Cookies become a palette for imaginative children armed with color frosting

KIDS IN THE KITCHEN

November 25, 1992|By Beth Hillson | Beth Hillson,Contributing Writer

From turkeys to jingle bells, from menorahs to Christmas wreaths, crunchy oatmeal cookies on a stick stand ready to become your personal canvas. Make the cookies a day ahead so they are cool and crisp before decorating.

Make a batch of holiday goop -- that's the frosting-- and divide it among four to six bowls, adding a different food color to each. Mix colors to make other favorites.

Then dig out some little paint brushes (the kind that come in the watercolor paint sets). Wash them well with soap and water and dry them. Then paint away to create festive designs to fit the season or your mood. Add candy and miniature marshmallows to make faces. Use black string licorice to create hair -- or tentacles. Have your own contest to see who can make the most awesome picture, or the silliest Santa.

Kids 9 and over can mix the cookie dough and frosting without help. Those under 11 may need some assistance removing hot pans from the oven. Kids of all ages can roll the dough into balls, insert sticks, and flatten the cookies into circles.

A word of caution for all chefs: While beaters are in use, never place fingers, spatulas, spoons or other objects near them. Before scraping batter from beaters, turn off switch and unplug appliance. Use potholders to take hot pans from the oven. Push cookie sheets away from the counter's edge so little fingers won't be tempted to grab the pans while they're cooling.

Do ahead: Measure ingredients and cover with plastic wrap until time to bake. Dough may be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Equipment: 2-3 cookie sheets; 2 large mixing bowls; portable electric mixer; set of measuring cups; set of measuring spoons; XTC rubber spatula; 24 wooden sticks (such as Popsicle sticks); wire rack; metal spatula.

Cookies on a stick Makes 24 cookies.

1 1/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature

1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups uncooked oatmeal (instant or regular)

1 cup crunchy rice cereal

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the butter and sugar in one mixing bowl. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. In the other bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Add to the butter mixture and mix with spatula, just until you don't see any white flour. Stir in the oatmeal, rice cereal and chocolate chips.

Roll dough into 1 1/2 -inch balls and set about 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Insert a stick through the middle of the side of each ball. Make sure it goes all the way through. Flatten each ball with your hand until it's doubled in size and much flatter. Bake 14 minutes or until light brown. Remove pans and set on wire rack to cool completely. Use a metal spatula to remove them from the cookie sheet. Store cookies in a flat container for up to three days before decorating. (See frosting recipe below.)

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A word of caution for all chefs: See note above about using electric beaters. Be sure to use new paint brushes or those that come with water color sets only. Others may have leftover chemicals in them that cannot be washed away with soap and water.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Do ahead: Frosting can be made up to a week in advance. Store in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before adding food coloring and frosting the cookies.

Equipment: electric mixer; rubber spatula; a large mixing bowl; set of measuring cups and spoons; 4-6 small bowls; 4-6 small paint brushes

Holiday goop (confectioners sugar frosting) Makes 3 cups frosting.

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) butter, softened to room temperature

3 cups confectioners' sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3 tablespoons milk

1 food color kit (four basic colors)

In the mixing bowl, beat the butter until smooth and fluffy. Add confectioners' sugar and mix with the spatula until moist. Beat on low until fluffy. Add vanilla and 2 tablespoons of milk and beat on low to combine. Mixture should be soft enough to stick to a small paint brush. If it's too stiff, add more milk (1 teaspoon at a time). If it's too runny, add a little more confectioners' sugar (1 tablespoon at a time).

Divide the frosting into four or six small bowls. Mix several drops of food coloring into each bowl and stir until you find a color you like. Once you've done all four primary colors, mix some together to make a couple of unusual colors -- you can do as many as you have bowls and paint brushes for.

Tips: These cookies don't have to be for any special occasion. You can create your own designs. Use them for a party favor or just a rainy day project.

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