Three days into a nor’easter, the library books have been read, the blocks built and rebuilt into every possible configuration, and the crayons (and everyone’s patience) are worn to nubs.  I have a few trick up my sleeve for coping with the monotony of indoor days like these.  Some of them happen in the kitchen.  Many come from memories of my own childhood.  Today’s activity involved both: we baked my grandmother’s mouse cookies.

The stiff, workable dough can be shaped however you like — no need to limit yourself to mice — or just rolled into balls and crisscrossed with the tines of a fork.  Grandma decorated hers with minced raisins for eyes and noses, peanut halves for ears, and red licorice laces for tails.  I subbed sunflower seeds for peanuts, and decided against trekking out for licorice (which didn’t sit right with the budding naturalist, who decided to stick an extra sunflower seed in the rear and call it a hamster).  However you adorn them, these soft, tender cookies are simply delicious.

Brown sugar mice

Yield:  Makes about 4 dozen

1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 c. dark brown sugar

1 egg

2 tsp. almond extract

1 tsp. vanilla extract (or omit the almond and use 1 tbsp. vanilla)

3 1/2 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp. fine sea salt

Chopped raisins, sunflower seeds or peanut halves, and red licorice laces cut into 3-inch lengths, for decorating

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine butter and sugar.  Beat on high speed, scraping down sides of bowl and beater every so often, until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add egg and extracts, beat until well mixed.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour and salt.  With mixer running on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter and egg mixture, scraping bowl and beater as needed, until evenly incorporated.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll rounded tablespoons of dough into 1 1/4-inch balls.  Taper balls at one end to form teardrop shapes.  Press in sides a bit to raise back and pinch in front to form snout.  Push in sunflower seeds or peanut halves to form ears.  Use small pieces of raisin for eyes and noses.  Press in licorice a bit to make a tail.  Bake for about 12 minutes or until tops are set and bottoms are lightly browned.  Let cool briefly on pan, then remove to wire racks.  Store at room temperature in a tightly sealed container.

Make it egg- and dairy-free: Use dairy-free margarine (I like Earth Balance Buttery Sticks) instead of butter.  If your margarine is salted, reduce salt in the recipe to 1/2 tsp.  To replace egg, add 2 tbsp. water along with vanilla extract and add 1/2 tsp. baking powder to dry ingredients.

sheet  Press in sides a bit to raise back and pinch in front to form snout.  Push peanut halves in to form ears.  2 pieces of raisins for eyes.  Press in licorice a bit to make a tail.  Bake 9-12 min. or til lightly browned on bottoms.  Makes 45 mice.