Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 3, 2014

Foodie with Family: Mix it up with DIY dressing

Local columnist

---- — My do-it-yourself attitude in the kitchen that started as a way to help stretch money further has progressed over the years to a fiery desire to figure out how things are made and make them just because I can.

Case in point: classic ranch dressing made from dry mix. My husband and kids love it. When I say they love it, I mean they put it on every food they can and they’d likely bathe in it if allowed to do so. I caught one of the boys sipping from the jar of ranch with a straw one time. When I told him — in no uncertain terms — to remove the straw, put the lid on the jar, return it to the refrigerator, and not repeat the performance, the response was, “But mom, it’s so good.”

Kids are weird.

The grocery store packets are a little expensive, though, and while our family is blessedly free of food sensitivities, we have some dear relatives and friends who are not. Ranch dressing mix presents some problems for them so I started playing around with homemade ranch.

I’ve been travelling down the DIY ranch dressing road for a while. A couple of years ago, I proudly presented them with a fabulous sophisticated ranch made with fresh herbs, buttermilk and mayonnaise. My husband gave it two thumbs up, but his minions preferred their distinctive, from-the-mix, life-long salad companion. Back to the drawing board I went, rotating the “grown up ranch,” as they called it, with the “best ranch” according to season.

Then last year I stumbled upon powdered buttermilk and the proverbial lightbulb went “boing” over my head. This was it. Ranch dressing powder was within my grasp. I analyzed the dry mix for recognizable herbs and flavors, tinkered, and perfected a jar of the mix that I was sure would win my ranch panel over with rave reviews. I made up a batch of each, marked the jar lid with a secret code, and called the taste testers in to critique the results. They couldn’t tell the difference.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t gloat. I’d also be lying if I said they were less than gracious. They were glowing, effusive, congratulatory, and the same one who tried to sip it with a straw saw his moment had finally come. “Mom, now can I try it with a straw?” I handed him a straw and said, “You really shouldn’t. Put the jar back when you’re done.”

I guess I’m weird, too.

This homemade buttermilk ranch dressing mix can be used to make dressing or dip just like its commercial counterpart.

I’ve included instructions in the recipe below. Happy ranching, folks.

DIY buttermilk ranch dressing mix

1/3 c. dry buttermilk powder

3 T. dried parsley flakes, divided

2 ½ t. granulated garlic

2 ½ t. granulated onion

2 t. dried onion flakes

2 t. dried dill weed

2 t. dried chives

1 ½ t. kosher or sea salt

1 t. cracked or ground black pepper

Put the buttermilk, 1 ½ tablespoons of the parsley flakes, granulated garlic and onion, onion flakes, dill weed, chives, salt, and pepper in the carafe of a blender. Pulse 8-10 times, or until the onion flakes, parsley, and chives are broken down very small and almost powdered like commercially available ranch dressing mix. Stir in the remaining parsley flakes and transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store the mix in a tightly lidded container at cool room temperature in a dark place for up to six months. You may need to break up clumps from time to time. Shake the closed container to do so, or use a fork to break apart especially tenacious clumps.

To make the dressing:

1 c. mayonnaise

1 c. milk

3 T. dry ranch dressing mix

Whisk together the ingredients until completely smooth. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving. For thicker dressing, increase the mayonnaise to 1 ¼ cups and reduce the milk to ¾ cup. For dip, beat together the mayonnaise and a softened brick of cream cheese with 3 tablespoons of the dry mix until very smooth.

Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

Now if you’re like my husband and I, you might dig the idea of the fresh herb laden ranch dressing. I won’t leave you hanging, it’s too delicious not to share, even if you just make it for comparison’s sake.

It’s so good, in fact, that it’s earned its name: fabulous homemade ranch dressing.

Fabulous homemade ranch dressing

1 1/4 c. cultured buttermilk (homemade, or store bought)

1 c. sour cream

3/4 c. mayonnaise

1/3 c., packed, finely chopped dill

1/4 c. finely chopped parsley (flat-leaf or curly)

1/4 c. finely chopped chives or green parts only of scallions

3/4 t. finely chopped fresh oregano

1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely minced or pressed (or 1/2 t. granulated garlic)

1 t. salt (or more to taste)

freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients until smooth.

Pour into a canning jar or pitcher, cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 10 days.