recipe

Homemade Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Are you a creamy ranch dressing lover? Whether you use it as a dip for vegetables or a dressing for your favorite salads, I think you will be surprised at how easy it is to make your own. This homemade yogurt ranch dressing has a bite from the black pepper and raw garlic. Fresh herbs and lemon juice brighten it up perfectly. I hope you love it!

Homemade Yogurt Ranch Dressing

So I’m not going to start by talking about how ranch is “bad” and “here’s how to make it healthier”. You know that’s not how I roll around here. There’s nothing wrong with the bottled stuff if that’s what you have time for and you really love the taste but if you’ve never tried homemade, hear me out!

Ranch dressing is one of those magical foods that just makes things taste GOOD. It gets a bad rap because the traditional store-bought versions have taboo things like sodium and artificial flavors. I’m not entirely opposed to that stuff because I know it helps keep food products affordable and accessible and also cut down on waste (yeah, I’m not your average dietitian). That being said, I also like recreating store-bought favorites in my kitchen for a fresher, tastier and usually less expensive end product.

Homemade Yogurt Ranch Dressing

The Case for Going Homemade

When I worked in a restaurant, I remember making the ranch from scratch at the beginning of my shift during prep work in a HUGE batch. Kind of gross dealing with that much mayonnaise but the taste was seriously so much better than the bottled stuff in the store which can be (for lack of a better word) “goopy”.

My favorite part about the homemade version was that it was pourable and had a strong garlic and herb flavor. For awhile, I’ve wanted to make a variation that has the added health benefits of yogurt, but still has a great flavor profile from garlic, onion, fresh herbs and citrus (no seasoning packet required).

One day I realized that I happened to have all of the ingredients I needed to give this a go so I got to work on making the perfect homemade yogurt ranch dressing. I’m happy to report that my first test ended up turning out just right so here we are!

What You Need to Make Homemade Ranch

The key ingredients:

  • Full-fat Greek yogurt to add creaminess and mouthfeel (I used my favorite siggis 4%)

  • Fresh garlic grated on a microplane (no chunks), plus herbs and citrus to brighten it up

  • Dried onion flakes to provide that must-have {but slightly toned down} onion-y flavor

  • Buttermilk to thin it out without losing the creaminess (Yes you need it. Here are some ideas for using up the rest)

I also added just enough mayo to add a punch of richness while still keeping this on the lighter side, but you could skip it or use your favorite plant-based alternative instead (I know mayo is a touchy subject for some people). It’s as simple as whisking everything up in a bowl until smooth and creamy - you might never go back to the store-bought version again!

Homemade Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Use this yogurt ranch as a dip for fresh vegetables or drizzle it over your favorite salad. If you dip your pizza in it I won’t judge.


Homemade Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 1.25 cups (5-6 servings) | Prep time: 5 min | Total time: 10 min

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup plain 4% siggis yogurt (or other full fat variety)

  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise

  • 1/2 cup low fat cultured buttermilk

  • 3 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane

  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives

  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

  • 2 tsp dried minced onion

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined and smooth. Store in a jar with a tight lid, refrigerated, for up to 5 days.

Nutrition Info

Per 1/4 cup serving: 75 calories, 3 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fat, 4 grams protein, 66 mg sodium, 2 grams sugar


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BYO Popcorn Bags

Well it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of awards show but my absolute favorite of the whole year is the Academy Awards and in case you didn’t hear, it’s coming up this weekend. Perfect timing because I just recently joined a monthly recipe challenge called The Recipe Redux (focused on reinventing delicious food and adding a healthy spin) and this month’s theme is… the Oscars!

Now I don’t know about you, but when I watch movies I almost always want some freshly popped popcorn. It can make a basic Friday in feel like a fun date night (or self-care night!). So yeah, add wine and popcorn to a movie night and I’m sold.

These BYO (aka “build-your-own”) popcorn bags are perfect for your Oscar party needs because everyone gets to pick their own favorite add-ins and build their version of a perfect movie-watching snack. We’ve got both sweet and savory covered here so no one will leave unsatisfied. Bonus: you might also learn a new technique for popping that takes all of two minutes and could very well replace the artificial butter flavored packets in your pantry.

BYO Popcorn Bags

All you need to make the base is these classic brown paper lunch bags and popcorn kernels. Did I mention how budget-friendly this is? I played around with the amount and I think 2 Tbsp is a good amount for one adult (for the kids, you might do just 1 Tbsp). No oil/butter or seasonings necessary yet, just add the seeds to the bag and microwave until popping slows to 2-3 seconds. You could even pass out sharpies so everyone can write their name/decorate their bags. Or perhaps write guesses for best picture winners on the bottom?

BYO Popcorn Bags
BYO Popcorn Bags

Leave the popcorn uninterrupted for a minute or so just in case you have any rogue last-minute pops. Then you can take the bag out of the microwave and you should see something similar to the beautiful sight above.

At this time, you can add your melted butter, salt and seasonings of choice because personally, I would rather have no popcorn than butter/salt free popcorn. That’s just me though! And remember, since everyone makes their own, there will be no popcorn to butter ratio disputes here.

BYO Popcorn Bar

Next comes the toppings. You guys, I could have seriously gone all out with this but for the purpose of this photo shoot (because I don’t have that wide of a lens, or enough of those cute little dishes) I decided to limit it to a few favorites. I went for a mix of raw unsalted nuts (since you will likely be salting the popcorn), unsweetened dried fruit, chocolate, something vinegary and something just for fun. Here are the specifics:

Other ideas that would be delicious: everything-bagel seasoning, truffle salt, nutritional yeast or grated parmesan cheese, wasabi peas, honey-roasted peanuts, pretzels, mini marshmallows, dark chocolate chips or white chocolate chips, spiced pecans/almonds, golden raisins.

No matter what you choose, I think everyone will go nuts for this! It’s a fun way to make party food interactive and still delicious. Plus, what could be more appropriate for a celebration of movies than popcorn? Enjoy!


Build-Your-Own (BYO) Popcorn Bags

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 2.5 cups | Prep time: 5 min | Cook time: 2 min | Total time: 10 min (including setup & toppings)

Ingredients & Supplies

  • One brown paper lunch bag (per person)

  • 2 Tbsp popcorn kernels (per person)

  • Melted butter

  • Kosher salt (to taste)

  • Various toppings including: cashews, walnuts, dried cherries, dried chickpeas (salt & vinegar), peanut butter M&Ms, Junior Mints, coconut chips, everything-bagel seasoning, truffle salt, nutritional yeast or grated parmesan cheese, dried edamame, wasabi peas, honey-roasted peanuts, pretzels, mini marshmallows, dark chocolate chips or white chocolate chips, spiced pecans/almonds, golden raisins.

Instructions

  1. Add popcorn kernels to a brown paper lunch bag and fold the top down twice. Place in microwave on its side (so the bag stays folded).

  2. Microwave on high for 2-2 1/2 minutes or until popping slows to 2-3 second intervals.

  3. Let the bag sit untouched for about 30 seconds to make sure everything is done popping! Then gently open the bag and add butter, salt and seasonings as desired (shaking well to evenly distribute).

  4. Finally, add toppings of choice.


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Raspberry Lemon Chia Seed Jam

This raspberry lemon chia seed jam is bright and tart, and it makes for an awesome fruity topping on yogurt, oatmeal, or toast. The best part is that you can make it in just 30 minutes!

Raspberry Lemon Chia Seed Jam

Can we talk about the wonder that is chia seed jam for a minute? With four simple ingredients you can whip up a simple jam that’s heavy on the fruit, low on the added sugar and a beautiful vibrant color.

Raspberry Lemon Chia Seed Jam

Now, if you’re totally weirded out by chia seeds, this is the post where I convince you that they’re actually cool and functional, in a nerdy food science kind-of way. And yes, it’s the same seed that was responsible for the chia pet trend of the 90s (come to find out, you can still buy them 😂).

Besides being used to grow sprouts, the seeds are actually really versatile in the kitchen. Read on to find out how to use them, what the nutritional benefits are and of course to get the recipe for the raspberry lemon jam.

How to Use Chia Seeds

I love keeping chia on hand for tossing in random things for an added nutritional boost. I add them to overnight oats for creamier texture or oatmeal balls for cohesiveness. Another popular use is chia seed pudding, although I’m personally not as big a fan of that. Mix with water for an egg replacer in baked goods for the vegan folks (or in a pinch if you run out).

Raspberry Lemon Chia Seed Jam

The Nutritional Benefits of Chia Seeds

One of the biggest reasons why chia seeds surged in popularity is because they’re a plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. While fatty fish provides the most efficient form of omega 3s, I always advocate for consuming a variety of food sources of each nutrient when possible and I also realize that not everyone consumes fish.

Even better, there are plenty of other great qualities in chia. Here are the nutrition facts at-a-glance (per 1/4 cup):

  • 180 calories

  • 11 g fat

  • 16 g carbohydrate

  • 14 g dietary fiber

  • 6 g protein

  • 230 mg calcium (15% DV)

  • 2.8 mg iron (15% DV)

Why Would You Add Chia Seeds to Jam?

When added to liquid, chia seeds expand and become gelatinous. This basically creates a thickening quality which is exactly what you want when making jam/preserves so it’s easier to spread.

This jam recipe is simple and can be switched up based on whatever fruit you have on hand and the sweetener you prefer. Here are a few other flavor combinations that could work:

  • Strawberry Mint

  • Blueberry Lemon

  • Cherry Vanilla Almond

  • Blackberry Orange Ginger

Raspberry Lemon Chia Seed Jam

Have other flavor combination ideas? Leave me a comment! And be sure to let me know if you give this a try by posting your photos on Instagram and tagging me @LeanneRayRDN.


Raspberry Lemon Chia Seed Jam

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 16 oz | Prep time: 5 min | Cook time: 10 min | Total time: 30 min (including time to cool)

Ingredients

  • 12 oz bag frozen raspberries

  • 1 lemon (zest & juice)

  • 2 Tbsp cane sugar

  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients except chia seeds to a medium saucepan. Bring to a low boil stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.

  2. Lower heat to a simmer and stir in the chia seeds. Partially cover and continue to simmer for 5-7 minutes until berries are broken down and slightly thickened.

  3. Remove from heat and let stand until cooled to room temperature. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

recipe inspired by Two Peas and Their Pod.


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