A Simple, Home-made Halloween–2017

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Yesterday, we celebrated Halloween.  Now, I must confess, Halloween is both Rob and my least favorite holiday.  For many, many years, we hosted an alternative harvest party of some sort, took the kids to one at church, or just did our own thing that night.  One time, in 20 years, we took the kids, including the nieces and nephew, trick-or-treating and we were completely worn out by the end, so we did not do it again.  To be fair, we tried to take them to every relative that lived within an hour’s drive of each other–lots of places, really far apart, nursing homes included, etc.   We were driving for hours, unloading them, visiting, and off again.  They were little, and it was just plain a lot of work.  All the relatives did enjoy the costumes, especially the elderly relatives who were in homes.  So, we went back to our regular ways.

However, when we got Patsy 4 years ago, Halloween was one of her most favorite things–a rare, good memory of times with her birth mother, a special evening she much looked forward to, a MAJOR BIG DEAL to her.  So, we decided that we would try to let her have some fun on that day/night, in a way we could all enjoy.  We saw no reason to remove one of the few happy memories/traditions she had from her past, but we did want to change the focus a bit from scary, gory, and dark to light, happy and fun.  In other words, keep the fun part, get rid of the rest.  To be truthful, we still don’t like Halloween much, but we do like our daughter and her feelings more than we don’t like Halloween, if you get what I mean.

For the past few years, we have spent the evening with the cousins.

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This year, Patsy was a princess, using an old dress I made years ago for Ja’Ana.  Alissa dressed up in her pajamas.  She recently got a job at a daycare for 2-1/2 hours each afternoon, and they were having the toddlers and staff wear pajamas Tuesday.  Jake, is Darth Vader, in a pair of pajamas, a cape, a mask and a light saber.  Just don’t call him that!  His name is Jake, and he is still under there, in case I was wondering:)

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Last year, Uncle Rob started a tradition with Michaela.  She really, really wants to be involved with the whole trick-or-treat project, but after all, she is 20 now.  Kind of old.  So, she and Uncle got a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups and drove around, following Jake and his helpers (anyone who would get out of the van and take him up to doors, from his sister Caitlyn, to Alissa, and of course, Patsy).  This year, he also had Heath bars, Snickers, assorted candy, and Starburst in the van for all of the, well, helpers?  This year, again, she scarfed down candy, this time with Lovana (who isn’t actually eating much candy right now, to be fair to her), Caitlyn, Alissa, Ja’Ana, J’s friend Angel, Patsy……. Yes, a party in the van, all for the sake of Jake and Michaela.  Of course, Jake and Michaela.  Anything for Jake and Michaela.  Lots of eager volunteers for this task:)

Earlier in the day, Michaela and I had cut out the pumpkin cookies, and baked them.  Jake was offered the opportunity of decorating them, but he was too excited for the party to start.  So, Caitlyn and I decorated them.  My sister made a taco bar, and we had everyone eat dinner before Uncle took off with them.  I stayed back at the house with my sister and brother-in-law,  handing out candy.  It was fun to see the kids in their costumes, and admire the pumpkins my niece had carved.

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The kids coming up to the door enjoyed them, too, and she received a lot of compliments on her carving, which I passed on to her when she got back.

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Patsy lit up her pumpkin as soon as we got home.  It’s about done for, already, but that’s ok.  Another Halloween is past, and now we are moving forward towards Thanksgiving, one of my absolute favorite holidays in the whole world.  I can’t wait.

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Saving Money–Weekly Update–October 29, 2017

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Rob spent some time cutting up the boards we scavenged for free into stove-friendly sizes.

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Jake thought the noise from the saw was too loud, so he put on some of Patsy’s ear muffs while he built Legos on the sunny deck.  I though he made quite a fashion statement.

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I got enough flowers for another small bouquet.  Although we were hit by a couple of light frosts, only some of the flowers were killed and there are a few more scragglers still hanging on out there.  I hope to get another bouquet tomorrow since this one is looking sad today.

There were many things to see this week that were absolutely free.

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I enjoyed fall colors…..

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Geese flying…

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Watching logs float down the rain-swollen river at my sister’s house….

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A mist-covered spider web…

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The freshly-mown lawn that Patsy did herself this time…and saw so much more.

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I made waffles using the Mickey Mouse waffle iron I got at a garage sale last weekend.  I used a gluten-free pancake/waffle mix I got off the clearance rack at Fred Meyers and used a few of the 79c/dozen eggs we scored last week.  The bacon has been frozen for a while–it was an amazing find at Grocery Outlet a while back.  We had Jake for the last couple of days since his parents were very involved with the High School Harvest Party at church.  So, even though the girls were at their respective parties, Rob, I and Jake had a nice, fun, breakfast for dinner last night.

In between other things this week, I was able to do some embroidery and some extra cleaning.  I cooked meals, as normal, and picked up a couple of items to put in my gift stash.  The garden is almost done, and yet I’m still getting a few things.  We did pull up the hoses, and had high hopes of tilling it up, but it never got dry enough, and just rained again today.  So, we may just need to put compost on it (like old plants, grass, etc.) and till it up in the spring.

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The cabbage looks good.

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If you look closely, you can see the multitude of baby green onions to the left of the cabbage.  A while back, I put some compost on there and buried the seed heads from last year’s onions.  Many of them came up!  Lots of promise for spring since they are pretty hardy.  We will see!!

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It was a good week.  How did yours go?

 

 

 

 

What Did We Eat? Week of October 28, 2017

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There’s just nothing like cheesy scalloped potatoes!  I made these on Monday night after work and thought they would be for Tuesday.  Little did I know that most of the crew had not eaten dinner (or wanted another dinner–who knows?) and ….whoosh….most of them were gone that night!  Monday’s plan was leftovers for dinner.  I can see why they wanted these:)

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On Tuesday, Ja’Ana made cornbread again.  No one can get enough of it lately!!   Lovana made apple crisp, which you can see behind some other stuff. I pulled a small container of very old ham and bean soup from the shop freezer, and we used it up!  Very gratifying, but I wouldn’t say my favorite.  At least it’s gone;)

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I marinated chicken breast, cut thin, in lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, salt, pepper and garlic.  Then, I just fried it up in a pan.  I cooked pink rice and mixed vegetables.  I also offered these chicken filets up in buns for those who wanted them that way–with toppings like lettuce, etc.  Patsy and Rob went for them that way.

On Thursday, everyone got what they wanted for themselves as they left to take Ja’Ana to tap dance class before I got home.  Patsy told me she made an egg salad sandwich from some eggs I boiled and left in there.  I sauted up a few shrimp we had lingering in the freezer and had salad and a baked potato Rob left.  So, I’m guessing he had potatoes?  Or leftovers? Anyway, everyone ate!

On Friday night, Rob and I slipped away for a while.  I ordered a milkshake and nipped some of his fries.  (Awful, I know, but oh, so tasty!)

On Saturday night, I made waffles, eggs and bacon.  I will put up a picture of the waffles soon–they were so cute!  I made them in a Mickey Mouse waffle iron I got at a yard sale last weekend.  Jake was here for dinner, but the girls were not.  They had harvest parties and got their dinner there.  He ate an ear from Mickey, a few eggs, and lots of bacon.  Later in the evening, he ate a bagel, too.  I try to always keep them here for him, as he eats one almost every time.

I made a berry cobbler and a rice salad with the leftover pink rice to take for Family Sunday Dinner tomorrow.

I also ground some turkey I found in the freezer so it will be handy for sandwiches.

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Last weekend, I made this mixture of turkey burger, celery, yellow peppers, kidney beans, chili powder and crushed tomatoes.  I was going to make tamale pie one night by just putting cornbread on top and baking.  Instead, it got used at odd times for baked potatoes, tacos, salad, on a plate….I’m fine with that.  It got used, but for a little bit, and made grabbing something for lunch very easy.  I could have added macaroni, too, for chili mac.  I will probably make another batch of it soon.  IMG_5872

I picked a cabbage today.  It is in great condition.  I plan to use it for coleslaw this next week.

I feel like we ate well last week, and that I have a good handle on the upcoming one.  By the end of tomorrow…I should be in super-great shape as far as the food for the week in concerned.

 

 

Eritrean Coffee–SO GOOD

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Last week, when my sister, Rosalie, myself, and my daughter, Ja’Ana, went to visit our friend, Harnet, she served us yummy coffee, as she often does.  I asked her if I could take lots of pictures to better describe and show the process, and she graciously agree.   She got her new coffee table out, and set it up for coffee making.

Now, you must understand, coffee making and drinking it is not just to get something warm to drink first thing in the morning.  It is done in her country, Eritrea, Africa, as a way to socialize, and is somewhat of a ceremony. There may be more reasons, too, but I’m still learning all about the whole process and may not know them, yet.  We were told  that it is customary to have coffee 3 times during a day’s visit, and that that brings a blessing with it.  I always feel very blessed when we visit with her while sipping coffee.

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The beans are green coffee beans that she buys at an Ethiopian grocery store.  Eritrea is near Ethiopia, and there seems to be some things that are done the same way in both countries.  She set up her burner and started roasting the beans.

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Pretty soon, the beans begin popping and snapping and get darker in color.  She shakes the pan, presumably so they don’t burn. The beans begin to emit a wonderful scent.

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In just a few short minutes, the beans get quite dark, and Harnet deems them roasted to her satisfaction.

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She pours them into a special basket so they can cool.  While they are cooling, she carries them around to each of us so we can inhale the amazing odor.  She always does this.

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The roasted beans are ground.

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Coffee grounds are put into the special coffee jug, with water, and placed back on the burner.  (I’m sorry, I don’t know how much water and how much coffee—but its a LOT of coffee–it is very strong.)

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It is poured into the small pitcher, and back into the jug to boil again.  Milk is heated on the burner.  Then, sugar is placed into the bottom of the little coffee cup, the coffee is put in next and the milk is added last.  To keep the coffee grounds from getting into the cups, a piece of an old onion bag is scrunched up in the spout of the jug and it works amazingly well.  Little spoons are given to each person so they can stir their coffee, and the cups are placed on saucers.

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Then, we sit and sip our coffee.  We visit and chat, and just enjoy the moment.  We talk about what we have done since we last got together, and share our happy moments and bewail our woes.  We talk about homework that needs to be done, whether or not the mail is important, discuss times for future visits, and how the children are doing,  and laugh about the time I handed out 10 Advil tablets because I thought she wanted them, when in fact, she wanted 2!  Sometimes, we talk of family members near and far, and look at pictures of them.  We discuss last summer’s visit to the forest and falls, all with little Danuit climbing all over the couch and us, demanding coffee, which she gets about 1 teaspoon-ful of, with a lot of milk.  She’d really like the big girls to put their heads on the floor, and their feet up into the air, and do a flip off the couch, as she does.  They usually don’t, but once in a while, give in.  That’s quite a sight!  Coffee is not something to be rushed–no one is in a hurry.  Often, several cups are consumed. This process is repeated several times during the day–3 or more, if we can fit it in.  Otherwise, when time is tight,  we enjoy having it once.  Funny thing is–it is very relaxing, even though the coffee is chock-full of caffeine!  My sister has to call it quits long before the last cup is offered out, or she ends up awake at 1 a.m., still jacked up from all the coffee!! When the last cup of coffee from the special jug is consumed, we either go off to an appointment, eat our lunch, or….it all starts over again a few minutes later.  I expect that part of the appeal of it all  is just that….in my hectic, busy life, I rarely take the time to just sit down and visit.  And, you know what?  It feels good when I do.  So good, in fact, that when she offered to bring the entire set-up to Thanksgiving dinner, we jumped at the offer and told her to forget all about all the other things she was going to bring—just bring coffee!!!

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Saving Money and Weekly Update–October 21, 2017

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We finally made it to the apple orchard to u-pick some apples.  My sister and I and niece, Caitlyn, took Michaela and Jake out to a nearby farm.  The trees were loaded with apples, so everyone picked to their heart’s content.  Michaela especially likes Red Delicious, so she stuck to that row to pick her apples.  They got some apples for a youth group event and themselves, and I got a bucket for us.  They were very reasonable–$12 for the large bucket-full, around 50c/lb.

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Ja’Ana and Alissa each made an apple galette from some of the apples.  I’m having several recipes tested by them, or myself, in anticipation of Thanksgiving.  I’m trying to figure out a good gluten-free pie crust recipe, and the second one was much flakier and tastier than the first one, so I think we are close to perfection:)

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There is a business in town that puts scraps out in tote bins for people to take for free.  When we checked this morning, the bins were full.  We grabbed as many as we could stack up in the very back of the van, choosing the larger ones because they are easier to handle than the itty bitty pieces and Rob can cut them down if they are too long for our stove.  A couple of other people were also collecting—one man for fire wood like we were, and a lady for pieces for her son to make bird houses out of.   This is the second time we have collected wood from there, and it works very well when first building a fire in the morning.  Also, some of the pieces are large enough to burn for a while, extending our firewood supply.  All 3 groups of wood-gathers were really friendly and cheerful to each other, which was so nice.

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Even with the extremely windy and rainy conditions this morning, we found one garage sale.  I got these little pumpkin decorations for $1.

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We found this skirt for Patsy for $2.  We also got games for $1 each and a few other items for just a few dollars.  I think the people were wanting to sell things quickly–as the man stated, “We didn’t WANT to have a garage sale today, but we are moving next weekend.”  Yikes!  No pressure there:)  Glad it wasn’t me.

On Friday, my sister, Rosalie, Ja’Ana and I went to see our friend, Harnet.  She made some of her wonderful coffee for us, as well as yummy Eritrean food.  I took lots of pictures this time, so will be posting the coffee-making process soon. She is such a good hostess, and always makes us feel so welcome.  When you enter her house, there is a smell from the beri-beri spice she uses.  After I went home, the scent lingered on me, and I felt warm and comforted every time I smelled it.  It is hard to explain how much she makes me fell welcomed, and loved, and it’s interesting how I’m beginning to associate that smell with comfort and warmth.    She had gone to great trouble to make me gluten-free injera bread–she used sorghum and teff flour, which was served with the lentils she always makes, along with a chicken/beri-beri/egg dish and a beef chunk dish.  She had cooked extra because she knew it was Rosalie’s birthday and wanted to surprise her with a little party.  I was asked to bring cake and balloons, and to keep it a surprise, which I did.   We had a fun, relaxing day, with lots of good conversation.  She and I had a good chuckle about the other night when she called me up for homework help, and it took me a little while to understand what she wanted from me.  (I was getting mixed up thinking the sample problems she was reading to me were true, and not examples, but I finally got it–and I was so proud of myself–it was pretty funny!)  Rosalie and I made a few phone calls for her, gathering information she needed, and we studied citizenship questions because she is working hard towards that goal.  Oh boy!!! Some of those questions are hard, and there were a couple that I was super happy to see had answers on the back, because I didn’t know the answers!  Thankfully, I knew most of them, and tried to explain the historical facts as we studied.  We plugged along, and I can see she has been studying.  There is another lady who helps with that project, but she is eager to get in all the practice she could, so Rosalie and I quizzed her for quite a while.

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Of course, we had a blast with the little princess:)

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Lovana and Patsy made a lot of caramel corn for our family to eat, and for the 4H bake sale.  We were not able to help at the sale this year, as we usually do, so we just dropped our contributions off.  It tastes so good.  We make it almost every year, and it sells well.  It has become a fall tradition for our family, as well.

So….we went through a LOT of butter between the caramel corn and the 2 batches of Double Chocolate Loaf Cake and pie crust we made this week.  Luckily, the local store had it on sale for 2/$5.  Rob and I each bought 2, the limit, so we are back into business with butter…at least for now.  I still want to find it for $2/lb, but $2.50 wasn’t too bad.  They also had Bandon cheese (owned by and just like Tillamook Cheese) for $4.99/2 lb. loaf.  So, we got those, too.

I spent my grocery money for the week and a little more.  I’m a bit baffled at the eating habits of the kids right now.  Everyone is hungrier than normal.  Everyone is eating things they don’t usually want to eat.  They are NOT eating the things they normally want to eat.  Hmmmm.  So, I’ve had to buy extra of certain things, and other things I bought are just sitting there…..one of life’s mysteries:)  I would say chili (like the whole batch was gone in a flash this time–it was even going down the hatch at breakfast time), tacos (that one is normal), tortillas, tons of milk, caramel corn, tuna fish, sandwiches, butter and cheese are right at the top of the list of desired items right now, so…how nice dairy products were on sale.

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I was able to arrange several pictures we found when cleaning the shop last weekend.  I want to put new photos in the lowest frame, but that will be done in time.  Rob and I have some other ideas to make the living room more functional, and are working on implementing them soon.  It was nice to be able to use some things I already had to make the living room look better.  I was also happy to pass on the 80’s pictures of the little goose girl, and several others that were not longer my taste.  So, they went off to Goodwill, along with a bunch of other items.  It’s nice to have what I want out of those boxes and have the rest go away!

Rob worked on the bath-tub drain today.  It gets clogged with the girls’ hair.  It is better now.  He also replaced the caulking behind the kitchen sink.  Whatever the previous owner used was not the right caulking.  It has become increasingly moldy, both under, and beside it and recently started to crack.  It looks SO good tonight–all dry, nice and white, and NOT moldy!  He has also been hanging pictures up for me whenever I find one I want to hang.  All of these home repairs save us money, as well as make things nicer for us here in our home.

All in all, it was a pretty satisfying week.  How did your week go?

 

 

What Did We Eat? October 20, 2017

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This week was full of baking.  We tried several new recipes.  The girls made apple galettes on Wednesday.  They each made one.  We found it worked the best to make it in a pie pan, and to roll that gluten-free crust out on a sheet of freezer paper, then turn it upside down into a pie pan before we filled it.

We also baked gluten-free rolls, but I will never be sharing that recipe for what I think were actually hockey pucks, not fresh rolls:)  I’ve had success before, I just have to find that recipe and try again.  I did have success with macaroons dipped in chocolate, and my tried and true recipe for double chocolate loaf cake.

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Last Sunday, for family Sunday dinner, we had taco bar.  We did eat leftovers of the refried beans on tortillas or chips all week.  On Monday, Rob barbequed hamburgers.  We had those again another night.  On Tuesday, I baked potatoes.  Wednesday, at noon, Ja’Ana made coconut shrimp, we had bread sticks, and Alissa made salad.   For dinner, I made tacos again.  We were in a big hurry to get dinner made after a doctor’s appointment and before church.   The girls each made an apple galette.  Thursday, I made myself an omelette after work.  I don’t know what they ate.  Friday, Rob and I went out for dinner.  We left all 3 kids home.  It was a rare treat!  Lots of caramel corn was made for the 4H bake sale.  We sent quite a few batches to the sale, and kept some to eat. Patsy made Muddy Buddies last night.  Yum!  Actually, I’m needing to clear some of these sweets out of here, since we are enjoying the extra treats a little too much:)

Today, at lunch time, my Eritrean (Africa) friend made my sister, Ja’Ana and I a delicious meal of authentic Eritrean food.   It was great, as always.  She made us coffee, and I took lots of pictures for those of you who have been curious about that process.  I’ll post that soon, once I get those pictures loaded. All in all, it’s been a great week of eating.  As I type, I’m still stuffed to the gills!

Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Loaf Cake

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I’ve been asked for the recipe for the cake I made for my sister’s birthday last week.  It’s a recipe from an old cookbook that I altered to make gluten-free.  Here’s what I did:

1-1/2 cup butter

3 cups sugar

5 eggs

3 cups Bob’s Red Mill 1-1 gluten-free flour (this blend includes xanthum gum)

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

chocolate chips to sprinkle on top (I think I used about 1 cup)

Soften the butter.  Cream butter and sugar, add eggs.  Add the rest of the ingredients, except the chocolate chips and mix well.  (I did all of this in a bowl, with a spoon, but I’m sure a mixer could be used.)  Divide the mixture between 3 loaf pans that have been sprayed with non-stick spray.  (I’ve done it in 2 large loaf pans, or 3 slightly smaller ones, and feel it cooks better in the 3 slightly smaller ones.  I also made cupcakes from this recipe last spring–just cook for less time and leave the chocolate chips off or stir them in)  Sprinkle chocolate chips on top of the loaf cakes and bake them in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour-1 hour and 10 minutes or until firmed up and done in the center.  (The trick here is to get the center to cook without getting the edges too crisp or even burnt.)  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out of the pans and finish cooling.  Makes 2 large loaves or 3 smaller ones.

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There are several things I like about this recipe.  First, it does not need frosting, so it is easy to transport. Second, it can be divided into the individual loaves so I can make a batch, use one loaf and freeze the rest for another day, which is a time-saver for me.  Third, it is gluten-free and tastes really good!  It can be “dressed up” for a party, or used for lunches.

If you don’t need to make gluten-free cake, it works well with regular flour.  I used to make it that way, years ago.  It is basically a chocolate pound cake with chocolate chips sprinkled on top.  When I modified the recipe, I did add more cocoa powder than the original recipe, because……chocolate cake, chocolate chips, chocolate candy bars….need I say more?  Enjoy!

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