I think Fall is my favorite season. I love watching the leaves change color and the shift in temperature allows me to break out my favorite hoodie and a blanket. It just feels cozy! With fall in the midst, I wanted an excuse to celebrate this season with some friends. What better way to do so than to have a chili cook-off party! I must confess, we did this last year, but it was such a good time we decided to do it again!

This is actually a pretty easy and fun party to host. We decided to host this party outdoors to take advantage of that cozy fall feeling and to use our fire pit 🙂 We invited our friends and family and asked them to bring their best chili in a crock-pot. On the patio, we set up two banquet style tables and I covered them with brown table cloths. Then we ran a ton of extension cords and power strips to make sure all the crock pots could be plugged in. This is why the table cloths are so handy……..they hide the cords under the tables!Since our guests were all bringing a pot of chili, I provided all of the toppings like cheese, sour cream, chives, oyster crackers, etc. I also made some homemade cornbread using this great recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. She has the best recipes!

Whenever we host a party, I always like to do a big batch drink as well as beer and wine. With fall as our theme, I opted for a mulled cider which I made in a crock-pot. I bought the cider from the grocery store and added some spices like cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice as well as some orange and apple slices. I made this without alcohol, but had a Caramel Vodka & a Cinnamon Whiskey available for those who wanted it. While it was good without the alcohol, my favorite was the Vodka but Barry liked the Whiskey.

No party would be a party without dessert! And with a fire pit, the choice was obvious, a S’mores bar. I like to try new things (and I LOVE cookies) so in addition to the traditional graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows, I set out chocolate covered pretzels for a salty twist, chocolate fudge stripped cookies and homemade chocolate chip cookies for an alternative to the graham cracker.

To facilitate the tasting, I ordered small cups for people to taste the chili and bowls for people to go back for their favorite. I made a chalk board sign to explain the process and each pot received a number so it would be a blind taste test. This year I bought these chopping mats at the Dollar Tree which came two to a pack to put under the crock-pots. This helped keep the table a little cleaner after the ladles had been used. I also added cute pumpkin stickers and wrote a number on each with a marker to identify each chili.

Once all of our guests arrived, we had about 10 crock-pots of chili. Let me tell you, it was really hard to try them all! But it was a really fun way to keep people up and socializing.

The weekend before the party, Barry and I hung lights in the backyard to add a little ambiance. I wanted to mimic the look that a lot of restaurants and bars have on their patios. Since we already had a ton of white Christmas lights, we used those rather than buying new ones. I LOVE the way it turned out!

These were a little challenging to hang since we attached them to our trees, but the look was still there. I am just sad we can’t leave them up. But rest assured, I will be brainstorming a way to make them permanent for next year 🙂 What do you think?

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