Snowman cookies

By Mary Heyl

The snow is falling, which means winter is here to stay! Time to bundle up, hit the slopes and prepare for the holiday season! Celebrate snow this week with some great make-ahead Christmas cookies, snowmen gifts to make or keep, and some festive DIY ornaments that will keep little hands busy when the snow is falling.

These snowmen cookies are tasty and fun to make—let the kids help you decorate so you can make a special snowman for each member of the family! Make the dough ahead of time and freeze up to 6 weeks if you’d like to get an early start on holiday baking.

In a large bowl, cream 1 cup of softened butter, 1 softened package of cream cheese and 2 cups sugar until blended. Beat in 1 egg, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and ¼ teaspoon of almond extract. In another bowl, whisk 3 ¾ cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of salt; gradually beat into the creamed mixture.

Refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes or until firm enough to shape. Preheat the oven to 325°. Place ¼ cup of sugar in a shallow bowl. For each cookie, shape the dough to make one 1-inch ball, one 3/4-inch ball and one 1/2-inch ball; press together to form a snowman. Gently coat with sugar. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Place the snowmen 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Break thin pretzel sticks in half; press two into snowmen for the arms. Bake 15-18 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Cool on pans for 1 minute. Move to wire racks to cool completely. Pipe icing on snowmen to form scarves, eyes, buttons and mouths. Use icing to attach orange gumdrops for noses (makes about 4 dozen).

Thinking of special gifts for teachers, bus drivers, babysitters and friends? These snowmen cocoa jars are the perfect gift that everyone will enjoy! You will need some mason jars, marshmallows (regular size), black and orange edible pens, a bulk container of hot cocoa mix, cellophane bags or sandwich bags, and tags, stickers and ribbon for decorating.

Use the food pens to make snowman faces on the marshmallows. Allow these to dry for about an hour. Fill a clear bag with some hot cocoa mix (about 1 cup) and seal. It’s a good idea to leave some space at the top of the bag so you can maneuver it into the jar. Place marshmallows around the top of the cocoa facing out of the jar and close the lid. If you like, add your own personalized sticker to the top of the jar or attach a tag with the cocoa recipe using a piece of cardstock, a hole punch and a ribbon. The recipe is simple: mix 3 tablespoons of cocoa into a 6-8 ounce mug of hot milk. Enjoy!

Explore your crafty side with these easy and festive tea light snowmen ornaments. Use a fine-point black permanent marker to draw a simple face on a battery operated tea light (the flame serves as the nose). Use an orange washable marker to color in the flame so that it is orange when the candle is lit and when it’s off.

Next, cut a piece of red pipe cleaner about 2.5 inches long. Curve it around the tea light (above the eyes) and add a small line of hot glue on both ends to hold it in place. Don’t glue it the entire way around so that you can later slide a ribbon under the pipe cleaner to hang it.