Of Mazes and Muffins

Happy Saturday, kiddos! And Happy Two Weeks Until Halloween!!!

Can you believe how fast October is flying by? (me either!)

As I watched the days passing by, I decided to dedicate one day to “Halloween Activities” this week. It was going to be a day full of my favorite Halloween-related things and it was going to be awesome.

The first order of business was to make my absolutely favorite pumpkin recipe EVER, Mini Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins.

IMG_2261

Seriously obsessed with these little morsels of fall goodness… they are the perfect combination of pumpkin, spice, chocolate, and almonds. Plus, their little cute size makes them easy to package up in clear bags as Halloween hostess gifts for all your Halloween (or any fall) gatherings.

After a morning of Halloween baking, I dug into my Halloween candy stash (shhh!), grabbed my mom, and we headed out to our family friend’s house. As some of you may know, every year around Halloween, our family friends create a huge loops-and-traps maze in their backyard and allow the public to come and try to solve it.

IMG_2269

It is a large undertaking for our friends, but it truly is a fun Halloween tradition that I have been enjoying for the past 18 years. It is never the Halloween season without a trip to the maze…

… in the daytime, of course! As I have recounted previously, I am a HUGE ‘fraidy cat so I decided to save myself the embarrassment of bursting into tears by only doing the maze in the daytime when all the scary elements of the maze are washed in bright sunshine.

IMG_2270

Like this witch (which I know is technically not IN the maze) is completely terrifying at night, but kind of adorable during the day!

Since it was a quiet break in the afternoon, I was allowed to grab my camera and snap some photos as I went through the maze. Which was great because then I could text pictures to my sister E and my family friend T (who built the maze!) about my progress/show them scary things in the maze/tell them to come from their respective work places to save me because I was lost (kidding about the last part).

So after grabbing my camera and phone, I approached the maze.

IMG_2272

And saw that they were very encouraging at my attempt to complete the maze in an hour or less…

IMG_2273

Ready? Set? Let’s go!

IMG_2298

When I tell my other friends about the maze, they all initially assume that it is either a corn maze or a maze made out of hedges. When I tell them that it’s actually burlap panels with hidden doors and passageways (AKA a loops-and-traps maze), they are very impressed (and want me to take them ASAP). It’s definitely a different kind of maze, one that I prefer to any other kind! (Plus, look how groovy it is!).

IMG_2279

While getting lost in the maze is my specialty, it is always reassuring that there is someone around to ask for help/hints. While I can’t seriously text T for help (because T is actually at work and I can’t just text him pictures of random burlap walls saying “Help me, I’m lost!”), I can always call up to the upper deck and have his mom (Mrs. S) give me hints. She and my mom are the best of friends and love to gab while I flounder around in the maze. Having the camera was helpful though – I was able to raise it up to ask for help (this is when they were telling me that I was hopelessly lost… big surprise!).

BUT, after that photo was taken, I actually got through the maze successfully (only two tries this year!) and in UNDER thirty minutes (cue happy music). I was absolutely thrilled by this development and encouraged my mom to try going through the maze too!

IMG_2294

Not sure if she appreciated having someone follow her around the maze, snapping photos, and giving non-verbal hints. Yet, even with all those distractions, she was able to get through it too! It was definitely a Halloween win for the family!

IMG_2265

And we celebrated at home with a Mini Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffin.

 

So, kiddos, how are you planning the weeks up to Halloween? Are you going to visit a Halloween maze or haunted house? Let me know!

Your pumpkin muffin obsessed, Halloween maze conquering friend,

C

Moustokouloura

IMG_6433

Happy Thursday, everyone! How’s your week been going?

Today is Holy Thursday, which means that we are three-quarters through Orthodox Holy Week – I cannot believe how quickly time has passed! It has been a whirlwind of clinical rotations, paper writing, and watching my mom whip up spectacular vegan dinners and one amazing vegan dessert that satisfies my late-night-paper-writing sweet tooth. With three days left until Easter, I’m sharing my parent’s adaptation on my Thea Goldie’s moustokouloura.

Thea Goldie was my godmother’s mother – I met her briefly when I was little so I don’t have any concrete memories of her. According to my mother, Thea Goldie was a feisty woman who could cook and bake like no body else… this cookie recipe is a testament to those baking skills.

It starts out with combining sugar and vegetable oil in the bowl of your stand mixer.

IMG_6367

Then comes the “mousto” part of the moustokouloura…

IMG_6368

WINE! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, wine. Mousto is the leftover residue of the grapes after they are crushed to make wine – since we don’t have any leftover grape bits, wine is a great (and easy) substitute. Crack open a bottle of your favorite red wine and pour some into the mixer (and maybe pour some for yourself!). We use a basic pinot noir but a merlot will work too! Just a word of warning – wine makes the color of the cookies… interesting. I’ll talk more about it in a minute, but if you are expecting totally brown cookies, you’re in for a surprise.

All that’s left is to combine the dry ingredients – flour, oat bran, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

IMG_6371

And gently mix them into the wet ingredients.

IMG_6373

Toss in some walnuts for crunch, mix, and you’re ready to go!

IMG_6375

Form into two logs. Score the logs by making several shallow cuts ½-inch apart in the top of each log – this will help with ease of cutting later. Chill them for an hour and then stick them in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes until the tops of the cookies are set.

IMG_6403

Yummy! Let them cool completely before proceeding.

As you can see in this photo, the wine turns the cookies blue-green! They are perfectly fine to eat – they just look a little different!

IMG_6409

Then cut the logs into pieces (like biscotti!) and lay them on a baking sheet flat-side down. Bake the cookies again for 12 minutes, flipping the cookies over halfway through the baking process.

IMG_6430

All that’s left is to dig in!

Enjoy these Lenten, vegan treats, everyone!

Your friend,

C

Moustokouloura

  • Servings: approximately 30-40 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup red wine

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup oat bran

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup chopped walnuts

 

Steps:

  1. In the bowl of the stand mixer, combine oil and sugar and mix to combine.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, oat bran, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  3. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Stir in the chopped walnuts.
  4. Form the dough into two equal logs, score the top of the logs ½-inch apart and chill in the fridge for an hour.
  5. Bake the logs in a preheated, 350° for 30 minutes. Let the logs cool completely.
  6. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs into pieces on the score marks. Lay the cookies flat-side down and bake in a 350° oven for 12 minutes, flipping the cookies over halfway through.

Serve with your morning coffee or as a midnight snack – enjoy!