In our never-ending quest to root for the underdog, where better to begin than with cottage cheese?
The mere mention of it will make some turn up their noses, and others sigh with nostalgia. Once the mainstay of restaurant “diet” menu choices, cottage cheese for years has been relegated to barely a chilly shelf or two at grocery stores. Meanwhile, yogurt — a dairy sibling of sorts — has taken over the refrigerator case.
National Public Radio recently charted how cottage cheese consumption has fallen by more than half since the mid-1970s. Yet there are those touting its various benefits today as a food high in protein and low in carbs, and that it’s good for digestion.
While sales may have hit a five-year low in 2014, they started climbing last year, reports Dairy Foods magazine. The resurgence has been enhanced by new flavors and additional protein added to this longtime product.
Some say it’s old-fashioned. Remember green Jell-O with cottage cheese? Or pear halves served up with a scoop of the stuff? Today you’re more likely to see it as a base for a dip, with or without carrot sticks. Or as an ingredient to make something else creamy.
Therein lies the issue: The texture throws off some potential diners — while others embrace it.
Karen Lukin of Dallas sometimes puts chili powder on it. Or lime juice. Or balsamic reduction (the vinegar boiled down). She remembers her cousins chopping hard-boiled eggs into it, then adding cucumber slices and Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. It was a staple of Atkins and other high-protein diets in the past, she says.
One cup of 1-percent fat cottage cheese has 28 grams of protein — the same amount of plain yogurt has 13 grams. Low-fat yogurt has 17 grams of carbohydrates; cottage cheese has 6.
But it also has a lot of sodium. There are 900 mg of sodium in 1 cup of 1-percent fat cottage cheese, nearly half the recommended daily amount. (A low-sodium version of cottage cheese has much less.)
Folks trying to lose weight look toward cottage cheese because of the low-cal/high-protein feature that keeps you full. The protein is especially good for elderly people, who may not be eating large enough amounts of food and getting protein they need, and for athletes and bodybuilders.
For the rest of us? It simply tastes good.
Note: This dish can be prepared the night before and baked the next day before guests arrive. From the Dallas Morning News.
• 8 oz. spaghetti
• 1 lb. extra-lean ground beef
• 1/3 c. onion, chopped
• 4 oz. sliced mushrooms
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1/2 tsp. oregano
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/4 tsp. pepper
• 1 (16-oz.) jar meatless spaghetti sauce
• 1/3 c. light sour cream
• 1 c. low-fat cottage cheese
• Nonstick vegetable cooking spray
• 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
Prepare spaghetti according to package directions.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Sauté ground beef, onion, mushrooms, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper in a large skillet until meat is browned; pour off fat. Stir in spaghetti sauce; simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
Place half the cooked spaghetti in the bottom of a deep 8-inch square casserole dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Layer half the meat sauce mixture on top of spaghetti.
Combine the sour cream and cottage cheese; spread over meat sauce layer. Add remaining spaghetti and cover with remaining meat mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 35 minutes; let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 386 Fat 10 g Sodium 845 mg Saturated fat 4 g
Carbohydrates 45 g Total sugars 9 g
Protein 29 g Cholesterol 61 mg Dietary fiber 4 g
Exchanges per serving: 3 lean protein, 1 fat.