I used to always think that Neufchatel cheese was simply the reduced-fat version of cream cheese. However, as my knowledge in food and nutrition grew I found out that they are actually two different types of cheese.
Cream cheese is made from milk and cream. Like cottage cheese, cream cheese is an unripened cheese, which is fresh and not aged. Traditional Neufchatel cheese, on the other hand, is actually one of the first cheeses originating in the village of Neufchatel-en-Bray, France. Its strictly made from cows milk and is ripened in generally 6-10 weeks. Of course, when the Americans tried to replicate this traditional Neufchatel cheese, it morphed into a cheese more similar to cream cheese, made from milk and cream. This is that eight-ounce block sitting right next to the cream cheese in the dairy case that we've all seen before. The taste and creaminess of the two are almost undetectable. What is detectable is their difference in nutrition content. Cream cheese by law must have at least 33% milk fat with no more than 55% moisture, while American Neufchatel has about 23% milk fat and a slightly higher moisture content. Therefore, it contains one-third less fat.
Cream cheese is most often used to top bagels or to make rich desserts, like cheesecake. However, pick up the Neufchatel next time, and try it in a savory dish to make a creamy sauce.
Enchilada Casserole (Printable PDF)
12 oz. whole-wheat extra wide egg noodles
1 lb. lean ground turkey
¼ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
5 oz. Neufchatel cheese
¼ cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
10 oz. enchilada sauce
1 cup frozen corn
4 oz. diced green chiles
2 cups reduced-fat shredded Mexican cheese, divided
Cilantro for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the noodles. Cook according to package directions. Meanwhile, brown ground turkey in large skillet; drain fat. Add cumin, chili powder and neufchatel cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together yogurt, enchilada sauce, corn, chiles and 1-cup cheese. Add sauce and cooked noodles to the ground turkey mixture; stir until combined. Transfer to casserole dish and top with remaining 1-cup cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese has melted. Top with chopped cilantro.
Yield: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 520 calories, 21 grams fat, 840 milligrams sodium, 55 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fiber, 38 grams protein