God Bless Monster Cookies and Other Fall Foods

There really is something about Fall. Even when the temperatures creep back up to summer highs, the heat seems gentler somehow. The air remains crisp and light, as it should. Gone is that oppressive heat that makes your body feel twice as heavy, at least. Something about that sudden lightness has put some pep in my step, and I did something I haven't done in awhile--I cooked every single day last week. (Except Tuesday. Brandon cooked on Tuesday.)

On Monday, we had one of Brandon's favorites--meatloaf and sweet potatoes. On Tuesday--oatmeal and ham. But I was just warming up. Wednesday was Red Lentil Soup (or Esau soup, as I prefer to call it) and Monster cookies. Thursday was chili/chili dogs/Frito pies, depending upon your pleasure. Friday was Creole jambalaya and Gumbo . . . sort of . . . and a gluten-free pumpkin bread experiment. (It's interesting which foods scream, "Fall!," to different individuals, isn't it?) If our menu was all I had to tell, I would have posted it on Facebook, and left it at that. However, God decided to bless our Fall menu, leaving His fingerprints all over it. As with everything He touches, something ordinary became beautiful, extraordinary.

The first day that cool breezes returned to the South, I wanted to eat 3 things: Red Lentil Soup, Jambalaya and Monster cookies. These three foods make me feel satisfied and warm on the inside, which is the way I like to feel when it's cool and breezy on the outside. On Saturday morning, I made my first grocery list of the week. (I went to the store 3 times last week.) The premiere item on the list? Fall colored M&Ms for the Monster cookies. We don't fight food cravings here at the Keaster household.

Some of you may be thinking, "What is a Monster cookie?" Others may wonder if I should be eating a cookie of any kind. Relax. These babies are made with peanut butter (peanuts aren't tree nuts; they're legumes), oatmeal (I can have this in small amounts), butter, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, corn syrup, semi-sweet chocolate chips and M&Ms. No flour. (Yay!) Monster is my favorite cookie. M&Ms the colors of changing leaves make them Fall cookies.

At first, I was going to bake the cookies the day I bought the ingredients, but I was too tired after the trip to the grocery store. Then, the plan changed to Monday. Tuesday passed, and no Monster cookies had been made . . .

During my quiet time on Wednesday, I read a story out of the Bible study I'm doing by Priscilla Shirer. She writes about praying during a quiet time one morning, and hearing God tell her to call a friend because her friend needed her. She made the call, and it turned out that the friend needed her desperately. After my own time with the Lord that morning, I asked that He would help me to walk in His Spirit that day, even if I wasn't aware of it. That He would lead me like He led Priscilla on the day she called her friend. I went about my tasks, doing my best to be aware of God's presence. I spent quality time with Micah, enjoyed creation, and washed clothes, thanking God for a husband and son who needed me to wash their clothes. I decided I would bake the cookies that night, and that I would bring some to the people who had moved into the empty house next door.

The evening rolled around, and I was exhausted. I decided to wait on the cookies, but I knew I needed to get dinner going. I began cooking Red Lentil Soup, which, by the way, turned out orange, not red. I guess orange lentil soup is appropriate for the month of October.
Something unexpected happened as I chopped, stirred and simmered--my energy returned. I decided I would bake those cookies after all. Brandon came home, and entertained Micah. Dinner was ready about the time the first batch of cookies came out of the oven.

"Brandon?" I said. "Would you guys be okay if I ran over to the neighbors' with these cookies while they're warm? I won't be long."

"Sure," he shrugged.

On a whim, which is so very unlike me, I ran across the yard wearing my t-shirt and jeans, smelling of onions, with unkempt hair and no make-up on, carrying a batch of fall-colored cookies, piled high on a plastic plate, covered in foil. Not much of a presentation, really. I knocked on the door, and introduced myself. I found out that the couple is only a few years older than me. They have an eight year old daughter and another daughter who will be born in about a month. I exchanged phone numbers with the mom, who also stays at home, and told them to call if they needed anything. I said my farewells, and left. I was running Micah's bathwater not even 10 minutes later when the phone rings. It was the new neighbor.

I answered, "Hello?"

"Melissa? I'm sorry to bother you guys, but I just had to tell you that these are the best cookies I've ever eaten. I have been craving peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, and I was looking for some today in the store . . . "

For whatever reason, she had been unable to find them and buy them. And I had brought them right over. On the day she was craving them. When that wasn't the plan at all. And it still took me almost half an hour to realize what exactly had happened. Dude. God sees the cattle on a thousand hills, but cares when a pregnant woman is craving a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie. He answers prayers we never even thought to pray. He listens when one of His kids asks to be guided by His Spirit. You know, God didn't have to use me to bring her the cookies. She could have found some at the store or made some herself or someone else could have brought them over. But God used me, regardless of the fact that I wasn't even aware it was happening.

"for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure."--Philippians 2:13

God put the desire to make the cookies inside of me and gave me the energy to pull it off because it pleased Him that we two girls should meet, and she got her cookie she'd been craving at the same time. Is God good, or what? Now I have a friend, someone who makes this end of Bear Creek Road seem a little less lonely and a lot less vulnerable. Us stay at home moms can watch each others backs, and maybe even share the occasional pot of coffee and another batch Monster cookies. Cool, huh?

On Friday, I cooked all afternoon, preparing for the guests we would have over the next two weekends. I made large portions of gumbo and Creole jambalaya. Inspired by my favorite blog, I decided to make gluten-free pumpkin bread. I used a recipe and converted it into something that wouldn't kill me. I made an original gluten-free flour blend with brown rice flour, potato flour, potato starch, baking powder and coconut flour. Everything but the gumbo came out better than expected.
Gumbo that isn't gumbo, but soup, is kind of an epic fail in Louisiana.
Even in the northern part of the state.
It made an excellent soup, though.

Into the freezer the jambalaya went to store until this weekend.
Friends, a new boyfriend and a fiance are coming to dinner.

The pumpkin bread turned out pretty well. It tasted fabulous, too.
Especially served like this.

Anyway, the gumbo, the pumpkin bread, and the left-over Monster cookie dough joined forces to help us entertain some good friends last weekend. The Blackburns and Keasters have been special family friends for a year now. On Saturday, Brandon took Drew and Nelson hunting. Ellie, Audrey, Allison, Micah and I had a tea party with real china dishes. Later, we decorated a few pumpkins. We all gathered around our little dining table that night, and enjoyed gumbo (that wasn't actually gumbo) and one another's warm and lively company. We ate. We talked. We laughed. It was simple and wonderful at the same time. And we can't wait to do it again.
My only evidence of a tea party.

Micah's pumpkin

Allison's pumpkin

Audrey's pumpkin. She used an entire jumbo sized thing of glitter on her pumpkin.

Micah managed to get as much paint on himself as he did on the pumpkin.

Me: "Say 'cheese,' Micah!"
Micah: . . . . .

God bless good food.
God bless faux gumbo.
God bless good friends.
Gold bless new friends.
God bless glittered pumpkins.
God bless painted red heads.
God bless Monster cookies.