Thursday, July 19, 2012

The simple joy of ranch dip/dressing/schmeer

As my regular readers already know, in the last ten years, my diet has completely changed. First I found out that I needed to avoid MSG, and then I found out all of the aliases that hide MSG on ingredient lists. The more that I read labels, the more that I began to question just exactly what it was that I was eating, and why it sounded more like science, and less like food. I eventually turned my back on almost all packaged/pre-prepared food-like substances.

The more that my diet changed, the more that our lifestyle had to change to accommodate that diet. I grew up eating canned foods, boxed/powdered mac & cheese, frozen pot pies, etc. It seemed 'normal' to open a packet that contained the flavor for whatever I was making, instead of opening the spice drawers to blend my own, so the transition has not always been smooth. It is bizarre how much I miss some things, and how happy I am when I figure out a real recipe for those flavors that were so convenient.

Salad dressing used to be so easy, it was nothing to have several bottles on hand, lots of variety. One of my favorites was the ranch that came in a paper packet and mixed with mayo, but with an ingredients list like:

Salt, monosodium glutamate, dried garlic, modified food starch, dried onion, maltodextrin, spices, less than 2% of guar gum, calcium stearate, natural flavor (soy)
-(emphasis mine- items in red represent definite, as well as possible, sources of MSG)

the packets were a no-no, and the ingredients only got worse on the bottles. To look at that list it seems simple enough, and I tried different recipes that I found online, but none of them seemed right for me. After a while, I gave up and resigned myself to vinaigrettes and an occasional guacamole or bean dip.

Recently we were invited to the lake for the day, so hubby and I put our heads together for the planning required for a social event. Naturally, I always try to bring something to share, and then I needed to figure out what we could eat that wouldn't stand out too much or require much preparation at the party. The menu that everyone else would be eating was burgers and dogs, snacks & desserts, etc, so we decided on BLT's. I baked rye bread, cooked bacon, washed the lettuce and tomatoes, and made a goat cheese & herb schmeer to use in place of mayo. I baked cookies to bring, and we bought a few bags of organic corn chips (one of the few concessions that we allow ourselves on occasion), and I decided to try to make a dip. I took some chevre (goat cheese), cultured buttermilk, and chives from our co-op, added a few things and took a taste. . . .and stopped cold. I turned to my husband and let him taste, his eyes lit up and he asked if I had written down the recipe (a sure sign of success in our house). I had not, but a day or two later I recreated the results, and I am sharing them with you.

As always, feel free to tweak, but for us this recipe is a lock. If you don't have chevre, you could substitute cream cheese.

·         1 cup cultured buttermilk
·         2 generous Tbsp chopped fresh chives
·         ¼ tsp garlic powder
·         ¾ tsp onion powder
·         ½ tsp thyme
·         ½ tsp basil
·         app ½ tsp salt (adjust to taste)
·         enough chevre to adjust consistency (more for dip, less for dressing/add by Tbsp amounts)

Mix together all ingredients. This can be used immediately, however, if made the night before and allowed to rest in the refrigerator, the flavors deepen and fully develop.

By simply using more chevre as the base, and adding buttermilk by the Tbsp, you can make a wonderful sandwich spread (or as I like to call it, schmeer) using this same recipe.

Showing this day 2011: Oatmeal Raisin Chai Spice Cookies


Kim said...

Home made ranch is sooooo much better than store bought, sad that some never get the experience huh? A neighbor gave us some canned stuff and I feel so guilty I will never use it.. Hamburger Helper, Cambells broth... is MSG in everything packaged??? i wish people would understand that it's so much more economical to MAKE your own hamburger helper, and tastes so much better.. LOL.. how did I get from Ranch to HH? LOL

Heidi a/k/a Thistle said...

You must have been reading my mind, because it does seem to be in EVERYTHING. I love making my own HH, because you can change the taste to fit your ingredients and mood (and also because the boxed version would probably send me to the ER, LOL).

Kim said...

I tried some HH a few weeks ago ... just to see what I would think of it now that I don't eat much premade stuff... wow, how in heck did I ever even touch that, LOL!!!!

Heidi a/k/a Thistle said...

I suspect if I could try even half of the foods that I "gave up", I would feel the same way. Making food from scratch doesn't ever have to be dull, and there is so much room for variety.