Ho! Ho! Ho-Liday Fun!

IN THE KITCHEN

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This year, creating holiday family fun is simple with these easy-to-follow recipes and some ready-made mixes that provide shortcuts in the kitchen. One of the important elements of the holiday season is to spend more time together as a family and less time trying to make everything perfect.

Occasions in the kitchen as a family will provide lasting memories for years to come. Even the littlest hands can help decorate cookies with colorful chocolate candies.

Start a family album of holiday baking photos and be sure to include the recipes. Before long you will have captured the joy of the season as a treasure to pass on to your children.

Santa Cupcakes

1, 10- or 12-ounce bag Pop'ables 3 Musketeers, Pop'ables Milky Way or Pop'ables Snickers Candies

3 M-azing Milk Chocolate Bars Filled with M&M'S Minis Chocolate Candies

1, 14-ounce bag M&M'S Milk Chocolate Candies for the Holidays

1, 18.25-ounce box yellow cake mix

2, 16-ounce cans vanilla frosting

Red food coloring

Red decorators icing (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard 12-cup muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.

2. Reserve 48 Pop'ables; chop remainder.

3. Prepare cake mix according to package instructions. Fold chopped candy into batter. Fill each cupcake cup 2/3 full, bake

18 to 21 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

4. Put 1 can (2 cups) vanilla frosting into resealable plastic bag, set aside. Tint remaining can vanilla frosting pale pink, and use to frost cupcake tops.

5. Cut each chocolate bar into 4 rectangles, cut rectangles diagonally to make 8 triangles. Frost each triangle with red icing, if desired.

6. Snip small corner of plastic bag with vanilla frosting. Decorate cupcakes as follows:

Hat: Use frosting to attach a rectangle on top of each cupcake.

Face: Dot each cupcake with Milk Chocolate Candies for the Holidays for eyes, nose and mouth. Place two reserved Pop'ables on either side of nose for cheeks.

Beard and moustache: Use frosting to dot bottom of each cupcake in shape of beard and moustache.

Makes 24 cupcakes

Snowman Cookies

1, 18-ounce roll refrigerated cookie dough

1/3 cup flour

1 cup prepared vanilla frosting, divided

1, 14-ounce bag M&M'S Milk Chocolate Candies for the Holidays

1, 16-ounce bag Starburst Fruit Chews

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Knead cookie dough with flour until smooth.

2. Roll dough into three sets of differently sized balls. Roll 18 balls of each size:

1-1/4-inch, 1-inch and 3/4-inch.

3. On non-stick cookie sheet, place one of each size ball together, descending in size, just like a snowman.

4. Bake 15 minutes. Remove and cool completely.

5. To decorate, first spread top of each snowman cookie with approximately 1 tablespoon vanilla frosting.

Eyes, nose and buttons: Dot frosting with Milk Chocolate Candies for the Holidays.

Scarf: Soften 18 fruit chews and roll each color into thin strip. Then, using tip of sharp knife, cut strips into 1/2 x 3-inch rectangles. Wrap one strip around each snowman cookie.

Hat: Soften 9 fruit chews and roll each color into thin strip. Then, using tip of sharp knife, cut 2-inch triangles. Attach hat to top of each snowman cookie. Dot hat with Milk Chocolate Candies for the Holidays.

Makes 18 cookies

Candy Angel Choir

1, 16-ounce box confectioner's sugar

6 tablespoons water

1/4 cup powdered egg whites or meringue powder

Assorted food coloring

8 ice cream sugar cones

Resealable plastic bag

Decorating sugar (assorted colors)

1, 14-ounce bag M&M'S Milk Chocolate Candies for the Holidays

8, 2-1/2-inch store-bought cookies

8 Starburst Fruit Chew Pops

Cardboard Dragées

1. Combine confectioner's sugar, water and egg whites (or meringue powder) in large bowl. Beat until stiff and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Using food coloring, tint frosting to desired colors, set aside.

2. Snip 1/4-inch tip from top of each ice cream cone.

3. Fill resealable plastic bag with meringue icing, twist tightly, and snip hole in corner. Pipe cones with icing and sprinkle with decorating sugar. Let dry 20 minutes.

4. Put 1/3 cup Milk Chocolate Candies for the Holidays inside each cone. Pipe icing (as "glue") around large opening of each cone, and seal shut with a cookie. Carefully invert each cone so that cookie forms base.

5. Once all cones have cookie bases, insert unwrapped pop into small hole at tip of each cone. Pipe icing at base of pop "head" to help secure it to cone.

6. Decorate cones with Milk Chocolate Candies for the Holidays by using a dot of icing to place each candy piece on each cone. Cut wing shapes from cardboard, ice and attach to cones with icing. Before piping hair, add food coloring to icing, if desired. Arrange dragées in circle on top of hair for halos.

7. Let cones dry, about 2 hours.

Makes 8 figures

Christmas Star Cookies

1, 18-ounce roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough

1, 23-ounce bag Snickers Miniatures

1, 14-ounce bag M&M'S Milk Chocolate Candies for the Holidays

1 tube white decorative icing

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll cookie dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Press out 20 large cookies with 4, 1/2-inch star cookie cutter.

2. Place half the cookies on baking sheet and set aside. Using 2-inch star cookie cutter, press out centers of remaining cookies. Place both cut stars and center-cut stars on baking sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool.

3. While they cool: Chop 16 Miniatures and microwave in 15-second intervals, until spreadable. Spread large uncut cookies with melted Miniatures. Place large cut-out cookies on top. Sandwich small star cookies with melted Miniatures.

4. Decorate cookies with Milk Chocolate Candies for the Holidays by attaching them with decorative icing.

5. Scatter small stars among larger stars to add extra spirit to the holiday cookie tray.

Makes 10 cookies

For other unique holiday recipes, gifts and family fun activities, visit www.brightideas.com.

Recipes courtesy of Family Features Editorial Synd.

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