Homemade Ranch Dressing

IMG_4067Our farmer’s market is now in full swing here on the western coast of Lake Michigan. While the shopping at the farmer’s market in springtime can sometimes mean slim pickings, the market is crammed full of choices at the height of summer. Everything from bell peppers of every shade and shape to heirloom tomatoes and juicy summer fruits — the choices are stacked in every booth nearly from floor to ceiling.

All of this summer abundance puts us in a mood for salad, usually — as does the summer heat. Even though we’ve already begun to see a few signs that summer is shifting into low gear (shh… don’t tell anyone!), it’s refreshing to put together a midweek dinner without having to turn on the oven or the stove.

It’s been a long time since we’ve even stopped to look at the salad dressing aisle in the supermarket, to be honest. It’s not that there aren’t some quality choices on the shelves, these days — lots of brands are taking out the preservatives, artificial flavorings, etc. It’s mainly that we so much enjoy mixing up our own in small batches. Aren’t you always just a little annoyed by that jug of salad dressing that languishes in your refrigerator door for months — long after you’ve grown tired of it? Mixing up small batches of your own salad dressing is not only economical and tasty, but it keeps your choices wide open since there’s no IMG_4064depressing leftovers you’ll be forced to find a use for.

Most of the time, I enjoy making impromptu vinaigrettes. The primary ingredients of most vinaigrette salad dressings: equal parts of vinegar and oil, a small amount of dijon mustard, and a dash of salt & pepper. Such a basic recipe is ripe for variation, so I like to use fancy vinegars or oils to spice things up: blueberry balsamic vinegar, meyer lemon white balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, walnut oil, whole grain mustard, etc. With just a slight change in the ingredients list, you can create a totally different salad experience all without adding another bottle of salad dressing to your refrigerator.

But, sometimes in the height of summer when there’s so much produce around to go into a salad, I like a salad dressing with a little more muscle than a fancy vinaigrette. I like the herb-a-licious, zesty creaminess of a good ranch dressing for these sorts of occasions! Like vinaigrettes, however, the supermarket shelves are also crammed full with bottles of all sorts of ranch varieties — many of them boasting flavors that are artificially enhanced and laced with unnecessary additives and preservatives. Fed up with that lot, I decided I wanted to create a ranch dressing that was probably closer to what the original creator of ranch dressing had intended — something so creamy and savory that it makes you want to cram salad into your mouth faster than ever!

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J & J’s Zesty Ranch Dressing

A Tales of Thyme & Place Original
Serves 16

    3/4 cup low fat sour cream
    3/4 cup mayonnaise
    1/4 cup low fat buttermilk
    1 teaspoon lemon juice
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 teaspoon dried chives
    1 teaspoon dried parsley
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 teaspoon onion powder
    3/4 teaspoon dried dill
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne (or to taste)

    In a medium bowl, combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, buttermilk, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Combine the dried herbs and cayenne in a mortar and pestle, crush well to release the oils. Pour the herb mixture into the sour cream mixture; stir until completely incorporated. Pour into a sealable container; refrigerate for at least an hour before using so that the flavors can meld. Yields approximately 2 cups dressing.

This dressing is good not only on salads, but also holds up very well as a veggie dip or as a stand-in for regular mayonnaise on your favorite sandwich. The eensy bit of cayenne adds a mild kick that cuts through the creaminess, but if you’re averse to all things spicy, you could leave it out or reduce it.

My favorite salad to serve with this dressing is a slight spin on a famous salad from Chili’s — one that’s notoriously loaded with excess calories and sodium. Our homemade version is much lighter and all of its ingredients are pronounceable!

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Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad
Serves 2

    1 8-ounce boneless skinless chicken breast, butterflied
    1 1/2 teaspoons Southwestern Seasoning*
    8 cups salad greens
    1 cup kernel corn (canned or freshly prepared)
    1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
    1/2 cup diced bell pepper
    1/3 cup shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese
    1/2 cup crushed lightly-salted tortilla chips
    Ranch Dressing

    Preheat grill or non-stick skillet coated with cooking spray. Pat the chicken breast dry; rub with the Southwestern Seasoning. Cook over medium-high heat 4-6 minutes per side or until chicken is done (butterflying the chicken breast helps it to cook quickly and evenly, but it’s not a required step). Tent the chicken with foil; set aside to cool 5-10 minutes.

    Divide the salad greens between two large salad bowls. Divide the kernel corn, black beans, and diced bell pepper between the two bowls. Slice the chicken breast cross-wise into strips; divide strips evenly between the two bowls. Top salads with shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips. Dress with ranch dressing as desired.

    *You can either use your favorite Southwest-style seasoning or click on the “Homemade Halo” tab at the top of this page for an easy-to-make, pantry-stable homemade spice mix recipe.

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According to my cookbook software, 2 tablespoons of the homemade ranch comes in at just 98 calories — that’s about 50 fewer calories and less than half the sodium of the popular store-bought brand (and ours has no MSG). The leftovers can be stored in a sealed jar in your fridge for up to 2 weeks, though I can’t guarantee you’ll have leftovers for that long!

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~ by Jason on August 11, 2011.

11 Responses to “Homemade Ranch Dressing”

  1. Oh my gosh, that looks so yummy. I need to hire you to be my personal chef, then maybe I could eat well all the time. Sigh….such is life…..my own school schedule, my kids schedule, helping my friend with her two daughters after school, not to mention everything else, there is just no time for these wonderful types of things for myself. I will just live vicariously through your posts and pictures, and get hungry to boot….LOL. Hugs!

    • What you need is a stunt double. That, or you should become a master of the art of delegating your responsibilities — take a seat in a cushy “supervisor’s chair” every once in a while. πŸ˜‰ We sure complained a lot about it as kids, but looking back, I now see the wisdom in mom turning us into her extra sets of hands!

  2. Such a great post! Ranch is my favorite, and I like to dip everything in it! The salad looks good, and I will try it next week πŸ™‚ Thank you!

    • Thanks, Jacquie! Ranch is one of my faves, too, and I fear it tastes great with just about anything! πŸ˜€

      Let me know how it turns out if you get a chance to try it.

  3. Mmmmmm sounds great

  4. Made the dressing last week. I liked it. It was a bit too much dill for my taste, so I’ll dial that back a bit next time. I bumped up the cayenne (shocker). So yummy. Since it makes so much (and I’m basically the only one who eats it), I used it to make coleslaw too. Delish.

    • I’m a little surprised that Vince doesn’t go for Ranch dressing! πŸ™‚

      I agree about the dill — I’m not the biggest fan of it, but I can handle it in certain things. James, on the other hand, LOVES dill.

      Great idea to use it to dress coleslaw. I’ll have to try that! πŸ™‚

      • I love dill too but not in my ranch dressing. The flavor was good…just a bit much. I think I’d go 1/4 tsp. next time.

  5. We tried your Ranch Dressing, and LOVED it! The dill factor did not bother our family of six at all. The only thing we changed was the amount of buttermilk, which we doubled, to make a thinner dressing, and to stretch the quantity. A++!

    • Thanks for trying it — and thanks even more for the feedback! I’ve been known to thin it with a little more buttermilk, too, depending on the salad or what’s being dipped into it. πŸ™‚

  6. Make some dressing, put it in a nice jar, wrap some hemp cord or something around the top, and presto! easy and creative gift idea…

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