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Sugar cookies, plain or decorated, warm from the oven

Sugar cookies, warm from the oven or cooled and crisp, are a delicious and versatile treat. They can be round and completely undecorated or cut into the shape of automobiles, lions, or pumpkins.

For decorating, there is tinted butter icing or any of the popular candies, such as m & m's, lifesavers, and gumdrops.

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During my college days, sugar cookies were the easiest and least expensive cookies to make. The ingredients were always available in the dorm kitchen where a friend and I spent many hours baking.

Here is the recipe. For best results, use butter. Margarine may be substituted but the texture and flavor are not quite the same. Sugar Cookies 1 cup butter 1 3/4 cups sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 teaspoons almond extract, optional 2 eggs 5 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking powder

Cream butter, add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add vanilla, almond extract, and eggs. Mix until smooth. Add 1 cup of flour and baking powder. Gradually add remaining flour; beat well.

Dough should be firm and easy to handle. Divide it into quarters for easy handling. Roll dough onto floured board, one quarter at a time, and cut out with cookie cutter.

Bake at 410 degrees F. 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. Makes 4 to 6 dozen cookies.

The following project is a lot of fun, and very decorative. At school, we made a cookie tree for our friends just before the winter holidays.

Cookie Tree

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Make and decorate sugar cookies. Collect small dead branches from trees or shrubs. You will need brightly colored embroidery thread, and large, sharp sewing needles.

Arrange branches in a sturdy container. Using embroidery thread and a needle, poke holes in the top of the cookies and make 3 to 4 inch hangers and hang them on the branches.

This makes an unusual and pretty ''tree'' that your family and guests will enjoy. It is also a good project to do with children on a rainy day.

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