February 10, 2013

Valentine's Day Jello cookies

Someone on my Twitter feed posted this quote a few minutes ago: "Get out there and improvise and take chances and don't be a perfectionist--leave that to the classical musicians"--Dave Brubeck. That will be my topic sentence for today.

I remember a story my piano teacher used to tell me. To put it in context, I grew up in Mississauga, Ontario, which also used to be the home of Jazz Pianist Oscar Peterson. My piano teacher used to tell me that someone he knew lived in the same building as Oscar Peterson. He was so excited to live there and be able to hear beautiful jazz music through the walls from a master pianist. When he was asked how it was living near him, he said, "It's driving me crazy. All I hear for hours on end is scales!" I don't know if the story was true or told to me so I would practice my scales. I still remember it though because I learned growing up that being good at anything takes time, practice and hard work.

The thing about food blogs is you sometimes don't get the whole story behind the picture. You don't actually know how much the recipe was tested, made and styled. When I make something for the first time I know that it sometimes might not turn out perfectly. Practice makes perfect. These Valentine heart-shaped Jello cookies turned out though.

I suppose Jello is not the most romantic of foods. It's usually what you eat when you're sick or can't eat anything else. Jello is a little bit goofy too, like the texture, the jiggling nature of it and those chunky bits you have to scrape at the bottom that I secretly like. For some reason, the video posted above makes me laugh every time. I think it's a testament to why people love Jello so much. You can use it to make something sweet for Valentine's Day, such as cookies, squares and heart-shaped treats and it makes a tasty dessert (sugar-free or regular) or snack and it's fun for any age.

Strawberry Jello Heart Cookies

These are easy cookies to make and the colour comes naturally from the Jello powder mix with no food colouring necessary. The cookies turned out beautifully; however, the squares I saw on Pinterest did not at all. This was the recipe and original photo for Jello Heart Squares:

This was how my mine turned out. They were so bad that they warranted their own "nailed it" meme.

The condensed milk did not set and cutting heart shapes out of the red jello was quite difficult. Most of the jello fell apart and I attempted some sort of vintage marbled looking creation with the leftovers. I'm sure there is nothing wrong with the actual recipe. Something went wrong along the way, that's all.

Just like the Muppets video, I had to laugh at the ridiculousness of it and I will probably be submitting my photo to the Craft Fail or Epic Pinterest Fail blogs soon.

Speaking of Valentine's Day, it really is like relationships though. There are ups and downs, good and bad moments, but sometimes you just have to laugh. Like baking, you want everything to turn out perfectly. The reality is, it takes hard work and sometimes a little bit of luck. You can even have the perfect plans (and tools, such as this shiny, new  candy thermometer), a beautiful vision and a bright picture of the future (ahem, Pinterest)....

Then the universe will tell you, nope, not today and at that moment you just have to relax a little, laugh it out, have fun and keep at it. Everything will turn out in the end. Ok, too many baking/relationship metaphors? I'm not an expert by any means--on relationships or even baking--so I'll go back to this now:

Maybe it's the winter cold funk, the fact that it's February or the "100 day flu" I've had that's made me a bit of a Debby Downer lately. Usually baking lifts me out a bad mood and other times the precise and intricate nature of baking frustrates me to no end. Last week I tried to make cake pops and they also came out quite 'Fail-Blog" worthy.

A few weeks ago I tried to make Lemon fudge and Maple fudge squares and they also didn't turn out quite right. Thank goodness for friends who care more about the taste than how much you slaved away to make it look like the food blog you saw it on. Because sometimes, things aren't going to turn out how you want them to. Sometimes I wish my life looked like one of those beautiful food and design blogs with perfectly photographed (and Instagram-ed) moments. Maybe someday it will.

Back to the cookies:

Jello Cookies Recipe from Justhelen.net

3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Jello powder (Strawberry, Cherry or Raspberry works for the red colour)
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp lemon baking emulsion (or vanilla works)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Additional food colouring if needed to enhance the colour


1. Cream butter, sugar and Jello powder together.
2. Add eggs and extract, then add flour, baking powder and salt and mix well.
3. Refrigerate the dough for a few hours or overnight.
4. Roll out the dough and cut it into shapes with a cookie cutter.

Heart Cookies

5. Sprinkle with coloured sugar or stick some conversation hearts in the middle of each cookie.
6. Bake for 400F for six minutes and let cool on a cookie rack. 

Strawberry Jello Heart Cookies

I am happy these turned out and had the tanginess and fruitiness of the Jello flavouring in them. In conclusion, I'm alright that I'm at the point in my life where I can still experiment, have meltdowns and dream about crazy things. And I'm glad I have people around me who will say, "Relax, you're doing a good job. You're doing the best you can and that's all that matters."

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