This Cozy Family Dinner Menu Is the Perfect Way to Warm Up Fall Nights
After a hike, working in the yard, or playing outside, come in and savor this hearty meal.
After a chilly day hiking outdoors, unbundle and prepare a family dinner centered around a pot of hearty chili. But before you dig into the main event, warm-up from the inside out with a hydrating mug of mulled cranberry cocktail (it's nonalcoholic!) and a popcorn snack that tides everyone over until dinner—it'll appease everyone's rumbling stomach without ruining their appetites. While everyone is snacking, you can get to work preparing a pot of chili and a batch of whole-wheat cornbread—both come together in 30 minutes. For dessert, transform three of everyone's favorite trail mix ingredients into bar cookies that are drizzled with chocolate for a healthy finish that feels like a treat.
Hiking works up an appetite, so have a quick energy source ready at home to tide everyone over until dinner is on the table. Our suggestion: Seasoned Popcorn and a cozy mug of our alcohol-free Mulled Cranberry Cocktail. With six different seasoning suggestions in this one recipe, there will be something for everyone. Pick one seasoning that will please the group or select a few. Use your time wisely: preheat the oven and an eight-inch cast-iron skillet while you snack, to prepare for the cornbread.
Chili is a great make-ahead dish, but as this 30-Minute Chili recipe comes together in a half-hour, you can make it after you get home if you prefer. (Want to do some prep ahead? Have the garlic and onions chopped and the other ingredients set out and ready for when you get home.) Serve the chili in oversized mugs or deep bowls that leave enough room for the toppings. Sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced avocado, and scallions are classics.
The Side Dish
Homemade cornbread is surprisingly easy to make and swapping all-purpose for whole-wheat flour makes for better baking and better nutrition. Our secret to the perfect crunchy crust on this Whole-Grain Skillet Cornbread: preheat the skillet in the oven, then add the batter. If you don't have a cast-iron skillet, bake the cornbread in an eight-inch cake pan.
Bring out a plate of these homemade Chocolate-Apricot Nut Bars that you made earlier (or the day before). They're packed with luscious coconut and almonds and sweetened with apricots rather than sugar. A chocolate drizzle on top has everyone thinking they're a decadent dessert. These portable snacks are also great mid-hike fuel.