For me, throwing a dinner party is one of life’s greatest pleasures. It’s my preferred method of creative expression and my favorite way to show love and gratitude to important people in my life.

Dinner parties are also a great way to celebrate birthdays and that’s what I did this year. What better way to appreciate my friends than to feed them! And there’s no better food for feeding a crowd than chili.

I’ve been asked to share the recipes from my dinner party menu. So, here we go.

We began the evening with a festive cocktail I created for the occasion called the Spicy Scorpio. It’s a brandy based cocktail incorporating seasonal cider, festive cranberry and a spicy cayenne finish.


Spicy Scorpio

1 oz brandy
1 oz apple cider
1/2 oz real unsweetened cranberry juice 
cayenne pepper to taste
fresh cranberries for garnish

Mix all ingredients and serve on the rocks. 

Next we enjoyed a beer cheese fondue appetizer. You can serve this in a traditional fondue pot, but depending on the number of guests you have, it might just be easier to serve it in a mini crockpot and let everyone spoon out the amount of beer cheese dip they want.

Beer Cheese Fondue

5 cups shredded sharp Cheddar
8 ounces shredded Gruyere
2 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 lager beers (I used Yuengling)
1 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
A few drops hot sauce (I prefer Frank’s)
A few drops Worcestershire sauce
4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese
4 tablespoons butter

Combine cheddar & gruyere in a bowl with flour. Add beer to a small pot and bring up to a bubble over medium heat. Reduce the heat to simmer and add cheese in handfuls. Stir constantly, melting the cheese in batches. When the cheese has been incorporated fully, stir in the mustard, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Transfer fondue to a blender and  add neufchâtel and butter. Blend until creamy, then transfer to warm fondue pot or crockpot. 


I served the beer cheese fondue with pumpkin tortilla chips, apple slices, salami, broccoli and beer bread.


Beer Bread

3 cups flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
12 ounces beer (I used Shock Top Belgian White)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9×5 loaf pan with nonstick spray.
Add the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and a pinch of salt to a mixing bowl. Pour in the beer and stir with a mixing spoon until just combined. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the top of the bread is lightly browned and the middle is set. Allow to sit 15 minutes before serving. Source: Half Baked Harvest

This beer bread makes perfect French toast! It’s also delicious served warm with butter. Enjoy it plain as a side with your chili. Or you can dip it in olive oil and sprinkle it with salt. That’s a little trick I learned in Italy – it’s a popular snack in Tuscany. You can’t go wrong with beer bread. It’s delicious any way you slice it. 

And now it’s time for dinner!

I served two types of chili: White Chicken Chili and Spicy Three Bean Chili. Chicken chili is a new one for me. At first I wasn’t sold on it. I grew up eating chili with meat and beans, so it took me a while to really embrace the idea of chili with chicken, but it was a big hit at the dinner party and I’m happy to share the recipe I used.

White Chicken Chili

1 large sweet onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 (14 1/2-oz.) cans chicken broth
2 (4.5-oz.) cans chopped green chiles
1 (1.25-oz.) package white chicken chili seasoning mix (McCormick’s)
3 (16-oz.) cans navy beans
Toppings: salsa verde, sour cream, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, cilantro, avocado

Sauté onion and garlic in hot oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in chicken, next 3 ingredients, and 2 cans navy beans. Coarsely mash remaining can navy beans, and stir into chicken mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring often; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Serve with desired toppings. Source: Southern Living, January 2012.

Spicy Three Bean Chili is vegetarian and gluten free. And it’s my favorite. This chili tastes like it’s been cooking all day when really it takes less than an hour to prepare. It gets that meaty flavor from mushrooms and bacon, the latter being removed before you serve the chili.


Spicy Three Bean Chili

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 slices of bacon
1 onion, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, diced
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
1/4 cup chili powder 
One 15-ounce can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed 
One 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed 
One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed 
Two 15-ounce cans crushed tomatoes with chilies
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
Toppings: cheddar cheese, sour cream, avocado, pumpkin tortilla chips, beer bread

In a medium soup pot, heat the oil until hot. Add the bacon, onion, mushrooms, jalapeños and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until the onion is softened and the bacon fat has been rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder and cook over moderate heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the beans, tomatoes and broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer the chili over moderately low heat until thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove bacon. Serve and garnish chili to taste with desired toppings.

In true fall fashion, no festivity is complete without something pumpkiny. I love pumpkin pie, pumpkin lattes and pumpkin bread as much as anyone, but birthdays are for cake! Luckily I stumbled upon a pumpkin cake recipe that easily converted to pumpkin cupcakes. I made a double batch of these and froze the rest to use for Thanksgiving.


Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

(makes 2 dozen)

1 package (21.6 ounces) yellow cake mix + 3 tablespoons flour
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two muffin pans with cupcake cups and set the pans aside. Place the cake mix, pumpkin, oil, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in a large mixing bowl and blend with an electric mixer on low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, 30 seconds. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until smooth, 1 to 1½ minutes. With a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Spoon batter into cupcake cups, 2/3 full. Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed with a finger, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven to cool 15 minutes.  Let the cupcakes cool 1 hour before frosting.

(I doubled this recipe and had some frosting left over)

1 package (8 ounces) Neufchatel cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Place the neufchâtel cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, a cup at a time, beating on low until just combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high to whip the frosting and incorporate air. Source: Adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor

So there you have it: A delicious menu for your next fall dinner party. Try these recipes and let me know how you like them!

Fall Dinner Party Recipes: Feeding a Crowd with Chili
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