By Linda Koehler

lkoehler@tnonline.com

Well, it's turning into an old-fashioned winter with snow, snow and more snow. I could complain, but that and a nickel won't buy me a cup of coffee, or in my case, not even a Coke.

I have such great memories of snow when I was a kid. Hours and hours were spent sleigh riding, fighting snowball battles from our snow forts. We dug tunnels in snow drifts as high as six and seven feet.

This morning as I look out my window, the world is a beautiful winter wonderland. Everything is covered in white. And all I can think about is…cheese.

Yes, cheese. Cheese, glorious cheese!

You know how storm warnings send people scurrying to grocery stores for milk, eggs and bread? I just heard that there is shortage of string cheese and I have this uncontrollable urge to run out and buy as much cheese as I can!

Apparently Kraft Foods recalled some 735,000 cases of Polly-O string cheese and has stopped production because it learned that the cheese was spoiling too soon.

Just a couple of weeks ago, there was a Velveeta Apocalyspse, when an alert went out that there was a shortage of Velveeta cheese. This was catastrophic news for all us queso lovers. What would Super Bowl Sunday have been like without queso and nachos?

"Diane, I have to go to the store and pick up Velveeta," I called my sister in a panic when I heard the news.

"No need to worry. I've got a stock pile of it. We're good," she assured me.

Whew. Crisis averted.

So what's with this whole cheese shortage thing about? Are the cows on strike and not producing milk? Did some doctor come out with a report that if we eat X amount of cheese we can avoid the flu and ingrown toenails? Has the cheese industry conspired to issue the warning so we all run out and buy more cheese?

Well, it's working. Because now all I can do is think about cheese!

Someone once said, "Everything's better with cheese on it."

I almost agreed with that until I heard this conversation between Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan on "Live with Kelly and Michael." Kelly said she could eat cheese on anything. Michael said a friend of his put cheese on a Crispy Cream doughnut.

"I couldn't eat that," Michael said.

Kelly just looked off dreamily and said, "I could."

Well, I like cheese but I'd have to agree with Michael…not on a donut.

Which made me wonder, what else would I not want to eat with cheese. And you know what? I can't think of anything!

Here are some interesting cheesy facts:

*Cheese consumption may have begun as early as 8000 BC, believed to have been discovered in the Middle East or by nomadic Turkic tribes in Central Asia

*The United States is the top producer of cheese in the world, with Wisconsin and California leading in the states in production.

*In 2003, Americans consumed 8.8 billion pounds of natural cheese. The average American ate 30.6 pounds.

*In 2003, Americans ate 2.8 billion pounds of mozzarella, the single most frequently eaten cheese.

*In 2003, Americans purchased $40 billion worth of cheese.

*Stinky feet. As kid, I thought Parmesan cheese smelled like stinky feet. Well, I learned that bacteria known as brevibacterium linens in cheese causes an odor, which is also found on human skin and partially responsible for body odor. Thus, a stinky feet aroma.

So why would a snowy day make me think of cheese? Simple. A snowy day at home is the perfect soup day. One of my favorite soups is Cheeseburger Soup and that's what I'm going to make today.

I just love my friend and colleague, Karen Cimms' fabulous food column, "Comfort and Joy" but I like to share some of my favorite recipes with you in my column once in a while, so I hope you don't mind.

Maybe I should just call this recipe:

Snowy Day

Cheeseburger Soup

1 pound ground beef, brown and drain

cup chopped onion

cup shredded carrots

cup diced celery

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

4 tablespon butter, divided

3 cups beef broth

4 cups diced potatoes

cup flour

2 cups Velveeta cheese

1 1/2 cups milk

teaspoons salt

-1/2 teaspoons pepper

cup sour cream

Saute onion, carrots, celery, basil and parsley in 1 tbsp. butter until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add broth, potatoes and beef. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

In a small skillet, melt remaining butter, add flour, cook and stir for 3-5 minutes until bubbly. Add to soup and bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes, reduce heat to low. Add cheese, milk, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until cheese melts. Remove from heat. Blend in sour cream. Serve with some hard crusty bread. With a little cheese melted on it, of course.