Homemade Ranch Dressing and Seasoning Mix

Homemade ranch dressing and seasoning mix is simple to make and tastes better than the commercial packets.

 

I’ll confess I’ve never been the biggest fan of ranch dressing – at least the store bought kind. If a recipe called for ranch dressing or a packet of ranch seasoning, I used to just skip it. Once I started making homemade ranch seasoning and dressing mix, my attitude changed. The homemade version is super-easy and tastes much better than commercial packets.

It takes less than five minutes to make homemade ranch dressing mix or seasoning mix, so I make both, one to use for salad dressing and another to use for chicken, vegetables or other recipes. Both mixes are made with staple ingredients you might already have in the pantry, but the dressing mix includes a secret ingredient, powdered buttermilk, that makes it extra convenient. 

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Very Veggie Marinara Sauce

Very Veggie Marinara Sauce is easy, economical and full of fresh vegetables.

There’s something so satisfying about a plate of pasta with a hearty, flavorful marinara sauce. It’s a meal that can be put together in a hurry, when you’re low on groceries or have no idea what to make, and it’s inexpensive but still delicious. 

When my husband and I were dating, he pretty much lived on pasta. At the time, we were both waiting tables at the Old Spaghetti Factory, and they gave us a free plate of pasta every shift. I’m pretty sure he would have eaten spaghetti and pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. His Italian mama made him spaghetti at home, too, always with her homemade sauce.

Over the years, I’ve developed my own marinara sauce recipe, and I usually make it using the pressure cooker or Crock-Pot. My recipe uses carrots and celery in addition to tomatoes, onions and garlic, with a touch of extra virgin of olive oil. I love having this sauce on hand, to top pasta, grilled chicken or zucchini noodles, or to use as a dip for breadsticks. You can also use it for baked pasta dishes like Allie’s Baked Caprese Tortellini.

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Chopped Antipasti Salad (Buca di Beppo Copycat)

This Buca di Beppo copycat Chopped Antipasti Salad is loaded with yummy veggies, cheeses, salami and olives.

There’s something about Italian food that brings people together. Lots of our family celebrations seem to involve pizza, pasta, and generous servings of salad like this chopped antipasti salad. It’s a copycat version of a salad served at Buca di Beppo, one of our favorite restaurants for birthdays, graduations and other special occasions. It’s full of yummy veggies, plus pepperoni, two kinds of olives, and three cheeses. It’s far from being a plain, ordinary salad.

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Berry Spinach Salad with Feta and Spiced Pecans

This salad with berries, spinach, feta and spiced pecans is a favorite for spring or any time of year.

For whatever reason, I often get asked to bring a salad to a party or social gathering. Maybe it’s because salads are so easy to share. This berry salad with spinach, feta and spiced pecans is a crowd-pleasing favorite, and it usually disappears fast from a buffet at a party. Of course, you can also make a smaller version just for yourself or your family. The combination of sweet, crunchy, salty, tangy, creamy and earthy flavors in this salad make it a winner.

To make this salad, start with a bed of your favorite greens. I like to use spinach, butter lettuce and arugula. Layer on sliced strawberries and blueberries, crumbled feta cheese, and spiced pecans. For dressing, I use balsamic glaze, olive oil, salt and pepper.

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Clean Eating Balsamic Glaze

Spinach salad with berries, almonds and balsamic glaze

We celebrated Easter and a family birthday this past weekend, and it made my heart happy to reconnect with loved ones. I hope you had a wonderful holiday as well. I ate more than my fair share of candy and yummy baked goods, and now that the holiday is over, I really want to get back to a healthier eating pattern and invite more veggies into my life. Maybe that’s the reason I felt inspired to make this low-calorie balsamic glaze using only two simple ingredients. It adds a sweet-tart deliciousness to salads, grilled or roasted vegetables, grilled chicken or salmon.

It’s easy enough to pick up a bottle of balsamic glaze at the grocery store, next to the balsamic vinegar, but if you make your own, you’ll find it has a more intense flavor. It’s also free of corn syrup and starchy thickeners, ingredients you will find in ready-made balsamic glaze.

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Chickpea and Spinach Curry

This quick and delicious weeknight skillet dinner is packed with protein and veggies. It's also vegan and gluten free.

This Chickpea and Spinach Curry is one of my all-time favorite vegan recipes. It’s packed with veggies, protein, and fiber, and it can be cooked from start to finish in 20 minutes.

This quick and delicious weeknight skillet dinner is packed with protein and veggies. It's also vegan and gluten free.

Sometimes I make this curry as a quick weeknight dinner, but most often I actually make a batch and divide it into lunches for the week. It’s a perfect lunch because it holds up well in the fridge and it can be eaten by itself or with a grain or bread. One serving is one heaping cup (which feels like a lot) and it has 208 calories, 10g of protein, 9g of fiber, and a healthy serving of spinach.

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Balsamic Roasted Carrots

Balsamic roasted carrots is an easy side dish that takes only five minutes to prepare.

Boring vegetable sides are easy to understand – it’s hard enough to come up with a main dish for dinner at the end of a long day, so by the time you get to the side dishes, opening up a can or drizzling bottled dressing on a bagged salad seems like all you can handle. That’s why a recipe like this one is such a lifesaver. Tangy, sweet and salty, with a deep roasted flavor and a hint of garlic, these balsamic roasted carrots require only five minutes of prep time followed by about 30 minutes in the oven. They’re so simple and versatile, you’ll find yourself making them again and again.

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Slimmed-Down Roasted Broccoli

roasted broccoli with lemon, garlic and Parmesan

I grew up loving broccoli, probably because I usually ate it during Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house, steamed and drizzled with melted butter and lemon juice. Now, when my grandson, daughter and son-in-law come over for Sunday dinner, I often serve fresh, flavorful roasted broccoli with olive oil, lemon, garlic and Parmesan, a vegetable side dish that’s quick and easy, but impressive enough for company. It’s a favorite of my son-in-law and just about everyone else.

This roasted broccoli recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s popular version, but it’s slimmed down in terms of calories, price, and prep time. Ina’s recipe uses lots of olive oil and is garnished with expensive pine nuts. I’ve cut down the amount of oil and used less expensive sliced almonds for garnish. My version also uses Montreal steak seasoning, a combination of garlic, salt, pepper and dried herbs, so you don’t have to fuss with those separately. 

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