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I have always loved a good cut out sugar cookie.
 I definitely prefer it to a chocolate chip cookie, and it may just beat out a brownie too.  They are simple, can be made to go with any occasion, and everyone loves them.  But they do have a major flaw:  
My "Martha-ness" takes over when I bake these and they take me 
forever to make!  

I don't just roll 'em out and and slap some icing on top, I have this insane need to make them beautiful.  So, I bake and ice them and then painstakingly "paint" them all with food coloring.  When it come to the christmas cookies I'm even nuttier, I don't want to just make trees or snowmen, I want to make 10 different kinds of shapes.  For the past 5 years or so I've been making these cookies for my dear friend LuAnne's famous annual cookie exchange.  You need to bring about 120 cookies every year and as you can imagine painting 120 of these cookies is a little time consuming.
I've painted cookies that look like all the kids in the class for my children's school birthday treats, dreidels for the Hanukkah party at the temple where my children went to nursery school, and my "church cookies" are always the biggest hit at the bake sales held by our Junior Choir.
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Church Cookies for the jr. choir bake sale.
I get a kick out of folks who don't want to eat their cookie and ruin my little piece of art.  That's when I know someone has truly appreciated their cookie, and that really is what it's all about isn't it?  When people "Ooo" and "Ahh" over the cookies they are giving me back a compliment and a tiny piece of the care I put into them.  In that instant a tedious chore becomes a welcome labor of love.

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My son used to love painting cookies with Mommy!

 I think a little gratitude, thanks and appreciation goes a long way and not just when it's for my cooking.  

There are days when one of my children out of the blue will genuinely thank me for driving them somewhere and it makes my day.  
So, spread the love, this recipe is very easy and the dough is actually better if you make it ahead and let it chill at least a day or freeze it for much later.  
Merry Christmas! 

XO Martha

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dreidel cookies for Hanukkah

2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or lemon or almond extract (I prefer almond)


Sift together the four, baking powder and salt.  Cream together the shortening and sugar, then mix in the egg.  Add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk ad extract and blend well.  Chill dough overnight for best results.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Rool dough thin, press out desired shapes with cookie cutters. (Make sure your work surface is well floured.  THese cookies should be thin and you may want to use a spatial to transfer them to the cookie sheet.) Bake 7-10 minutes (check frequently especially if you have shapes with thin ends...the angle wings and reindeer legs tend to cook and brown quickly!) Cool on a wire rack.

Icing:
2 cups (I'm guessing?)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
a little milk or water
food coloring if desired

Start with one cup of powdered sugar and add the almond extract and a tiny bit of milk.  Stir and add more liquid or more sugar until you reach the right consistency, not runn and not clumpy.  Add coloring and ice away!