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Desperation dinners: Sugar cookies are perfect Valentine's treat

Over lunch, I mentioned to my friend Karen Latta that I was looking for a good rolled sugar-cookie recipe like I used to make with my grandmother. She immediately offered her Nanny Edith's recipe for me to try.

"Is it easy?" I asked.

"Oh, super-easy, and the kids love, love, love them."

Karen is quite the accomplished baker, so I was a little skeptical that her idea of "easy" would align with my idea of easy. But I was pleasantly surprised. The ingredients are simple — I had everything at home without having to stop at the grocery. (In my single-person household where not a lot of baking is going on these days, that was a big surprise and bonus.)

The recipe flew together in a matter of minutes, and after chilling for an hour or so (the real secret to perfect cuts), they were ready to roll (pun intended).

These easy cookies are a blast to bake with kids. Even young tykes love to decorate them. And they survive quite well being shipped as sweet treats for those special people not at home.

Guess what my college girls are getting in the mail for Valentine's Day?

Nanny Edith's Sugar Cookies

Start to finish: 15 minutes prep, at least one hour chill time, eight to 10 minutes baking time

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix well. Turn the mixer to low, and slowly add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture. Mix just until a stiff dough forms.

Transfer the cookie dough to plastic wrap, and tightly secure. Refrigerate at least one hour and up to 12 hours.

To bake, preheat the oven to 350 F.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters of choice, and gently place the cookies on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake eight to 10 minutes, or until light gold in color. Allow to cool for a minute on a cookie sheet, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

Makes about 3-1/2 dozen cookies, depending on sizes and shape of cookie cutters.

Approximate values per 2-inch cookie: 61.5 calories (34 percent from fat), 2 g fat (1.5 g saturated), 11 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, 9 g carbohydrates, trace amount dietary fiber, 37 mg sodium.

Old-Fashioned Confectioners' Icing

Start to finish: five minutes

1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons milk (low-fat is fine)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Food coloring of choice

Stir together all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Adjust consistency by adding the confectioners' sugar by tablespoon to thicken or the milk by teaspoon to thin.

Divide icing into several bowls and, using a food coloring of choice, tint to desired color. Icing can be refrigerated for up to three days. Allow to come to room temperature before using to lightly ice (coat) cookies.

Makes about 1 cup, enough for four-dozen cookies.

Approximate values per teaspoon: 12.5 calories (1 percent from fat), trace amount fat (0 g saturated), trace amount cholesterol, trace amount protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 0 g dietary fiber, trace amount sodium.

Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross are co-authors of "Desperation Dinners!" (Workman, 1997), "Desperation Entertaining!" (Workman, 2002) and "Cheap. Fast. Good!" (Workman, 2006). Contact them at Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016, or send e-mail to Or visit the Desperation Dinners Web site at

© Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross.

Distributed by United Feature Syndicate Inc.