Homemade ornaments for the family Christmas tree

Most children delight in helping in the kitchen. Sugar cookies, popcorn balls, and gingerbread cookies are a few of the ornaments they can make for decorating the family Christmas tree. Almost any cookie recipe can be adapted for use as a Christmas recipe. Decorating the cookies with red and green food coloring, sprinkles, or glazed cherries is usually enough to keep children busy for hours.

Creaming butter, cracking eggs, and mixing flour are activities most youngsters can do on their own with minimal supervision. If you feel your children are too young to make cookie dough by themselves, let them help measure, pour, and stir. Or you might make it yourself then let them roll it and cut out the cookies themselves.

Establishing individual work stations -- dough, rolling pin, cookie cutters, frosting, and candy decorations -- will help smooth out any possible conflicts. It also makes it easier for the adult to supervise activities. Sugar Cookies 1 cup butter 1 3/4 cups sugar 2 eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla 5 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking powder Royal icing Embroidery floss

Cream butter, add sugar, and beat until soft. Add vanilla and eggs. Gradually add flour and baking powder.

Use hands to form dough into 2 balls. Roll out on floured board and cut with cookie cutters. Make a hole in uncooked dough for a string for hanging.

Bake at 410 degrees F. 8 to 10 minutes. Makes about 5 dozen cookies. Decorate with royal icing tinted with food coloring (see recipe in gingerbread house story).

Cut embroidery floss into 10-inch lengths. Thread a large needle and pull floss through cookie hole. Tie a knot and hang cookie on tree. Popcorn Balls 1 cup butter 2 1/2 cups brown sugar 1/2 cup corn syrup 1 teaspoon vanilla 6 quarts popcorn Red and green ribbon

Melt butter and brown sugar in medium-sized saucepan, stirring constantly, over medium heat. Add corn syrup and vanilla. Cook until sugar is dissolved, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Mix with popcorn and cool until popcorn sticks together. If mixture is not cool enough, popcorn balls will fall apart. To shape balls, take enough to make 3- to 4- inch balls and press firmly into rounds. Yield: about 15 popcorn balls.

Cut ribbon into 15-inch lengths, allowing 2 for each ball. Secure ribbon around ball and use to tie to tree. Gingerbread Cookies 1 cup butter 1 cup brown sugar 1 1/4 cups molasses 3 eggs 8 to 9 cups flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons cinnamon 2 teaspoons ginger 2 teaspoons nutmeg Silver balls Cinnamon candies Raisins White embroidery floss Royal icing

Cream butter until light and fluffy, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add brown sugar and molasses. Beat in eggs. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

Add 7 cups flour mixture, 1 cup at a time, to the butter mixture. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead in remaining flour. Dough should lose its shiny texture but retain elasticity.

Roll dough onto floured board and cut with gingerbread cookie cutters. Make a hole in the uncooked dough for hanging. Bake at 375 degrees F. 8 to 10 minutes. Makes approximately 5 dozen cookies.

Decorate cookies using royal icing (see gingerbread house story for recipe). Cinnamon hearts, raisins, and silver balls may also be used.

Cut embroidery floss into 10-inch lengths. Thread a large needle and pull floss through hole in cookie. Tie a knot and hang on tree.

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