Cottage cheese is a staple in my home. I love its creamy, mild flavor. It pairs perfectly with some garlic and herbs to make a protein-packed crudite dip, yet it also is at home in a quick dessert of cottage cheese and unsweetened applesauce.
Half a cup offers lots of protein (14 grams) plus calcium and vitamins, and all for just about 80 calories and only 3 grams of carbs. Plus, it's inexpensive.
Cottage cheese is more than just a snack; it's also a handy and nutritious ingredient. I love using it as a swap for ricotta in just about any recipe. Simply spoon the cottage cheese straight from the carton and use or, for extra points, drain or blot the excess moisture from the cottage cheese and pulse in the food processor and you'll have almost exactly the texture of ricotta cheese.
You can even use cottage cheese as a base for a lusciously creamy salad dressing. Just blend up the cottage cheese with a few tablespoons of very hot water, which will soften the curds just enough to make the results creamy. Add smashed garlic, lemon juice, fresh herbs and black pepper, and you have a tasty dressing or dip.
One of my favorite ricotta indulgences is Italian ricotta cake, which is something between a classic cake and a cheesecake. Sweet and fatty, a little sliver goes a long way.
Here is my cottage cheese makeover of this yummy (calorie-dense) treat. I use cottage cheese, of course, but I also cut the butter way down and kept the sugar on the lower end (1 ½ teaspoons per serving). Loads of lemon zest keep it exciting, and the almond flour ensures that the fats are healthy (and offer a smidge of protein and nutrients). All of which makes my Lemon Cottage Cheese Cake not exactly as authentic as a trip to Rome, but certainly a perfect way to end a springtime meal.
Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget and the author of the cookbook "Supermarket Healthy."