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Chef Wendell: Don’t get cheesed with me

Americans sure do love their cheese: roughly 40 lbs. a year. Everyone has a “fat tooth” as well as a “sweet tooth” and we know cheese can make practically anything taste better. But, that’s where the problem with cheese begins. We eat too much.

What’s not to like about a mouthful of creamy, oily delight? Well, for starters, superfluous tonnage, heart disease, and empty high calories.

If I suggested folks stop eating cheese, I’d get pummeled with a deep-fried mozzarella stick. Under current medical recommendations it would be prudent, however, to reduce how much you eat. You know how wacky Americans think more is better.

Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine shares, “The obesity epidemic is not caused by inactivity, bread, rice, gluttony, weak will, or a bad childhood. It is caused by a tsunami of unhealthful foods, and one of the worst, perhaps surprisingly, is cheese. Typical cheeses are about 70 percent fat, and every last fat gram packs nine calories that no one needs. Most of that fat is saturated (“bad”) fat-the kind that increases cholesterol levels and puts us at risk for diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and other diseases. A 2-ounce cheese serving also packs 350 milligrams of sodium and, ounce for ounce, as much cholesterol as a heart-stopping steak.” (

The casein in cheese coats the digestive system, leading to leaky gut syndrome, malabsorption and/or constipation. In “The China Study,” Dr. T. Colin Campbell explains the apparent link between cancer and consumption of animal protein. What he was able to find was that casein -85 percent of the protein in dairy – promoted cancer in all stages of its development. He concluded the only safe protein was plant-derived protein. The amount of cancer growth could be controlled based on the amount of casein in the diets of the laboratory animals.

Milk and dairy products can, in fact, be harmful to health. It is best to consume a healthful diet of grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fortified foods including whole grain cereals and real, not sugary fruit and vegetable juices. These nutrient-dense foods can help you meet your calcium, potassium, riboflavin, and vitamin D requirements easily without the health risks associated with dairy product consumption.

Some people may say it’s their right to fill their body with cheese, cheese, and more cheese. And I agree, what you choose to eat is your business, so it’s a matter of personal responsibility. So, please don’t get cheesed with me. Direct your attention to this fun version of a Spring Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Sandi and I open up a ‘box’ of tomato soup and feel like kids again. Campbell’s is a bit heavy handed with the salt.Spring Grilled Cheese Sandwich

8 thin stalks washed asparagus, tough ends broken off (or a handful of baby spinach leaves)

Himalayan salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons grainy mustard

2 slices of cheese

2 slices of Ezekiel bread

1 Tbsp. soft butter

• Blanch the asparagus for 30 seconds in boiling water and chill with cold water immediately to preserve the vibrant green color. Pat dry. The spears should still be firm and crisp inside.

• Spread one side of each piece of bread with butter. On each unbuttered side, spread a very thin amount of grainy mustard.

• In a warming skillet, place the bread, butter-side-down, and lay one slice of cheese on each mustard side.

• Lay asparagus in a single layer on top of the two cheese halves.

• Over medium heat, slowly grill until the cheese has melted and the bread a bit crispy and brown, about 2-4 minutes per side.

• This way you’re cooking both sides at once.

• Join the two halves and cut with a sharp knife.