Monday, November 1, 2010


Every Halloween since Sparky and I got married, we've had our families over for dinner.  We live in a very kid friendly neighborhood, full of darling trick or treaters as soon as the sun goes down.  When we first moved here, we were sort of the the "odd men out."  We'd just gotten married, we were still in our 20s (well I was,) and we didn't have children.  I always joke that no one spoke to us until I started walking the nighborhood when I was VERY pregnant with Ava.  People were suddenly stopping to chat or waving hello from their cars calling out "When are you due?" I looked down at my belly and thought "Ah! I've got the golden ticket!"  Of course, I'm exaggerating; we are beyond blessed to live in our community.  Our neighbors are amazing generous friendly people.  I walk Ava a football field's length to get her to kindergarten.  There are green belts and parks throughout the neighborhood.  It's one of those places that, when Ava gets a bit older, I will be comfortable telling her to "be home when the street lights come on."  (Maybe. =)

Halloween evenings have changed a bit since we started the tradition 8 years ago.  We are now on the street with the best of the trick or treaters, while my parents or my in-laws man the house, passing out candy.  Friends, big and little, are invited for dinner too and wine flows freely (even as we cruise the neighborhood.  Shhhh.  Don't tell the lovely police men that cruise through too!)  One thing that hasn't changed is the menu.  (I tried one year to change it up and got some serious flak!)

Easy Halloween Menu
Chips and Salsa (from Las Golondrinas if you are local, the best chips and salsa around!)

Easy Artichoke Dip
1 cup mayo
1 cup parmesan from that green can, plus more for sprinkling on top
8 ounces cream cheese at room temp
4 ounces chopped green chilies
1 large can artichoke bottoms, drained, rinsed, dried, and chopped

Mix all ingredients well in a baking/serving dish that is oven friendly.  Micro for 10 minutes, stirring half way through.  Sprinkle parmesan generously all over the top and put under broiler for a few minutes to create a crust. Serve with crudites, crackers, or tortilla chips.

"Girlfriends" White Bean Chicken Chili (So easy and beyond delicious!)
6-8 organic skinless, boneless chicken breasts
olive oil
2 cups onion, chopped
4 (or more) garlic cloves minced
8 to 16 ounces (canned) chopped green chilies
3 tablespoons cumin*
5 teaspoons dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 (15 ounce) cans great northern white beans, rinsed and drained
3 (11 ounce cans) white shoepeg corn, not drained
salt and pepper to taste
48 ounces organic low sodium chicken broth

On a cookie sheet, toss chicken in olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes until slightly undercooked.  Let rest on counter to cool.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil over a medium flame in a large pot.  Use enough to cover the bottom of the pan.  Add onions and saute onion over med-low heat until soft and translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes. (Do not allow to brown.) Add garlic and saute another minute.  Stir in chilies, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, lemon juice, beans, and corn.  Add chicken broth and bring to boil.  Turn down heat and simmer on low for 20 minutes to combine flavors.  Chop chicken into bite size pieces and add to chili and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with cilantro, grated cheese, green onions, sour cream and tortilla chips.

Cook's Notes:
1. If I'm making this for solely adults, I'll use half canned chopped chilies and half canned chopped jalepenos.
2. To spice it up after, I use my Sriracha trick.
3. You can change the portions however you'd like.  I personally don't like a lot of chicken in my chicken chili (I know, weird) so I go heavy on the beans and corn, easy on the chicken, but you can go heavier on the chicken, lighter on the corn, etc.
4. Cumin is the best spice in the entire world.  I am just sayin'.  I think I add more every time I make this.
5. Last night, I had cut up lime sitting on the counter for people drinking Pacificos.  Just randomly squeezed a bunch in my bowl of chili.  Sometimes I have REALLY GOOD random ideas.
6.  If you are attempting to get some whole grain into your kids, this chili is great mixed with some cooked brown rice.
7. Yummy served in a bread bowl, but better served with my mother in law's cornbread.

Debbie's Cornbread
We used to pick up some seriously scrumptious cornbread from Bandera, a local restaurant serving wood fired chicken, grilled steaks, and fish. (Great atmosphere and bar too--check it out, if you are ever near Corona del Mar.)  It's hard to describe the cornbread if you haven't eaten it.  It's unlike any cornbread I've made or had anywhere ever.  It's more cake like, a little sweet, a little savory, buttery, moist, perfection.  A couple of years ago, my mother in law Debbie developed her own cornbread recipe using Bandera's version as inspiration.  Let me tell you, it does not disappoint.  It's better than the original!  Unfortunately, I'm still waiting for her to email the recipe.  I'm wondering if she's trying to keep it a secret.  (Hmmmm...  a la Marie Barone... except my mother in law is one of the sweetest, most generous and helpful ladies around, so no. =)  I'll post it as soon as she sends it my way.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween!  I'm almost over my Baby Ruth hangover.

*I wanted to call this post "cumin turns me on" but I thought that might be inappropriate given the content.


  1. That last line is hilarious. Something I would say without thinking, as per usual for me. Your kids are adoreable!

  2. so funny...went went to a halloween party and the host served veggie chili and turkey chili. I brought all the toppings like cilantro, sour creme, green onions, avocado etc.... The kids look adorable!!

  3. Too many things to comment on, so I'll number (keeps me on the straight and narrow:)...

    1) Love the "golden ticket" metaphor. We also live in a super kid-friendly neighborhood, but luckily for me, I had a big ticket up front... pregnant with Hailey (super pregnant) when we bought the house! But, I've experienced that feeling in many other ways:).

    2) We have the same tradition! My family comes over, my grandma man's the house, we come back for chili and cornbread. Love it.

    3) Have tried... and TRIED to find the perfect cornbread recipe. This year's has come the closest- a big cornbread "how-to" article in this months Fine Cooking... but I still want to tweak a bit. I totally want your MIL's to compare and get the perfect recipe DOWN:).

    4) Love your alternate title... and cumin:).

    5) Your kids- and you- look super cute!!

  4. Have you ever made this in a slow cooker?

    Just curious.