It’s confession time.
I’m a pastor’s wife.
And I love Halloween.
In fact, my whole family (including the pastor) loves Halloween. On October 1 every year, the pumpkins, the fall foliage, and the Halloween tree and village come out of the attic, and the decorating begins. It’s one of my favorite days of the year, which kicks off my very favorite month of the year.
I’m not conflicted at all about our family’s decision to celebrate Halloween. Because we try to live life according to Philippians 4:8, and our Halloween celebration passes this test. For us, Halloween is about children expressing their creativity through costume (within limits), families getting outside to enjoy the beautiful fall weather, and neighbors sharing good food and fellowship.
It’s about walking as a family door-to-door, saying hello to people we might not otherwise see. And it’s ending the evening with children playing in the cul-de-sac and adults sitting in camping chairs around a fire pit, swapping stories, laughing together, and stealing candy from the littles’ trick-or-treat bags. (Oops, did I say that out loud?)
It’s time for community building, and we love it.
Every year on Halloween, at about 4:00 in the afternoon, Kory and I drag a few folding tables out of our garage, put them on the sidewalk in front of our house, and drape them in orange checkered plastic table cloths. And then our neighbors begin bringing their bounty to the tables for a pre-trick-or-treat potluck.
While the neighbors’ choices may vary year-to-year (which I love since my neighbors are pretty proficient in the kitchen), our contributions always stay the same. Because we’ve been serving chili dogs on Halloween since our daughter was four weeks old.
I’m not sure how it started.
But I know this.
We just can’t break that tradition.
In the early days, before we cooked much, we’d use canned chili for the dogs. (God bless us.) Now, I shudder at the thought. Because in more recent years, Kory began experimenting with homemade chili, and a few years ago, he nailed it.
We’ve been making this chili on Halloween every year since.
Some folks eat it straight out of a bowl, garnished with sharp white cheddar cheese, green onions, sour cream, and jalapenos. Others douse their hot dogs with it, so much so, that they have to eat their hot dogs with a fork.
Either way, it’s delicious, and it conjures up memories of the past every time we serve it.
This year, the weather has been slow to cool down in our corner of the world, but today, the temperatures finally dropped to the point that I needed a light jacket.
So I just couldn’t wait until Halloween to have this chili.
I hit the store after our trip to see Hotel Transylvania 2 and bought enough chili ingredients to make two batches. One to serve after church on Sunday (because the forecast calls for cool temperatures and rain so I couldn’t think of anything better) and the other to serve to our neighbors on Halloween night.
After the fall festival at church this evening, I settled in to cook. And I took a note from Shauna Niequist, author of Bread & Wine, a food memoir I devoured a few weeks ago. Instead of looking at cooking this chili as a task, I turned it into an experience.
I kicked off my shoes and turned Pandora to my favorite station (Laid Back Brunch). Then, I popped open a fall brew (which I, of course, poured into a frozen mug). And I went to town in the kitchen.
The time over the stove helped me unwind.
It helped me reflect.
And it helped me reconnect with my gratitude for our family. Because honestly, it’s been a tough week.
The chili has been simmering on the stove now for about an hour, my house smells divine, and I just tasted it.
It’s heaven in a bowl. Really. It’s that good. And I can’t wait to serve it to my family after church.
I’m hoping you might find a place for it in your repertoire, and that you and yours might find a way to make some memories as you gather around the table for chili night too.
Here’s what you need (printable recipe card to follow):
Next, over medium-high heat, saute the onion, bell pepper, and minced garlic in a large dutch oven until the vegetables begin to soften. Then add your meat. Cook until it begins to brown. Then add the chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.
Allow the chili to simmer for at least two hours. If you have the ability, cook this the day before you intend to serve it, as it only gets better with time! You can garnish this with just about anything, but our favorites are any combination of sharp white cheddar, green onions, jalapenos, and sour cream.
Kory's Halloween Chili
1 Onion, diced
1 Bell Pepper, diced
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Lb Ground Beef
1 Lb Ground Pork
1 Lb Bison
4 Tablespoons Chili Powder
1 Tablespoon Cumin
1 Tablespoon Pepper
1 Teaspoon Salt
1, 14.5 oz Can Diced Tomatoes
1, 8 oz Can Tomato Sauce
1, 52 oz Can Ranch Style Beans
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Fresh Oregano
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Cocoa
2 Cups Water, 1 Cup Brewed Coffee (or 3 Cups Water)
On medium-high heat, saute onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a large dutch oven until vegetables begin to soften. Then add meat. Cook until meat begins to brown. Then add chili powder, cumin, pepper, and salt. Continue cooking until meat is almost done. Then add remainder of the ingredients. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for at least two hours. Before serving, check seasoning to add salt and pepper if needed.