Monster Cookies, Camping, and Michael Jackson

monster cookies

Back when Thriller came out, versions of these cookies were everywhere--at school bake sales and church potlucks, in the lunch your Mom packed when your fourth grade class went on a field trip to the planetarium.  Peanut butter, oats, M&M's, no flour--they taste a little like no-bake cookies, but are much better.  I had them at least twice at Bethany's house last summer--in her kitchen waiting for Emmet to be born, and later in the summer when he was nursing the $%! out of her.  I made them Sunday night for our camping trip with Bethany and Chris and there are no leftovers.  Camping is that way.  It's alright to eat monster cookies when you first pull up to the campsite (unloading is hard work!), while you're cooking dinner ("The kids are hungry"), after dinner, and the next morning for breakfast while the bacon is cooking.  Almost every picture taken this weekend features the kids with chocolate smears around their lips.  Please, please forget that my previous post was about exercise and healthy eating.


Bethany's feet at the campfire

Bethany, very familiar with my weakness for "news," brought a copy of US Weekly for everyone's edification.  I let the others set up tents while I sat down with a cookie and read excerpts aloud from the Michael Jackson memorial feature.  Everyone was surprised with how much I talked about MJ during our time together--I downloaded some songs for the drive up, and found myself referencing him and his death enough times to surprise even myself.

It's not like he was a vital part of my formative years.  While everyone else was spending their babysitting money on Thriller and watching MTV, our family was listening to Keith Green and having picnics at the park. (If you don't know who Keith Green is, don't worry.  If you do, let's have coffee sometime.)  So I was profoundly uncool where music literacy was concerned, but I've since caught up and can sing along to Billie Jean as well as the next person.  Still, I've hardly paid attention to him at all until now.  Certainly, he had an incalculable influence on music, but not on me.  And it's very arguable whether he was a praiseworthy man in lots of other respects.

So here's my diagnosis of this fascination--celebrity deaths are cathartic, and they trot out the reality of death that many of us manage to avoid otherwise.  I'm not sad about Michael Jackson dying, but I'm sad about death and suffering in general. It's just that my regular laundry-folding, grocery-shopping life doesn't afford much chance to sit down and get serious about it. I've always thought the great mystery of human life is that we, individually and as a species, go on with such gusto and grand goals even though we are all going to die and we know it. Knowingly or not, we delude ourselves much of the time.

camp dinner

A few years ago, I started having lots of dreams about death.  I ended up really contemplating death (as much as I could without having a terminal illness or near-death experience) and stopped being scared of it.  So when something like MJ's death comes along, it's another chance for me to revisit these ruminations, be thankful for my (very trauma-free) life and the two strong legs that get me out of bed in the morning, and to remember that it's all going to end one day.  Driving up I-5 listening to MJ's greatest hits is the short route to these profundities.

You are so dear to have stayed with me this long when all you really want is the Monster Cookie recipe.  These will take you back--you should turn up the stereo while you bake them.

ready for all the little monsters

Monster Cookies
Makes 36 large cookies.  I got this recipe online somewhere last summer, but my new Baked cookbook also has a recipe. This is a combination of the two. It's very important that you refrigerate the dough for 4-5 hours. Because there's no flour, they will spread out too much in the oven otherwise.  And I use the bad-for-you peanut butter (Jif, Skippy, etc) because it's my little form of rebellion against my Adam's Natural Peanut Butter past (and I think the cookies turn out better).  You can also experiment with all sorts of other add-ins here (nuts, coconut, etc.) though I like them just like this. These cookies aren't very photogenic.  I think the photos make them look dry.  They are extremely moist and chewy.  Right, Bethany?

1/2 c. (1 cube) softened butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. + 2 Tb. packed brown sugar
3 eggs
2 c. peanut butter (I used Jif extra crunchy)
1/4 ts. vanilla
3/4 ts. light corn syrup (can't leave this out)
4 1/2 c. oats
2 ts. baking soda
1/4 ts. salt
1 c. M&M's
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. butterscotch chips

Cream butter.  Gradually add sugars, beating well.  Add eggs, peanut butter, vanilla, and corn syrup; beat well. Add oats, soda and salt, stirring well.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  REFRIGERATE DOUGH FOR 4-5 HOURS.

Preheat oven to 350 and butter a cookie sheet or line one with parchment..  Shape dough into balls (I do them on the large side) and put them on sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, making sure to take them out while they look a tad undone still.