The Best Of Springtime

IN THE KITCHEN

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Ah, spring is here, and it's time to think about garden parties and colorful ways to bring joy to your next gathering of family and friends. Keeping it simple by using shortcuts with ready-made mixes and springtime candy favorites will create just the right "pizzazz" for your next party.

For giving cookies and cupcakes a visual boost, jellybeans provide a low fat decorating alternative. Plus, lollipop cookies are sure to be a treat for young and old alike. They can be used as a centerpiece and then your guests can take them home as party favors.

Be sure to stock up on the pastel colors of M&M'S so you can design a variety of flowers and shapes in the coming months. Think about the bridal and baby showers you'll soon be planning -- and preparing -- for family members and special friends.

For more recipes, decorating, gift and family fun ideas, go to www.brightideas.com.

Springtime Strawberry Cake

1, 18-ounce box favorite cake mix

1 cup strawberry jam

2, 12-ounce containers whipped vanilla frosting

Red food coloring, paste or gel

1, 14-ounce bag Starburst Jellybeans

1, 16-ounce bag Starburst Tropical Fruit Chews

Prepare cake according to package directions. Bake in two 8-inch round cake pans.

Let cakes come to room temperature. Cut both into matching strawberry shapes. Layer with strawberry jam sandwiched between.

Tint frosting with red food coloring to desired shade, then frost entire cake.

Separate yellow jellybeans from bag and arrange on cake, following photograph as a guide, to appear as strawberry seeds.

Select and unwrap 14 green fruit chews. Warm in microwave 3 to 4 seconds, just to soften. Using fingers, press all fruit chews into one piece and slightly flatten. Using a rolling pin, roll out chews until wafer thin. Cut out two leaves. Gather up remainder and form stem. Place stem and leaves at top of cake.

Note: Can also be baked in 8-inch heart-shaped cake pans.

Makes 12 servings.

Bonnets

1, 18-ounce roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough or 10 4-1/2-inch cookies

10, 2-1/2-inch medium cupcakes, store bought or homemade

2, 16-ounce containers white frosting

Food coloring

1, 14-ounce bag each of M&M'S Milk Chocolate Candies for Easter; Starburst Jellybeans; Skittles Candies for Easter; and Starburst Fruit Chews

Roll sugar cookie dough to 1/4-inch thickness and press out 10 4-1/2-inch cookies. Bake the cookies according to directions on the package. Set aside.

Remove paper cupcake liner from cupcakes. Slice off rounded top of cupcake.

Ice top of cupcake with 1 tablespoon frosting. Turn cupcake upside down and place on the cookie. Set "cookie hats" on wire rack.

Divide icing into 4 bowls. Beginning with a few drops of food coloring, tint icing to desired pastel shade. One at a time, place icing into microwave for 15 seconds. Stir icing and check consistency for pourable consistency.

Pour frosting over "hats," covering them completely. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Decorate using candies.

To make hat ribbons, unwrap fruit chews and soften in microwave for 5 seconds. Then thinly roll and cut into thin ribbons and wrap around the hats.

Makes 10 bonnets.

Flower Cupcakes

1, 18.25-ounce box yellow cake mix

1, 16-ounce container white frosting

1, 16-ounce Starburst Jellybeans, Original or Tropical Fruits

Make cupcakes according to package directions.

Spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes and place jellybeans on top in a flower design.

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes.

Garden Cookies

1, 18-ounce roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

6 large green craft sticks

1, 16-ounce container prepared vanilla frosting

Assorted food coloring

2, 14-ounce each bags M&M'S Milk Chocolate Candies for Easter

6, 6-inch flowerpots or containers

6, Styrofoam squares or floral oasis

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Knead cookie dough and flour together until smooth.

Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out 6 tulip shapes (approximately 4 inches high and 3 inches wide) from dough, and transfer to cookie sheet. Gather up dough scraps and re-roll, if necessary.

Slide a craft stick underneath each cookie, and press it into dough. Bake until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer cookie sheet to wire rack.

While cookies are cooling, divide vanilla frosting among 4 bowls. Using food coloring, tint to pink, light blue, yellow and pale purple. Spread frosting over each cookie, and arrange chocolate candies on top. Let dry, about 30 minutes.

Fill flowerpots with Styrofoam.

Press craft sticks into Styrofoam. Arrange green candies around craft sticks.

Makes six large cookies

From Family Features Editorial Syndicate

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