Bagels. Cream Cheese. Happiness.

I notice from time to time that I think I've written more often than I have. I do not keep a bank of written ideas, or a list of things I'd like to discuss. Rather, I keep a mental catalog of sentences I like and a list of things I'd like to make and then write about that reminds me of those never-ending cloth towel "dispensers" in some gas station bathrooms. Every time I use one of those, I wonder to myself if the towel just recycles around, my germs and bacterias congregating with every other freeway passenger who has ever visited... This is pertinent to my thoughts because I think about food much the same way, it's circular and possibly recycled, but necessary and probably sanitary.

It doesn't take much for me to want to make something. A mention, a season, the little food world buzzes that are created almost daily but sometimes that center around things that last several weeks. Currently, there are more things out there with rhubarb than I could shake a stick at, and that doesn't bode well for a girl who sometimes feels like I'm the only one in my neighborhood infatuated with rhubarb. (I'm still nursing the rhubarb curd I made two weeks ago, and it's still good, by the way.)

But, the baker in me seems to prevail throughout whatever nuance happens to enter my brain, and I firmly believe that once a person has entered the world of sourdough, her life is forever changed. The bagels that I made last week were great, but not perfect - the perfect excuse to make more. The second attempt at Peter Reinhart's ratio in Crust and Crumb was even better... and I'm not just saying that since I made them myself. I am not actually sure I have ever eaten a bagel with wild yeast until last week. I am sure that none can compare to the list of simple ingredients that are boiled in plain water and then baked in a hot oven, causing the surface to blister and bubble and resist chewing. I made a full batch and scaled my dough to equal 9 (roughly) 106 g. bagels.

I have had a deep yearning to make cheese for quite a long time. I really feel that if there was a cheese-maker's supply locally, I would have already been to my goal of waxing and aging cheddars, but since I think I'll have to order online I still am procrastinating. I asked my Amish friend, Lizzy, if the creamery near my Parents' farm sold rennet. She told me no, but that a cheese-making relation often went behind the building to the place where they stacked the plastic tubs that the rennet came in (a liquid), and that she could salvage enough to get by. Seeing as I have the Internet of Opportunities, I shouldn't need to result to scavenging. But seeing as I have been dreaming night and day of bagels, it was natural that I had to make cream cheese, mesophilic starter or no, and yogurt cheese seemed appropriate given what I had on hand.

I have strained yogurt. I have strained yogurt for a whole day. But I never strained yogurt that was half heavy cream. This revelation! I tell you... I actually wanted to wait another 24 hours to try and get yogurt cheese to roll into balls and then baptize in olive oil, but after baking off the bagels, that idea was out the window. Creamy isn't an apt adjective. I have neither cow or raw milk sources, but I used the cream line milk and cream that I am every day so thankful for. The fat coats my mouth, the color is a rich, warm white: just a shade off from the palest yellow, a color my camera would never capture.

Ever since the dawn of Spring, and I use that term loosely since it has been unseasonably cool here but mysteriously marked with the odd day of spiked temps and humidity, I have eyed my tender chives. Chives are one Spring thing that I most love. They wake up before any other growing thing, a miracle shooting up from a Winter's worth of wreckage. I collect their purple hats as a cut flower, a pint glass of them on my counter where I can snatch at them, where I can remember to add them to what I'm cooking to see how they react. A single, hollow stalk chopped into tiny tubes can perfume a half dozen eggs it seems, and every single Spring I wonder what new dish I could make with them. I realize what I should be thinking about is what condiment should I be making with them, since condiments tend to get eaten most frequently lately. When considering cream cheese as the Ultimate Condiment, it seemed a natural fit to stir in some chives and black pepper.

I use a no-heat strain of yogurt called Viili that I can't recommend enough. I got it from Cultures for Health, and it is one of my favorite things ever. When strained, it yields a delicious tasting whey that isn't overly sour. Since I use non-homogenized milk, it does tend to be a little "lumpy", but it blends up fine, and the flavor more than makes up for any cosmetic shortcomings. I've used it to culture plain heavy cream and plain half and half, both were great versions of sour cream that even my Husband liked.

Yogurt Cream Cheese

Strain 4 c. yogurt through fine cheesecloth, or like me, through a homemade muslin bag. Hanging the bag (or cheesecloth tied into a bag) from some height will speed the process a bit, as gravity will be on your side. Time spent draining will depend on what type of milk you use (or what type of yogurt you used). The higher the fat content, the creamier it will be, and the less whey will drip out. I let mine drain for almost 24 hours, and had a perfect, soft-set consistency.

After draining, turn the mass of cheese out into a bowl, and mix with salt. I used about 1/4 t. for my yield, which was shy of 2 cups, but probably a bit more than 1 1/2 cups (like how I measure?) Mix in any other herbs or flavorings, and store in a covered container for up to a month? Maybe less? I've never stored any cultured milk product this long, since I eat it long before. This cream cheese will be lucky to last as long as that rhubarb curd mentioned above... but you never know.

Even though it was soft-set, I couldn't resist rolling a few yogurt cheese balls. I watched this video from GNOWFGLINS a while back, and remembered Wardeh saying that you didn't need to refrigerate the yogurt cheese balls, but I think I'm going to keep mine in the fridge since they aren't as dry as they probably should be.

I ate one at dinner, spread on a piece of bread. I can't describe the joy I take in seeing something positively melt without heat applied - that is what this soft, oily cheese did. If I could die of something, please let it be soft, whole milk cheese I made myself.

At dinner as I sat thinking about diets, and cheese, and fats, and what the conventional doctors are still telling me is killing me even though I don't believe them anymore, I looked out the window at the last two things on the clothesline. These are my two bread cloths that I never wash, but hang out to dry in the sun and attract more yeasts. They aren't proper "couche", but they work good for me, and they are just part of the never ending circle of my food life.

I look at the work of others, the things made by friends and acquaintances, the jobs held by neighbors who are not home as I had time to mow my lawn and dry laundry outside, pontificate on chives, and check to see if my radishes had grown any more since the last 6 times I checked on them today. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmingly lucky to have good health, that my knees are still good enough for me to be on my feet all day. Today is one of those days. To be simply happy and enjoy every day is the greatest gift no matter what work you do, or what you make with your hands. Whether you ate amazing cream cheese and bagels or not. But, I have to say that a day with the bagels and cream cheese could be a big part of happiness.

My Love-Hate Relationship with Technology (and Low-Tech Ricotta Cheesecake).

I spent nearly all of the past week technology free. Since my little Boy-O was on Spring break, we left early Saturday morning for the Farm with a car packed with cultures, various foodstuffs, my Husband, and my electronic scale. I love every occasion I can spend with my Parents, especially in the country at the place that is most deeply home to me.

I was born in the Great Northwoods of Wisconsin, and I daresay it took a long time for me to feel like I could be from somewhere else. Moving to southwestern Wisconsin when I was in 5th grade was probably the reason that I felt such devotion to the place of piney wilderness, a ruralness of sandy loam and lots of lakes. Living that nearby to the mighty Mississippi was of no real appeal to me until years later a friend of mine decided to build a raft from 50 gallon drums and drift southbound. In 6th grade when we settled out of the city, the bucolic hills surrounding my Parents 10 acre farm didn't really begin to sink in until I became a horse owner around age 15, those hills of the driftless region becoming part of my blood as I ran my quarter horse, King, scaring my liver half out of my body. The farm-lined hills slowly, patiently, wormed their way into my heart, never caring that it took decades for me to fully appreciate them. Now when I drive the back roads they feel good, I don't know their proper names, but I remember them and they remember me.

Now when I think of home, the pine trees and fern lined forts of my birthplace are a thing of distant memory and the rolling hills of the Farm are firmly embedded in my body. My first breaths outside of the car instantly calm my city-worn nerves... and I wonder if my city born and bred Husband could ever change that much for me - that I might be able to live there once again...

It's no secret that I can't travel lightly. My car travels with not only human life, but with sourdough and yogurt culture that can't be left unattended for a week (or maybe it could, but I just choose to Mother it a bit more than I should). Filling up the extra back seat spaces were a gallon of cranberry flavored kombucha for my Mom and a from scratch Italian-style ricotta cheesecake I knew my Dad would love, that cheesecake proving to me after Easter Sunday dinner that it could very well be my new favorite dessert.

It seems every time I read a new cookbook, the desire to see what the author is all about overwhelms me. David Lebovitz's book Ready for Dessert was a recent read, and it seems that I am infinitely inspired by it. Like Dorie's Baking Book (probably still my favorite comprehensive baking book), everything I've made so far seems to turn out no matter what tweaking I do - the marks of very good recipes in my opinion. I scaled down a ricotta cheesecake that David pared with a truly lovely rhubarb sauce: a sauce that was light as Spring and as softly sweet, a hint of Cointreau's alcoholic orange that I added last second. I'm making more sauce this week with some frozen rhubarb I should use up before the new season brings a bumper crop. It was also great on yogurt, and the pearly pink liquid that I drained from it so it could be thicker was perfect for swigging as is.

When I decided to make the cheesecake, I figured why not go all out and make the ricotta, too. I haven't made it in a very long time, and never have made it with my favorite cream-line whole milk from Crystal Ball Farms. A gallon of milk yielded me a scant pound and a half of gorgeous curds, that set up surprisingly overnight in the fridge. The next day, I mixed my cake David Lebovitz style, barely sweetened and luxuriously nestled, into a vintage 8 inch springform pan that my Mother-in-Law gave me.

To make the ricotta, I followed the instructions in Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll. Simply mix a gallon of whole milk with 1 teaspoon of citric acid in a large, non-reactive pot, and heat milk until 185-195 degrees (Fahrenheit), stirring often to prevent scorching. When the curds and whey begin to separate, turn off the heat, and allow to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. Drain the curds in a piece of fine cheesecloth, butter muslin, or like me in unbleached muslin from the fabric store. (Reserve that whey for bread making and other mischief.) Drain for 20-30 minutes, until desired consistency. Transfer the cheese to a storage vessel and into the fridge, where it will keep for 1-2 weeks.

Forgive me the way that I post this recipe in both metric and conventional measure. Since I used roughly 3/4 of the original recipe, it was easier to figure the sugar and cream in metrics. I like this site for conversions, if you need to approximate.

Italian-Style Ricotta Cheesecake (adapted for size from David Lebovitz)
  • 1 recipe whole milk ricotta, about 1 1/2 pounds (see paragraph above)
  • 97 g. sugar
  • 80 ml. heavy cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 t. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt if desired, and you know it is desirable
  • 2-3 t. grated orange peel
  • 3/4 T. flour
Preheat oven to 350.

Butter an 8 inch springform pan well, and sprinkle with cookie crumbs or graham cracker crumbs, or just leave it plain. I used a couple of crushed Maria cookies.

In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, blend the ricotta with the sugar until creamy. Add the heavy cream, the eggs one at a time (beating a minute after each addition), the vanilla, the salt and finally the orange peel and bit of flour.

Spread the batter evenly into the springform pan, and bake for about an hour, slightly less, until the center barely jiggles when tapped. I baked mine slightly too long, but it was still delicious.

Cool completely before unmolding, and run a thin knife around the edge of the springform pan before trying to release.

Baked just a little too long, it rose and fell. You'd never know from the texture, however...

I baked this specimen on Friday late afternoon, and it was just fine when served on Sunday afternoon. It remained fine for leftover dessert cravings later in the week. My Mom thought it could use a bit more sweetener, but she confesses to having the Mendez sweet tooth. My Dad and I thought it was perfect. We served it with my rhubarb sauce and some sliced and sugared frozen strawberries from my Mom's freezer.

When I was in about the 10th grade, my Parents decided to disconnect the television antenna. Rurally, that meant that I could no longer get my weekly fix of Northern Exposure and my nightly fix of David Letterman. I didn't realize at the time what an amazing service they did me: causing me to use my imagination and to flex my reading muscles instead of depending on television's hollow appeal. It was actually years after I lived on my own until I started re-introducing t.v. back into my life, and even still I don't watch a whole lot. That's why I make ricotta cheese around 9 o'clock on a Thursday night I suppose. If you ask me, it's far better use of my time. The farm still has no antenna and no computer or Internet, my cell phone operates on the "E" instead of 3G, making any web-browsing painfully slow and patience testing. After the last week spent with very little technology, I realize again that it has no mastery over me - I like it fine, but I can very easily live without it.

I had a great week, technology-free. I chatted for hours with my best friend, my Mom. I met up with my old boss the Goddess of Pie, and was inspired by seeing so many great handmade pieces of art. (Especially when I was reacquainted with Susan Johnson. I actually told her that I wanted to be her when I was younger, and that I still do. I'm pretty sure she thought I was crazy. She is an amazing weaver, yes, we have weavers where I am from...) I talked so much in an afternoon I felt like I'd lost my voice. I went to bed early, and got up at the crack of dawn. We flew kites as a family on the windy Saturday afternoon in the field, and I freaked out when two hours later I found a deer tick crawling on my arm. I took tons of iPhone pictures that I didn't even bother uploading yet to see how they looked on the "big" screen of my netbook. Best of all, I spent Easter thinking about what Easter truly means, while sitting around the afternoon table with my family. All of it, proof that I haven't lost all of the country in me, that in a moment, I could leave all the technology behind and survive quite well.

Raw Vegan Monday: Macadamia Caprese

I had to make another raw vegan recipe from The Conscious Cook this week: Macadamia Caprese. While the author of The Conscious Cook, Tal Ronnen, is not strictly raw, he invited a guest raw vegan, chef Chad Sarno, to contribute this recipe. It is visually stunning; at a glance you would never know that it was vegan, and it really is easy to prepare..

The "cheese" is made by culturing macadamia nuts with probiotic culture, much the same way as the cashew cheese I made earlier this summer. I can't say that the flavor was all that different using the macadamia nuts than it was with cashews (and cashews are far less expensive), but the cheese was much more firm due to the way I cultured it.

I weighted it down with my sophisticate pie weights (white beans in a canning jar) and left it in my oven overnight with the light on. That trick keeps your oven mildly warm without using too much electricity, and when my a/c (even with the house set at like 75 f...) has barely stopped running for the past week, I needed to be sure it was warmish and draft free. You may also recall I use this trick for culturing buttermilk and sour cream, and it always yields great results.

The cheese firmed up nicely, and had the same base flavor as the cashew cheese that was cultured the same way, but lacked a little of cashew's sweetness. Vegan cheese is strange, because you kind of want to believe that it will taste like cheve or whatever varietal it appears it should approximate, and it just does not. It is it's own thing. I believe that I can appreciate it for what it is, while also noting that it is nothing like actual dairy cheese. This one was rolled in crushed black pepper, tarragon and chives from my garden, and I did think that it was beautiful to look at, probably why my Husband even tried a slice with a spicy tomato, and thought it was all right, I noted however that he did not ask for seconds...

It's funny, too, that I'm posting this cheese directly after a grilled cheese post!

I would have to say that the star of this appetizer had to be the tomato. They are semi-dried, and spicy with Cajun seasoning. Since raw vegan cooking prohibits the use of boiling water, very hot water is used to cover the tomatoes (bottoms pierced in an "x") for 10 minutes, stems in tact. Then, remove them to an ice water bath for 5 minutes or so, and carefully peel them. I didn't think that it was going to work, but it did! Sprinkled with Cajun spice (I used Penzey's Hot Cajun) and a bit of sea salt, they rest on a screen at room temp for several hours - I left them for about 8. They form a little bit of a dried crust on the outside, and retain all of their lovely tomato-ness inside.

I really do love The Conscious Cook cookbook. It's well designed and executed, and offers many interesting things for the adventurous vegan cook. Since I was unable to find the macadamia cheese anywhere else online, and Chad Sarno was gracious in publishing his recipe through another chef's book, I will suggest that you find a copy! I first saw and became acquainted with the book at my library, and it is now in my ever-bottomless Amazon cart for future purchasing. Meanwhile, if you'd like to try another of his similarly styled vegan cheeses, you can have a look here at the rawchef website.

It is so true that the stipulations of being raw and vegan do so much to spark kitchen creativity. It's not just raw carrot sticks and a handful of nuts to these pioneering chefs. While personally I enjoy a wide range of foods, I continue to gain a deeper appreciation for those with strict diets - for either social or food allergy reasons.

I am frequently reminded of a fortune cookie I once opened: "One hundred people, One hundred minds". It's easy to read that and dismiss it, but it is so true. Every one of us feels and thinks passionately about something, and it may or may not be the same opinion as our closest friend, a parent, or even a spouse. I'm not saying that there aren't things that are inherently right or wrong, but that surface opinion varies from person to person - and doesn't that make for the spice of life!

I like to think "food people" tend to be kindred spirits, exploratory folk who will try anything at least once, but that is not always the case. 100 minds... If you have never thought about eating or preparing something vegan, I'd urge you to give it a go. You may just find that you can't stop! See you next week on Vegan Monday!

Grilled Cheese: The CakeWalk.

The CakeWalk. I have never submitted a recipe to another website before (other than photographically speaking to Tastespotting), and was surprised that my image and recipe appeared lighting-quick on the beautifully appointed Grilled Cheese Academy website, without a lengthy moderation process. You may recall that I went to the website launch event in Madison a while back, and while I was immediately impressed with both the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and Tori Miller's execution of such humble ingredients as cheese and bread, I never thought I'd be submitting a recipe of my own. Of course, in true rcakewalk fashion, the recipe is really a Frankenstein's Monster of sorts: Lahey bacon bread, vegan cashew-lemon pesto, and a cheese that I first fell in love with in the early '90's.

When I was still in high school, my family went on a week long vacation to the Ely, Minnesota area. We stayed in a lakeside cabin, my brother and I canoed in the Boundary Waters, and our van broke. We had an enormous bench-seated rental, that I remember we had a lot of fun picking on. I'm sure there is a picture somewhere. But even more memorably than that, we ate at a restaurant called The Chocolate Moose. (It appears that it is still there, but there is no website listed when Googled.) I was vegetarian in those days - much to the chagrin of my Parents, I'd imagine, who were pretty lenient and understanding about my dietary choices.

What made The Chocolate Moose stand out to me was that they had a kitchen garden out in the back, and they were able to use a lot of it in what they served. We ate there multiple times, and I know that I had their grilled cheese every time we did. Their sandwich was something like this: bread, provolone, pesto, tomato, pesto, provolone, bread. I studied it completely. Not only was provolone a rather new cheese to me, I don't think that I'd ever had pesto before.

Theirs was pine nut pesto, and I remember recreating the sandwich soon after we got back to Wisconsin (thankfully, in our own van). I'm sure I bought a little refrigerated tub of pesto back then, but now due to the bounty of a summer kitchen garden of my own, there is no need for that. I used some leftover Cashew Lemon Pesto from a recipe by Dreena Burton in her book Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. When chilled, the cashew pesto was almost like a paste that I spread into a molded shape on the right hand piece of bread (photo below) and then transferred to the grated cheese. When heated, it went right back to it's original state much the same as a refrigerated traditional pesto would.

I love grilled cheese because it is one of those things in the Endlessly Adaptable Club that pretty much always hits the spot. Whatever is lurking in the fridge can find new life nestled in-between good bread and good cheese, and in relatively short order. I think the key to a great sandwich is to line the bread on both sides with some of the cheese, since it provides a moisture barrier, and also to sprinkle a bit of salt on the top of the sandwich after it is grilled. I learned this from my Dad, who is a grilled cheese expert. He would be the first to tell you that he's not much of a cook, but eggs, grilled cheese and outdoor grilling he's got down to a science. That little extra salinity on the top of the sandwich really just makes it.

So, there you have it. The CakeWalk is a sandwich of many parts, but it is one I am proud of. It is satisfying on it's own, but anytime that I'm able to promote Food in Jar's Spicy Dilly Beans, I will! I love these things, and they are even better since now I'm eating my remaining jar with gusto since I know I will have access to fresh green beans very soon to make more. I had a nice big handful on the side this evening, and like to think that everything in this grilled cheese supper was from Wisconsin, save the flour in the bread and the tropical cashew nut in the pesto.

You can check out my recipe in the gallery (search for The CakeWalk) and many others, and even submit one of your own while you're there. It's fun to know that whatever your level of cooking and/or kitchen experimenting, there is a sandwich at the Grilled Cheese Academy just waiting for you to enjoy. I know I have to remember to check out their site more often.

Mastering Mascarpone...and the Salvaging of Salt Block Salmon

When the Daring Baker mascarpone cheese turned out less than desirable, I knew I could do better. What better inspiration than these organic jars of heavy cream from the organic Crystal Ball Farms? I got one on Saturday morning at the Winter Farmer's Market. Not only do they look fantastic, the contents are stellar. This sweet cream had to make the best mascarpone! I very excitedly started it yesterday afternoon.

I used the same recipe and method I did the first time: both from Vera at Baking Obsession. I used a double boiler (a.k.a. old pot with a Pyrex mixing bowl on top), and found I had the same problem I did the first go around... I was stirring and "gently heating" for a full 45 minutes with no temperature increase past the 180 degree mark. I wondered if my thermometer was broken. I rinsed it and tried it again from zero, still only 180. I needed that 190 mark. I finally got frustrated enough that I poured the 180 degree cream into a regular pot, and then turned the heat to medium low. Mere minutes passed, until I was at the 190 mark. I added my lemon juice (which I eyeballed to be 3/4 of a T. due to evaporation and the 450ml of cream I started with), and another minute or two and it was properly thickened. I will be transferring any future cream for mascarpone directly to a bare naked pot, after it is properly and gently heated. That is my zen moment for today.

I now know that I did not have the true 190 mark on my first try. I know I was frustrated then too, and it wouldn't surprise me if I added the lemon juice and figured it was hot enough. It never coated a spoon like this the first time!

I let it cool 20 minutes, then let it drain through my layered cheesecloth until it came down to room temperature. I stashed the whole thing in the refrigerator overnight, and then sat down to daydream about what I was going to do with this luscious cheese. Of course, I wasn't going to wait until this morning to taste it! It was so smooth and sweet, no trace of "off flavor" that my last batch had, every bit like "the thickend creme anglaise" Vera spoke of. It was even better this morning when I unearthed it from its cocoon of cloth:

Don't let that cheesecloth-textured exterior fool you, this was the softest, dreamiest thing imaginable. Firm, but creamy, and so delicious. It had every mark of the fresh taste that the plain cream had. Non-homogenized milk is the key, I think. innBrooklyn suggested in my comments that a ravioli may be a good bet, and that is rather tempting. But meanwhile, I knew I'd have to try something by lunchtime. Fortunately, this cheese stepped right in to save an otherwise unfortunate learning experience: Salt Block Salmon.

Last week, I was excited to experiment with curing salmon on the Posh Saltblock. Using tips from Chef Malavenda, who graciously coached me via email, I used my one slab instead of two, and weighted it with unglazed quarry tiles. The piece of fish I used was rather thin, and I think I let it go too long. It was rendered fully cured but, even with vigorous washing, extrememly salty.

It certainly wasn't an unpleasant taste, just overwhelmingly salmon-y and saline. Since I knew that salt was going to keep it fresh for (I'd bet) weeks to come, I stored it in my fridge and asked the good Chef M. for a couple of ideas. She suggested a cream sauce for pasta, sans capers of course, or chopping it up tartar like for canapes. I took it for a spin in the food pro, and turned it into nicely textured, though still salty, rubble:

After I tasted the mascarpone this morning, it immediately struck me to add it to some mascarpone cheese. Not too much, just a bit, since I knew I was dealing with some pretty strong flavor here. Perfection? I think so! For the past week, my poor Husband kept hearing me discuss the salmon and what to do with the salmon, and that the salmon was way, WAY too salty, and I wasn't at all surprised that he didn't really jump at the chance to be a guinea pig to my original pasta sauce or fish cake idea. He did agree, with a tiny spoonful taste, that this is really good (though still a bit salty). I froze the rest of the salmon, and am going to pull this out next time I have dinner company (provided they are savvy of salmon, that is).

Just wish there was a bit of dill growing out in the yard...

I had just a bit for lunch today, on the heal of the never-waning obsession that is Lahey bread. I baked a new loaf this morning, and also placed another Amazon order for a Lodge 5 quart cast iron dutch oven. I could write love sonnets for my red LeCreuset, and I noticed it was receiving a bit of a blow being heated repeatedly in a hot oven. For around $30, I figured it was time to "upgrade" (or "downgrade" perhaps?) to a dedicated breadbaker, one that I had no such feelings attached to. Red LeCreuset shall be restored to her former glory, and I will have a bread-baking oven in an oven...and hopefully a whole lot of salmon spread to enjoy it with.

These first glimpses in a cold but sunny start to March (definitely in like a lamb, I'd say) make me so hungry for a ripe late summer tomato; this spread on that bread with a perfect tomato would be one for the books. Then I remembered about another Wisconsin food blogger: World of Flavors. I feel so busy lately, and have a hard time reading and responding and indeed cooking and baking as many bookmarked things as I like. World of Flavors featured sprouts and sprouting recently, and I do know for sure it is the time of year for watching something sprout in the kitchen. Not to mention Otehlia's photography is second to none, and made them look as if I could pluck them off my screen. I soaked some lowly "sandwich mix" seeds from Outpost, and by the end of the week, I'll be enjoying some sprouts.

But, I'd imagine I'll need to make some more mascarpone by then. Meanwhile, if you have any other mascarpone ideas, keep them coming. My goal is to have a little bit each day, as not to overwhelm my healthiness with too much cream. I'm thinking a pasta sauce with tuna and a spoonful melted in... Call me crazy, but I'm trying it in my coffee tomorrow morning.

That reminds me to go and pluck a quart jar of strawberries out of the deep freeze... I'm sure a makeshift dessert could be had if I can muster up the strength to make more ladyfingers!