Lose Weight but Love Dairy: Fantastic Recipes Using Cottage Cheese

Dairy is getting the ax by those sticking to paleo eating or other diets as a way to slim down. There’s really no reason to avoid it, though, especially if you reach for cottage cheese. It has a rich, creamy flavor and delivers a serious dose of nutritional value. According to the USDA’s nutrient database, 4 ounces of full-fat cottage cheese contains a little over 110 calories, close to 13 grams of protein, and just a bit under 5 grams of fat.

While cottage cheese is perfectly tasty on its own, it’s capable of starring in some pretty sophisticated recipes. It works in everything from a crisp salad to a rich-tasting dessert. These five recipes will show you cottage cheese can do.

1. High-Protein Cottage Cheese Omelet with Kale and Mushrooms

omelet filled with mushrooms and spinach

Spinach and mushroom omelet | iStock.com

Starting your day off with protein and fiber is the best way to keep your hunger tamed all morning, so this savory omelet from The Conscious Dietitian is a great choice. It’s brimming with eggs, cottage cheese, mushrooms, and kale, giving you huge doses of both nutrients. Best of all, it tastes fantastic.

While any food with protein can help build muscle, cottage cheese might be one of the best. It contains both casein and whey. One 2006 study found men who supplemented their diets with a combination of both proteins gained the most lean muscle mass at the end of a 10-week trial.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups chopped, stemmed kale
  • 4 eggs, lightly beated
  • 2 teaspoons milk, non-dairy milk, or water
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped fresh herbs (optional)

Directions: Heat ½ tablespoon oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until they give off their juices and begin to brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add kale and cook until just beginning to wilt, about 30 seconds longer. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Combine eggs with milk or water, fresh herbs, if using, and season with salt and pepper. Heat another ½ tablespoon oil in a small, nonstick skillet. Add half the egg mixture and cook, using a rubber spatula to lift edges and allow uncooked egg to run underneath cooked egg, until nearly cooked. Surface should still appear moist.

Top with half the cheese and half the kale mixture. Fold in half and transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve at once.

2. Buffalo Chicken Salad with Ranch Cottage Cheese

ramekin filled with a homemade cottage cheese and herb spread

Herb cottage cheese spread | iStock.com

Salads are a go-to lunch or dinner for many trying to keep their weight in check, but the strategy can backfire when the lettuce is swimming in heavy dressing. Make a smarter salad with this Buffalo chicken rendition from Foxes Love Lemons. It swaps the standard mayo-based dressing for an herbed cottage cheese, which is just as delicious. If you’re feeling extra hungry, turn this meal into a wrap with a whole-wheat tortilla.

Though relying on cheese to help you stay slim might sound crazy, some research suggests it’s actually pretty effective. One study published in the Journal of Nutrition involving 90 female participants found those who consumed a high-protein, high-dairy diet accompanied by exercise lost the most fat and gained the most muscle mass.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16-ounce) container cottage cheese
  • 1 (1-ounce) packet ranch dressing mix
  • 2 small chicken breasts, grilled or roasted, and chopped
  • ¼ cup Buffalo sauce
  • 1 large head Romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

Directions: Combine cheese and dressing mix in a medium bowl. Stir until fully incorporated. In a separate bowl, toss chicken with Buffalo sauce.

Divide lettuce among four plates and top evenly with carrots, celery, tomatoes, and chicken mixture. Add a dollop of cottage cheese and serve.

3. Bean and Cheese Enchiladas

cheesy enchiladas with red enchilada sauce

Enchiladas with red sauce | iStock.com

Though we hear about the heart-boosting benefits of eating meatless meals all the time, finding satisfying recipes can be quite a challenge. You won’t have to worry about a grumbling stomach when you go for these black bean and cottage cheese enchiladas from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. The beans and cottage cheese give you a double dose of protein plus plenty of fiber. They also taste fantastic thanks to a slightly spicy tomato sauce.

Surprisingly, this meat-free recipe might be even better for your heart than versions that skip the dairy. One 2010 study found men and women who supplemented their diets with whey protein, which is abundant in cottage cheese, experienced favorable changes in their blood pressure at the end of the 12-week trial.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups 1% cottage cheese
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Salt and pepper
  • 16 corn tortillas
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 large white onion, diced small, ½ cup reserved
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato purée
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • Fresh cilantro leaves

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Process cottage cheese in a food processor until smooth, then transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in beans and season with salt and pepper. Wrap tortillas in a damp dish towel and microwave until soft and pliable, about 2 minutes. Working one tortilla at a time, lightly spray both sides with cooking spray. Add 2 rounded tablespoons of cottage cheese and bean mixture, then roll around filling. Transfer, seam-side down, to a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake until hot, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in vinegar, tomato purée, and broth. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, transfer to a blender, and blend until smooth.

Serve enchiladas topped with sauce and garnished with reserved onion and cilantro.

4. Healthy Skillet Lasagna

close-up of baked ziti with cheese

Baked ziti with cheese | iStock.com

A craving for lasagna in the middle of the week usually means a frozen dinner or heading to a local takeout restaurant. You can quickly satisfy your craving in a much healthier way if you make Apple of My Eye’s skillet lasagna. The real secret to lightening up this recipe is using cottage cheese instead of ricotta. The Dairy Dish illustrated that even if you opt for a full-fat cottage cheese, you’ll still end up consuming far less fat and fewer calories than if you had used ricotta.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound 93% lean ground beef
  • 8 lasagna noodles, broken into pieces
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 6 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup 1% cottage cheese

Optional toppings

  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped fresh basil

Directions: Heat oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add beef and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until no pink remains. Add noodles, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and water. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until pasta is cooked. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Add cottage cheese and stir to create a marble effect. Top with mozzarella, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes, or until cheese melts. Garnish with Parmesan and basil, if desired. Serve.

5. No-Bake Peach Cheesecake Cups

miniature jars filled with a crumb crust, custard, and peaches to forma parfait

Peach and custard parfaits | iStock.com

One of cottage cheese’s best tricks is the ability to mimic cream cheese in indulgent desserts. These no-bake mini cheesecakes from Inside BruCrew Life are a great example. Though the recipe calls for peaches, you can also substitute berries, mango, or cherries.

In addition to tasting great, this dessert might be good brain food. While scientists are still unsure of the reason, a 2012 study reported dairy consumption is linked to better cognitive performance.

Ingredients:

Crust

  • ½ cup gingersnap cookie crumbs
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 1 tablespoon plain gelatin
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1½ cups fresh or frozen, thawed peach slices
  • 1¼ cups cottage cheese
  • ¼ cup peach yogurt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional toppings

  • Whipped topping
  • Sprinkles

Directions: In a small bowl, mix cookie crumbs, ½ tablespoon sugar, and butter to combine. Press mixture into each of 10 small jars or ramekins.

In a small bowl, stir warm water into gelatin. Mix until dissolved and set aside. Add peaches to a blender and blend until smooth. Add cheese, yogurt, sugar, and vanilla. Blend until combined. Add gelatin mixture and blend to incorporate. Pour filling over crust in jars, transfer to the fridge, and chill until set.

Garnish with toppings, if desired, and serve.

Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec

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