Saturday, October 13

Recipe: Low Fat, Full Flavor Fiesta Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip Recipe (and Going on Factory Tours)

Tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, and scallions: making a memory even tastier.

When I was a kid, one of the things we often did while on vacation was to go on factory tours. Except for a few, like the Volkswagon factory in Germany, these places usually manufactured or processed some sort of food. To this day, details from those visits make up some of my clearest childhood memories.

There was, for example, the pineapple factory in Hawaii where pineapple juice came out of a drinking fountain. And the tuna factory where two of the ladies cutting up large whole fish on a long assembly line smiled and pointed at me as I pinched my little nose in an attempt to escape the overpowering scent of tuna.

I remember watching thousands of Hershey's chocolate kisses riding stair-step conveyors at the Hershey factory in California, and being disappointed when the tour of the "real" factory in Hershey, Pennsylvania turned out to be nothing more than an amusement park type ride.

As an adult, I happily toured the Ben & Jerry's ice cream plant in Waterbury, Vermont not once but twice. I tasted ice cream right off the assembly line and saw the original note sent to Ben & Jerry from a fan—written on an ice cream carton lid—suggesting they create a flavor called Cherry Garcia.

I also discovered that through much experimenting in the early days, Ben & Jerry determined the best way to break up Heath Bars into the perfect sized chunks for their Heath Bar Crunch ice cream was to drop a case of the candy bars onto the ground from a stepladder. They employ a slightly more advanced technique now.

While touring the Jelly Belly jelly bean factory a few years ago, my mother learned that the flavored outside layer on each jelly bean is applied by tumbling them around in what look like gigantic clothes dryers. And at the on-site gift shop, Jelly Belly "seconds" are packaged up and sold as Belly Flops.

After a tour of the memorabilia-filled Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, a friend of mine had a chance to taste several flavors of soda only available outside the U.S.

Factory tours have become quite popular, especially with families, because they're interesting, usually kid-friendly, and often free. There are even books devoted to the subject. Watch It Made In The U.S.A.: A Visitor's Guide To The Best Factory Tours and Company Museums by Karen Axelrod and Bruce Brumberg promises to "help you and your family discover information about more than 300 ordinary and extraordinary products most of us take for granted."

While factory tours are fun for people of all ages, I do think the fascinating glimpses they give us into what often seem like whole other worlds have the most profound effect on children. Every once in a while Joe still fondly recalls the tour of a potato chip factory he took with his Cub Scout troop some forty years ago.

The most memorable factory I've ever visited was actually the one closest to home. It was a tortilla factory owned by the mother of my very first friend (we "met" when we were just a few months old), and one year she treated our Brownie troop to a personal tour.

We saw enormous vats of masa, watched tortillas travel along what seemed like miles of conveyor belts, and were given handfuls of warm tortilla chips by the ladies running a machine that magically coated the chips with nacho flavored seasoning.

Even without the tortilla factory, my friend's mother stood out from the crowd. She put an antique wooden carousel horse with a tail made from real hair in the living room, zipped around in a classic Porsche roadster, and once fed us French toast for dinner. They were a family of expert skiers and had a snow cabin full of bunk beds up in the mountains. She was the only mother in the neighborhood we called by her first name, and her entire face lit up when she smiled.

She also spent a lot of time devising ways to get people to eat more tortillas. Long before the days of desktop publishing, she and her mother put out a newsletter called Tortilla Talk, which they filled with interesting recipes using tortillas and tortilla chips.

Back in early August, the first ripe tomatoes from the garden and an ongoing cottage cheese kick prompted this e-mail message to my mother: What was that stuff you used to make a long time ago with cottage cheese and salsa or tomatoes or whatever? And what did you do with it once you made it—just eat it with chips?

The recipe for 'Gayle's Caliente Cottage Cheese Dip' arrived in my inbox soon after, and I wasn't surprised to find that it was from Tortilla Talk. Below it my mother had added, Gayle could be Mrs. Pete Wilson. I've since learned that the recipe did indeed originate in the (now) former First Lady of California's kitchen.

I took the original six-ingredient recipe, applied my More More More motto to it, and came up with this colorful, veggie-packed version I've been devouring ever since. It's always nice when something that's so good for you tastes so good, too. It's even low fat.

So what memorable factory tours have you been on?

The more color, the better is what I always say.

Farmgirl Susan's Fiesta Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip
Makes about 3 cups

Gayle's recipe called for 3 dashes of Tabasco and a 4-ounce can of diced green chiles, which were a staple in many pantry cupboards in our neighborhood when I was growing up. I opted to use a chopped fresh jalapeno pepper instead, but canned chiles would add a nicely flavored kick.

Using yellow or orange tomatoes and/or sweet peppers will make the dip even more colorful. As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients whenever possible. They really do make a difference.

1 16-ounce container organic cottage cheese
1 cup chopped Roma, San Marzano, or other paste tomatoes
(about 4 large)
1 cup chopped sweet red pepper
3 large scallions
(green onions) white and green parts, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 jalapeno pepper
, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Feel free to add even more veggies if you like. The original recipe says to chill at least 3 hours before serving, then pass with tortilla or corn chips. Waiting a few hours, or even overnight, does improve the flavor, but, as usual, I nibbled away while I chopped and mixed, and it tasted just fine to me.

It's funny, though, how you can add so many ingredients to a container of cottage cheese and have it all fit back in the original container. This dip will keep two to three days in the fridge.

Turn it into instant coleslaw!

What else can you do with it?
Personally I think this dip tastes great just plunked in a bowl and eaten with a spoon, which is the way I've enjoyed most of the six or so batches I've made over the past few months. It's a nice (and healthier) change from plain cottage cheese. If you haven't used up all your cabbage making my
Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw, simply combine some Fiesta dip with shredded cabbage for another new twist on coleslaw.

You could also use it to fill an omelette or top a baked potato. Or make a quick vegetarian burrito by stirring in a can of black beans and a can of corn into either the plain dip or the coleslaw and wrapping it all up in a flour tortilla, perhaps with an extra sprinkling of chopped fresh cilantro. You could probably even spread some on a sandwich.

Can you tell I love this stuff?

Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

©, the always on tour foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote acres.


  1. Perfect recipe for the Doubly Delish celebration. This sounds like something I must make. No tomatoes left here, but I do buy those Costco tomatoes in the winter (which are not local and probably not organic either, sorry! Can I get some points for all the garden tomatoes?) And cilantro, yum. Thanks for participating in the two year celebration!

  2. Yum! This looks delicious! I have to say, I just discovered your blog after I googled "green tomato relish." Your recipe is cooking on the stove even as we speak, and I can't wait to try it! Meanwhile, I'm reading your blog whenever I get a spare moment and am enjoying the heck out of it. Like you, I'm a California girl, though unlike you, my dreams of living in the country are still just dreams. I did manage to move to Ohio, so I'm at least a bit closer than I was in Santa Barbara! Maybe one day I'll have a bit of property myself. :)

  3. Yummy! And you brought back tons of memories of the the Jelly Belly factory, which we went to once a year and bought bags and bags of belly flops!

    Another great factory tour is Mrs. Grossman's sticker factory in Petaluma, CA. The first time I took my oldest son about 10 years ago, and have gone back several times in the years since. Fun to see how things change and grow. At Mrs. Grossman's they're able to take their dogs to work with them, so that made it even more fun for the kids.

    Anheiser-Busch has a great family friendly tour in St. Louis, with amazing OLD brick buildings, a tour of the stables and their brewing facilities. We loved it even though we're not drinkers.

    Fun Post!

  4. A fun factory tour is the Tillamook Cheese Factory in (where else) Tillamook, Oregon. My family loves the little cheese samples at the end, not sure if we like the cheese curds or not. They also have wonderful ice cream to buy and eat while you watch all the workers and machines busily pack the bricks of cheese.

  5. Like you I love to go on factory tours, put a sign somewhere that says "behind the scenes" and I'm in! Especially when it involves food! Mesmerizing!
    I've only had two factory tours, both work related, one in a Mars factory (my husband worked for Masterfoods) and a tour of a liquorice factory when I was employed at their HQ.

  6. Oh, eeek, you're reading Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant. I have been procrastinating about putting up my review of the book. Did you like it?

    Your dip sounds super except for the cilantro. Cilantro hater here. ;+)

  7. When we spend a lovely holiday in the new england states some years ago we also visited Ben&Jerry, which was totaly unknown in Germany by this time. Now you can buy it caned in certain shops. Our tourguide was a lovely elderly woman named Gramma Rose.

  8. Hello- This is Dorie in Md, delurking. Really enjoy reading your blog. My favorite factory trip had to be to the Continental Baking Company in Los Angeles, the local baker of Hostess Twinkies and Cupcakes!We got to watch the squiggle machine! At the end of the tour, they gave us all little loaves of Wonder Bread. Our class managed to escape the tuna factory tour-the smell is legendary! We did go to a snack/potato chip company. They had big "cement mixer" machines stirring up the peanut butter-pretty neat! I still enjoy tours- the EthelM candy Factory in Las Vegas is fun to visit too!

  9. I loved hearing about these factory tours. The only food factory I ever toured was when, on a grade school field trip, we were packed into buses for a 90-mile (each way) trip to the Heath Bar factory. We did get samples at the end. I had forgotten about this. Thanks.

  10. Your recipes looks amazing! What a talent you have.... Can't wait to try some of them!

    I would love to go to some major factory tours one day... Until then, we have a favorite stop close to home. It is the Albanese Candy factory. They have a chocolate waterfall and offer tours on a regular basis. They have some to die for crunch bears and excellent chocolates... Hmmm, I think I have a blog topic myself. Thanks for the inspiration!

  11. Two years! How the time does fly.

    Factory tour, when I was ten we went to the Twinkie factory and I saw how they got the cream inside the cake. I felt I learned the secret of the universe. Hey, I was only ten.

  12. Oh, brilliant! I was looking for a nice, healthy dip to serve this weekend, and this totally fits the bill. Perfect! :)

  13. Made your lovely full flavor fiesta cottage chesse veggie dip recipe today and it was great! As usual, a big thank you for sharing. :)

  14. Factory tours.... hmmm. The best and dare I say ONLY tour I've been on was the Tillamook Cheese Factory, in Tillamook Oregon. Not once but twice! It's always I nice way to break up a road trip down the Oregon coast. I even witnessed a cheese jam on the conveyor belts as cheese was backed up bumper to bumper until it was sadly overflowing to the floor.

    Unlike Marie, I loved the cheese curds and the way they squeak when you're chewing them like eating a rubber cheese toy. She didn't mention the ice-cream samples, however, and that's what it's all about. Ice cream.

    Now that I'm living in Britain, I think I'm overdue for a trip to Cadbury World. That's right, the world where they make those delicious fruit and nut bars. I hear you can take as much chocolate as you can pack into your handbag as you leave....

  15. That dip looks wonderful! I once visited a beer factory/brewery in England and a chocolate factory in Geneva (Favarger)...



  16. That looks delish! Hubby loves cottage cheese and pretzels, his favorite snack, so I'll whip this one up for him this weekend! Thanks for the fun post!

  17. OOh! The best tour I've ever been on was the Jack Daniel's Brewery in Lynchberg, TN. No samples, pout, pout, but it was a fasinating tour.

  18. Yum Yum! It looks so simple too, thanks!

  19. The cottage cheese dip sounds fabulous. I love cottage cheese so this would be the perfect pairing with crackers, veggies or whatever. When I was a kid we often toured the Blue Mountain Pottery facorty in Collingwood Ontario. Here in the Okanagan it is wine tours through our over 70 wineries.

  20. Wow, what a yummy-looking dip. I have often used cottage cheese (pureed) instead of sour cream for dips--yours looks lovely.

    Your account of factory tours was so nice to read--I am so intrigued by the pineapple juice fountain!

    As for what factory tours have I been on?

    - Matt's Brewery (when I was a child; now it's called Saranac Brewery). Yes, indeed, at a tender age of 10, my school field trip was to a brewery to learn how beer is made. We all enjoyed a free root beer at the end of the tour!

    - I've also been to Atlanta's World of Coca Cola. While not actually the factory, this museum is a lot of fun--especially the tasting room, where my group tried shots of various coca-cola-made soft drinks the world over. Some of them were obviously meant for tastes much more international than mine, while others were delightful, making me wish they were offered in the United States. However the most memorable part of the tasting room was how your feet stuck to the floor when you walked... yuck.

    - Krispy Kreme Donuts are a favorite in my former hometown of Atlanta... especially at the store located at 295 Ponce De Leon Ave Ne, Atlanta! There you can watch through a giant glass window as donuts travel along their assembly line, from fryer to glazer along a long conveyor belt. All that glaze is everywhere--on the floor, under machinery. Horrifying, really. But oh, so delicious to sink your lips into a warm, freshly glazed donut. Mmm!

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  21. Just made the dip and I am loving it. I even found a few well-chilled tomatoes in my garden (warmed them a few seconds in the microwave!)

  22. Full disclosure:
    1. I have been a lurking until now. Love your blog, and my kids adore the animal photos!
    2. I do not like cottage cheese. Maybe if it's hidden in baked pasta, but cold...ewww.
    Until today!! I made your dip recipe and I am holding myself back from the fridge! It's amazing! I thought I'd try it because I'm trying to be healthier, but it's just yum. Many thanks for sharing it, and all your farm stories!

  23. I still have tomatoes (the plants even have the nerve to set new blooms - can you believe?) so I'm going to try this recipe out tonight with tacos.

    As far as factory tours go - I haven' been on many, but I did tour the Purina (yes, dog food) factory in college as part of my distribution marketing class and, I won't lie, it was pretty cool to see the big ropes of dog food goo come shooting out of the weird shaped holes and getting sliced up into teeny Kibbles and Bits and what not.

    Not appetizing, mind you, but cool.

  24. This recipe does look good. I have some tomatoes, just need to pick up some cottage cheese. Or maybe I should just try to eat all the leftovers I have lying around the house for once.

    When I was 13 in Belize we went on a factory tour of a sugar factory. You can smell the molasses and sugar syrup from about half a mile away, and there are huge piles of bagash (the pulpy, stringy, fibrous leftovers of the cane stalks after the cane juice is squeezed out) that dwarf the factory itself.

    Behind the factory was a warehouse with a 2 story pile of white sugar sitting in it. I vividly remember watching a line of (probably ecstatic) ants marching out from under the door with crystals of sugar. The warehouse and factory were right on the river, where barges were pumped full of blackstrap molasses and sent downriver. It was an awesome tour...

  25. Susan-A few years ago I went to Las Vegas and was hankering to go on the tour of the marshmallow factory nearby. Unfortunately I was told they were no longer offering tours...since it burned down.

    I guess I was a little too late. I wish I'd brought some graham crackers and chocolate along!

    (btw: The best tour I ever went on was KitchenAid in Ohio.)

  26. Hmm - looks like a great recipe to put in my pile of things to try!!! And thanks for the fun factory tours memories. I grew up in Battle Creek, MI, so tours of the Kelloggs plant there were at least an annual ritual. And then in college I had an engineering internship working in the Post cereal plant there as well, so my daily job seemed like a tour!! But most memorable would be a tour of the Gerber Baby Food plant somewhere in Michigan...its one of my earliest memories (my parents remember it as the tour from hell where I screamed my head off during the entire tour because it was "noisey" - such the sensitive little child!).

  27. What fun! I think those are great memories to have. I haven't been on any factory tours, but I remember the ones from Mr. Rogers. My favorite was watching how they made crayons...all those beautiful colors!

  28. hey ...being able to go to the ben n jerry's factory as a kid must be a dream come true.... dont think u could've asked for anything more. I wasn't as fortunate as you and did'nt raelly visit many factories. The dip looks wonderfully refreshing. It would be a nice change frm the regular hommous and babaganoush.

  29. When my husband and I lived back east (Canada) we made sure every summer to go to the Hershey's plant in Smith Falls Ontario. They sold the broken chocolate bars in bulk in their gift shop at that time. YUM!!!

    I've done many non-food tours, but that is the only food-related one I can remember.

    From the comments here I may have to try the dip after all. I too don't like cold cottage cheese, but I see a number of people have said it is really really good.

  30. One of my favorite food factory tours is the Tillamook Cheese Factory in Tillamook Oregon - It is fun to do and you get to try all their cheeses & Ice Creams at the end of the tour. Yum. T.

  31. We drove through Hershey, PA this summer. And yes, it's true the whole town smells like a candy bar! Kind of weird and Wonkish.

    We did the *factory* tour, which of course isn't real,since Hershey is notoriously secretive.It's more like a giant candy store. My kids thought it was just perfect.

  32. Bluebell ice cream in Brenham Texas. The best tour ever for me. It was fascinating how the ice cream got into the cartons.

    Anheuser Busch here in St.Louis (that wasn't a kid tour) is always a crowd pleaser...and Shiner Brewery down in Shiner Texas, too.

  33. I made this dip last week for my family of 20 on our vacation to the beach, and it was amazing. I should have made a double or maybe even triple batch, because I think 3 or 4 of us polished it off before the rest of the group could drag themselves off the sand for dinner.

    I will definitely make this dip again.


December 2015 update: Hi! For some reason I can't figure out, Blogger hasn't been letting me leave comments on my own blog (!) for the last several months, so I've been unable to respond to your comments and questions. My apologies for any inconvenience! You're always welcome to email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com.

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