Black Bean Burgers and Murky Middles

One of my favorite things to get at one of our local restaurants has always been a black bean burger that they made on site.

It fell apart.

It was huge.

It was delicious heaven of black bean awesomeness and it was THE THING I always ordered whenever I got take-out. I looked forward to it SO MUCH.

So… yeah….

The restaurant stopped making it and replaced it with a quinoa burger.

I get it. Quinoa is trendy. It is happy. It is hipper than the black bean. These things happen and I could not buy enough black bean burgers to validate the restaurant keeping it on the menu. A woman can only eat so many black bean burgers.

But… but… it made a bit of a panic.

Because something I loved was just… it was just gone. And I don’t know about you all, but I tend to make the meals that everyone else around me like so much so that I almost have forgotten what food it is that I really like, you know? This black bean burger was the one thing that I would always order and love and enjoy for me.

And it was forever gone.

But the man is cool and he wanted to fix my despair because he is nice like that.

And the man now makes me black bean burgers. And he even doesn’t even complain that there is no meat inside them, which is really saying something, honestly.

Cooking with a Writer Black Bean Burger Recipe

Black Bean Burgers of Structure

  • 1 16-oz black beans (DRAIN THEM AND RINSE THEM)
  • 1/2 green pepper (ALL CUT IT UP 2-INCH PIECES)
  • 1/2 onion (ALL CUT INTO WEDGES)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 TBS chili powder
  • 2 TSP hot sauce, Thai sauce, wing sauce, whatever you like or have
  • 2 slices bread all crumbled
  • 1 /2 cup flour
  1. Be proud that you’ve cut the onion, pepper, and opened the black beans and have not harmed yourself with the sharp knives or can opener. 

    Wish that everyone would celebrate this success with you. 

    Get wine.  

  2. Oil a big piece of aluminum foil and put that on a cookie sheet. Preheat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit/190 Celsius if you are going to cook these in the oven

    Be proud that you know the word Celsius. Writers need to know a lot of words. Celebrate your knowledge of words. 

  3. Dump those black beans into a bowl. Ponder the black beans. Think about how German poet Sarah Kirsch wrote an ode to black beans. Hate her for a second because you’re jealous. Then remember she’s dead and hate yourself instead. 

    Repeat the mantra: I celebrate other writers’ successes. I celebrate other writers’ successes. 

  4. Take a fork and mash those black beans up until they are sort of ‘thick and pasty.‘ Realize that this is a good character description – ‘thick and pasty.’ Go write that down so you don’t forget it! 

  5. Saute the onions in a little oil until soft. Watch them loose their structure just like your middle grade fantasy novel when you tried to write it in the point of view of the wizard’s toilet paper. 

    Realize that you sometimes make bad choices. Get more wine.

  6. Add onions, spices, green peppers, bread crumbs, and spices and sauce to the beans. Mix it up. Think it’s ugly. Feel badly about this. 

  7. This is the hard part. You know there’s always a hard part, right? Like the murky middle of every book where the end is in sight, but you aren’t sure how to get there. Yep. Hold on that’s where we are now, little writer friend.  

  8. Add the flour –  just a couple tablespoons at a time. You want to mix it each time. You want this ugly thing to look super thick. You will probably have to use your hands and get messy. I am so sorry.  The murky middle is an icky place. You get dirty. You dig deep. Blah. Blah. Blah. 

  9. Buddy! You did it!!! Shape it into a burger shape just like you shape your story into a story shape. 

  10. You have a choice here. I know! It’s like you’re in a love triangle and you have to choose between the cold vampire and the hot werewolf. 

    You can put the burgers on the sheet of aluminum foil and back 10 minutes per side in the oven. 

    You can grill on a real grill. Place the patties on foil first. Grill 8 minutes each side.

    You can fry it in the pan you used for the onions. Just put down a bit of oil, turn on the heat to medium-low, and cook for 3-4 minutes each side. 

  11. You are probably going to want burger rolls and condiments. That isn’t in the calorie count, but go for it, writer! You did this. You rock star. 

Dogs’ Verdict: We can only eat the bun because — flatulence.

Man Verdict: Can we put bacon on this?

Carrie Verdict: This is the best food ever created other than stuffing and sushi. The end.


Everyone always talks about writing being like cooking.

Clarification: By everyone, I mean writers. Writers like to talk about themselves.

Anyways, there are a million blogs about how writing is like cooking, but not really anything about cooking like a writer. So, our new Thursday segment is now COOKING LIKE A WRITER.


Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

I’m super good at public image and marketing for nonprofits but I have a much harder time with marketing myself.

So, please buy one of my books. 🙂 The links are all up there in the header on top of the page.  There are young adult series, middle grade fantasy series, stand-alones for young adults and even picture book biographies.


I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,

I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!

I’ll be at Sherman’s Bookstore in Bar Harbor on April 28 from 1-2.

To find out more about my books, there are links in the header. And if you buy one? Thank you so much. Let me know if you want me to send you a bookplate.


The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along with over 3,000 listens.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.



The awesome six-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support! is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money. We’ll be having a Zoom class to learn more about it and I’ll share the details as soon as they are official.

Write Submit Support

Cooking With A Writer – Dude, There’s a Burrito in my Spaghetti Squash

I convinced The Man and The Dogs to let me try another vegetarian recipe.

“It’s for the blog,” I said.

“Does the blog earn us any money?” The Man asked.

“Does this vegetarian recipe have bacon bits?” The Dogs asked. “Bacon bits do not count as meat.

“No,” I said. “And no. And yes… chopping meat into tiny bites and bits does not take away the qualities of meat.”

The Dogs decided to sleep through the recipe, which I understand. They’d had a hard day of barking at UPS drivers and squirrels, drooling on windows, and longing for meat products.

The Man did not sleep through the cooking.  He had questions, sort of like a copy editor or something… So many questions about every little detail.

“Does this mean you’re finally going to get rid of the gigantic spaghetti squash that’s been in our bread box for months?’ The Man asked. “Because then I am good with this recipe as long as we can go get pizza later.”

I have a lot to put up with here. Obviously.

This bad boy recipe is really loosely adapted from a much grander recipe from Cookie and Kate. You should check them out and applaud the beauty that is their website.

For background if you are new to this part of my blog:

Everyone always talks about writing being like cooking.

Clarification: By everyone, I mean writers. Writers like to talk about themselves.

Anyways, there are a million blogs about how writing is like cooking, but not really anything about cooking like a writer. So, our new Thursday segment is now COOKING LIKE A WRITER.

What does this mean?

It means I’m going to share one recipe with you each Thursday and it’s not going to be shiny and pretty and slick. It’s going to be real, people, because writers of kidlit are authentic AF.

Here is your Thursday recipe. The hardest part is cutting the damn squash, honestly. It was so hard! I had to get help.

Burrito Bowl inside a Spaghetti Squash! Say What the What?

Writers! YOU CAN DO THIS! You can make a thought into a story. Of course you can make a squash into a burrito! 

Also, the calories are on the upper end of the scale because I’m imagining you’re using a lot of toppings because writers are like that if we have other jobs. If you don’t have another job, you probably won’t use cheese, right? Because cheese is expensive! And maybe not as many beans? Then your count is going to be in the 250 range. 


  • 2 squash – medium, take out its innards and seedy things.
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • salt – dash
  • pepper – a few dashes


  • 1 package cole slaw mexican salad mix OR two cups of green cabbage shredded
  • 1 can black beans, drain it because it's icky if you don't
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green onion – all parts white and green, we love all parts here
  • 1/3 cup cilantro
  • 3 TBSP lime juice


  • 3/4 cup salsa verde
  • 1 avocado – make it ripe, dice it up
  • 1 TBSP lime juice – yes, again with the lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt – yes, again with the salt
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, you've got it, again with the cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic

Random garnishes if you are into that – cheese, more cilantro because we're trying to increase the livelihood of those who produce cilantro, I guess?

    1. I am so sorry. But you have to cut the squash in half. I know! I know! This is hard. This requires muscles. Writers’ only muscles are in our fingers. This is not enough to chop spaghetti squash in half. 

    2. Recruit help to cut the squash in half. This is like a beta reader. It’s okay for a writer/cook to have back-up. Just make sure they are strong. 

    3. Preheat the oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit because that’s important. You can do this. This just requires finger muscles to set the degrees. You’ve got this, writer! 

    4. Spread the olive oil on the squash. Pretend it is the tears that have coalesced after rejection letters. Look at you! You’re tears are making something delicious. 

      Add salt and pepper because why not, honestly? 

    5. Flip the squash over so that the inside parts are now down against the baking sheet. Think about how this is like your own inside parts, hidden inside your story. This is you, this squash! This is your heart and soul hidden from the reader but turning into something beautiful. 

    6. Put the pan in the oven! THIS IS IMPORTANT! Use those writing muscles and eat the time for 40 minutes, but it might take an hour. Squash like stories don’t really follow perfect schedules and some take a little longer. It’s done when a fork can pierce through the flesh.

    7. DO NOT MAKE THE SQUASH YOUR OBJECTIVE CORRELATIVE! I promise. It is not you. It is not your writer soul. You do not need to be pierced easily with a fork. You must remain intact. Take a moment to breathe. You’ve got this. 

    8. Okay. Are you okay? Make sure you’re okay. Don’t think about rejections or bad reviews. Take the slaw mix. Add black beans, the red pepper, the cilantro, the lime juice, the olive oil, the salt, the tears. Toss it around. Let it marinate. This is just like writing a book, isn’t it? Leave it alone for a bit. Do not check it out. It’s good. It’s parts are mixing up and complimenting each other like plot and setting and action and voice and dialogue. Actually, maybe walk away from the kitchen and post an Instagram poem about squash and flesh and forks and marinating slaw. 

    9. Okay. It’s salsa time! Do you feel happier? Did you write a poem? Did anyone like it? Find a blender. Borrow a blender if you don’t have one. It’s like borrowing a plot – totally not a big deal. Cough. Okay. So in the blender put the avocado, the salsa verde, the cilantro and lime juice. Add the garlic because this is not a YA novel set in Seattle. No sparkly vampires here, baby. 

    10. Writer. Um… I forgot to tell you to plug in the blender. Put the top on. Press BLEND. Watch things blend. Blend it till smooth. Marvel at how all these random bits come together to make something yummy. These bits are like your thoughts! Wow…. That’s deep! 

    11. Dude. You are amazing. You have made three parts of something! IT IS LIKE THE OLD BORING THREE-ACT STRUCTURE OF A STORY! Whoah… Mind blown. Do a happy dance. You’re amazing.

    12. Assemble it! Fluff the squash innards up. Put slaw into the hollowed out squash places. Put the salsa verde mix on top. Dang. Look at that. Garnish if you want. Eat your masterpiece! You did this, writer! You! Recipes with a Writer. Cooking With a Writer

    Man’s Verdict: That was surprisingly good actually and hearty. Probably because like you know the beans and the spaghetti squash has some density to it. The slaw is like a binder. Through some hot sauce in there.

    Dog’s Verdict: Why do you hate us?

    Carrie’s Verdict: This was pretty yummy, but cutting a spaghetti squash is so super hard. There must be an easier way to do that. Wait! I should check the internet for ways to do that.

    Squash cutting
    Squash cutting is serious, people

    The ways are here, thanks to Trial and Eater.

    Also, my middle grade fantasy series, TIME STOPPERS, is totally out there in the world thanks to the wonderful people at Bloomsbury.  It’s about two kids finding love and acceptance and friendship even though their lives have been super horrible. One of them was raised by trolls pretending to be people. Apparently, there are a lot of trolls out there.

    Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones
    Look, they made a pull quote!

    It’s sort of Harry Potter crossed with Percy Jackson crossed with Inkheart, but set in Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor, Maine and it’s full of magic and adventure, but mostly it’s full of friendship. Because friends? Friends matter.

    To find out more about it, you can go here. I hope you all have an amazing day and eat yummy food and nobody torments you too much. Watch out for trolls.



    Cooking With a Writer Potato Tacos of Awesome

    Everyone always talks about writing being like cooking.

    Clarification: By everyone, I mean writers. Writers like to talk about themselves. Recipes with a Writer. Cooking With a Writer

    Anyways, there are a million blogs about how writing is like cooking, but not really anything about cooking like a writer. So, our new Thursday segment is now COOKING LIKE A WRITER.

    What does this mean?

    It means I’m going to share one recipe with you each Thursday and it’s not going to be shiny and pretty and slick. It’s going to be real, people, because writers of kidlit are authentic AF.

    It’s also going to be vegetarian because I’m not about death of animals even though EVERYONE else in my family is about animals as food. So part of this is my quest to convince them to go the vegetarian way. Not the vegan way. They are so not ready for that.
    He did not really eat the potato! I promise!

    I decided to start off easy with Crispy Potato Tacos. I found the recipe on, which is possibly the most authentic name of a website ever. I’m sort of jealous.

    She said it was a ‘super and easy weeknight dinner that’s also really flavorful and delicious!’

    She used an exclamation point. I was good to go. I’m a writer. I know all about punctuation and life and I want to live my life as an exclamation point. I changed the amounts of the ingredients, however, because we are a household that needs a lot of flavor. So. Much. Flavor. And also, I converted the instructions for ‘writers,’ because this is… um… about cooking with a writer.

    Potato Tacos of Writer Awesomeness

    This recipe is adapted from

    • 2 large russet potatoes
    • 2 tsp olive oil
    • 2 tsp ground cumin
    • 1/2 tsp paprika
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 12 corn tortillas
    • optional toppings (lettuce, tomato, salsa, onion, peppers, cilantro, tears )
    1. You need to find a knife. Do not think about suicidal confessional poets from the 1960s. Just find a knife.

    2. Use the knife to cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Don’t ponder about what ‘bite-sized’ means. Don’t riff on how different people have different mouth sizes and therefore different bite sizes. Just cut the potatoes. Cut them on a cutting board!

    3. Get a large pot. Put the cut-up potatoes in the pot. Fill the pot with water. Think about this. Are these the characters in your story, perculating under your subconscious? Ready to make something happen in your plot? Yes. Yes. They are.

    4. Boil those characters for 15-20 minutes. They should be fork tender. What does that even mean fork tender? Aren’t we all fork tender, us humans? So easily hurt.

    5. Cry.

    6. Drain the potatoes, those poor tender potatoes. Pause to write a poem. Make sure when you come back that those little sweet potatoes are pretty dry.

    7. Cast aside your feelings. It’s time to get serious. Find a skillet. Do not comtemplate the last time you used a skillet as a prop device in your murder-mystery staring your ex boss. Instead, turn the stove burner on to medium heat. Put that skillet on the burner. Yes, the same burner that you’ve turned on.

    8. In the skillet, put olive oil, potatoes, and spices. Double up the spices if you aren’t afraid. You want depth to your story. I mean recipe.

    9. Stir it up like it’s a good plot.

    10. Cook it for 3-5 minutes. Flip it. Cook it on that side for 3-5 more minutes. You want it crisp, but not burnt. Use your own judgement about what constitutes crisp. You can do it! I believe in you!

    11. Find the corn tortillas. Put potatoes in them. Put the other toppings in them. Hope for good reviews on Amazon and GoodReads. I mean, hope your family likes them.  

    The Man’s Rating: This is not enough food for dinner but it is delicious. How many of these can I eat and not be a glutton.

    My Rating: This is more than enough food for dinner, but I had to peel potatoes. I don’t like peeling potatoes.

    Look! Potatoes were peeled.

    The dogs were not impressed because there was no bacon involved. But look! Here it is! Note the giant man hand. Is it any wonder he was all, “NEED MORE FOOD?”