October 31, 2013

Halloween Chili and Cheese Grits

We have the most fun neighborhood for trick-or-treaters! There's one entrance in and out, and the street makes one big huge circle surrounded by families who have their porch lights on. There is even a family on the other side of the circle who puts on quite a production in their front yard for little ghosts, ghouls, and fairy princesses. It's one of our favorite nights of the year because we get to see our friends and their littles.  We get to hug necks and visit for a minute. We enjoy the yearly milestone of seeing how the children have grown from one October 31st to the next. We get the chance to meet some our kids' friends from school with whom we might not cross paths otherwise.  And we always ALWAYS sit on the front steps with our candy bowl and greet people as they wind down our sidewalk. It's a treat for US as much as it is for the candy-goers.

It's customary for me to make a big batch of something warm and comforting that we eat from bowls in our laps, suppering on the steps while we pass out sweets. Last year, we ate plates of creamy chicken enchiladas while the trick-or-treaters came to visit. This year, because my babies are older, we'll spend our first Halloween night in the stands at a football game. It's bittersweet. But the memories we're making at the ball fields with older kids and their families are equally lovely. And although we will be under blankets under the lights instead of on the porch this year, I wanted to share with you a favorite favorite warm bowl of goodness that you can make for your family this Halloween night.  And I'm betting you'll make it for future nights. We will never eat chili the same way again. Y'all enjoy! Be safe if you're out. And be a light to the faces who come to your door!

 {this is a simple classic chili recipe but you can use whatever recipe is your favorite}

2 lbs. ground beef 85/15
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 15oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 15oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 regular can of chopped tomatoes with green chiles (Rotel in the South)
1 packet of chili seasoning
1 packet of dry ranch dressing seasoning
1 small can of tomato paste (optional)
2 Tbls. of brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

In a dutch oven or big, heavy-bottomed pot, brown the ground beef and chopped onion together. Just before it's completely browned, stir in the chopped garlic and stir til it has softened a little. Drain the grease and return to the pot. Add in the crushed tomatoes, beans, Rotel WITH juice, both seasoning packets, brown sugar and stir together well.  You may want to add in a half a can or the whole can of tomato paste if you prefer the chili a little thicker and more tomato-y. And you may wish to stir in a little water if you like your chili thinner. Bring just to a boil then reduce to simmer.  Stir and taste for salt and pepper. Allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes or as long as you need.  The longer it simmers the better the flavors.

{feeds about 8-10-12 people, depending on the people}
10-12 oz. Mild Mexican Velveeta, cubed
1 tsp. salt
1 cup uncooked instant grits
2 cups of water
2 cups of milk
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp garlic powder (not salt!)

 In a medium-large pot, bring water, milk, butter and salt to a slow boil and whisk in grits, whisking constantly so they do not clump.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook-n-stir grits until they've expanded and gotten creamy. Over low heat, stir in cheese and garlic powder. Stir until cheese is melted and grits are smooth. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons of jarred jalapeno juice if you'd like (we do!). 

Spoon grits into a bowl, then ladle chili on top. Add a dollop of sour cream and chopped green onions to the top. Tastes best when served on the porch steps.