Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Jeff Mauro and Cracker Barrel Cheese

Guess what I did yesterday? Yes, I ran the kids all over, did laundry, washed dishes, cooked and tried to breathe in-between, but guess what else? Give up? I had the chance to talk with none other than Jeff Mauro. Yes, Jeff Mauro Sandwich King. Jeff Mauro winner of the 7th season of The Next Food Network Star. Jeff Mauro host of not just one, but TWO shows on Food Network, Sandwich King and $24 in 24.

He's just as personable and funny as you'd think and as an added bonus, his mom was visiting and was in on our call. How fun! We talked all things cheese and food in general with a sprinkling of kids and moms and life.

I had questions on-hand, but we veered a time or two and I was able to tell Jeff just how great my kids think he is. In our house you don't even need to say "Sandwich King", the kids know exactly who Jeff Mauro is. Ian and Cassidy in particular were really excited that I'd be speaking with Jeff and I let him know that. He was very happy to hear what fans we are.

Jeff Mauro has teamed up with award-winning Cracker Barrel cheese that recently placed best in class because of its rich full flavor with its sharp cheddar at the 2013 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest (sweet!) so we chatted about all-things-cheese yesterday and here's the basic gist of our conversation:

  • When it comes to cheese, what's the best way to get kids to delve in? Cracker Barrel Cracker Cuts are the best! Now that my son is 4 1/2 he's big enough and strong enough to open the fridge so I keep them on a low shelf so he can grab them for himself. It doesn't take much to fill them up between meals and it's a healthier and easier alternative to other snacks.
  • When it comes to fruit and cheese in a sandwich, what's your favorite pairing? Thinly sliced Granny Smith apple, which doesn't get mealy like other apples and still stays crunchy even in a grilled sandwich, and a good cheddar. (My favorite, too!)
  • If I'm making a good cheese soup, what goes well as far as a sandwich goes? I like something saltier to cut through the richness of the soup, maybe a smoked turkey and cheddar. I'm also a "dunker", I'd rather take a cold sandwich to pair with a hot soup. Cut it in triangles and dunk away! I'd rather eat a bowl of soup with a sandwich instead of a spoon.
  • What's your favorite kind of cheese? Aged cheddar. Really. There are Amish farms a couple hours out of Chicago where you can find the best cheese. I once found an 18-year cheddar. It was so good, but you could only eat 3 or 4 bites because it was so deep in flavor.
  • Lastly - what's the easiest way to entertain on the fly using cheese? Fruit and cheese is so easy for entertaining. Everyone has cheese in the drawer, some roasted nuts in the cabinet and fresh or dried fruit (it's true!) so the quickest way to get something together for last minute guests is to toss together a plate of cheese, fruit and nuts.
Cheese and Fruit
Even I had cheese, fruit and dried fruit on-hand for a quick after-school snack.

As for what's new this season on Sandwich King? More of dad! Jeff tells me dad will be on the show a couple times this season and that he's "stealing the show". I wholeheartedly agree!

Read below for some more tips from Jeff Mauro on entertaining and cooking with cheese. And, the next time you're at the store, grab some Cracker Barrel to have on-hand for all your cheese needs!



Grilled Summer Sausage & Vermont Cheddar Sliders
Fire-grilled slices of summer sausage, topped with Cracker Barrel Vermont cheddar, sun-dried aioli and BBQ potato chips.

Chedderdella Kabobs
Grilled cubes of mortadella, cubes of Cracker Barrel sharp cheddar, balsamic marinated cherry tomatoes all skewered into on easy to eat burst of summer flavor


  •         When constructing a cheese plate, think about variety of color as much as variety of flavor!  The color spectrum of CRACKER BARREL sharp yellow cheddar combined with the deep red of dried cranberries, shiny glazed walnuts, golden honey & juicy green grapes will impress your guests!  Remember we eat with our eyes first.
  •        Cheese and fruit are nature's best friends.  Add in a crunchy, salty nut to the mix, and a tender piece of cured meat, and you have nature's happiest family!
  •          If you have children, keep CRACKER BARREL cracker cuts in an easily accessible drawer or shelf for easy, do it yourself healthy snacking.
  •         Store cheese with the wrapper pulled back or cut away, but still intact.  It keeps the cheese fresher for longer, plus reminds you of what variety of cheese you’re actually snacking on.
  •         Use CRACKER BARREL EXTRA-SHARP CHEDDAR on your children's grilled cheese instead of the standard American.  It introduces your children's palette to a more robust flavor and fun natural texture that they will surely love right off the bat.
  •        Nothing too heavy!  Cracker Barrel cheese-based appetizers are perfect for whetting your guest’s appetite without overfilling their stomachs.
  •        Try to hit several sensations in one bite!  Something sweet, something spicy, something cheesy, and something crunchy.   This creates a complex & soul-hugging spectrum of flavor in each bites, which makes your guests very happy.
  •         Wine & Cheese is great, but Beer & Cheese is even better. World Championship Cheese Contest Gold Medalist 2012 CRACKER BARREL AGED RESERVE combined with a robust & nutty brown Ale or Pale Ale will make the pallet sing and quench your thirst on a hot summer afternoon!
  •        Have your appetizers out 15 minutes before your guests are scheduled to arrive.  My in-laws are perpetually super early, and they always come HUNGRY.  Having some easy to prepare and present sliders or Chedderella Kabobs ready to go before the official start time will insure you’re prepared for the early birds and not scrambling to accommodate those silly early birds.
  •        Enjoy your party!  Keep things simple by giving your guests a handful, NOT a BOATFULL of delicious options.  Concentrate on making a few dishes fantastic, rather than serving up 2 dozen mediocre dishes.  This not only makes your food more memorable, but also frees you up so you can actually PARTY at your party. 

Interview opportunity and cheese samples provided by Taylor Strategy. This is NOT a paid endorsement, all opinions are my own.


Don Rutherford said...


I AM GOING TO TRY CRACKER BARREL EXTRA SHARP on a grilled cheese sandwich tonight.


Don Rutherford said...


Thanks for the tip on the grilled cheese sandwich. I have Cracker Barrel extra sharp in the fridge and will made them tonight, but not for the kids but for me.