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What happens when a dreamer, a philanthropist, and a flamenco home cook join forces to further the education of a group of kids in far away lands?

This union combines a marathon, a Ukrainian heritage, the education of children, an African heritage, a flamenco dancer, a German heritage and very big dreams. Quite a hodgepodge of nations coming together in the USA to cover all corners of the world.

Yuli

Meet my friend, Yuliana K., a brave young lady taking on a huge quest. As an experienced 5K runner, she is following a dream to complete a full marathon. And, not just any marathon, she has her heart set on the 26.2K Disney World Marathon, which will take place January 13th, 2013, her birthday!

She recently completed 13.1K. She’s half-way there, and all this with injuries to boot.

This lucky thirteen is not just running for fun, her running campaign is a fundraiser for UniKids, an organization that benefits young school children in underprivileged countries. Get well, my friend, we are rooting for you!

My friend Senait M., founder of UniKids, tells me that kids in Africa live with barely the basic needs when it comes to schooling. A pencil and a piece of scratch paper is the order of the day. Notebooks and colorful crayons and pens, let alone colorful children’s books are foreign to them.

Noticing the abundance that her own kids were experiencing, made her think that she would love to give back to her country, Ethiopia. This idea was reinforced when she visitedUnikids orphanages in Ethiopia with her children’s own gently used school supplies and where she learned first hand the impact that this made on these young lives. Since then, her organization, a group of generous folks, and local schools have collected about 4000 pounds of gently used school supplies, all wrapped up and ready to be shipped at the beginning of the new year. Furthermore, a collaboration with other non-profit organizations has extended this idea to other African nations to benefit not only orphans but children of impoverished backgrounds as well.

My contribution is of course flamenco based, and based partly on my African upbringing. Yes, I have a colorful heritage: a German girl, growing up in Southern Africa, who is passionate about flamenco. I too, have always had it in my heart to give something back to my heritage. Since my background was focused on fusing global diversity through food, travel, music, and people, I had the good fortune to meet a group of like-minded individuals. A local cookie sale for a good cause and the idea of Polka Dot Dreams came to fruition.

Polka dots came to mind as the ubiquitous pattern of festive flamenco fashion, as well as being a bright and pleasing pattern to the delight of young children. In addition, just say the name Walt Disney and every child’s eyes light up with the desire and dream to experience a Disney park just one time in their young lives. The name Polka Dot Dreams resonated with me very well, with the Spanish word for polka dots, lunares, literally meaning beauty spots, and in flamenco culture meaning, little moons. Supposedly, gypsies sewed tiny round mirrors into their clothing to ward off evil spirits.

With your help we can combine the idea of beautiful, dreamy moons to light up a child’s life with delight to ensure something we all take for granted: an education and a safe and prosperous future.

Follow this link, if you would like to make a contribution to a marathon runner’s dream, a philanthropist’s worthy cause, and a flamenco dancer’s recipe to spread the word one delicious bite at a time.

Polka Dot Dreams Cookies
(makes about 30 sandwich cookies)

1 2/3 cups unbleached flourDSCN4839
2 1/2 cups cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cups sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon or orange extract
2 teaspoons lemon or orange zest
2 cans (28 oz) sweetened condensed milk
agave nectar
colored sugar sprinkles

These cookies are essentially Alfajores sandwich cookies filled with Dulce de Leche. Dulce de Leche can be bought in specialty shops or can be made by various methods. We prepared ours by using the oven method the day before baking.

Dulce de Leche
Empty two cans of sweetened condensed milk into an ovenproof dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil and place into a water bath into a pre-heated oven at 425° F (220° C) for one hour and a half. Keep water topped up throughout. Every thirty minutes or so, stir the mixture to prevent caramelization. Mixture should be soft and creamy with a caramel color at the end. Stir or whip to achieve desired texture. Let cool and set aside.

Sandwich Cookie Dough
Butter and eggs should be at room temperature to start. Beat butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Continue mixing in one egg yolk at a time. Finally add in zest and flavoring extracts. In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients. Fold in the flour mixture until dough is crumbly in texture. Do not overmix, large butter crumbles are fine. Roll out the dough using a little flour if needed. Cut out cookie rounds about 1/4 inch thick and place on a greased cookie sheet and/or cookie sheet with parchment paper. Bake in a pre-heated oven at  350° F (175° C) for 8-10 minutes. Cookies should be light in color and not browned. Remove from baking sheet to cooling rack immediately. When cool, spread a generous amount of Dulce de Leche on the underside of one cookie and form a sandwich with another. To decorate, spread a small amount of agave nectar on the top side of the cookie and sprinkle with colorful sugar crystals or chocolate sprinkles. (Adapted from an Argentinian Alfajores recipe)

UniKids HandsUniKids is a tax-exempt non-profit organization in Louisville, KY and collaborates with more schools each year to support the educational needs of children in developing countries.
Donate here.