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.

Mom’s Cuba Dip: A 2 Cats Recipe

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Mom’s Cuba Dip

 

I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday last week. My fiancée and I made the nine hour drive to my hometown in South Georgia to spend Christmas with my parents. Because of the distance we decided to leave our kitties in North Carolina in the care of a sitter. Luckily, we were not completely devoid of feline attention; we had Merlin.

Merlin

Merlin

Merlin has been my parent’s cat for the last five years in which time he’s become super spoiled. You should’ve seen the size of his stocking! In the mornings Merlin loves to cuddle. He’s very demanding about his snuggles, head-butting you if you stop scratching him before he’s ready. Merlin makes being away from Tchai and Roz a little more tolerable.

Cuddling/Annoying Merlin

Cuddling/Annoying Merlin

My mom and I at my godmother's home in Georgia before a UGA game

My mom and I at my godmother’s home in                    Georgia before a UGA game

Since I was home I thought it was a perfect opportunity to cook something with my mother for the blog. Mom is a fabulous cook though she calls herself a “good recipe follower”. I didn’t actually get to cook with her that often as a child or teenager because Mom is very particular about her kitchen and doesn’t like too many people in it. Her kitchen is the place where my mom destress and she passed those qualities on to me.

Cooking Separate, but together

Cooking Separate, but together

 I’ve chosen one of her signature recipes; something my Mom does better than anyone else. Whether it’s tailgating in Athens or watching the Dawgs in front of the T.V., my Mom’s famous Cuba dip is a Phillips family football staple. Mom has made this dip for every UGA football game that I can remember. I’m not sure why it’s called Cuba dip and Mom isn’t either. Unfortunately we believe the cookbook with the original recipe was donated, so I guess we’ll never know.

browning meat and onions for the dip

browning meat and onions for the dip

This recipe is usually made in the crock pot but this time mom pulled out her dutch oven to speed the process along. Both methods are great and the ingredient list is the same for either. The crockpot takes around 2 hours while the stovetop takes 20-30 minutes. I prefer the crock pot, because of tradition, but if you’re short on time the stovetop method works just as well. The ingredients for this dip…. well aren’t exactly found on any clean eating lists, but as mom says “there is no substitute for Velveeta”.

Velveeta, no other words needed

Velveeta, no other words                           needed

melty Cheeeeeese

melty Cheeeeeese

Once the dip is all melted together it’s addictive. For some reason as a teenager, I didn’t like the ground beef/sausage version and Mom graciously made a veggie version for me and my godmother, Joye. Now I can’t believe what I was missing! The meat counterbalances the nuclear yellow cheese product and makes this dip super hearty. Mom always uses the mild Rotel but you can use any heat/spice level you want.  Make sure you have lots of tortilla chips handy you’ll be surprised at how quickly this dip goes.

mixing the beef and cheese together

mixing the beef and cheese together

Almost done, just missing the sausage.

Almost done, just missing the sausage.

At the beginning of football season Mom makes a double batch of Cuba dip, portions it into containers, freezes it, and pulls out a container whenever she needs. The double batch makes it through most of the college football season and it’s just as good each game.  I’m planning on whipping up a batch for Super Bowl Sunday to continue the family tradition of having a perfect dip.

dipping

Mom’s Cuba Dip

The ingredients minus the beef and sausage

The ingredients minus the beef and sausage

1 ½ lbs. Ground Beef

1 lb. Breakfast Sausage

½ Large Yellow or Vidalia Onion, diced

2 lbs. Velveeta, cubed

1 can Cream of Mushroom soup

1 can Rotel Tomatoes w/ chilies

½ teaspoon Garlic Powder

Brown the ground beef with the chopped onions and drain in a colander when cooked. Brown the sausage in the same pan and drain. Add the cooked meats into the crock pot. Add the Velveeta, mushroom soup, Rotel, and garlic powder into the crockpot. Turn the crockpot on high until all the ingredients are melted together. Once melted, turn the dip to low and serve with chips.

 

**For the stovetop, melt the Velveeta while you’re browning the meat. Then add the browned meat and remaining ingredients to the melting cheese.  

Bacon and Spinach Quiche: A 2 Cats Recipe

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Bacon & Spinach Quiche

May turned out to be an insanely busy month. There was our annual spring ballet and all of the preparation, a new floor installed in the studio, my birthday, and finally an exciting unexpected delivery to our house.

My delivery was a upright piano!

My delivery was a upright piano!

Me playing my new baby. I am so excited about this!!

Me playing my new baby. I am so excited about this!!

I tried to keep up with everything: taking care of the kitties, keeping the house clean, occasionally interacting with my boyfriend, and blogging. I tried to cook and write posts, I really did….but I failed and was not able to finish anything. I’m pretty sure there was an entire week without cooking, AT ALL (Blasphemy for a food blogger). But summer is now underway and I can yet again attempt to settle back into a regular cooking and writing schedule.

Frying bacon, one of the prettier sights in our home

Frying bacon, one of the prettier sights in our home

When my schedule becomes that hectic, I try to fall back on cooking meals that are second nature and will last for several days. One of my favorites is quiche. I find it very versatile; it can be served at any temperature for any meal without feeling forced (like leftover pizza). It isn’t fussy and really only requires eggs, pie crust, and some sort of milk/cream. The filling is totally whatever you’re in the mood for (and/or what’s in the refrigerator).

The parts of the quiche are about to be assembled

The parts of the quiche are about to be assembled

I really like quiche for entertaining guests as well as for my personal enjoyment. I think over the past five years quiche is by far the most commonly served item we have company for breakfast/brunch. I know of at least one co-worker who is a huge fan. If I tell her I’m bringing in leftover quiche, she walks into work with fork in hand.

The bottom layer of the quiche. Spinach, bacon and cheddar...yum!

The bottom layer of the quiche. Spinach, bacon and cheddar…yum!

The quice pre-oven. Eggs and cheddar go over the bottom layer

The quice pre-oven. Eggs and cheddar go over the bottom layer

The quiche recipe takes about an hour from start to finish. As I’ve stated earlier, the filling possibilities are numerous and up to the cook. I have included my most often used filling for this recipe. I believe this is a classic combination. I think its Chris’s favorite combo as well (though I’m sure he’d be happy with no green stuff whatsoever). I am sure Roz and Tchai could join Chris and forgo the green ingredients.

The finished quiche

The finished quiche

Bacon and Spinach Quiche

Ingredients set up

Ingredients set up

Makes one 9-inch deep dish quiche

1 – 9 inch Deep Dish Pie Crust

3/4 Cup Heavy Cream

6 Eggs

4 Slices Bacon, cooked and crumbled

a Pinch of Salt

20 Grinds Black Pepper

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

4 Ounces Shredded Cheddar Cheese

1/2 Cup Frozen Spinach, defrosted and the Water squeezed out

 Pre-heat the oven to 400 Degrees. Place the pie crust in the pre-heated oven and partially bake for 7 minutes. While the crust is baking, whisk the eggs, cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg together. Pull the pie crust from the oven and let cool for a minute or two. Layer the bacon, spinach, and half the cheese on the bottom of the crust. Pour egg mixture over bacon, spinach, and cheese mixture. Top the quiche with the remaining cheddar. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 – 45 minutes until the quiche is settled.