Pumpkin, Spice and All Things Nice

Halloween seems to have grown (skeleton) legs since I was a kid. Fun and happy memories for me include cutting up a black bin liner and pairing it with a cheap plastic mask (remember those?!) as a costume to go trick or treating in. I was delighted if I returned home with a few treats, an orange, plenty of monkey nuts and maybe even the odd few pence thrown in. Then it was fun time with my family with bobbing apple games and most importantly, who was going to be lucky enough to get the ring in their slice of barm brack.

Nowadays, Halloween can be a much more expensive time with far fancier, shop bought costumes and even decorations to deck out your house with, inside and out. Not to mention the pressure this puts on families to achieve all of this on top of their already busy and expensive work and family life. While I’m all for a celebratory season and would be the first to deck out my home and party table, I’m also a busy working Mum who likes to keep things real, achievable and affordable too. My aim at Halloween is for my family to have fun, to create traditions and memories, with food being my main focus as always.

Here I’ve drawn up a list of ideas of the kinds of things I love to bake, make and do to make Halloween special but in an easy way that doesn’t break the bank. When it comes to baking, I like to ensure my kids have treats that are healthier than usual without compromising on fun or taste. I’ve developed lots of recipes that are quick and easy as well as not using too many ingredients, which I’m delighted to share with you here. For decorations and games, I like to make use of everyday things I have around the house, bringing back that sense of simplicity I remember from growing up. I’m not saying I do everything on this list each year or suggesting that you do either. Think of it as a Halloween pick and mix to suit your needs.

 

PETRIFYING PUMPKINS

Instead of the usual pumpkin carving, you could keep things more simple by dressing the pumpkin with a hat or fascinator and face mask. Sometimes I like to cut the top off a large balloon and pull the balloon onto the base of a small pumpkin to give a dip dyed effect. I’ve often found small children to be frightened of a carved pumpkin face, but using cabbage and / or kale leaves sticking out of the top to resemble hair seems to make it look friendlier. I’ve even seen a pineapple carved out and used in the same way for a change instead of a pumpkin! With the carved out pumpkin flesh, I like to make my ‘Chocolate and orange pumpkin cupcakes’.

 

GHOULY GHOSTS

- My kids love my ‘Frightfully good ghostly meringues’ which are sweetened with maple syrup rather than the usual refined sugar. They make fun displays, including when used to decorate the top of a cake or tart.

- For an easy ghost decoration, pop a balloon into a black or white bin liner, tie with string or an elastic band at the neck and stick or draw eyes on. The same method works well by stuffing a sock with cotton wool.

CREEPY CAKES

- If you fancy making a cake as a party centerpiece, don’t be put off by feeling the need to decorate it extravagantly. Something as simple as sticking chocolate fingers out of the side or top with dripping red icing to resemble a bloody hand breaking through can be really effective.

- Alternatively, drizzle white icing or melted and cooled white chocolate all over a simple iced cake to resemble cobwebs.

- For something a bit different and easy for people to help themselves to, check out my ‘Stacked bonfire cake’.

CHILLINGLY CHOCOLATEY

- No doubt there will be a lot of chocolate around so why not use it to make my Bonfire bites.

- Alternatively, pour melted chocolate onto a tray lined with parchment paper and arrange sweets and dried fruits and nuts all over the top before setting to make a bark. If spiders, eye-balls or anything else spooky and scary are included, then all the more fun!

 

FRIGHTFULLY FRUITY

- Check out my ‘Spooky Treats’ feature in the current issue of ‘Fresh’ magazine (free instore or online here) where I’ve included lots of fruity treats. The kids are sure to love my Monster mouths, Jelly worms and Spooky poached pears.

- Also, filling unused disposable plastic medicine syringes with something like Blackberry puree mixed with pomegranate juice is a great and fun way to get fruit ‘shots’ into kids.

SPOOKY SAVOURYS

- You won’t get any scarier than my ‘Green ghouly pizza’, which has the added benefit of being packed full of good for you ingredients.

- Halloween themed food can be as simple as sticking sausages out of mashed potato as fingers with tomato sauce as the blood.

- Make pumpkin soup with your pumpkin carvings and create a spider’s web on top with a drizzle of cream.

EERILY EASY EDIBLE DECORATING

- I find an edible black pen or icing tube incredibly useful at this time of year. I use them to write ‘boo’ or draw webs and spiders on cakes and bakes for example. Check out my ‘Chocolate graveyard cups’ recipe to see how I’ve used a pen there.

- Colour up icing with red food colour for instant ‘blood’ to drizzle on cakes and bakes.

- Make edible spider webs by simply drizzling melted dark or white chocolate.

PETRIFYINGLY EASY PARTY PLANNING

- Display cupcakes and bakes in birdcages and / or hurricane lanterns which have been sprayed black or another colour to suit your theme.

- My Sticky pear and gingerbread tray bake is an ideal quick, easy and delicious cake to bake as an instant party pleaser.

- Display candles in jars or glasses filled with orange, yellow, white and black sweets.

- Allow a burning red candle to drip onto top of white candles to create a Halloween effect.

- Shredded up black or white bin liners or toilet roll make for great spooky hanging decorations.

- Freeze small plastic spiders or eye-balls in ice cubes for drinks or use to fill ice buckets to present bottles.

- Serve a punch in a hallowed out pumpkin. Or fill the pumpkin with the spooky ice cubes just mentioned and present drinks bottles in it.

- Fill disposable gloves with popcorn and tie with black ribbon for a party table or as trick or treats.

- Fill small glasses with pomegranate seeds and stand cake pops in them.

- Spray paint branches in black or white and hang homemade edible treats from them.

- Even something as simple as drawing spooky faces on orange balloons with a black marker pen can be a fun activity to occupy the kids and make for effective Halloween decorations.

GHASTLY GAMES

- Plastic cups, toilet rolls or tin cans are ideal for bowling or stacking games. Use a black marker pen to draw eyes and mouth of a ‘scream face’ on the front of them. An orange or small pumpkin or gourd could be used as the ball to knock them down.

- See who can dress up as the best ‘mummy’ using only toilet roll.

- Set up pumpkins and gourds in a hoopla game, using a hula-hoop to throw onto them.

- Have a spider race where you blow plastic spiders through straws.

- An easy arts and crafts activity for kids is to paint paper plates into pumpkin faces.

- Don’t forget the good old bobbing apples game!

 

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