Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Homemade Ranch Dressing

I know you love it. I do too. There's no shame in it: ranch dressing is awesome. But have you ever read the ingredients on the bottle? It starts off okay, with water, oil, onion, maybe some spices, and then it veers off into chemistry lab. Xanthan gum, disodium inosinate, modified food starch, MSG - do you really want to eat these things? Do you want your kids to eat them? There IS a better way!

Make your own tonight. Seriously, read the ingredients in this recipe, find them in your fridge and pantry, because I guarantee you have 90% of them right now, and figure out a work-around for the one or two ingredients you don't have. It will taste just as good as the stuff from the bottle, without that weird plasticky feeling on your tongue. Eat it on salad, dip your veggies in it, go crazy. What are you waiting for?

Homemade Ranch Dressing
(Recipe courtesy Mark's Daily Apple)

  • 1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cultured buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 heaping teaspoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon tamari
  • 1/8 teaspoon granulated onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 small clove garlic, finely minced
  • optional: 1 or 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  1. Whisk everything together or process in the food processor. That's it! The flavors meld and get better if you let it chill for a while, so consider making this the night before you want to eat it.
Note: I never have buttermilk in the house. It's one of those ingredients that goes bad before I can use it all. A good substitute is the same quantity of milk with a teaspoon or two of lemon juice mixed in. Try making this as-is, and then the next time you can fool around with the ingredients to make it more to your liking. My dressing looks sort of greenish because I used more fresh dill and green onion (instead of chives) than called for, but that's how I like it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Easiest Ever Marmalade

Winter doesn't have a whole lot to recommend it: Wet, cold, dark, et cetera. The only bright and shining thing that flourishes in winter is citrus fruits. My neighbor has a Meyer lemon tree that is going bonkers and she puts out a pail of lemons for me every week, and I love it. If you are lucky enough to have an orange tree, you are probably inundated with fruit right now - but what if it's too much? What to do?

Last year I was given a giant bag of oranges from a friend's tree. So big a bag that there was no way we could eat them all. Then I realized: Marmalade! Yummy orange marmalade that will last all year in my pantry and taste delicious on toast, in tarts, and even dressing beets (more on that in a later post.) I just opened my last jar of marmalade, canned 12 months ago, and it is still delicious. Canning is amazing!

If you are new to canning, this is a great way to learn. The recipe is easy to follow, the prep is quick, and the ingredients are cheap, especially if you have a tree in your yard. You can buy jars at the grocery store or even the hardware store. You also need a really large, tall pot to boil the filled jars in, and a pair of tongs or a special jar lifter to get the jars in and out of the boiling water. What are you waiting for? Make some marmalade!

Easiest Ever Marmalade
(recipe courtesy of Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine)
(makes about six 8 oz. jars)
  • 3 small oranges, unpeeled and seeded
  • 1 lemon, unpeeled and seeded
  • 1 small grapefruit, unpeeled and seeded
  • 2 cups canned crushed pineapple, with juice
  • 6 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries (I omitted these)
  1. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, working in batches, pulse oranges, lemon and grapefruit until finely chopped. Do not puree.
  2. In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan, combine chopped fruit, pineapple with juice and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil hard, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to sheet from a metal spoon, about 20 minutes. Add cherries and boil until mixture reaches gel stage, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and test gel. If gel stage has been reached, skim off foam.
  3. Prepare canning jars and lids.
  4. Ladle hot marmalade into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot marmalade. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
  5. Place jars in a large deep pot filled with boiling water, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil, cover pot and process for 10 minutes. Remove lid, wait 5 minutes, and then remove jars, cool overnight, and store.
For more information on canning, please see:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Curried Kabocha Dip

My favorite winter produce, by far, is squash. They last forever on your counter so you don't have to worry about spoilage, and they are incredibly healthy for you. My secret weapon in the kitchen these last few months has been the kabocha squash.

The kabocha, also known as a Japanese pumpkin, is big, green, heavy, and delicious. It has a dense texture, much better than the slightly watery butternut squash, and is just as sweet. My kids love it, including my 8 month-old daughter, who slurps it up as fast as I can spoon it in!

I had roasted a kabocha the night before and had scraped out the insides and packed it up in the fridge. I also had people coming over for dinner and hadn't thought out an appetizer. Necessity is the mother of invention, so here is what I concocted. Not too shabby for a spur-of-the-moment dish! I served this dip with Triscuits, because I love them like no other, but my husband ate it with carrot sticks and that was pretty good too. Try it, you might like it!

Curried Kabocha Dip

  • 1 kabocha squash
  • 2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil, or more to taste
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt to taste
  1. Cut squash in half, scrape out seeds, and rub the insides of the squash with olive or vegetable oil. Place squash halves cut-side down on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about an hour. The flesh should be very soft and the shells starting to collapse. Let cool for half an hour, then scrape from the shell. Put half the flesh away, and reserve the other half in a bowl.
  2. While squash is roasting, put the cumin seeds in a pan over medium heat and toast for a few minutes until brown and fragrant. Remove from heat and grind in a food processor or mortar and pestle.
  3. In a food processor or large bowl, mix together squash, cumin, and remaining ingredients until smooth and creamy. Serve warm or cold with crackers, chips, or veggies.