10 Ways to Dress Up Cottage Cheese

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Poor cottage cheese. The taint of being a dieter's best friend has tarnished your reputation. Because of your high protein content and relatively low calorie count, the diet industry sank its marketing claws into you and never quite let go.

I've always been profoundly suspicious of foods marketed as magical weight loss cures. (When I worked at TCBY as an adolescent, I served customers who demanded fat-free rather than sugar-free fro-yo, even though the sugar-free stuff had fewer calories; terrified that I might give them the wrong kind of vanilla, customers would watch me, suspiciously, as I filled their parfait cups and waffle cones. Of course, that was in the '90s, when other people were convinced that food, in general, had to be avoided—remember the juicing craze?)

I've always been very pro-chewing, so juicing never tempted me. Neither did the strange phenomenon of men and women who would gnaw through packets of lunchmeat or get two fast food burgers with extra cheese, then denude said burgers of their buns. Eating a kind of Goldilocks diet—a "just right" balance of all the food groups, in moderate portionsm—has always worked best for me.

Yet I have found that, stripped of its low carb associations, that cottage cheese can be a friend of one's tastebuds, and not just the waistline. If you can find whipped cottage cheese, it's positively decadent on a sliced banana, topped with honey, raisins and honey-roasted peanuts. (A delicious carb trifecta.) It's all about establishing a relationship with cottage cheese—and learning to appreciate its decadent side.

How else to use cottage cheese?

A Few Ideas for Dressing Up Cottage Cheese:

1. The early riser: Whipped cottage cheese can be slathered on a bagel—or pancakes—with jam. (I'm particularly fond of the cinnamon raisin bagel, cottage cheese, and strawberry jam combination, myself).

2. Faux Mexican: Mix cottage cheese with a squeeze of lime and a shake of black pepper, then pair with warm tortillas and fresh tomatoes. Optional additions: sliced avocado and a topping of shredded Monterey Jack.

3. Faux Italian: Served with cold, leftover spaghetti—or fresh whole wheat pasta salad mixed with olive oil, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes.

4. Dessert-for-dinner: Layer your favorite cereal, cottage cheese, fruit, and nuts in a sundae dish for a kind of healthy parfait.

5. Stuffed potatoes: Scoop some cottage cheese onto a baked Russet or sweet potato, and then top with a sprinkling of freshly-chopped chives, rosemary, or even some cinnamon. Or whip some freshly chopped herbs and lemon or lime into cottage cheese, and serve with a small, delicate serving of potato chips as a small meal. (Or a small, delicate dinner plate filled with potato chips. Or half a large bag.)

6. For those very secure in a relationship: Toast some crusty bread, butter it lightly, then top with a thin slice of onion and some whipped cottage cheese. (I'm told if two people eat onions at the same time, the effect on the eater's breath cancels itself out.)

7. Comfort food: I've seen many people use crumbled graham crackers and a shake of pumpkin pie spice on cottage cheese.

And while I haven't tried these myself, a few more ideas...

8. Richard Nixon apparently loved cottage cheese with ketchup.

9. I have heard of people mixing Cool Whip in their cottage cheese (though I haven't found anyone confessing to doing this in print).

10. I may have been spotted once using whipped cottage cheese, rather than butter, on a piece of cornbread—but that may have just been a woman who looked like me. (That's the official report, in case you're talking to any of my friends from the South. I don't want to be accused of sacrilege.)

All of these options shouldn't be eaten within ten feet of someone who takes their low-carb diet seriously. But for those of you who do like your low-carb diet—I know cottage cheese is lovely with grilled veggies and some herbs, as well as in any of the above methods!

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