Category Archives: Dinners

Christmas Eve = Soup

Four years ago we went to the 1 dish dinner on Christmas Eve and these are a few reasons for Christmas Eve to stay a soup dinner in the decades to come.

1. The dishes are easy to clean up (as long as you have the dishwasher empty)

2. If you make two pots everyone is bound to be happy with one of them

3. Nothing is a better accompaniment to sourdough bread grilled cheese or all-day rain


4. All food groups can be compiled into one (these photos make the soup look a little gross but they were really delicious)

Christmas Eve-Soup

5. If doubled and everyone has eaten Christmas candy throughout the day, soup will be plentiful for days.   This would be the current situation in the Sloop/Johnson household.

And since Andrew and I never take pictures together that don’t include one of our arms holding the camera we got Kathryn to snap a pic.

Christmas Eve 2012

One additional documentation point because Kathryn did such beautiful centerpieces this year (lemons at Christmas are my new favorite)–here’s a snap of her artwork for our family’s posterity.

Lemon Centerpiece

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve 2012 Cheese Soup

1/2 c. grated carrots (I got lazy and ended up chopping these into tiny pieces)

1/2 c. chopped celery

1 onion chopped

1/4 c. butter

6 Tbsp. flour

2 c. milk

2 c. chicken broth

3/4-1 lb of Velveeta cheese diced or Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Saute onions, carrots, and celery in butter.  Stir in flour, milk, and chicken broth.  Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Add cheese.  Stir to blend.  If it seems to thick, add a little more chicken broth or water. Simmer on low for 30 minutes to 1 hour being careful not to let the bottom burn.

Suggestions from the Sister: (1) The Cheese Soup would be fantastic in a bread bowl.  (2) A hypothesis of combining the two for a positive outcome was tested by Kathryn and determined that it could be something served at  Dos Taquitos–one of the highest compliments one can get on Christmas Eve.

The Bibliography: My Aunt Dot


Smoky Chicken Chili from Southern Living

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What do you want for your birthday?

That’s the question I ask Andrew each birthday, but I’m usually asking about food as opposed to a gift.  For Andrew, other family members, and a few special friends I loan them my copy of Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations by Nancie McDermott for two days and tell them to pick a cake.  The cookbook was a gift from Momma and as a complete pie girl, it has become my essential cake guide, outside of a few family recipes.

There have been quite a few picks including Helen Hudson Whiting Celestial Chocolate Cake, Sweet Potato Pound Cake, Mississippi Mud Cake, etc.  With at least 30 options, Andrew can be counted on to choose the Red Velvet Cake without fail each year.


Since trying the recipe from Southern Cakes, I haven’t even looked at another one.  This year it was even better than usual and I attribute it to the freezer. One of the Beach Bunch Mommas (more on that later) always freezes her pound cakes for a little bit after they cool completely because they are moist and less likely to dry out.  I decided to try the same with these layer cakes thought it may have been dumb luck, I’m going to say this was the trick.  After the cakes cooled completely, I wrapped them up tightly and placed them in the freezer for a day.  The morning of Andrew’s party (more on that later take 2) I took them out of the freezer to thaw and iced the cake about an hour before the party that took place that evening.

I’m usually not a huge red velvet fan, but this recipe has made me re-think my stance on RV. Maybe I’ll even choose it for my birthday cake. Maybe, but highly unlikely since I’d have to give up my pie.

The Recipe: Red Velvet Cake

The Ingredients:

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour ( I used King Arthur’s Cake Flour–it was on sale :)

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. buttermilk

2 Tbsp. cocoa

One 1-oz. bottle (2 Tbsp.) red food coloring

2 c. sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 Tbsp. cider vinegar or white vinegar

The Directions:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two round cake pans (9-inch) and line with wax paper.  Grease the paper and flour the pans. Prepare three mixtures which will become the batter.  Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl and use a fork to mix them together well.  Combine the vanilla with the buttermilk.  Mix the cocoa and red food coloring in a small bowl, and stir until it makes a smooth paste.

With a mixer in a larger bowl, beat the butter at a low speed for 1 minute until creamy and soft.  Add the sugar and then beat for 3-4 minutes scraping every few minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating after each until the mixture is creamy and smooth.  Scrape the cocoa-food coloring paste into the batter and mix evenly.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and then half of the milk, beating the batter with a mixer at low speed, and mixing only enough for for the flour and liquid to disappear.  Mix in another 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the milk, and then the last of the flour in the same way.

In another bowl, combine the baking soda and vinegar, stirring well.  Quickly mix this mixture into the red batter, folding it in gently by hand.  Pour the batter into the cake pans.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until the layers no longer jiggle in the middle.  Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes and then turn them out on the racks or on plates, remove the paper and turn top side up to cool.

Ice with your favorite Red Velvet compliment–we chose a rich cream cheese icing. Place on layer on a cake plate and ice the top.  Place the 2nd layer on top of the first and ice the top and then sides of both.

After icing the cake, refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer to help the icing set.

The Bibliography: Southern Cakes: Sweet & Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations by Nancie McDermott

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And We’re Back!

What do we eat when we finally get over food poisoning (or the Norovirus if you aren’t sure if that’s what it is)?  For us it would be homemade pizza.Four days later and five pounds lighter, we set out to test our stomachs and use some of the items we had in our refrigerator.

I always use Fleischmann’s yeast when making cinnamon rolls, cream cheese braids, etc. When last at the grocery store, I noticed that they had a pizza dough yeast which I opted to try instead of buying pre-made pizza dough.  We had fresh spinach and tomatoes from the farmer’s market, sausage from McLaughlin’s Farmhouse, and jars of pesto that we’ve been trying to finish.  The ingredients came together for a meal that Andrew and I had been craving and put us on track to gain a bit of our weight back.  The crust was a nice combination of a thick crust, but with plenty of flakiness.  Having pesto as the base sauce on this pizza was also a good call as our stomachs probably weren’t quite ready to handle the extra tomatoes.

Happy to have  real meal again that didn’t consist solely of chicken noodle soup or applesauce!


Crust: Fleischmann’s Pizza Crust Yeast

McLaughlin’s Farmhouse Sausage

Fresh Spinach

Fresh Tomatoes

4 Tbs. Pesto

1 c. Parmesan Cheese


Followed instructions on the back of the pizza crust package to create dough.  Spread 4 Tbs. pesto on the dough and added sausage, spinach, and tomatoes. Spread 1 cup parmesan cheese on pizza and bake for 15 minutes in 425 degree oven.

The Bibliography: Fleischmann’s Pizza Crust Yeast Recipe & Veggies

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Plump Potatoes

Andrew J. (also know as THE HUSBAND) turned 33, so with that momentous day also came his annual birthday dinner attended by the same small, but mighty group of 6. Side note: Another perk to having this online record is that I will (hopefully) be able to remember the menus I’ve served in previous years.  Before now, I’ve been able to pick out maybe 1 dish that was served in years prior. 

AJ’s opinion of potatoes is that you don’t get much out of them.  I’m not sure who taught him that, but I disagree.  His tagline for the veggie immediately sealed the deal that I was going to make a starchy dish for this event.  Of course I’d throw in a few of his other favorites, but I was going to make the best twice baked potatoes dubbed the Plump Potatoes.  A little cream cheese, green onions, salt & pepper and……..there you go, a dish he couldn’t resist!

Plump Potatoes in the Oven

Post dinner AJ’s opinion still isn’t really changed, but that just gives me a challenge .  The fact that everyone else at the table devoured theirs let me know that they were along the lines of what I had hoped for.  To be fair here,  AJ did eat his potato, but wasn’t converted like I had hoped.

They are still one of my favs and called Plump Potatoes for a reason.  Now I need to make a Skinny version.


baking potatoes (I started with 12)

3/4 c. of fat free half & half

half a block of cream cheese (left soften for 20-30 minutes before using)

salt & pepper to taste

3 green onions cut into small pieces

3/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Baked the potatoes until easily stuck with a fork. Cut them in half and tried my best to preserve the shapes of the potato skin when spooning out the inside.  Mixed the rest of the ingredients in potato using a hand mixer to make them more smooth.  I probably should try at some point not mixing so much if I want more of the “chunky” effect instead of the “creamy”–think peanut butter descriptors.  Evenly distributed the potato mixture back to the skins and placed on the same cookie sheet used to cook the potatoes originally.  Shredded cheddar cheese on top for an aesthetic effect (and who doesn’t like more cheese).  Baked at 350 degrees until warmed through and cheese melted.

To Try in Future (not all at once): Pepperjack sub. for Cheddar, Fresh Garlic, Black Beans, Salsa

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