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Homemade Ranch Dip

We eat a lot of ranch at our house. Veggies, salad, sweet potato fries, buffalo chicken fingers (sans breading, of course), hamburgers… we like our ranch.

Problem is, of course, the ingredients. Behold the nastiness that is Hidden Valley: soybean oil, water, egg yolk, sugar, salt, cultured nonfat buttermilk, natural flavors (soy), spices, less than 2% of: dried garlic, dried onion, vinegar, phosphoric acid, xanthan gum, modified food starch, MSG, artificial flavors, disodium phosphate, sorbic acid, calcium disodium EDTA, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate.

Can I get an “Ew, GROSS!” from the at-home audience? Because yeah. MSG? That’s pretty disgusting. & what the hell are those last six ingredients anyway? What makes me even sadder is the latest advertising campaign stating that this is a great way to get kids to eat their veggies. “Hey kids! Cover your delicious Real Food with nasty chemicals! It’s the American way!”

Sad. But, there is an easier way – just make your own!

Homemade Ranch Dip

What you need:

  •  2 tablespoons mayonnaise, homemade or from the jar
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • black pepper, ~ 1/4 teaspoon
  • dill, chives, parsley, ~ 1/2 teaspoon each
  • dash of paprika

 

How to do it:

  1. Mix sour cream & mayo together, adding more to taste. Just the mix of these two ingredients get the taste pretty close.
  2. Add spices, adding more to taste. Personally, I’ve yet to put too much of the spice in, but start small. It’s even better if it sits for a bit before serving.
  3. Enjoy!
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Meat Sauce – from scratch!

I LOVE this sauce. A few months ago, I realized how much I doctor the sauce that comes in the jar that I decided to just start making the entire thing from scratch. & you know what? I think it was one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s inexpensive, I know exactly what’s going into it, & did I mention it’s delicious? Because it is. YUM.

I make it in a bit of a different order than I think most people do – I start with the herbs & spices, move on to the beef, & add the sauce last. Oh! & I only use one pan. Because let’s face it – no one likes to do dishes, especially after they’ve had such a lovely meal.

Meat sauce

What you need:

  • 1 pound ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey, pork… I don’t care what it is, just make sure it’s meat!)
  • 1 28 ounce can of tomato puree – it should be tomatoes & that’s it!
  • 2 tablespoons or so olive oil
  • Various herbs & spices…
  • 1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar
  • Bit of salt & pepper
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 cups spinach, fresh or frozen (but thawed first!)
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon or so white vinegar

 

That sounds like a truly epic list of ingredients, but it’s not. I swear! You probably have nearly everything on hand right now. Go check – I’ll wait. Trust me – you want to make this sauce. & it’s easy, I promise!

How to do it:

  1. Over medium heat, drizzle on some olive oil. Throw on your onions & garlic, & let them cook a bit. Just to get the juices going… if you wanted to add green pepper or mushrooms to your sauce, add them here as well.
  2. Toss on your herbs & spices – whatever is Italian-ish & you like. I use rosemary, tarragon, basil (lots of basil. I LOVE basil), oregano, cilantro, parsley, salt, pepper… swirl them around a bit & let everything mingle for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add your MEAT! Brown it as you normally would.
  4. When it’s about halfway done, I add about a tablespoon of balsamic, & the spinach. Then, the final touch…
  5. Add the sauce! You’ll need to add about a tablespoon or so of white vinegar to play down the sweetness of the tomatoes. I stir in a tablespoon, taste it, then go from there. Sometimes it needs more. I never knew how sweet tomato sauce was until I made sauce from scratch, & the vinegar does a great job cutting through that sweetness. Simmer until the sauce is heated through, & you’re good to go!

From here, it’s your call. I usually throw in a baked spaghetti squash & some mozzarella cheese, and that is definitely enough to feed the two of us for at least two meals. Healthy, delicious, & easy. Let me know what you think if you try it this week!


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Guac Attack!

Did you know that avocados are one of THE BEST things out there? It’s fabulous for your skin, thanks to all that good fat, & has all sorts of great vitamins & minerals. & the best part is, it’s DELICIOUS! Enter the guacamole, one of life’s absolute pleasures. Just please, don’t buy it in the store – it’s easy to make! & this recipe, I promise you, is DELICIOUS.

Guacamole

reminiscent of Chipotle’s famous recipe

Here’s what you need:

  • 5 avocados
  • 1-2 jalapenos, diced into tiny pieces (I use scissors to ensure it’s really tiny)
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped into small pieces
  • juice of half a lime
  • sea salt to taste

 

How to do it:

  1. Cut up avocado. Using an immersion blender, mash the avocado into a deliciously green paste.
  2. Mix in jalapeno. Word of caution: try your guac before you toss in more jalapeno, especially if you’ve never made it before. I may have made the mistake of making it too spicy once, prompting the need to run for more avocados.
  3. Be sure to wash your hands after touching jalapeno, & DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES BEFORE DOING SO!
  4. Add rest of ingredients & mix well. (Feel free to add more cilantro than listed; it is, after all, one of the yummiest herbs ever. I weep for those don’t like it.)

 

You can eat it right away, but I find that it’s better after about an hour, so everything has had a chance to really mix together. Eat it quick, though – guacamole doesn’t last long. It’s always sad when it’s turned. Serve with veggies, tortilla chips, or on top of a yummy buritto bowl. Or, you know, just eat it with a spoon. Enjoy!