Hannah Drake


Halloween 2018

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Two years makes an annual tradition, right?

Neither Luke and I are that crazy for Halloween, so this year and last year, we just had a quiet night at home, hiding from trick-or-treaters. Both years, we watched “Halloween” movies, ate chili, and this year sipped on a seasonal cocktail from my 25 Fall Cocktails to Try This Season list.

Last year, we had one group of trick-or-treaters come to our door early in the evening. We hadn’t bought any candy to pass out, but the mom told Luke they came to the house because of the pumpkins outside. We brought our pumpkins in, turned off the lights in the front of the house, and watched Practical Magic and Bewitched. Yesterday, I read on Instagram that in the UK putting a pumpkin outside usually marks your house as trick-or-treater friendly.

This year, we carved pumpkins, but it was really for our own enjoyment. We lit the tea lights inside of our Harry Potter themed pumpkins and put them by our back door so we could see them, but we once again wouldn’t attract any trick-or-treaters. Are we the worst?! Ha!

Halloween is definitely the best day of the year to enjoy a nice big bowl of hot chili, but we’ve got months ahead of good chili weather. There are just so many different ways to make it! Everyone seems to have a preference or their own secret ingredient. At our house, Luke is the chili master, but the main ingredients are ground turkey (sometimes ground beef), black beans, and red kidney beans. Since I’m not a food blogger or a talented food photographer, I thought I’d share some recipes from around the web from people who are far more talented than I am.

Fire and Ice Chili How Sweet Eats

Fire & Ice Chili

From How Sweet Eats

Why You Should Make It: Her secret ingredient is rich, dark chocolate ice cream! She says you can’t taste it, but it adds a depth of flavour that you simply can’t replicate with just cocoa powder.

Game Day Beer Chili How Sweet Eats

Game Day Beer Chili

From How Sweet Eats

Why You Should Make It: It’s got two different meats, a can of your favourite beer, AND maple syrup! Now that sounds like an explosion of flavour!

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Chili How Sweet Eats

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Chili

From How Sweet Eats

Why You Should Make It: It’s buffalo chicken soup! Like chicken wings in a bowl and it will definitely make your house smell like heaven.

Cornbread Topped Skillet Chili Sally's Baking Addiction

Cornbread Topped Skillet Chili

From Sally’s Baking Addiction

Why You Should Make It: Cornbread and chili belong together and we all know it. Why not combine them from the start?

Slow Cooker Taco Spice Chili Sally's Baking Addiction

Slow Cooker Taco Spice Chili

From Sally’s Baking Addiction

Why You Should Make It: Think of all the Taco Tuesdays coming up that are going to be FREEZING.

Slow Cooker Hatch Green Chile Verde Foodie Crush

Slow Cooker Hatch Green Chili Verde

From Foodie Crush

Why You Should Make It: Green chili is DELICIOUS and you can eat this over rice or as tacos.

One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese Damn Delicious

One Pot Mac & Cheese Chili

From Damn Delicious

Why You Should Make It: Everybody loves a good one pot dinner. And combining mac & cheese and chili just make sense! These other soups may be hearty, but they have nothing on this dish!

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Chili Damn Delicious

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Chili

From Damn Delicious

Why You Should Make It: A delicious chili loaded with seasonal vegetables is about the most fall thing you can eat.

5 Ingredient White Chicken Chili Damn Delicious

5 Ingredient White Chicken Chili

From Damn Delicious

Why You Should Make It: Mix up your usual chili dinner with some chicken and salsa verde—plus just three other ingredients!

Vegan Sweet Potato and Lentil Chili Damn Delicious

Vegan Sweet Potato & Lentil Chili

From Damn Delicious

Why You Should Make It: Skip the meat for an evening, but still enjoy a hearty bowl of chili that will definitely warm you through.

The Pumpkin Patch at Essington Farm

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A couple of weekends before Halloween, on our way back from visiting Luke’s parents for the weekend, we took a detour home to stop at Essington Farm in Wolverhampton. We wanted to pick out some pumpkins from their pumpkin patch and I had even read about a maize maze (corn maze, for us Americans).

Unlike our experience picking apples, the pumpkin patch was packed. We waited about 20 minutes just to turn into the car park and then there were people everywhere. It wasn’t quite the relaxing weekend afternoon I had imagined, but we still came away with some good pumpkins.

We didn’t spend much time wandering around looking for our pumpkins. It’s hard with pumpkins, I think, because if you find a good one, you want to grab it. You’ll never remember where it was if you want to come back for it and you can’t risk someone else snatching it up when you’re seeing if there’s anything better!

The original plan was to find just two, one for each of us to carve, but we ended up with four, including one white one. Of course our carved pumpkins wouldn’t last until our Thanksgiving dinner, so I wanted to get two more that would keep.

It seemed like there was a lot more of the farm to explore, including an area you could take a hay ride to. We wandered around the store a bit, but that was about it. We never did find out if they actually had a maize maze.

There’s this really awesome farm near my hometown in Colorado called Anderson Farms and it’s one of my favourite places to visit in the autumn. They have epic corn mazes (plus a “Terror in the Corn” maze and a zombie paintball area), they have activities for kids, and sprawling pumpkin patch, camp fires, and more. I think I’ve been going every year since middle school or high school and it’s always so fun. That’s definitely one thing I miss about the States this time of year and I doubt anything will come close in the UK.

We ended up getting a few smaller pumpkins that are actually British Cooking Pumpkins at the grocery store a few days later. They’ll be great for our Thanksgiving table if they last that long. And of course we had to pick up some “munchkins” at the grocery store too. Last week, I found some gorgeous white mini pumpkins at a little green grocery in Hampstead in London and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a couple of them as well. So yeah, maybe I went a bit overboard with the pumpkins this year, but they bring me joy, so who cares?

And now to our contest!

It’s been years since either of us have carved pumpkins — we intended to last year but never got around to it. After the Great British Drake Off debacle, we decided we would do a theme so that one of us didn’t carve a classic jack-o-lantern face while the other got super creative. We narrowed it down to Game of Thrones, Marvel, or Harry Potter, ultimately choosing Harry Potter.

Neither of us had ever used the technique where you basically shave off the pumpkin flesh rather than cutting all the way through. I don’t know about Luke, but I was kind of nervous that I would puncture my pumpkin and end up ruining my design. In the end, it worked out quite well. We learned a few things about it:

  • If you’re not going to have any opening at all, like on the Hogwarts pumpkin, you need to cut a hole in the back to let in oxygen for the candle flame. If you’re super creative, you can carve a shape into it to project onto the wall behind the pumpkin. I saw one that had Harry Potter holding his wand on the front and his Patronus was projected behind it. So cool!

  • You can do it slowly and carefully, like the Patronus pumpkin, so the shaved flesh is still smooth and even. On the Hogwarts pumpkin, it was rougher and uneven, but it sort of works because it makes it look like clouds.

I posted both of our completed pumpkins in my Instagram Stories and let my followers vote on the winner.

It was hardly a competition, Luke’s Patronus won in a landslide, with 72% of the votes!

The Great Pumpkin Cake

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Back in 2011, my sister Cady and I decided to make a pumpkin shaped cake ahead of Halloween. This year, I was determined to make it for the second time.

Enter: The Great Pumpkin Cake.

It’s surprisingly simple, so don’t be fooled. I promise, anyone can make this cake.

First, choose what flavour you want your cake to be. Of course you can have a pumpkin-flavoured cake, but I decided to use my favourite chocolate cake recipe: Chocolate Zucchini Cake from Sally’s Baking Addiction. If you’re nervous about using a bundt pan, I would recommend finding a recipe specifically for bundt cakes. I had to make two batches of batter to make two cakes (which normally makes a two-layer 9-inch cake), and halfway through it, I panicked that it wouldn’t cook through or come out of the pan, even though I had greased and floured the pan first. It did end up taking about 35-40 minutes to bake. Let the cake cool completely before you start assembling and frosting. Make your preferred buttercream frosting while you’re waiting.

If you’re serving your cake on a cake stand, a good tip is to put down four squares of parchment paper underneath the cake so you can easily pull them out when you’re finished. Put the first cake upside-down in the centre of your cake stand or plate. (You can trim the bottom if it’s not even, but remember no pumpkin is perfect!) Add a layer of frosting on the top and set the other cake on top. Since my bundt pan has wide and narrow ridges, I made sure to line them up properly.

I filled the hole with crumpled up foil rather than frosting because that would have taken A LOT of frosting. However, if you’re using mini bundts and love frosting, go for it! I just flattened the top of the foil, but made sure to keep it lower than the outside of the cake, since real pumpkins dip in toward the middle a bit.

Start with a thin crumb coat layer of your orange buttercream on your cake. Once it’s hardened, add a thicker layer. I was really crunched for time, so I started rushing toward the end of frosting it and especially while trying to reshape the ridges. If you want to see a great job of shaping buttercream to look like a pumpkin, check out Preppy Kitchen. When you’re done frosting, remove the parchment paper from under the cake. You should have very little to wipe up, if any.

When my sister and I made the cake in 2011, we broke off a real pumpkin stem to use, but we didn’t have any pumpkins yet, I decided to make a small batch of green buttercream to pipe into a stem. Since it needed to stand upright, I added a bit more powdered sugar than normal to make it stiffer. (By the way, I use Wilton’s gel food colouring, which gives a richer colour with less colouring. Especially in the UK, I haven’t been able to find a decent liquid food colouring.)

When serving, remember you’ve essentially made two two-layer cakes. You can either cut thinner slices, or cut normal slices and separate the two layers, if some people don’t mind a little less icing.


See, it’s a lot easier than it looks and it will definitely impress your friends and family!