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Dining In: Sweet surprises for the holidays

recipes It's never too late to begin a family tradition of holiday baking. Be sure to communicate to younger children that baking must be done ONLY under adult supervision and oven duty is "off limits." Oven duty is okay for older kids and teenagers.
   Very young children can help by dumping measured ingredients into a mixing bowl and starting to stir a little. Preschoolers can assist in measuring ingredients, mixing the dough and rolling out small pieces with a rolling pin. They may even be able to use cookie cutters to make shapes.
   Kids in grade school can help decide what cookies to make. Under supervision, they can handle getting out all the tools, help set the oven temperature, measure out the ingredients and mix the dough. They'll also have a wonderful time icing and decorating each cookie.

Candy Cane Twists
   1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
   1 1/4 c. butter, softened
   1 tsp. peppermint extract
   1 tsp. vanilla
   1 egg
   2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
   1/4 tsp. salt
   1/3 c. finely crushed red and white peppermint candy or candy canes

   Heat oven to 350 F. In large mixer bowl combine powdered sugar, butter, peppermint extract, vanilla and egg. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy (2 to 3 minutes). Reduce speed to low; add flour and salt. Beat, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (1 to 2 minutes).
   Divide dough in half. Stir in candy into half of dough; beat food color into remaining half. Roll one teaspoon full of each dough to form 4-inch round ropes. Place two ropes side by side; twist gently like a rope and roll dough together. Repeat with remaining dough.
   For best results, complete cookies one a time to prevent drying out. Place two inches apart on cookie sheets; curve one end to form handle of cane. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until set. Cool one minute on cookie sheet.

Holiday Poke Cake
   2 baked 9-inch round white cake layers, cooled
   2 c. boiling water
   1 pkg. (4-serving) gelatin, any red flavor
   1 pkg. (4-serving) lime flavor gelatin
   1 tub (12-oz.) commercial whipped topping, thawed

   Place cake layers, top sides up, in two clean 9-inch-round cake pans. Pierce cake with large fork at 1/2-inch intervals.
   Stir 1 cup of the boiling water into each flavor of gelatin in separate bowls for two minutes or until completely dissolved. Carefully pour red gelatin over 1 cake layer and lime gelatin over second cake layer. Refrigerate 3 hours.
   Dip 1 cake pan in warm water 10 seconds; unmold onto serving plate. Spread about 1 cup of the whipped topping. Unmold second cake layer; carefully place on first cake layer. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining whipped topping.
   Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until ready to serve. Decorate as desired. Store leftover cake in refrigerator.

Christmas Wreaths
   3/4 c. margarine, softened
   1/2 c. sugar
   1/4 c. Real Egg Product
   1 tsp. almond extract
   2 c. all-purpose flour
   1/2 c. ground almonds
   Green and red candied cherries, chopped (optional)

   In bowl, mix flour, sugar and cornstarch; cut in margarine until crumbly. In medium bowl, using electric mixer at medium speed, beat margarine and sugar until creamy. Add egg product and almond extract. Stir in flour and ground almonds. Using pastry bag with 1/2-inch star tip, pipe dough into 1-inch wreaths, 2 inches apart, on ungreased baking sheets. Decorate wreaths with cherry pieces if desired. Bake at 400 F for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Store in airtight container.

Easy Cookie Ornaments
   1 c. (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
   1 c. sugar
   1 tsp. vanilla
   2 c. all-purpose flour
   1 c. oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
   1/4 tsp. salt (optional)
   Prepared frosting, melted chocolate, sprinkles or assorted candies, for decorating

   Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add combined flour, oats, and salt; mix well. Divide dough in half; shape each half into a roll, about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap; chill about 3 hours.
   Heat oven to 350 F. Unwrap rolls and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Poke hole at top of each cookie with drinking straw. (Repeat immediately after baking if hole closes.) Bake 11 to 13 minutes or until edges are light golden brown.
   Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Insert candy licorice string or ribbon through hole of decorated cookie. Tie ends together.

Santa's Jelly Fingers
   1 c. butter, softened
   3/4 . firmly packed light brown sugar
   1 egg, separated
   2 c. flour
   1/4 tsp. salt
   1 c. quidk-cooking rolled oats
   1 c. finely chopped walnuts or pecans
   Red currant or raspberry jelly

   In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk. blend well and gradually mix in the flour, salt, and oats. Chill the dough for at least an hour.
   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly beat the egg white. Shape the chilled dough in 1 1/2-inch ovals. Dip each in the egg white and roll in the chopped nuts. Place the ovals on an ungreased baking sheet and press an indentation along the center of each one with your index finger.
   Bake the cookies until golden around the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven for a moment to press the indentations again. Return the cookies to the oven and bake them for about 5 minutes more. Allow them to cool slightly and then fill the indentations with jelly. Remove the cookies from the baking sheets and let them continue to cool on wire racks.