Pairing Beer and Cheese

Did you know that today is National Cheese Lover Day?? What a fantastic day to celebrate all things cheese AND be reminded that cheese offers a multitude of minerals & vitamins that are beneficial for your body, hello healthy bones! Cheese also has protein and fat in it, both of which are good for our body. You may agree with me when it comes to protein, but are you still on team fat-free or low-fat?

If you are I am not here to make you feel bad for that. Everyone has a right to choose the forms of foods they wish to eat them in. Sometimes I choose these options when it comes to dairy foods because I like the taste. Other times I choose full fat, whole milk forms because it’s more satisfying or works better in a recipe. Depends on my mood and what I’m cooking! Steve prefers the whole fat versions and a spouses’ opinion also plays a factor in the foods chosen to eat.

What we know from history is how fat used to be the enemy of weight loss and is sometimes still advertised as such. “You should choose low-fat/fat-free to save on calories so you can lose weight.” Sound familiar? Me too. But, as far as cheese goes…I’m not seeing science based evidence that relates eating cheese directly to chronic disease. You might see articles that cheese causes this or that symptom along with x, y, and z and certainly those who are lactose-intolerant/allergic may need to change the type of cheese they eat (or eliminate it).

Anyone watch the office here?

But if anything is being shared more loud and clear right now, it’s that full fat versions of cheese/dairy may be more beneficial when it comes to a balanced diet because it is tastier and produces more satiety (filling) so you may eat less. In this study from five years ago, they found that consumption dairy fat or high-fat dairy foods did not support the idea that they directly contribute to obesity or cardiometabolic risk.

The thing is, you can’t feed a human only cheese and say that it caused obesity or heart disease. So when you see articles out there demonizing a food because a study found something (gasp!)…it’s not generally something that can be applied to EVERYONE. That’s the beauty and grime of science, but it’s why I find that a no-size-fits-all approach to educating people works well. Is it okay to choose low-fat cheese? Sure. Is it also okay to choose full fat cheese? Yep. What’s more important to me is your reason WHY. Are you punishing yourself with low-fat cheese because you were, “bad” over the weekend or are you picking one over the other based on personal preferences or heck, one was on sale?

I digress. What I really wanted to share with you for National Cheese Day (THIS SUNDAY! January 20th!) is a way to enjoy cheese in (maybe) a new way – with beer! Cheese not only pairs with beer well, they are similar in that they both get fermented and aged so they are primed and ready for us to drink/eat. Also, think about how many beer and cheese styles there are…SO many to choose from. So how can we pair them together?

Just like in the above rant about what type of cheese you choose, it can be pretty individual when it comes to pairing cheese with beer. I’ll make suggestions, but you’ll have to try them for yourself – and mix and match them too – to find what you like best.

**If you’re going to taste a bunch all together on a beer/cheese board though…make sure to consider your order. Don’t taste a super sharp cheddar first and jump to brie next…your palette likes it when you build it up gradually!**

A general tip from Steve when he lead a beer & cheese pairing (well, he’s led a good number of these!) is to go slow and take turns. First eat the cheese, what textures and flavors are you experiencing? Then try the beer, what’s happening now? Now try them together. It makes it more of an experiment in mindfulness and getting to know your taste buds which is pretty fun.

I’m choosing four beer styles to start so read on below to get an idea for what kind of cheese to pair with these styles. Remember to also mix and match, just because I say one pairs well doesn’t mean you can’t try all the cheese with all the beers!

  • Sours – Sour is a general term to describe these as the bacteria in the beer gives them their taste but the variety of yeast used will give them a funky or earthy (barnyard to me) quality. Sours can cut into a cheese that’s really rich and soft like goat cheese or brie so for me the two work well together.
  • Saisons – A saison will typically have fruity and citrus flavors which can go great with soft and semi soft cheese. Even something like a muenster or Monterey jack will help the fruity notes sing and the cheese fit in nicely.
  • IPAs – Since all IPAs are different, the cheese that works best might vary. An aged cheddar or gouda might pair well since both will have a pronounced bitterness and a little funk without being too over the top.
  • Stouts- Since these are popular more in the winter, try an imperial stout with blue cheese for a strong finish (i.e. don’t start with blue cheese when you’re trying multiple cheeses/beers!). We also liked smoked cheeses with stouts for a more robust and full flavor all around.

Try this sample cheese & beer pairing board:

  • The Oarsmen Berliner Weisse from Bell’s Brewery with goat cheese.
  • Cropduster IPA from Grand Armory with sharp cheddar
  • Farmhand (saison) from Brewery Vivant with brie.
  • Dragon’s Milk (BBA Imperial Stout) from New Holland Brewing with blue cheese.
**Tipsy tip: Have water & crackers nearby or on your fancy cheese plate so that you can break up the tastes your palette is experiencing & remember…everyone’s taste buds are different so go out there and try some out!**

Cheers!

Did you try the pairings above? Have you found any on your own that you love? Share’m with me below! OR take a photo and tag me on Instagram @The_beer_RD!

How To: Roast Vegetables

Okay so you want to start making some healthier side dishes or you simply want to know how to cook the vegetables “right” so that you can enjoy them. Great! Vegetables are a fantastic way to get in some good fiber, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. Also, because it’s winter here, I start to crave more warm foods and find myself getting further from cold cut veggies and salads. 

Chili powder getting dashed onto some chopped sweet potatoes (skin kept on for added fiber)

Step One: Pick your veggie. It can be one or as many as you like!

Step Two: Crank on the oven to 400 degrees. 

Step Three: Chop, slice, and dice your veggies the way you like and put them in a big bowl. Then spray on some olive oil cooking spray or just drizzle on your favorite oil like olive, avocado, or canola. Mix it up.

400 degrees F, cut squash in half, scoop seeds out, place on pan inside facing down, bake 50 min.

Step Three: Spice things up by combining flavors that sound good to you. We love chili so I typically add cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and oregano to our veggies. You can use Tuscan blends, mushroom powder, Italian Medley or anything you desire. I also like to crush a little sea salt or use 1/4 tsp of salt across about 2lbs of veggies.

Step Four: Spread the veggies out – sometimes I use foil and sometimes I don’t. 

Brussel sprouts and radishes cut in half, tossed with 1 tbsp oil + dash of salt + dash of pepper + 1 tsp Tuscan spice blend + chicken sausage (400 degrees, 30 min)

Step Five: Bake’m for about 15-20 minutes. If you’re roasting a veggie that is higher in water content like a bell pepper, it may only need 12-15 minutes. If you’re baking something like squash or potatoes, it may take an additional 20 minutes. At the half way mark, take them out mix them around/flip’m and put them back in till they are the desired texture. 

Step Six: Enjoy! Serve immediately or divide them up for breakfasts, lunches, snacks, etc. 

Cheers!

Balancing Cooking, Meal Planning and Life

As we continue to live more and more immersed in this virtual world I think it’s important to make an effort in connecting with people, namely our family, in real life. But when it comes to connecting, having meaningful conversations and trying to meal plan / cook AND make some healthy choices…it can be tough. Here are some suggestions for how you can plan your meals ahead and connect more with your family.

Routines – this can go two ways! A routine can eventually be boring (if every Monday is spaghetti night) and can lead to food boredom. You could combat this by changing the type of spaghetti recipe / do a different pasta dish instead. Routine can also help insure that you have at least one meal per day that you’re all able to enjoy together. This can help keep the importance of family meal time in the forefront rather than a back burner though.

Eat more meals at home – This helps to tie the idea that meals are mostly meant to be eaten at home and that eating out is a once and a while occasion. This generally leads to a happier budget and healthier choices….which goes with the next bullet point.

More hands in the kitchen – I understand I do not have kids and so I don’t truly have experience in this area but I know from experience in teaching family cooking class that the more involved kids can be in the kitchen, the more engaged they are with the food options.

More hands involved in planning – once the kids are old enough to help choose meals, be open to the idea of letting them pick a meal. This could ramp up their excitement for the meal creating a positive memory with developing meal ideas and implementing them.

Plan on new foods – Either once a week or a few times a month, give your kids a new food to try. It doesn’t have to be anything to crazy and it doesn’t have to be a fruit or vegetable. It could be a new form of a food (grapes vs. raisins or pickles vs cucumbers). Encouraging kids to routinely try new things helps them keep their palette open to new foods.

Simple meals are OKAY – sometimes we get the idea that eating healthy has to be these extraordinary meals and bursts of flavor and they also have to be picture perfect right!? Wrong! It’s okay to plan simple meals, you might even consider just 3-4 food groups at a meal to come up with different combos.
Example: protein + veggie + grain = fish + green beans + rice
Example: Dairy + grain + veggie = Pasta with cheese + roasted broccoli
Example: Veggie + fruit + dairy + grain = carrots + strawberry slices + cottage cheese +pita bread

Stocking a pantry – It’s helpful to have staples in your cupboards that you know you can always make a meal out of. I also have a frozen meat, rice, canned tomatoes and spices which allows me some freedom in picking up the ingredients and throwing something together. When in doubt, I’m making eggs for dinner 😉

Flexibility – this is a biggy! You might have a very well laid out plan but things happen and life throws us curve balls. Learning to be flexible and to not allow the all-or-nothing thoughts to creep in is important. Taking a moment to pause and reflect on how you can be flexible but still make a choice to satisfy the wants and needs is helpful.

Adventure – This goes with planning on new foods! Get adventurous with different types of cuisines and meals you’ve never tried before. Or allow kids to pick a new food and see how you can incorporate it into a meal or snack.

Working on a eating healthier for yourself and your family can be difficult when also trying to maintain everything else in life. What in the above do you think you could try to make it easier?

Cheers!

Meal Planning 101

One of the most frequent questions I get is, how do you meal plan? Can you make me a meal plan? I could, but I think I can help you learn how to make your own which will be better in the long run.

In all seriousness, I get it. Meal planning is hot, trendy, and it can seem like everyone on Instagram is doing it – perfectly. I’m here to share, it IS hot and trendy but it takes practice and can become more of a habit after lots and lots of practice. That said, you’ve got a number of ways to start but here’s what works for me.

Step One: Every season I go through my pantry, freezer, and fridge and do some clean out. I try to keep an inventory of the freezer (since I find frosty science experiments in there way too often) and monitor my fridge throughout the week. Clearing out the spoiled and knowing what’s already in your house is a good place to start.

Step Two: I ask myself if I can make a meal or at least the base of a meal with ingredients I have already. There’s fish in the freezer, rice in the cabinet, lemon juice, and canned tomatoes (I love cooking rice and adding petite diced tomatoes to it). I’ve got a dinner minus maybe needing some fresh broccoli for a side. This step saves you money and helps you continue to be creative with what you have on hand.

Step Three: What’s in the fridge? Are there any leftovers that you could turn into soup, stir fry, or a scramble? I love taking the left overs like roasted veggies and scrambling them up with eggs for dinner or shredding that leftover uneaten, getting wrinkly zucchini and baking muffins (even if it’s just a small batch).

Step Four: Check out recipes or look through ones you’ve been saving on your Pinterest board and check out the local sales ads as well. I tend to do the most meal planning for dinner but there are plenty of people who will start meal planning by only planning breakfasts or lunch…or snacks! Do what does not feel too overwhelming for you. If you’ve got a stressful week ahead, use your Go-To meal sheet. Find more info about that HERE.

Step Five: I use a planner but you can use a piece of paper, notebook, whiteboard, or anything you like to write out what you’re going to make/when. Then check your recipes for ingredients you already have and write out what you’ll still need.

Step Six: Write down other things you’ll need for the week and if you want to take it a step farther, I like to rewrite my list in the order I shop at the store. It helps me save time and then I’m not weaving through aisles feeling tempted to add things to the cart that aren’t in the budget.

Step Seven: When you’re home, it can help to organize what you’ve purchased and keep your meal plan present. Steve and I have a whiteboard on the fridge that helps us stick to our meal plan. I once read a hilarious tweet that said, “being married is having the we have food at home argument every single day.” I wish I knew who said that because it is SO true.

Bonus step: If you have leftover beer taking up room in the fridge, chances are you can bake with it! I’ll be share to give you some more recipe ideas in that regard soon!

It does seem like a lot of steps when you write it out, but I would encourage anyone who wants to try meal planning to see what they need the most. Do you struggle having a breakfast in the morning? Are you hungry all day at work and spending more than you want in the work cafeteria? First identify what it is you want to plan, start small and practice, practice, practice!

What do you think? Have you tried meal planning? What helps you make a meal plan?

Cheers!

Next time you meal plan, Tag me! @The_Beer_RD on Instagram and hashtag it #theBeerRD