Two protein-filled meals featuring my favorite dairy foods

This post is sponsored by Real California Milk. Thanks for supporting our sponsors!

Last month, I attended an event in San Francisco hosted by Real California Milk, and so I’m excited to be working with my new friends at Real California Milk to bring you this post all about the benefits of dairy, as well as two delicious healthy meals I love to eat featuring dairy. 

Before we talk about that event, let’s talk about diets and food groups. You see, it’s super popular for people to swear off food groups these days. And while I’m 100 percent behind learning and understanding what works for your unique body and creating a diet around that, I’m not behind avoiding foods just to have a limited diet and say you avoid things. You know what I mean? Dairy is one of those food groups that can be very beneficial for you if it works for you, but it may not work for you. You need to eat the right kinds of high-quality dairy and see how it makes you feel. Dairy works for me, and I’m pretty happy about that, because it has a lot of good things going for it.

Playing with food with Real California Milk

Now back to the dairy event in SF …

During that event, we learned some food styling tips, set up shots ourselves and also heard from a doctor/chef on awesome ways to prepare dairy for easy breakfasts, lunches and snacks too. And all of that was fun for a foodie like me, but perhaps the best part was that we also met a real dairy farmer, who told us all about her family’s dairy farm, where she lives, just a drive away from San Francisco. She’s out there working on the farm milking cows and tending to the land, and her farm produces dairy that is eventually sold in stores for us to buy. And all of the farm workers and their families live on the property too. Pretty neat stuff.

My new Real California Milk apron (with pockets, yay!) is also pretty neat …

Ashley at the California Dairy event by A Lady Goes West

It’s so cool to know that California dairy products come from real people. In fact, 99 percent of the 1,300 California dairy farms are family owned. A few other fun facts:

  • California is the second largest producer of cheese and yogurt in the U.S., making more than 2.5 billion pounds of cheese annually 
  • California is the largest producer of butter and ice cream in the U.S.
  • California has been making cheese for as long as it has been making wine
  • California is the number-one dairy state and the number-one producer of milk in the U.S.

As a dairy lover (hello, yogurt and cheese and ice cream and cream cheese frosting and I could go on), I was already on board with the benefits of real dairy, including the fact that it’s a great source of complete protein and calcium, and dairy contains valuable vitamins and minerals too.

Let’s talk about my two dairy faves, and first up is yogurt …

Yogurt

Yogurt, in its many forms, is a nutrient-rich natural source of protein, which also contains helpful probiotics (more than 100 million good-for-you bacteria in one cup) for your gut health and microbiome. And if you’re worried about the lactose, yogurt is actually very low levels of lactose thanks to those probiotics. 

Protein-filled dairy yogurt breakfast with Real California Milk by A Lady Goes West

The best part? Yogurt is a complete protein (just like fish, meat and quinoa) and contains all of the essential amino acids. I like that you can get so much protein from yogurt, and it’s ready for you without having to cook it. Easy, convenient, nutritious … that’s what I’m talking about.

Yogurt storage tips

Just some housekeeping about yogurt …

  • Always check the “Best Before” label at the store and get the freshest one
  • Put the yogurt in your fridge immediately, and keep it away from the fridge door so it stays cooler
  • Make sure to stir the liquid into the yogurt, so you don’t miss out on that extra protein, potassium and calcium
  • Watch out for added sugars on the label, if you’re selecting a flavored variety
  • Never eat yogurt if you spot mold anywhere in the packaging
  • Never double dip your spoon in a yogurt carton you plan to place back in the fridge

Ways to use yogurt in your meals

  • Add it to smoothies for more protein
  • Dunk raw veggies into it instead of a processed dip
  • Replace the mayo in sandwiches with yogurt
  • Make a creamy salad dressing with it
  • Freeze it into ice pops, mixed with fruit
  • Add cinnamon, honey or chopped fruit to spice up the flavor
  • Add it to your overnight oats for more protein and a thicker consistency 

And my favorite use of yogurt, of course, is for a healthy breakfast bowl. Here’s a common one in our house …

What’s in my bowl?

Protein-filled dairy breakfast bowl with Real California Milk yogurt by A Lady Goes West

Full-fat Real California yogurt, a sliced-up banana, chia seeds, and my new favorite topping — slightly cooked nuts. What? Cooked nuts? I know! You must try it!

Here’s how you do it: Chop up some almonds and cashews (I take whole nuts, wrap them in a paper-towel, then bang my breakfast bowl on the paper-towel to break them into pieces — pretty professional set-up), then place the pieces in a pan (no oil or spray needed), and cook them for a few minutes to get a little char on each side. It will fill your house with the most delicious scent and add a little special element to your breakfast.

This meal doesn’t get old. In fact, it’s one that I’ve probably eaten hundreds of times. Okay, well the heating up of the nuts is new, but the rest is samesies. It keeps me satiated for hours and is full of protein, carbs and fat — just how I like it.

Next up, my other favorite dairy product, cottage cheese …

Cottage cheese

Why isn’t cottage cheese more popular? It’s delicious. It’s nutritious. It’s high in natural protein. It doesn’t need to be cooked. And it’s so versatile. I’ve always been a cottage cheese fan, and when I buy a tub, I go through it in just a couple of days.

Much like yogurt, cottage cheese is also slightly lower in lactose and is full of valuable nutrients, including vitamin D and B-complex vitamins, both of which are very important, especially for women. B-complex helps your metabolism and vitamin D supports strong bones. 

My favorite way to eat cottage cheese? Straight up, or adding it to a salad for an extra dose of quality protein …

Protein-filled dairy salad lunch with Real California Milk cottage cheese by A Lady Goes West

General cheese storage tips 

Just some housekeeping about cheese, and we’re talking about all cheese varieties here …

  • Wash your hands before handling cheese 
  • Make sure you keep your cheese in the warmest part of the fridge, for instance, the veggie drawer
  • Try not to store cheese near strong-smelling food
  • Pull your cheese out of the fridge about an hour before serving it
  • Store cheeses like mozzarella and feta in their original packaging, and replace the water every two days, however, for all other cheeses, once you get home, unwrap the plastic and rewrap in parchment, wax or butcher paper to let it breathe
  • Store cheeses by family and turn cheese over every few weeks to distribute moisture

Ways to use cottage cheese in your meals

  • Add it to a salad, like I do
  • Use it in place of yogurt in a breakfast bowl
  • Top an English muffin for a heartier breakfast
  • Make a fruit parfait with cottage cheese as the base
  • Dip veggies into cottage cheese
  • Put it on a sandwich or in a wrap (this may be messy, but so worth it)
  • Or eat it AS the meal, I promise … it’s even good alone

What’s in my salad?

Protein-filled dairy lunch with Real California Milk cottage cheese by A Lady Goes West

Organic arugula, a chopped-up veggie burger, raw sauerkraut, green salsa, sautéed orange bell peppers (cooked in coconut oil for a few minutes in a pan, just for a little char and an additional warm element to the bowl), and of course, a big serving of full-fat cottage cheese. You don’t even need salad dressing when you’ve got this much goodness. It mixes quite nicely. 

Both meals are delish and oh-so-satisfying.

And there you have it! Some fun facts about Real California Milk and real ways to incorporate both yogurt and cottage cheese into some healthy meals. 

You can find out where to buy Real California Milk products across the U.S. using this store locator, and once you are in the stores — just look for the Real California Milk seal in the refrigerated section — products made by the real dairy families across the state, working hard.

Thanks for reading, my friends!

P.S. If you’re a nut lover, I’d highly recommend you try my new trick of heating up your nuts in the pan before adding them to your next parfait. You can thank me later. (Okay, actually, you can thank the folks at Real California Milk, because they taught it to me last month.) Happy eating!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Real California Milk. I was compensated, however all opinions are entirely my own. Thanks for supporting our sponsors.

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Questions of the day

What’s your favorite breakfast to eat?

What’s your favorite dairy product?

Have you tried cooking anything new lately?

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12 Comments

  1. I love cottage cheese! I think it gets a bad wrap because people try the nonfat kind (which admittedly is gross). I love eating it for a snack with powered PB mixed in and strawberries. As much protein as a meal!

  2. Cute apron! Oh man, I don’t drink regular cow milk very often but I’m ALL ABOUT cottage cheese. I honestly hated it but it wasn’t until recently that I truly enjoy it as a snack or in my salads! I’ve even added it to some smoothies to make them thicker. It’s a staple in my fridge!

    1. Okay, cottage cheese in a smoothie? I don’t think I’ve tried that, and now I’m intrigued. Hope you have a fab day, Virjinia! 🙂 Thanks for saying hi!

  3. Hey Ashley. You will find milk products in our refrigerator. Milk still one of my favorite drinks. Blame my mom. She made us drink our milk at meals before soda. Cottage cheese is one of our favorite side dishes. Cheese is a favorite also. We are helping keeping the dairy farmers in business.

    1. Hi Richard! Good! I love to hear that you’re supporting the dairy farmers hehehe. You listed off some of my faves. 🙂 Have a great day!

  4. I love finding high quality dairy products and supporting family farms! Yogurt is one of my favorite snacks and I always forget how delicious cottage cheese is, I need to try it some of the ways you recommend.

  5. Not a big cottage cheese fan but I could eat yogurt every day! We love going to Vermont bc all of the farms are pretty much family owned. You go out to eat, and every restaurant can tell you exactly where their meat and cheese came from that day. It’s incredible.

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