Last Friday we hosted some new neighborhood friends for Pumpkin Carving.  Of course, I forgot to take too many photos - which is usually the case.  I feel like if I'm running around with my camera too much people will feel like their at a blog photo shoot instead of a party.  I did manage to take some "before" party pictures, a couple of Emma carving and some after of her enjoying a second helping of mini s'mores (above)... right before bed. 

I kept the menu really simple - classic fall and kid friendly :

- Baked Squash & Goat Cheese Dip with Pita
- Antipasto Platter of Salami, Cheese & Olives (Emma's favorites)
- Bowls of Goldfish & Pretzels
- Chili (slow braised beef chili, recipe below)
- Mac and Cheese for the Kids

Everyone loved this chili.  It is the same recipe I used last year for the Beef & Butternut Chili, but I left out the Butternut and added beans to make it a more traditional chili.  I slow braised stew meat along with ground beef to give it a very meaty and hearty texture. 

Emma and I made Jack-O-Lantern sugar cookies the morning of the party and sent the leftovers home with everyone.

Here are Emma's - she loves using the pastry bags to squirt on the icing.  As I was discussing with the Moms at the party, icing "art" is easier to clean up than paint... and I don't have to worry about her eating the icing.

Here is our display set on the dining room table.  

I covered the table with kraft paper (the same I use to package my store goodies).  I love having that giant roll of kraft paper to use - it is lighter weight than craft stores carry which makes it easier to tape for wrapping packages, too.  I'm thinking of carrying it in my store for the holidays... would you all be interested in having a giant roll of kraft paper?! 

Let the carving begin!

Emma took it very seriously - she wanted to get out all of the "punkin seeds." 

I passed around my Mini S'mores for dessert - just the right size for the kiddos.

Big hit with Emma.

After everyone left, Emma worked on moving her punkin outside.  Little, by little.  

Uh oh, she found more seeds...

The next night we took the pumpkins out to light and when we went back inside she asked Mike to go "make the punkins smile again."   So sweet.

Braised Beef

serves 10

2 tablespoons of oil
3 pounds beef stew meat, 1-inch cubes
2 pounds of ground beef
2 cups chopped yellow onions
6 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, crushed
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 cups of beef broth
2 - 28 oz. cans of diced tomatoes with juice
sea salt and cracked pepper

Heat the oil in a very large pot and quickly brown the meat, in batches, on all sides. Transfer the stew meat to a separate bowl and set aside.  Brown ground beef in the same pot.  Add the onion and cook about 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, pepper flakes and cumin and saute for 1 minute.   Add beef broth, tomatoes with their juice and the reserved stew meat. Reduce the heat, taste for seasoning.  Season with salt and pepper as needed.  Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and simmer for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and season with salt, to taste.

Here is the browned stew meat - as you can see I didn't do too good of a job getting it nice and brown with good color... still was great.

I did the onions in the same pan and they picked up all that great beefy flavor.

I love the texture this chili has - the chunks of beef are so tender after the slow braising.


I feel like Fall is flying by and I'm anxious to squeeze every moment out we can.  We plan on lots of walks outside this week to gather leaves and more Halloween treat making for friends.  I'll share Emma's homemade costume tomorrow, so stay tuned!  I hope you have a great Halloween week!