Miss Z’s Monday cup cakes

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Miss 4.5 decided that it was baking day and proceeded to tell me what to put in the cupcakes. She helped enthusiastically (particularly when it came to licking the bowl) and together we came up with this recipe. The recipe made 12 standard cupcakes, 24 mini cupcakes, 1×20 cm cake and 1×10 cm round cake.

MISS Z’S MONDAY CUP CAKES (banana, apple and quinoa)

Set oven to probably 170-180 degrees Celsius if you have an oven that is “normal” (I did mine on around 150 and they still caught on the bottom – can’t wait for the new kitchen!!)

Line tins with patty pans or baking paper as relevant to what you are making.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 ripe bananas (riper the better)
  • 2 apples (we used granny smith)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 heaped teaspoons linseed
  • 16 tablespoons water
  • 2 cups cooked (cold) quinoa (we used white)
  • 3 cups almond pulp (about 2 cups almonds made into almond milk yields this)
  • 1/4 cup hulled tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/3 cup each buckwheat flour, besan (chickpea flour) and arrowroot (tapioca flour).
  • 3/4 cup sultanas
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder

METHOD

  • In a large bowl mix water and linseed and let is stand for a bit (5-10 minutes).
  • In food processor, blend bananas, apples, cinnamon, vanilla, quinoa, almond pulp and tahini until smooth.
  • Blend in the linseed / water mix.
  • Transfer wet mix back to large bowl (see I saved you washing an extra bowl here ;)) and add in flours, sultanas and baking powder and mix in well.
  • Put mix in patty pans and cake tins. Cupcake size took about 20 mins and cakes about 30 minutes. Just take out when skewer comes out clean and tops (and hopefully not bottoms) are starting to brown slightly.
  • Cool on rack.
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Set a high bar and reach for that star! (part 1)

I wonder if I can jump this high when I attempt a flying front kick…..

The next couple of weeks training are going to be good. We have 2 visiting instructors coming across to take some workshops. They are all on my usual training days and I will endeavour to get to them all (which should work out with a bit of shuffling at work and home).

Typically these workshops are aimed at the higher ranks (which I am not), and these ones will be no exception. The last time I went to a workshop (about a year ago), I had been training in Karate for about 5 months. I was a white belt (ie I had not graded at all yet) and I was, by and large training an hour or 2 a week. I attended one of the two workshops (not really knowing what it was on or what to expect) and arrived to discover we were tackling a pretty tough (ie blackbelt) kata; just marginally overwhelming (ahem) for someone who had barely learned the movements to her first kata (and at the end of the workshop was asked to perform that first kata to be appraised by all…..eeeek!). 

Did I struggle learning a blackbelt kata? Sure.

Did I feel a bit like a fish out of water? Too right.

Did I hop out the pool because I was way out of my depth? NO!

Why?

Well, I went and I stayed because I knew I would learn from the experience. Learning is about challenging yourself. You can’t (by definition) learn something you already know / feel comfortable with. The higher you set the bar, the higher you have to reach for it (jump for it in my case often enough). If you put yourself in a room full of people more knowledgeable than you (in this case that was pretty much everyone in the room when it came to karate), you are bound to learn something useful.

Some things will be immediately useful and other things will be stored away in the back of your mind and will make more sense later. The other thing that you stand to learn when you join in a workshop like this is what the road ahead looks like. Some of this occurs via observation and some by networking.

Part of the learning I did happened at the workshop (and yes I still remember bits of the kata and applications and recognised it when it came up in class later), but an equally important part of the learning happened at the dinner held afterwards. I remember learning lots of things at the dinner (and not just about what people chose to eat after training, which was in and of itself interesting to me), but practical things eg about embusen (even though I didn’t know that was what the pattern / map of a kata was then) and more general things about “the journey”. One of the brown belts said something about climbing the mountain and going around it for different views. I just smiled and nodded politely at the time, but I can honestly say that I am now starting to see the point of what he was saying.

So this years round of workshops (there are 4 in the next month run by three instructors) are going to be great I am sure. Challenging, yes, but great. Although a year’s more experience and more intense training should leave me feeling a little less overwhelmed than last time, in reality it isn’t likely to make much difference. Seriously though, does it matter? If I didn’t sink or drown last time when I was so out of my depth, then how will this time be any different? Perhaps I will surprise myself and be able to tread water this time!

20 signs of karate addiction.

My name is Rachel and I am a Karate addict. I have visited a dojo 4 times in the last week and it has been 7 hours since my last hit. Sound familiar?? You too may have a karate addiction. Signs you are a Karate addict:

  1. You structure your week around training times.
  2. You have a dedicated section in your wardrobe for your gi.
  3. You start counting the sleeps until your next training time as soon as you step out of the dojo.
  4. You keep a journal of your classes and practice kata and kihon when you get home from training, just to consolidate.
  5. You read books about the history and origins of karate (even though you were never really interested in the history of anything else before.)
  6. You practice kata while you are waiting for your lunch to heat up (even at work).
  7. You practice kata in your head before you fall asleep / when you wake up……and have been known to accidentally throw a punch or kick in bed (oops)…..
  8. You use mawashi uke or mae geri to open swing doors.
  9. You practice kihon in front of the bathroom mirror.
  10. You walk around the house in sanchin stepping.
  11. You practice kicks in the coridoor at work when (you hope) noone is around.
  12. You blog about karate and follow several karate blogs too.
  13. Most of your facebook statuses are about how good training was.
  14. You follow and interact with online martial arts forums and watch you tube videos of kata and bunkai in your “spare” time (when you should probably be asleep!).
  15. You inadvertently have the urge to bow at the door of a building (eg concert venue) and nearly (or actually) say Hai or Osu when responding to your choir conductor / significant  other / boss etc.
  16. You miss training when your dojo is on break with a feeling that there is a hole in your normal training day that can’t be filled.
  17. You come home from class and want to tell everyone who will listen all about it and how awesome it was!
  18. You are always thinking about it and  you always smile when you think about it.
  19. You can’t get enough!!!
  20. You live your life like you approach your training; with 100% spirit, 110% commitment and 0% regret.

Across the dojo floor – reflections on my first year of training (written December 2014)

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You looked so big and scary

When I entered that first day

And when you said: “Come train with us!”

I felt compelled to stay.

I was keen but unfamiliar

And I tried to do my best.

I felt so uncoordinated

Compared to all the rest.

I came back again the next time,

Determined to learn more,

And though yet to get too black and blue

I pulled up pretty sore.

But by then the bug had bitten

And that Sunday morning fix

Was the thing I craved the whole week through

While practicing my kicks.

I’d started on a journey

I had finally found my “way”

Each kick, each punch, each block, each strike

Improved gradually each day.

I got some white “pyjamas”

Though they’re now known as my Gi

My boxing gloves and mouth guard

I donned each week with glee.

I went to meet the other gang

who train up in Magill

Though t’may be “half way to Melbourne”

I keep going back there still

I went to Shihan’s workshop

On a kata so complex

I could barely e’en pronounce it’s name,

Yet I joined in with the best!

The day of reckoning arrived

The time had come to grade

I did not know what to expect;

I was somewhat afraid

It was a proud moment

To put on my yellow belt

And to see my boy get his as well

Just made my strong heart melt.

A tournament was close behind

I was hesitant to enter

But with a little prod from Sarv and you

I got in front and centre.

Another month on, I grade again

A black stripe and 9th Kyu

At least this time I sort of

Have worked out what I need to do!

And somehow we have reached the end

Of my first Karate year

It’s been fun and fast and furious

And I’ve enjoyed every minute here.

Each time I leave the sacred space,

I leave wanting to learn more

I’m so glad I left my comfort zone

And crossed the dojo floor.

The flourishing cactus who left the desert.

Our paths crossed quite by chance,

And you opened up my mind.

You gave me good foundation

And you also helped me find,

A piece that had been missing

though my life had seemed quite fair.

I walked the path beside you,

But you forgot that I was there.

You seemed wise, and I was patient;

You inspired me to walk on,

Your thoughts seemed so in tune with mine,

And we seemed to get along.

You were focussed and dynamic,

And I remained upbeat,

You did not laugh (‘t least not out loud)

When you swept me off my feet.

It was not your style to praise me,

Or celebrate my wins,

I stayed positive and happy though,

(Even when I bruised my shins.)

But eventually the compliments,

As back handed as they were,

Came rushing out to meet me

Leaving self esteem a blur.

I thought perhaps that things would change,

When I asked for more direction,

But it seemed that querying your ways,

Was met with some objection.

The progress I thought I had made,

Was all thrown in to question,

And the confidence that I had built,

Disappeared at your suggestion.

Yet when I was vaguely negative,

Or at all self deprecating,

I was scolded for my attitude

And yet still you left me waiting!

I could have given up right there,

And plenty of others would,

But I remained strong and determined,

And more stubborn than I should.

But despite boundless enthusiasm,

Despite dedication and devotion,

You did not see the spark in me

And you showed me no emotion.

You gave no indication,

How and when I’d reach my goal

And slowly, yes, but surely

This began to take its toll.

It was always bound to happen;

That I’d seek my “love” elsewhere.

I needed more encouragement

To continue my “affair”.

Though you said this made no difference

And you gave me every blessing,

The further we go, I see your ego,

Giving mine another down-dressing.

It was clear my bigger picture,

Did not feature in your plan,

I admire your self improvement goals,

But have had to find another “man”.

I am sorry if it’s awkward,

It is awkward for me too.

But it’s time to break it off now;

It’s not me and it’s not you.

My teacher is your teacher

And I have to trust this time,

That my development will feature,

And my goals and his align.

You have always told me

Think with head and not with heart,

In this case, I can clearly see,

Following both is smart.

I’m the cactus in the desert

Un-watered and yet flourishing,

But now I can bloom, just like the rose

Soaking up all that is nourishing.

If you’ll still have me walk with you,

I will stay a little while.

Perhaps you’ll see the hurt in me,

Hidden behind my smile.

Peanut butter chocolate cake with peanut butter cream (gluten free vegan)

Mum’s birthday dinner and I offered to do mains and birthday cake.

I made really good lasagne for mains which went down a treat. Good news: Made heaps so there are leftovers for 1-2 meals this week. Bad news: forgot to write down what I put in it and in what quantities specifically – especially the “cheese” sauce which I based on coconut cream and butter beans rather than nuts…..I guess this means I might have to try and recreate it….this time with measuring implements handy and a pencil and paper. Watch this space.

The cake however I can remember as I was going to write it down at the time.

This makes x2 20cmcakes and x1 small 10cm cake.

CAKE:

  • 6 small or 3 large ripe bananas
  • 4 teaspoons flax meal
  • 3 cups soy milk (or almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 4 heaped tablespoons cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee / decaf coffee (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons maple and or rice malt syrup (if bananas are really ripe you won’t need it)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cups gluten free flour (which was made up of 2 cups gluten free flour mix from woolworths and 2/3 cup buckwheat flour, 2/3 cup potato flour, 1/3 cup besan flour and 1/3 cup coconut flour) – you could mix and match with what you have or prefer.
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  1. Heat oven to 150 degrees celcius (or a little warmer if your oven is kind of average and not super hot like mine). Line tins with baking paper.
  2. In food processor or large blender jug / stick mix jug put peanut butter, bananas, vanilla, syrup if using, apple cider vinegar, flax meal, coffee (if using), and cocoa and blend until smooth. Gently stir in milk or process in if using a blender or stick mix. Leave to stand for a while.
  3. In a large bowl combine flours and baking powder.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix to a thick batter.
  5. Scrape into tins and flatten with a spatula.
  6. Bake approximately 30 minutes until skewer comes out clean.
  7. Cool on racks.

PEANUT BUTTER CREAM: 

Makes about enough for small cake and one large cake.

  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 8-10 dates soaked 1/3 cup hot water for 10 minutes

Blend ingredients in stick mix blender, mill or small food processor until smooth.

Cut cakes in half once cooled, and sandwich together with butter cream. Optionally you could put the cream on top also (make extra if you wish to do this).

At the crossroads

I stand here at the crossroads,

Not quite knowing where to go,

Where my path will lead me,

How can I really know?

Do I chose the way I’ve headed,

Or the route that is less trodden,

The way of least resistance,

Or a path that’s been forgotten?

Who can I trust to guide me,

And who will hold my hand?

Who will be beside me,

When I have to take a stand?

And who will I want to be there,

If I ever take a fall?

If I find I’m disillusioned,

Or if I hit the wall?

And must I now take leave of

The one who led me here?

Will I have to burn my bridges?

Will I need to shed a tear?

I know it won’t be easy,

Which ever way I choose.

The road may well be bumpy,

but what have I got to lose?

In the end I know I’ll get there.

My goal, I’ll always see.

It may be further down the road,

but it’s still in front of me.

What the Tourna-meant.

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Yesterday Mr 6 and I competed in our second Karate tournament. It was a really long but enjoyable day. The smile you see on my face in the above photo is a good reflection of how I felt throughout! The “thermal” style gi I am sporting and the slightly blue tinged lips are an indication of the temperature in the gym….I think I must have “warmed up” at least 5 times during the day…..sometimes just to actually warm up, rather than in actual preparation for any particular event!!

This year the tournament was open to both network and non network dojo and consequently we had nearly double the number of competitors that we had last year. This made it more exciting certainly, even if it made it long. It was very efficiently run, but even so, I didn’t get lunch until after 4 pm (which must have been the longest I have gone without eating a meal in a very long time….but I guess my mind was elsewhere for a change) and didn’t leave until nearly 5pm, having been there since before 830am!

After several weeks of preparation, and some last minute team organisations (through 2 of the 3 network clubs I train with regularly), by the time the tournament came around this year, I actually felt reasonably prepared…..even if some of the preparation was a little eleventh hour for someone who likes to be ready way ahead! I can be flexible, and patient, and even calm about these things now though 🙂 !

When I compare how I approached this year’s tournament with last year’s, I get a sense of just how far I have come in the last 8 months (both in mindset and skill set). I entered my first tournament (last year) with a fair amount of prodding from both the Sensei I trained with at that time. (Since then a third has also taken me on, for which I am grateful). Last year I had no idea what to expect, so it was with some initial trepidation that I signed up at all. However, there was a theme to what my Sensei were saying to me, that encouraged me to enter. The basic thrust of it was to do with the following: stepping outside your comfort zone, giving yourself something to aim for, and being a winner even if you don’t place because you at least gave it a shot! Never one to knock back a challenge (personal or otherwise), I agreed to enter….initially saying I would sign up for one event (kata) and eventually completely throwing my hat in the ring and signing up for everything on offer. (In for a penny, in for a pound, eh?)

This year, I was probably the first to sign up, as soon as the registration forms went live! I loved the last one so much, I couldn’t wait to get back in the ring (so to speak). Mr 6 was pretty excited about it too and I noticed that he actually stepped up his training and started paying attention in class (and even practising and wanting me to help him with his kata etc at home in between times). This year my main concerns were about how I could participate and compete with / for all 3 of the clubs I train with and find enough people interested for the team events, which I felt I understood more this time. I found I was able to enthusiastically encourage others to join in through being able to tell them about my experiences last time around.

Last year I remember being really nervous in general, and not knowing exactly what I was doing in terms of etiquette. I felt under-prepared and not confident I was doing the right thing, not just in terms of the etiquette but even in terms of my Kata / kumite. I remember feeling quite nervous on the mats which didn’t help matters. I remember thinking about what the judges would think rather than focusing within and on the task at hand. That said, it was still a valuable (and enjoyable) learning experience and I felt a sense of pride and achievement for having taken part, which I suspect (in hindsight) was the whole point of the exercise for me at that stage.

This year I felt a lot more prepared (partly due to attending some rules seminars, partly due to having more experience under my obi and partly due to practising it in all 3 dojo and at home – a lot!!). This year I don’t think I actually felt nervous (excited yes, but not nervous). Being on the mat seemed natural, and the etiquette more automatic so I didn’t need to actively think about it. Consequently I was able to get up there and do my thing without worrying about anyone else or worrying about what they might be thinking about what I was doing.

Having had a few very useful pointers in the rules seminars regarding the team kata and bunkai events, all three of the teams I was involved in were able to focus our preparation more towards what was expected of us. As well as providing a chance for team work and cooperation though, it allowed me to get to know some of my training buddies a bit better which was great.

Similarly with the kumite event, having had it explained several times how to play the game and score points (and this year with more experience and a better level of understanding of the event), I entered with more of a game plan, and rather than actively thinking, was able to be a little more automatic and free flowing with things. I felt less on the back foot and more confident to attack and look for openings to do so, rather than just going in blindly, wondering why it wasn’t working (and even worse, dwelling on it rather than letting it go and getting on with it). I felt more able to get out the way and deflect blows, and, fairly importantly, I felt little apprehension this time about getting hurt. I now know full well what it feels like to get hurt (and am still recovering from a decent kick I failed to block a few weeks ago when doing some practice sparring) but the long and short of it was that I wasn’t afraid. Even when I faced off with a woman from another club outside the network who out ranked me by at least 5 kyu ranks (grades) and who had performed a fairly kick-arse kata in a preceding event, I just calmly approached the match with the same mindset. There was just a sort of clarity that I haven’t really felt before when sparring, even in the dojo. Perhaps this is Zanshin??? Whatever it was, I hope it happens more often; it was a great feeling!

As I have mentioned before, one of my goals this year has been (and still is) to learn how to learn kata more efficiently. In the last 6 months I have learned (or at least started to work on) nearly 10 kata and continued to work on at least 2 or 3 others from last year. While this may seem excessive, especially given many traditional styles have fewer than that in total, this exposure therapy has greatly helped me get over a bit of a learning block. Within the competition this year (between individual and team events) I had to perform 3 different kata across 2 different styles. I had some level of apprehension about performing the right kata  in the right event but once I was on the mat I was able to focus and know what I was doing by using various cues (including, where possible some superman style sideline Gi jacket changes!). The most potentially confusing event was the team kata, which turned out to be an open event in which I was competing in 2 of the 3 teams. No time for changes then, so I just had to focus on the people to know what I was meant to be doing!

The bunkai event was also interesting, in that my partner and I were very much the underdogs; as 2 yellow belts it could have been quite a confronting situation competing against 2 Ni Dans (2nd degree black belts) and 2 senior brown belts (one rank from black belt), but I felt we had prepared well, so I wasn’t actually fazed when push came to shove (which in essence was what we were doing in that event incidentally!). We didn’t win the event, but getting a very good score felt like a win, and just being in it and representing our club was a win for me!

As a parent it was also great to watch Mr 6 and compare his efforts with last year. His hard work paid off and he really tried very hard and did his best in everything. Although one of his flag sparring matches was probably the comical highlight of the day (I am still hurting from laughing so hard!!), he actually was playing by the rules and ended up winning the match. It was so good to see him so happy with himself and so proud of his achievements. I think participating was really good for boosting his self esteem and also his enthusiasm for training. I was pleased to be able to tell him how proud I was of him too, and be able to discuss the link between all his hard work and his subsequent achievements; (he entered all but one possible event and placed in every one.) Even if he hadn’t placed though, I would have been equally proud as he showed good spirit and tried to follow all the rules…… I was, however, a bit taken aback when he asked why he couldn’t do real kumite (like some of the other kids did in the tournament)……..It’s one thing to not be worried about getting yourself hurt but another when it comes to your little boy…..I said we’d talk about it next year!

PS – Not that it matters much to me but for those of you curious as to my results, I also placed in all my events (twice in the event where I competed for both clubs’ teams!!). To me though, it was more about taking part, reflecting on growth, and setting goals for development; that is where the real prizes are!

Tired but happy when we got home (and a bit proud of ourselves too).

Gluten free banana sultana bread / cupcakes with 3 icing options (and bonus poetry with apologies to the dinosaur book people)

Has anyone else ready their children those dinosaur books yet? You know like the one “How does a dinosaur go to bed?”

Based on the above series….I give you:

HOW DOES A KARATE-KA PREPARE FOR HER TOURNAMENT?

How does a karate-ka get herself prepared,

When it’s the night before tournament and she’s a little bit scared?

Does she practice her kata for the umpteenth time?

Does she pace; sanchin stepping down a long straight line?

Does she go over bunkai drills in her head?

Do the sensible thing: Have a bath / Go to bed?

NO! Not this little karate-ka….always thinking of her tummy

Spends more time in the kitchen making up something yummy.

To share with all her karate friends

When the comp is over and the tournament ends.

—————

I had already made some freezer brownies to take (like these ones: jaffa freezer fudge brownies , but using mandarins in equivalent quantities, rather than oranges and with a mandarin / chocolate icing)….but my husband brought home a gazillion bananas so I needed to use some of them……banana bread seemed like a good option…..only I thought I should go allergy friendly / gluten free etc just to make sure everyone can eat them……one small problem…..I haven’t actually successfully (in my personal opinion) made gluten free banana bread that didn’t involve nuts……I took a stab at quantities and flour types and wrote it down as I went on the off chance it worked…..Given my dysfunctional oven and lack of experience, I wasn’t actually all that hopeful. I was secretly relieved when one of the network Sensei (also a fan of cooking / baking it seems) said she was also baking with bananas. However, since the taste tester (and banana buyer) just gave it the thumbs up, I will call it a success and share my recipe.

CAKE:

Wet ingredients – Blend the following in a food processor and let stand while preparing the dry ingredients:

  • 3 large or 6 small bananas
  • 2 cups soy or other non dairy milk (coconut would likely work if you want a nut free version otherwise almond)
  • 2 tablespoons rice malt or maple syrup (less if very ripe bananas or more if less ripe or you have a sweet tooth)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut butter
  • 4 rounded teaspoons flax meal
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Dry ingredients – Mix the following in a large bowl then make a well and add the wet ingredients until combined:

  • 4 cups gluten free flour (I used 2 cups gluten free flour mix from woolworths, and 2 cups of other gluten free flours comprised of: 2/3 cup buckwheat flour, 2/3 cup potato flour, 1/3 cup besan ie chickpea flour and 1/3 cup quinoa flour)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2/3 cup sultanas

METHOD:

Line muffin tins with patty pans and or cake tins with baking paper. Heat oven to temperature de sensible in a normal oven (probably about 170 degrees – 185 degrees…..I am guessing….. because in MY dysfunctional oven it was on about 150 degrees and I had to check it every 5 minutes!) Fill muffin pans / cake pans to about 2/3 and bake for 10 mins (muffins) and 15-20 mins (cakes) or until skewer comes out clean (they may still look on the pasty side being gluten free flour though.

This made 2 loaf tins, 1 small round tin and 36 mini muffins. I only have that many mini muffin trays but I suspect it would have made about 100 or more mini muffins if you have the muffin tins.

ICING OPTIONS:

Tahini chocolate icing (nut free)

  • 3 heaped tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons rice malt or maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon melted coconut butter
  • about 1/2 cup water (to make thick but spreadable consistency)

Mix ingredients in a bowl until smooth.

Peanut butter / peanut butter chocolate icing (deffinately not nut free!)

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter – smooth is best.
  • 8 -10 dates soaked in boiling water for 10 mins (plus the water)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa (for chocolate peanut butter icing)

Process ingredients in a stab mix chopper or food processor mill until smooth.

If you prefer to use syrup instead of dates use about 2 tablespoons and some water to substitute for the dates and mix in a bowl.

I cut the big cakes and sandwiched them together with icing and iced the tops of the muffins.

Chocolate peanut butter caramel slice

Still a favourite!

A work in progress

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OK this was a spur of the moment creation and approximate quantities is about all I am able to muster. I would work by taste and consistency. Next time I am going to get the “base” to be more like pastry. My intention had been to make raw peanut butter and chocolate hamantashen for purim. I was impatient and in a hurry so the pastry was more like crumb crust. It was rollable between baking paper sheets but not well foldable. Oh well the resulting accident was a resounding success which my husband (bless his cotton socks) has beseeched me to document so that I can make it again (when he has scarfed down the few I stored in the freezer rather than taking with us this evening).

Crust / top

oats (about 2-2.5 cups)

dates (about 1 -1.5 cups) – depends how sweet you like things

desiccated coconut (about…

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