Monday, October 31, 2011

When I was growing up Halloween was a time that allowed my very creative Mother to really show her stuff. She always made our costumes which we proudly wore to trick or treat and to the school carnival every year.  As I recall, the costumes were always fun and lively. Scary really didn't enter into our Halloween activities - except when we knocked on one particular family's door to trick or treat.  The lady of the house, who was a good friend of my Mom's, was always a little scary. She had a strong personality and a very full head of wild white hair to go with it.  On Halloween, she dressed as a witch, dimmed the lights and turned on scary music. To the children in the neighborhood, Mrs. R. truly was a witch.  In actuality, she was very nice and her white hair was striking!

When my children were little one of the things I enjoyed most was making their costumes for Halloween.  Like my Mom and her sister, my sisters would pitch in to help me get the sometimes very elaborate costumes made.  Each year, the costumes reflected something special about my boys...a special interest or hobby.  Even now that the boys are grown, I've saved all of the costumes.  They're much more than just costumes, they're memories.

Each year, when the last neighbor's door had been knocked on and before counting candy and trading began,  we would get into the car and drive to Grandma and Grandpa's house. My Mom would always act surprised to hear her doorbell ring. Even more of a surprise, though, was whatever costume she and my sister would have conjured up while waiting for us to arrive!

As my boys got older the very notion of  Halloween changed. Swords and weapons, frightening masks and fake blood replaced my works of art and labors of love. But, the tradition of ending the evening by ringing Grandma's doorbell lived on.  That's probably the part I miss the most.

Not exactly a nature lover, one year Mom created a tree costume. She got a good laugh and it's one of my favorite memories of her fun loving spirit.  I suspect if she were still here she would find a way to dress up as a tomato!

I remember crowded streets lined with kids when I went trick or treating.  My neighborhood now is very dark and a bit off the beaten track so we don't get many trick-or-treaters.  Halloween is usually a very quiet evening up here.  My kids are old enough that they enjoy handing out candy to the few trick-or-treaters that make their way up here.

The kids are grown and trick-or-treaters may be few, but we still enjoy the season.  Lighted bones and skeletons adorn the walkway.  Our sound activated ghost, Phantasma, hangs at the door to give a bit of a scare every time the door opens or closes.  Various Halloween themed needlepoints are placed throughout the house and the ceramic Halloween village is assembled, lighted and the screams and scary sounds are at the highest volume.  With a pot of chili on the stove, we carve pumpkins and anxiously run to the door every time the bell rings.  Even if you don't come by for a handful of candy here's a Halloween treat for you to enjoy.

Happy Halloween!

Chicken Chili

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts – cut into strips or small chunks
4 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground oregano
3 cups chicken stock
1 ½ cups canned chopped tomatoes – with juice
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 15 ounce can red beans (drain and rinse)
1 15 ounce can black beans (drain and rinse)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
slices of lime (for serving)

In a large saucepan heat oil.  Add onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until just tender (not brown). Add chicken and cook until no longer pink (turning as it cooks). That should be about 3 minutes.  Stir in chili powder, cumin and oregano.  Add stock, tomatoes and juice and chopped pepper. Season with salt and pepper.  Cover, bring to boil and simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes.

Stir in beans, simmer uncovered over low heat for 15 minutes more, until chili is thickened.

Squeeze lime juice on top of the chili and garnish with a little chopped cilantro. Serve with warm corn bread and enjoy!