Week Five of Our Winter Cheese Plate Winners: The Balanced Plate | culture: the word on cheese
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Week Five of Our Winter Cheese Plate Winners: The Balanced Plate

We’ve arrived at the fifth and final week of our Winter Cheese Plate Party! So far you’ve heard from a few new voices in the culture community about our Winter 2012 Cheese Plate, but we’ve got one more for you! Our final guest post comes from Caroline Kaufman, RD, offering a thoughtful take on nutrition and healthy eating at Sweet Foodie.

When I want it decadent and gooey, I hit up San Francisco’s American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. When I feel like a little kid, I peel thin strings off a cheese stick and pretend I have a cheese beard. When I’m really hungry? Slices of Comté. Bread knife. Kitchen counter.

But when I’m feeling fancy, I pull out my cheeseboard, cheese knives, and a bottle of wine. And sometimes I invite other people to join me.

As a dietitian, I want people to enjoy eating. We typically eat at least three times a day, every day for our whole lives. Let’s say you start eating regular meals at about a year old and you live until you’re 90 – that’s at least 97,455 eating opportunities. And that doesn’t count standing outside the refrigerator plucking out handfuls of grapes, eating frozen mini chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s, or enjoying healthy snacks throughout the day. Food is both personal and social, and if you stress about everything you eat, you’re going to spend…well, a lot of time stressed out. And that’s going to do a number on your body’s ability to regulate its own hunger and fullness signals and desire to retain or lose weight. Not to mention bolster its uncanny ability to wind and warp feelings of hunger and fullness with emotion, totally confusing us inside and out.

On the whole, I believe that if you like something, eat it. If you feel better not eating it, and you can maintain a healthy attitude and get all the nutrients you need, don’t eat it. I’m not a fan of “forbidden foods” because that all-or-nothing mindset leads to guilt, and more guilt. Better to balance your diet by eating lots of healthy food so when you make an indulgent choice that’s got the whole delicious fat-salt-sweet thing going on, you’re all good.

This leads me back to cheese.

My typical advice for people who are trying to eat healthfully is to enjoy small amounts of full-fat cheese, and use reduced-fat cheese when you’re making a dish that calls for a lot of dairy and you just need that cheesy flavor and texture. For example, when I make lasagna, I use skim milk shredded cheese for the majority of the dish, and mix in some full-fat cheese to boost the flavor.

When culture gave me the opportunity to throw a cheese party, I jumped on it, and prepared a bunch of healthy apps to go alongside the main attraction.

They sent a pretty box of cheeses: Bayley Hazen Blue, Comté, and Great Lakes Cheshire, along with some spiced pecans and oat crackers.

While the cheese was a huge hit, the Zingerman’s Spiced Pecans may have won the popularity contest. Friends dipped their fingers into the empty bowl to scoop up the sweet powder!


Another unexpected hit was celery and carrot sticks dipped into spicy Thai peanut sauce. It went with chicken skewers, but people seemed more interested in dipping the veggies! The Barefoot Contessa’s spinach gratin made with skim milk went over well too. Special thanks to Saffron Road and Trader Joe’s for letting me pour some appetizers out of a bag. I chose a mix of high-stress (raw chicken on the counter 30 minutes before people arrived) and low-stress appetizers (open plastic container of edamame, enter spoon, place on table). There are shortcuts for pretty much everything – you’ve gotta pick your party prep battles.

I’ve posted my recipes plus other healthy app ideas on my Pinterest page in case you want to check them out!

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