In the kitchen, inspiration can come from surprising sources.
I love the challenge of transforming leftovers into something completely different. Two recent favorites demonstrate that tasty journey, meals that were extra special because they were savored with loved ones.
In January, while Johnny went chasing powder in the Lake Tahoe area, I had the pleasure of cooking for our grownup kiddo, Butter, and later for my sister, Laurel, who visited me in Palm Springs.
For Butter, beans. Ha! I had some dried pintos that I had picked up at a farmers market in Taos, N.M., in my pantry. Those gems simmered in the slow cooker while we took a hike that ended up being eight miles because, well... without our human compass - JKN - we got a little lost on the Lykken trail. But not for too long.
By the time the dinner hour arrived, we were really hungry. Those creamy beans were the foundation for accompaniments that made it a meal: grilled sweet potatoes and onions, guacamole, chunky salsa, tortilla chips on the side. Sitting by the fire, this winter dinner was warm and satisfying.
When Sissy arrived the day after Butter left, I ran a crazy creation by her: What about cheeseburger enchiladas?
I had a couple hamburger patties in the freezer and always have Hatch chili enchilada sauces and tostada shells in the cupboard. Those two latter ingredients were layered lasagna-style with pepper jack cheese in a covered casserole that I zapped in the microwave for six minutes. The seasoned patties were cooked on the George Foreman smokeless grill, more pepper jack on top after flipping.
The big finish? After the enchilada base was cooked, the burger was placed on top and dinner was served. I think we probably had some of those pintos on the side, too, but I can only remember the super yummy enchilada. And the good company.