As I sit here ruminating on chili, a cold rain hits the window, blurring the treeline outside. The thermometer reads 52°F; summer is definitely in the rear-view mirror.

But even through sliding rivulets of water, I can see the explosion of color on our forested hillsides: summer's green-on-green has changed to a vivid tapestry of orange, yellow, bronze, and red.

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Especially red.

We chatted about maples in the test kitchen yesterday, and how their color has been banked like a bedtime campfire the past few years. Local knowledge posits that cold nights and warm days yield the most vivid red foliage. And we've certainly had that combination recently, with nighttime temperatures in the 30s, and an especially warm day last weekend reaching a July-like 80°F.

Thus the over-the-top red leaves we're seeing on the trees – and now, as rain pounds down, on the ground as well.

We can't count on much more Indian summer. Up here in northern New England, the cold arrives hard, fast, and on schedule, along with markedly shorter days. All of which whet our appetite for something warm in a bowl: pumpkin soup, a hearty pasta casserole.

And, of course, chili.

Ready to celebrate National Chili Week with us? We've got recipe suggestions that range from classic red to Southwestern green to "nouveau" white – with a nod to Cincinnati's iconic "five way" chili, cornbread chili casserole, and gluten-free chili pizza along the way.

Let's warm up with some chili!

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Oven-Baked Chili

Reader rave: "This chili is sooooo good! My favorite of all times. Made it in the crock-pot and it's the best cold weather food ever. Try dipping tortilla chips in it. You can't stop eating. LOL." – webolton, KAF Community

My 2¢: I Iove the chunky consistency of this chili; it's like beef stew with Southwestern attitude.

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White Chili with Cornbread

Reader rave: "Winner, winner, skillet dinner! This is a fabulous recipe with lots of flavor. I only made half a recipe and it fit nicely into a 12" cast iron skillet. It's a keeper and my new go-to recipe. Thanks!!" – cklos, KAF Community

My 2¢: I make this when I want to serve chili, but am feeding a "no red meat" crowd. Either chicken or turkey works just fine in this dish.

For step-by-step photos and tips, read the blog post.

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Chili Verde

Reader rave: "Excellent flavor, worth all the chopping and browning required. Don't skip the lime cilantro cream or the black bean & pineapple salsa, as they are very complimentary to the stew. I made it with a mix of pork & chicken. My teenage son keeps asking me to make it again!" – Elizabeth, Richmond, KY

My 2¢: As the reader above notes, the accompanying cilantro sauce and salsa are awesome. I love to make this chili into burritos, topping them with cheese and the cilantro cream, and serving the salsa on the side.

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Cincinnati Chili

Reader rave:  "I'm not a bean person so I do not like chili. But this recipe is fantastic – don't change a thing... I made it a day ahead then served it on thin spaghetti topped with diced sweet onion and grated sharp cheddar cheese... I'm making my second batch right now to serve to company tomorrow. Thanks for a great recipe!" – Studio_Gal, KAF Community

My 2¢: Depending on the number of added accompaniments, Cincinnati chili can be three-way (thick spaghetti topped with chili and cheese); four-way (add onions atop the chili, before the cheese); or even five-way (kidney or cannellini beans go over the onions, before the cheese). This special cinnamon-scented, chocolate-enhanced chili, in all its incarnations, is beloved by Cincinnatians everywhere.

For step-by-step photos and tips, read the blog post.

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Chili Cornbread Bake

Reader rave: "Chili has been a regular dish in my house for a quite a while now and we usually just eat it with rice and cheese. But my family says they don't want chili any other way after I did this. I used 6 oz. ramekins and only topped the chili with the cornbread but it was delicious and I will definitely use this recipe again and again." – Audrey, San Francisco

My 2¢: Cornbread and chili go together like coffee and a doughnut – it doesn't seem right to serve one without the other! In this mildly spiced dish, a bottom layer of cornbread (as well as the bread on top) add body to the dish, making it more comfort-food casserole than strict chili.

Let's see how this casserole comes together. You can actually use any chili recipe and any cornbread recipe – it's the technique we're looking at here.

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First, make your chili. I used ground turkey and black beans in mine.

Next, stir up a batch of cornbread batter.

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Oil a 10" cast iron skillet (or 9" square baking pan). Put half the cornbread batter into the pan; top with chili, then a layer of grated cheese.

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Scoop the rest of the cornbread batter on top, and add more grated cheese.

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Bake and enjoy!

And finally, something for our friends eating gluten free. While most chili is gluten free, the cornbread accompanying it usually isn't. This cornbread-crust pizza is a great way to combine chili and a gluten-free version of cornbread.

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Gluten-Free Cornmeal-Crusted Pizza with Chili

Reader rave: "This crust held together beautifully and was crispy on the bottom. I cooked it on a pizza stone as directed and it didn't stick at all (I did rub some palm oil shortening on the stone first). I am excited to try the second crust that I put in the freezer with regular pizza toppings." Meredith, Harrisonburg, VA

My 2¢: I don't regularly eat gluten-free, but when this pizza appeared in the test kitchen I went ahead and tried it. GREAT idea. The chewy crust is sturdy, yet not at all tough – the perfect vehicle for its chili/cheese topping.

For step-by-step photos and tips, read the blog post.

Filed Under: Recipes
PJ Hamel
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!