What’s Mikey Making?

I don’t have many rules about what I eat, but every day, I try to have some protein, some fiber, and something green. The ‘something green’ is usually a vegetable, since I have recently learned that sour green apple Starbursts, while green, are not technically food. For today’s protein, I chose something with a high risk factor, that’s challenging to prepare, and something that, under normal circumstances, I would avoid.

I’m talking about canned black beans. Everyone has a can of something, bought with the idea of making a specific recipe that you saw online and absolutely had to try. Maybe it’s a can of water chestnuts you got for the next time you stir-fry, except you realized that you only really had stir-fry that one time, and you were drunk, so it might not have even been stir-fry, and besides, you don’t own a wok.

Though it’s been so long it’s hard to recall, I think I bought this particular can of black beans to combine with rice (yeah, I’m pretty ambitious when it comes to my kitchening). I’m guessing it was one of the six or seven times every year that I decide to go vegetarian. Probably been sitting in my pantry for a year or so, but in my defense, it was hidden behind the pound of dried lentils I bought nine months ago.

I did a quick search online (“canned black beans”) and saw something called  “upgraded canned black beans.” Now, full disclosure, I only looked at the first couple results, so if I’d scrolled down a bit farther, I might have come across recipes for “life-changing canned black beans” or “super magical canned black beans,” but but I was good with just the upgrade.

More full disclosure–I didn’t actually follow the recipe for ‘upgraded canned  black beans,’ because I’m a rebel like that. I did take two quick tips away from the recipe…to make beans less ‘blah,’ you need to 1) add some sort of fat, and 2) it helps to mash up the beans.

Equipped with this knowledge, and a chunk of butter from a neighbor, because I was out of butter, I got started. What follows is a detailed record of my latest culinary adventure (as with my other recipes, pay close attention to precise amounts and timing):

BETTER BLACK BEANS

1 can black beans

A little bit of your neighbor’s butter

A few dribbles of vegetable oil

Too much ground sage

Maybe not enough chili powder (see ground sage, above)

Some onion, chopped until you’re bored

1 metric forkful minced garlic

3 decent-sized squirts of lime juice

More salt than you would think

Turn on front right burner to ‘high.’ Remember that you have not cleaned the burners, and immediately turn on vent fan.

In a bowl, probably the one you never use because it’s not microwave-safe, put the beans, the butter, and the lime juice. Mash the beans together with the other stuff until you realize that you don’t need to work all that hard, because you’re the only one who’s going to be eating it.

Put the vegetable oil in a large skillet, then add the onions until you get scared that the onions are going to burn. Scoop the beans / butter  / juice mix into the skillet. 

Add the sage, but because you bought cheap spices last time I’m out, the sage comes out of really big holes, and so you add too much. Remember this when you add the chili powder.

Try to spread the sage and chili powder evenly. My God, there is so much sage. Use some sort of spatula thingy to mix everything together in the skillet. Reduce heat to simmer, and cover. Turn off burner at a certain point, whenever you feel like it.

Serving suggestion: spread on crackers, or toast up some of that sourdough bread that’s going to go bad if you don’t use it.

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Tiny Resolutions

Well, we made it. And by we, I obviously mean those of us who actually made it–if you didn’t make it to 2020, you’re probably not reading this. Although maybe you are, on some other plane of existence–I’m a comedy writer, not a philosopher.

For those of us taking another spin around the Sun, its time for resolutions! Now, if New Year’s resolutions stress you out, you can blame the Babylonians, who made promises to repay their debts and return things they borrowed. They made these promises to their gods every year , which, I imagine, must have been even more stressful than posting a list on Facebook.

Right now, it’s 9:03 PM on January 1st, and since I resolved to write something new for my website every day, I’m already behind. I’m already disappointing myself, and we’re only twenty-one hours into this thing! While a part of me wants to just get back in  bed for the next three hundred and sixty-four days (“Well, I screwed up–I’ll try this again next year”), I may have a better idea.

We set ourselves up for disappointment (and judgement) by making our resolutions too hard! What’s wrong with a little incremental improvement? I say we all stop trying to get a perfect score, and shoot for a solid B, or a B minus even! If you do achieve some huge goal in the next year, all you’ve really done is messed up the curve for the rest of us…

With that in mind, I’ve come up with some very small resolutions for myself, and you’re welcome to join me, as we commit to trying our best to make partial progress toward sort of making a kind of start at doing the things we all probably should be doing over the next year. If we can–no biggie if these don’t work out.

HYDRATION: I have heard, since I was a kid, that you should drink at least eight eight-ounce glasses of water every day. Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. What I can shoot for is to drink some water…I mean, the pitcher is right next to the coffee pot, so would it be that hard to drink a little water between cups of coffee, and maybe have a little before bed? No, it would not. Hell, if the roommates aren’t around, I could drink some right out of the pitcher! Who’s gonna know?

DIET: Far too many people get caught up in trying to restructure their entire diet, vowing to never eat this, or always eat that. Well, here’s a thought–instead of shoving the latest trending superfoods into your piehole, and becoming miserably sad because you’re depriving yourself of duck fat fries for no good reason, how about just don’t eat an entire bag of chocolate-covered pretzels the next time you’re stoned?

Or, what about not spending ten bucks at Del Taco at midnight just because “almost everything was on the dollar menu” and you “didn’t feel like cooking.”

EXERCISE:  You’re not gonna join a gym, and if you do join a gym, you’ll stop going by mid-March, because going to a gym is a drag. It’s like P.E. for grown-ups, and everyone else at the gym looks better than you. Seriously, why are some of those people still working out? You’re done! You’re already ‘in shape”–now you’re just making the rest of us feel bad!

You  know what you can do? Walk to the store instead of driving there. Pause Netflix, watch one less hour of “The Crown,” walk around the block a couple times, and you’re exercising! Achievable goals…

TRAVEL: It’s admirable to want to explore new cultures, and experience new cuisines and customs, but you know what? Maybe we should all just get to know our own neighbors first, and see how that goes. Again–walk around the block a couple of times, meet some new people that way.

FINANCES: Likewise, you will not be getting out of debt this year. But, just a thought–you could make it your goal to to avoid using your credit card for that round of two-dollar Jager shots that you’ll regret tomorrow. Also, maybe stop writing checks for more than you have in your account, just because the bank ‘let’s you.’

LEARNING SOMETHING NEW: Okay, slow down. Before you spend money on dance classes, or foreign language lessons, or a new cello (see FINANCES, above), maybe make use of something you already have, like that book on yoga someone gave you three years ago. Nobody will know that you resolved to start doing yoga three years ago.

BEING NICER: This is a good idea I suppose, but what if, by nature, you’re just not a nice person? No judgement–you’re just not that guy. Then maybe, instead of trying to be ‘nicer’ to people, you should resolve to avoid people…that might be the nicest thing you could do for them.

I’m sure it’s not hard to see why I’m in such demand as a life coach. My approach is simple–I want you to accomplish everything you want in the new year, but to do that, you need to want less! What if, instead of a few people realizing all of their yearly goals, while most people fail before the snow melts, we all resolved to just be slightly better, across the board?

Speaking of accomplishment, I just realized that I might actually be finished with this piece, and it’s before midnight, so maybe I can write a new piece every day this year! Or, maybe I’ll call this a win, and take the rest of the year off. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. Happy New Year!

A Holiday Story

As I write this, it’s Christmas Eve, and the third night of Hanukkah It’s also been a night spent thinking about Calvin, and Hobbes. Not the historical figures, although nothing says ‘holiday cheer’ quite like the writings of a dour sixteenth century theologian and a misanthropic seventeenth century philosopher.

Maybe I should back up a bit. I never much liked the comic strip called ‘Calvin and Hobbes,’ but Marrissa loved them. Sorry, I need to back up even more… Continue reading

I’m (Not Quite As) Afraid of Baking (As I Used To Be)

I devoted an entire chapter in my first book, (“Does This Taste Funny?”), to my utter fear of all things baking. Not cooking mind you–I love to experiment in the kitchen, because cooking is forgiving. If you left a spice out, add it later. Undercooked? Put it back in the oven.

But not you, baking. No, you expect everything to be precise. Your temperature has to be exact…timing must be exact…every amount measured just so. . . Apparently in your world, you can’t substitute say, mayonnaise for eggs, even though mayonnaise is made from eggs. Apparently, you can’t just swap out cardamom for, say, nutmeg, even though nobody knows what cardamom actually is. Continue reading

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Upon Further Review

I’ll always remember the first review I ever got for a stand-up comedy show. Sometime in the late eighties, when I had just started to land paying gigs, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune  reviewed a show that featured me and several other ‘up and coming’ comics. The reviewer, apparently having exhausted all of the show business metaphors then in use, and at a loss for a way to describe my act in comedy terms, instead went for a more visceral approach, describing my part of the show as being like:

…taking a cold bath with someone you dislike.

Continue reading

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