By Dianne Bunis

Holidays always conjure up childhood memories and one of mine, my late Aunt Jo's "cut outs." When the delicious cookies were a big hit with my own children, I asked her for the recipe.

I treasure her handwritten letter containing the recipe, postmarked about 10 years ago. My aunt baked, cooked and lived well into her nineties, and always took time to write letters to me throughout my adult life, keeping me up to date with our family and keeping a special place in my heart for her.

P.S. Her secret is the canned milk.

Note: I don't think she would mind that I tweaked her original recipe with a healthier substitute, a non-hydrogenated, organic shortening that contains no cholesterol and 0 trans fat.

Ingredients (yields 3 dozen)

1/2 cup Spectrum organic all-vegetable shortening

1 cup sugar

2 well-beaten organic eggs

2 tbsp condensed milk

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Confectioners' sugar

Colored sugars

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, line two baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.

2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.

3. In a mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Add beaten eggs, milk, vanilla and mix until fluffy. To that, gradually add flour mixture to form dough.

Shape dough into a mound, wrap in wax paper and chill for 30 to 40 minutes.

4. Place a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface, lightly flour with confectioners' sugar. Slice mound into quarters and, working with one at a time, roll dough to 1/4" thick circle. Dip cookie cutter in confectioners' sugar each time before cutting cookie and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle cookies with festive colored sugars. Roll out scraps and repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly golden.

5. Let cool on sheet, then move to wire racks.