticky toffee sponge. Cool for 10 minutes, cut into squares, and serve accompanied by crème anglaise or vanilla ice cream.
As this dish is best served warm, re-heat it briefly in the microwave before serving if need be.