Homemade Ranch Dressing: A 2 Cats Recipe

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Ranch Dressing

My windox box sprouting Salad!

My windox box sprouting Salad!

It’s April, which means temperatures are warming, the sun is beaming, my herbs are growing, and the local farmer’s markets are open longer hours with tons of beautiful produce. I love swinging by the market on a sunny Saturday morning to see what’s available. I buy cute little baby potatoes, vibrantly colored cherry tomatoes, and crunchy salad greens. For the first trip of the season, I picked up some fabulous red leaf lettuce, a dill plant, and these truly amazing purple radishes. When I got back home and looked at my haul, I knew I had to make some homemade ranch dressing.

A Big ole bowl of freshly picked farmers market ingredients

A Big ole bowl of freshly picked farmers market ingredients

Ranch dressing is a salad bar staple, not to mention a requirement of the southern table. I really wasn’t a fan of it until a few years ago. I’m not sure why; ranch is tangy, herbaceous and goes well with practically everything! I use it for salads obviously, but I also like to use it as a dip for baby carrots and radishes for a nice snack, and let’s not forget how good ranch is with fried chicken tenders! Pepperoni pizza is also amazing with an added dollop of ranch….don’t knock it until you try it.

Really Mom? Pizza and Ranch??

Really Mom? Pizza and Ranch??

The ranch dressing is a snap to put together. A little herb chopping, some garlic grating (more on that in a minute), a quick bit of stirring and voila, you’ve got a creamy salad dressing that keeps for weeks! You can use the dressing right away, however I’d suggest letting it hang out in the refrigerator for an hour. The flavors get some time to meld and everything becomes more herby and delicious.

 

My version of ranch forgoes the commonly used buttermilk for a container of sour cream. I don’t know about you, but I rarely have buttermilk in the fridge and always have sour cream. The tanginess from the sour cream is the perfect counterpoint to the creaminess of the mayonnaise.

The Dressing Mix

The Dressing Mix

Garlic is a really important flavor in ranch dressing; I think it adds a little punch of spice. Instead of mincing, I use a microplane to grate a clove of garlic into the dressing. I feel like the garlic is more evenly distributed throughout the dressing this way.  I also like to add a pinch of red pepper flakes for a teeny bit of added heat against the cool dairy base.

My Big Bowl of Salad and Ranch Dressing.

My Big Bowl of Salad and Ranch Dressing.

Later Saturday evening, my salad and ranch dressing were served alongside one of Chris’s perfectly cooked steaks and some creamy mashed potatoes. The dressing was perfect! It had a bright tang that contrasted well the richness of the meat. I even found myself adding a few spoonfuls of dressing to my mashed potatoes. It looks like ranch dressing really does go with everything!

The Ranch Dressing Ingredients

The Ranch Dressing Ingredients

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ranch Dressing

Makes about 1 cup

1/2 Cup Mayonnaise

1/2 Cup Sour Cream

2 Tablespoons Milk

1 Garlic Clove, grated

1/4 Teaspoon Kosher Salt

1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper

1 1/2 Tablespoon Chives, chopped

1 Tablespoon Dill, chopped

A Pinch of Crush Red Pepper (optional)

 

Stir ingredients together in a bowl until combined. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour for flavors to meld.

My Trader Joe’s Grocery Essentials

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My Trader Joe’s Grocery Essentials

This week I decided to try a different kind of blog entry. Instead of writing about a specific recipe, I wanted to talk about my grocery shopping habits, specifically the pre-prepared meals that can be found in my pantry and freezer. One of my favorite places to go for such things is the ultimate cool mom mecca and hipster hangout, Trader Joe’s. For those unfamiliar, Trader Joe’s is a national grocery chain with a Southern California mindset. Their goal is to carry good, wholesome food at a reasonable price.

 

We have 3 stores in our area and each one is at least 20 minutes from the house. That is quite a trek for me…and don’t even get me started about the parking! I go about once a month to pick up a handful of specific items. If it’s a Saturday morning when there aren’t as many people shopping Chris will go with me, but otherwise he’d rather stay away from the crowds.

 Disclaimer: All the opinions listed here are mine and mine alone. No one in the Trader Joe’s organization encouraged me or compensated me for this blog post.

 

Here is the list of my Trader Joe’s necessities:

Trader Ming's Beef and Broccoli

Trader Ming’s Beef and Broccoli

Beef with broccoli: This is by far one of the best prepared freezer meals I’ve ever found. It takes 15 minutes to put together and tastes just as good as our local Chinese take-out. The only thing missing from the bag is a bowl of white rice and a fortune cookie (and the rice is easily remedied). It’s really great for those nights when I’m teaching late and Chris is in charge of dinner.

Egg Pappardelle and Tomato Basil Sauce

Egg Pappardelle and Tomato Basil Sauce

Pappardelle pasta and Tomato-basil sauce- If you’re a loyal reader of this blog you know about my love of pasta. I love the plain egg pappardelle as well as the slightly spicy lemon pepper variety. They are super light and delicious, especially with some of the store’s tomato basil sauce. The jarred sauce is fresh, balanced, and for under $2 a bottle, I’m happy to stick a jar or two in the pantry for those lazy pasta nights.

Frozen Chicken Tikka Masala

Frozen Chicken Tikka Masala

Farfalle with 4 Cheese and Spinach

Farfalle with 4 Cheese and Spinach

Frozen Lunches: I started making regular trips to Trader Joe’s because of their frozen lunches; it’s something the store does better than anyone else. One of my favorites is the Indian takeout classic, chicken tikka masala. It’s, warm, spicy and the perfect size for lunch at my desk. It satisfies my craving for Indian food on a regular basis (big surprise, Chris isn’t a fan). My other favorite is the farfalle with 4 cheeses and spinach. It’s bow-tie pasta, a cheesy sauce, and spinach…I mean how can that be bad? It only takes 5 minutes to heat up in the microwave, and it’s devoured within next five. Both of these frozen lunches are delicious and so much better for my health and my wallet than me running out for fast food everyday.

A good wedge of Parmesan Cheese

A good wedge of Parmesan Cheese

Parmesan Cheese: Speaking of cheese, TJ’s is where I get my hunks of Parmesan. I love this cheese and I use it at least in one dinner per week, if not more. This item is priced for much less what I can find at my usual grocery store. Mmmm, writing about all this cheese and pasta makes me want to cook my carbonara recipe!

Trader Joe's Turkey Corn Dogs

Trader Joe’s Turkey Corn Dogs

Turkey Corn dogs: Ok, these are sort of my dirty little secret, but I love them! I made homemade corn dogs a few years ago, and now every few weeks I get a hankering for them. These frozen turkey corn dogs satisfy my tummy without destroying my kitchen (breading & frying is really messy work). I usually indulge in these puppies when I’m dining home alone. A pair of corn dogs with a squirt of Dijon mustard, and I’m a happy girl.

some very good bubbly

some very good bubbly

Sparkling Wine: Ok, so it’s not a meal unless you’re Coco Chanel, but every time I go to Trader Joe’s I pick up a bottle or two of the Louise d’Estree. It’s a great bubbly on its own or as a mixer for champagne cocktails like mimosas. It’s priced around $10 per bottle, which is really great for my budget, since wines can get costly fast. And really, what meal isn’t made better by a glass of sparkling wine?

 

So there you have it, my list of required household purchases from Trader Joe’s. Do you have a store nearby? If so, what are your go-to purchases? I hope you’ve liked this week’s little post. Next week, we’ll be back to our regular cooking and cat stories!