To be totally honest, I'm not the biggest fan of Ranch dressing... unless it's on a tasty buffalo wing! But since our family revamped our eating habits four years ago, there haven't been too many of those around the dinner table.
However, when I was pregnant, Ranch was one of my strange cravings. Ranch with baby carrots and cucumber slices. I wanted it so badly that each time we made a trip to the grocery store, I would buy another bottle "just in case". By the time Ivette was born, I had about six bottles of ranch in my fridge. I just couldn't get enough!
Now Ivette is a full on toddler who loves her "dippy dip" aka Any Substance She Can Dunk Her Food Into. When we go out to parties or restaurants, Ranch is often served among the "healthy" options, although it is far from it. Once she had a taste, she wanted more... I suspect it was her all along driving my cravings!
On the upside, she loved eating vegetables with it, so there was that, but I just couldn't get over how awful that stuff was for her. Even the organic varieties weren't hitting the mark. Sure they were organic, but had zero nutrition. We try to focus on nutrient density, and it seemed silly to let her scoop up tablespoon after tablespoon of the stuff if it wasn't helping her body grow.
There HAD to be something better... Buuuut there wasn't! So I was going to have to come up with something.
The seasoning mix was easy, then that's when it got tricky. I tried tons of different dressing bases, from sour cream to greek yogurt, but I couldn't find the perfect balance between health, nutrition and flavor... until I stumbled across Kefir cheese.
Sure you can make this recipe with any base, but I recommend a mixture of Kefir cheese and Greek yogurt. Both these items help give the final product a ranchy "tang" without the need for buttermilk. They are also full of health benefits and nutrition. You'll get a dose of live probiotics from the kefir and a healthy serving of protein from the Greek yogurt + calcium and vitamin D. Feel free to change it up depending on how you like your ranch to taste, but try the original! You won't regret it! And now I present...
The Healthiest (and tastiest) Ranch Dressing You'll Ever Eat
Nutrition, flavor and 100% guilt freeYou'll Need
2 tbsp Parsley
2 tsp Dill
2 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
2 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
4 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Unbleached Cane Sugar
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/4 tsp Cayenne
1/2 c Kefir Cheese
1/4 c Plain Greek Yogurt
Whole Milk or Buttermilk
1. Combine all herbs and spices. I like to bring these together with a good ole' fashioned mortar and pestle, but you can use a spice grinder or small blender too. It is better if you can crush the herbs together in some way so that whatever you use as your dip/dressing base will be flavored evenly.
1A. Take a sniff.... really! This stuff really smells like ranch! It's amazing. I love the scent of it all mixed up. I never skip this step, and neither should you!
***Reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons of the ranch seasoning mix, and store the rest in an airtight container. Use the remainder just as you would a ranch packet. Make ranch burgers, homemade ranch wings or more dip. Tons of possibilities!
2. Take your dressing base(s) and add to a bowl. For this recipe I use kefir cheese and plain Greek yogurt. Stir to combine.
3. From here you can just add the reserved ranch seasoning, whisk everything together and have an amazingly thick, delicious Ranch Veggie Dip. But if you are going for something more towards dressing, you'll need to thin this out.
4. Here comes the part of personal preference... whisk in however much milk is needed to make the dressing the consistency you like. You can use buttermilk, although it's not at all needed. I know, I know! That's what makes ranch dressing... but just trust me. This is totally worthy without it!
Some people prefer really thin ranch, which is perfect for dressing a salad. I like my dressing to run, but retain enough thickness to cling to Ivette's veggies when she dips. Let's just say a loose dressing makes for one messy toddler!
5. Serve with a side of healthy veggies like rainbow carrots, cucumber slices, or strips of bell peppers in every color. Store leftovers in an airtight container or mason jar in the fridge. For best flavor, eat within the week. However, it's doubtful it will last that long!
Now that I think of it, this would even be delicious served with oven baked chicken tenders or fish strips. Your little one won't be able to get enough. I promise! Ivette approves!
Toddlers that clear their plate, eat their veggies and ranch that's healthy and healthful? I call that a win, win, win!