By The Spoonful


Monster Cookies

When I think of either of my grandmas, I start to crave cookies. My mom’s mom was a farmer’s wife who makes these perfectly shaped chocolate chip cookies; so perfect my family often jokes they have to be store-bought. My dad’s mom was a wonderful country-farm-housewife-cook, and one of the best bakers I have ever known. Growing up only 3 miles from her, my family was often spoiled with her wonderful baked goods, especially her cookies. If the cookie jar was empty, no problem; backups were always in the freezer.

When she passed away, the one token by which I really wanted to remember her was a cookbook — any cookbook really — that she used. I wanted one with food splatters and dog-eared pages, with handwritten notes in the margins. But after a person dies, it’s surprising how quickly things disappear. It was difficult, more so than I had anticipated, locating a cookbook she actually used. My parents knew I wanted a cookbook, and they had set aside a few large storage tubs filled with random cookbooks and “Taste of Home” magazines. My grandma loved “Taste of Home” and had saved most of her subscription copies; some of the magazines I found were from the early ‘90s and had missing pages because she liked cutting out recipes. The few cookbooks I found in the tubs were old but looked unused. After searching through the first tub and most of the second, thumbing through the magazines as I went, I found what I was looking for. Two good cookbooks that fit my “used and abused” qualifications: “Farm Journal: Homemade Cookies” and “Country Cooking: By the Amish of Buchanan County, Iowa.”  

The first caught my eye first because of the unique bookmarks still in place marking what I can only guess to be recipes of interest to my grandma. An emory board marked “Circle Ranch Oat Cookies” and “Oatmeal/Coconut Crisps.” A newspaper clipping for a sugar cookie recipe marked a page for yet another sugar cookie recipe; I can only guess she was comparing the two. A napkin, a piece of junk mail, a torn envelope all marked other grease-stained pages. This was what I was looking for! But it was the other cookbook that will end up being a goldmine of sentimental value. The cover was a dirty brown but looked as if it once was a clean beige. A bound book with little damage, the pages still a crisp white and food splatter free. Maybe not quite “used and abused,” but as they say, never judge a book by its cover.

When I opened the front cover, my heart jumped, and a smile rose on my face. I found a recipe written on the back of the front cover page, written in my grandmother’s own handwriting, for monster cookies.

Monster cookies are my absolute favorite; who doesn’t love peanut butter, oatmeal, M&M’s and chocolate chips all in one tiny bite? I don’t recall any specific memory of her making or me eating these cookies, but she sure made a lot of cookies, and I sure ate a lot of cookies, so chances are…

This recipe, if made as written, would probably yield enough cookies to feed the entire town I grew up in, population 300. I often have wondered why she wrote this particular recipe down on the back of the front cover of this cookbook. Did she hear it on the radio? She often got recipes from the “Open Line” radio show on WMT 600AM radio. I guess I’ll never really know.

Original Recipe:

Monster Cookies
12 beaten eggs
2 lbs. brown sugar
4 cups white sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. Karo syrup
8 tsp. soda
1 lb. butter
3 lbs. peanut butter
18 cups oatmeal
1 lb. chocolate chips
1 lb. M&Ms

Mix ingredients in order.
Use ice cream scoop.
Bake 12 mins 350°F.
Do not over bake (does no use flour)

It was only a few years ago my brother and I decided to make this recipe our grandma jotted down. We did the math (OK, so he did the math), and we decreased the recipe to one fourth of the original version. Reducing the recipe by a fourth yields about a dozen cookies. Since that day, these cookies have now become my favorite “go-to cookie.” When I’m visiting relatives or friends, when I’m having that urge to make cookies, or when I’m having a bad day and need a good cookie-dough fix, this is the recipe I make. I actually have the smaller-yielding recipe jotted down on a slip of paper that I keep on my fridge for easy access.

These cookies are my favorite not just because of the sentimental factor but because it makes a darn good cookie! The final product is a perfect crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside cookie confection. I love making baked goods as a special treat for others, and I’ve made these cookies for family and friends numerous times.  But I tend to make them the most for my sister. When my sister returned from a three-month trip to Spain, I made monster cookies as a homecoming gift. When she moved to North Carolina and was a bit homesick, I sent her monster cookies. I’ve also made her these cookies for her birthday instead of cake. I give her the special cookie treatment because of her reaction to getting them — the I’m-not-sharing-these-with-anyone reaction.

As always, I love adding that special extra something to make the cookies more personal.  When I made the homecoming cookies for my sister returning from Spain, I put only red and yellow M&M’s (for the Iowa State Cyclones!!) in the cookie dough. Turns out Spain’s flag colors are the same as Iowa State’s school colors. Go figure. Beyond that, any holiday M&M’s work to make this cookie festive, too.

One more reason I love this recipe is its lack of flour, making it already gluten-free. As long as you use a certified gluten-free oat such as Bob’s Red Mill Rolled Oats, you should be safe. My aunt follows a gluten-free diet, so she can enjoy these cookies along with the rest of the family when I come to visit with baked goods in hand.

By itself, this recipe for monster cookies has brought me much joy, from sentimental value in carrying on my grandma’s legacy to the joy in making baked goodies for my family and friends. In sharing this recipe with you, I hope it also brings you as much joy.

Modified Recipe:

Monster Cookies

by By The Spoonful

Makes 4-5 dozen

  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp. light corn syrup
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 4½ cups oatmeal (preferably rolled oats)
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • ½ cup M&Ms

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, peanut butter and sugars. Add in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla, corn syrup and baking soda.

Slowly add oatmeal until the dough becomes too thick for the mixer. Stir in the rest of the oats, chocolate chips and M&M’s.

Using a cookie scoop, drop cookies onto a non-greased baking sheet or baking stone. Place in a preheated 350F oven and bake for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of cookie scoop used. Cookies are done when the top is lightly browned and the edges start to turn a darker brown.

Remove cookie sheet from oven, let cookies stand for 1 minute before transferring cookies to a cooling rack.

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