Cooking up a big pot of chili is a great way to bring friends and families together. If you're lucky enough to be invited to a chili dinner, you'll likely want to bring something to contribute to the event. Since your hostess will probably be taking care of the chili itself, bring a salad, dip, bread or drink that will complement the thick and spicy chili. Finger foods and assorted cookies are always welcome, especially if children will be present.
The casual nature and Southwestern flavor of chili makes it a perfect match for corn and tortilla chips paired with delicious dips. The freshness of homemade guacamole or salsa goes well with chili, but be sure not to make it too spicy so that kids can enjoy it as well. Layered bean dips are another good option for a chili dinner. If you want to get away from the Mexican theme, try spinach dips, hot cheese and crab dips or cream cheese and artichoke dip. Use dry salad dressing and dip mix packets for balanced spices and interesting flavor combinations. Slice zucchini, yellow summer squash, large radishes, cukes and large carrots into thin, flat rounds so they can be dipped like chips.
Since chili tends to be heavy on meat and beans, help to balance out the dinner by bringing a salad. A fresh green salad not only ups the vegetable content of the meal but also gives guests a lighter option to counter the heaviness of the chili. Coleslaw and potato salad also go well with chili. Use a cool, creamy dressing on any of these salads to contrast with the spiciness of the chili. If you want to continue the Southwestern theme of the meal make a bean salad flavored with spicy ranch dip mix.
Chili is made for dipping and bread dunking. Ask your hostess if you can supply the bread for the dinner. If you're feeling ambitious, make your own homemade cornbread or hush puppies, flavored with spices the quick and easy way by adding dry dressing and dip mix to the batter. Bakery bread is another option if you don't feel like baking. Bring a variety of breads to suit different tastes and nutritional preferences, including whole grain bread, sourdough and rye.
All of that spicy chili is bound to make guests thirsty, so help your hostess out by providing some beverages. If the dinner is a family event, be sure to bring plenty of nonalcoholic drinks like sodas, juices and sparkling water. You can also make your own punch, adding plenty of fresh fruit to a blend of juice and soda. Adults may want to indulge in a nice cold beer, which always pairs well with chili. If you volunteer to bring beverages, be sure to take an extra bag of ice.
As a professional journalist since 1998, Lisbeth Booth has worked as a writer and an editor at several magazines. Her career has focused on music and film criticism but she has also written about lifestyle topics such as parenting and home design. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Calgary.