I’m not sure why Halloween is such an anticipated holiday for the kids in my family, but they start planning in early September; I did it as a child, so did my children, and now my grandchildren do the same. Even with changes in our world, we manage to celebrate the holiday much the same as the years pass.
Our family tradition dictates that before donning costumes, each child is required to eat a bowl of chili with breadsticks (supposedly to offset the candy to be consumed) while the mother goes over the trick or treating rules. Sometimes the small children are escorted to a few neighborhood homes by Dad; older kids go with friends, and everyone is home by about 7:30 p.m. Now my grandkids usually go to a Halloween party at their school, and except a visit to my house, skip the homes entirely.
When my children were small, I let them choose what they wanted to be for Halloween, then worked on making elaborate costumes, using hand-drawn newspaper patterns. One year, I found a remnant of black fur and made a scary spider, its body stuffed and attached to a black leotard with eight furry legs (four stuffed and the other four my son, Mitch’s arms and legs). In our costume box we also had satin pumpkins, a very fancy Wonder Woman, witches, pirates, rock stars, and even a hot dog bun for our dachshund, Penny, complete with onions and pickles sticking out of the sides (Penny was the hot dog, of course).
I don’t know many people who have time to make costumes anymore – certainly not me - and the store-bought ones are much nicer than they were years ago. I barely have time to make the chili and breadsticks! I have adapted our family favorite chili recipe to the slow cooker so that it can be made in about as much hands-on time as it takes to go to the storeroom and bring up cans of nasty factory chili. Kids especially like this version because they can stir in their choice of corn chips, cheese, and other goodies. This chili got its name because it came from a jail in Texas that made such good chili, inmates wrote after leaving to get the recipe!
A few years ago I made a spider out of the breadstick dough; now my kids and grandkids insist that I do it every year. I’ve included links to both a breadstick recipe and the spider; both are perfect with the chili and very quick and easy.
Slow Cooker Texas Jailhouse Chili
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups finely chopped onions
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 tablespoon salt
2 28 oz. cans red beans, drained and rinsed
2 28 oz. cans tomato puree
2 4 oz. cans chopped green chilies
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
grated cheddar jack cheese
crushed red hot pepper
chopped green onion
chopped yellow onion
Tabasco pepper sauce
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet; add the chopped onion and ground beef. Sauté over medium heat, stirring to break up the bits, until the meat is cooked. Drain off any fat and transfer to a slow cooker.
Add the remaining ingredients, except stir-ins. Cook on low 4-8 hours or high 2-4 hours.
Serve with the crushed corn chips, grated cheese, crushed red pepper, chopped green and yellow onion, and Tabasco.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 550 Calories from Fat 94
Percent Total Calories From:
Fat 17% Protein 25% Carb. 58%
Nutrient Amount per
Total Fat 10 g
Saturated Fat 4 g
Cholesterol 40 mg
Sodium 725 mg
Total Carbohydrate 80g
Dietary Fiber 7 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 34 g
Vitamin A 47% Vitamin C 75% Calcium 0% Iron 44%