Monday, April 18, 2011

French Toast

One of the challenges of being part of a two-person household is eating fresh bread before it goes stale - or becomes brick hard. This French toast recipe is a family favorite and the mainstay of our Christmas brunch.

When there's bread left over after a Saturday night meal or dinner party, it often shows up the next morning in this form.  If I don't have a loaf's worth of bread, I cut the recipe in half and bake it in an 8" x 8" pan.

1 ten ounce loaf French bread, challah, or other fresh bread
8 eggs
3 cups milk
4 tsp sugar
¾ tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 Tbsp butter cut into small pieces

Grease a 9” x 13” glass pan; cut bread into 1” slices. Arrange in one layer in pan.

In large bowl, beat eggs with remaining ingredients – except butter. Pour over bread, cover with foil, refrigerate overnight.

To bake, uncover pan, dot with butter pieces. Bake 350 degrees 45 to 50 minutes until puffy and light brown. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Serve with syrup and butter.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Vegetable Stock: Take 2

In honor of Earth Day (April 22), Favorite Recipes from the Mouse House is offering a series of recipes incorporating food that is usually discarded. I'm starting by recycling my recipe for vegetable stock originally published on Saturday, March 6, 2010.

Vegetable Stock

1. Collect clean peelings, ends, and other pieces of vegetables that you usually discard or compost in a covered container in the freezer. I use peelings from potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions, and garlic; the pieces you cut off from celery, leeks, and scallions; the end bits from onions, carrots, parsnips, and garlic. Basically any part of a vegetable that I might use in a soup or a salad gets saved in the freezer until I have approximately 2 cups of ‘stuff’ for my stock.

2. During the good weather when I compost most of my fruit and vegetable waste, I may not have a stash of vegetable peelings in the freezer. If I want to make a soup with summer vegetables, I’ll prepare all the vegetables I plan to use in my soup, store them in the refrigerator for a day and use the peelings, ends, and other bits to make stock.

3. Fill a big pot with water and add the vegetables. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and cook for an hour or so. The liquid will be a light amber color.

3. I use a combination of a ladle and a slotted spoon to transfer the stock to one bowl (or another pot) and the vegetable matter to a second bowl. This takes a bit of time and, as I get close to the bottom of the pot, I pour the last bit of liquid through a fine mesh sieve (or colander) into the bowl holding the rest of the stock.

4. If I am freezing the stock for future use, I measure out either 1 or 2 cups at a time and place in a Tupperware or RubberMade container, or a freezer bag, marking the quantity on the container.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


From the “Friends of the Hitching Post to Benefit Mission of Deeds Cookbook”

When she was little, Allison would look at the front of our neighbor’s house after a snowstorm and ask, “Where does their snow go?” Without fail, after every storm, their sidewalk, stairs, and walk would be clear – and not a snow pile in sight. Meanwhile, the small yard between the Mouse House and the street would be filled with piles of snow from our driveway, front walk, and sidewalk. (And no, he wasn’t piling his snow in our yard….)

Years later this same neighbor bought a snow blower, and began to clear the Mouse House sidewalk in addition to his own driveway, stairs, and sidewalk. And I began to offer baked goods in exchange as well as flowers from the garden in the spring, summer, and fall. Everyone benefits from this arrangement.

Yesterday I planned to make pumpkin bread. The recipe makes three loaves: one for my neighbor, one to bring to my mother today, and one to freeze. Uncharacteristically for me, I decided to be sure I had all the ingredients before starting – only to discover that I had two eggs in the refrigerator, not the three the recipe called for. Time for Plan B. What could I make that was easy to make, made enough to share, and, most important needed no more than two eggs?

The answer? Hermits. Something I love, rarely make, and oh so easy.  Here’s the recipe; let me know what you think.

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 4 Tbsp. water
  • 1 cup (or more) raisins
  • Egg for wash

  • Mix the first six ingredients together in bowl. Set aside.
  • Beat together the next five ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture and beat well. Add raisins.
  • Lightly flour hands, then roll dough into sausage-like strips. Place on greased cookie sheets, three rolls per sheet.
  • Brush with beaten egg.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Dough will look a bit soft when removed from oven. Cool on rack.
  • Cut strips into slices when slightly cooled.  Store in tightly closed container.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chocolate Walnut Fudge

Sometimes what seemed like a good idea at the time can come back and haunt you.

When I was in my 20s I began giving homemade fudge at Christmas.  Always from the recipe on the Marshmallow Fluff jar and loaded with sugar and butter.

Over the years, Durkee-Mower adapted their recipe for microwave ovens, eliminating the need to stand at the stove and stir – a good thing – except, if you didn’t pay attention, the mixture would bubble up and spill all over the inside of the microwave.  And, cleaning up that sugary, buttery mess is not fun.

Some years I would entertain the idea of substituting cookies, or buying the fudge, only to reminded by my own family it was a ‘tradition’ and I had to make the fudge. Be careful what traditions you start.  It has been over 30 years now and I’m really tired of making fudge…..

This year I tried a new recipe – with great success. Returned to standing at the stove and stirring – and using a candy thermometer.  To my surprise the process was not as bad as I recalled. And, I discovered that I prefer the taste of this fudge recipe to the Fluff one. Just don’t tell my friends at Durkee-Mower….

Chocolate-Walnut Fudge

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
½ cup half and half
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate bits
½ cups chopped walnuts

Lightly butter an 8-inch square pan.
In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, corn syrup, half and half, and salt. Stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Brush down any sugar crystals that form on the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in hot water.  Boil for 2 ½ minutes and then stir in the chocolate until melted and well blended. Continue to boil, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reads 234 degrees F, 7 to 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool until almost room temperature or 110 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 15 minutes. Using an electric hand mixer, beat the fudge until the color dulls and the fudge is creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the walnuts by hand.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with a spatula. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and refrigerate until firm, about 6 hours. Cut into 2 inch  pieces.

Makes 16, 2 inch bars.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Easy Apple Tart

I love, love, love pies. With a caveat: my mother has to make the crust. Her crust is so good that most others fail in comparison.  Including my own. Which is why I’ve come to rely on Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust: It is easier than making your own and while nowhere near as good as my mother’s, it bakes into the soft, slightly buttery and chewy crust I prefer.

Torn out of a magazine, this recipe is easily adaptable to whatever fruit I happen to have. It takes less time to make than a 'regular' pie and, without a top crust must have fewer calories per slice.

My no-longer-secret step?  Let the fruit mixture sit for 15 minutes before spooning onto the crust to let the cornstarch mixture absorb excess juice.

Easy Apple Tart

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Makes 8 servings

1 refrigerated pie crust
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
4 cups peeled, thinly sliced apples (4 medium apples)
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon sugar, for glaze

Prepare crust as directed on package. Place on baking sheet.

Mix ¾ cup sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Toss with apples. Let sit for 15 minutes. Spoon mixture into center of crust, spreading to within 2 inches of edges. Fold 2 inch edge of crust over apples, pleating crust as needed. Brush crust with egg white; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar.

Bake in preheated 425 degree oven 20 minutes or until apples are tender. Cool slightly before serving.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

Tonight I made the last of the quick breads I'm giving as Christmas gifts. I can't remember where I got this recipe; the only memory that comes to mind is my family history with the One Pie canned pumpkin and squash brand.

I come from a family of cooks and bakers. Everything we ate (except bread) was homemade. In the summer we had a big garden; when I was very young we lived on a farm with chickens, cows, geese, and pigs - all of which contributed to our food supply. Later, after we moved to a suburb of Boston, my father worked as a salesman for a frozen food company, so if the food wasn't fresh, it was frozen. I don't remember eating anything that came from a can (except tuna fish - my school lunch of choice for 12 years - and the One Pie brand pumpkin and squash that my mother used for her pies). I continue that legacy today - One Pie canned pumpkin is my choice for most of my the recipes that include pumpkin. So, for tonight's pumpkin bread, I ignored the two sugar pumpkins that I purchased at the local farm stand and turned to my stash of One Pie pumpkin...

Pumpkin Bread
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Makes two standard loafs or eight mini loaves.

2/3 cup butter
2 2/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 can One Pie Pumpkin (16 ounces)
2/3 cup water
3 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup raisins

Grease 2 9x5x3 inch loaf pans or 8 mini loaf pans.
Cream butter and sugar, then stir in eggs, pumpkin, and water.
In separate bowl mix flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves.
Gradually add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture, mixing well after each addition.
Last stir in nuts and raisins.
Pour into prepared pans. Bake large loaves for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Bake mini loaves for 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool on wire rack for ten minutes, then turn loaves out of pans. Continue to cool.
Wrap tightly. Loaves freeze well.

Vegetarian Lasagna

Holy Week begins tomorrow: for my friends who are clergy or lay leaders in their churches, it is one of their busiest weeks of the year. This week the Mouse House will feature easy, make-ahead meals that can be stored in individual or family sized portions and frozen.

My first choice is vegetarian lasagna. My first memory of eating lasagna was as a young adult. It was in the mid 1970s and my grandmother was making dinner for her extended family. She served lasagna: from a recipe which called for cottage cheese instead of ricotta. What did we know? With our Scottish/English/Irish/Swedish heritage our knowledge of Italian food was spaghetti and meatballs and pizza. We were a meat/vegetables/potatoes kind of family. And dessert. Always dessert.

A few years later, I was dating and later married a man whose grandparents had all been born in Italy. His mother was a fabulous cook. I learned how to make lasagna, and never again, did it include cottage cheese instead of ricotta.

Vegetarian Lasagna

1 pound lasagna noodles
1 (15 oz.) container ricotta cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
2 (26 oz.) jars pasta sauce
1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (or fresh)
1 cup shredded carrots
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
Chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350°.

1. Cook noodles as package directs.

2. In medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and eggs. Mix well.

3. Cook frozen or fresh spinach (chop into small pieces if using fresh); press all of the water out of the spinach. Add to cheese and egg mixture.

4. Grate carrots and add to cheese and egg mixture.

5. In a 14" by 11" by 2" pan, spread 1 cup pasta sauce. Layer with half each of the lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese mixture, pasta sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Repeat layering. Top with parsley.

6. Bake lasagna, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Lasagne is even better the second day!