Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix

Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix
What CANNOT be dipped in ranch dressing?

The answer? Not much.

We go through more ranch dressing in our house than any other condiment. By far. And we are not alone. Ranch dressing is the top choice of salad dressing, and ranch dip is found in virtually every veggie tray you see. I have loved ranch dressing for years.

And then I started reading labels.

Most commercially sold ranch dressing is filled with things I would rather not feed myself or my family. Fillers and preservatives. Gluten, MSG, and even corn syrup. Why? It is just not necessary.

That is when I started making my own. And it is so easy y'all! You can whip this together in minutes, have plenty to make several batches of ranch dressing or ranch dip, and you are completely in control of the ingredients.

It is healthier, with no mystery ingredients. On top of that, it is cheaper than buying at the store!

The key ingredient is buttermilk powder. You can find that in most grocery stores on the baking aisle. Sometimes I have also found it near the powdered milk. This is what will make your ranch dressing (or dip) taste like the real thing.

Once you have your dry mix prepped, just add it to some milk and mayonnaise and sourcream for dressing, or sour cream and mayo for dip. Sub out the milk with fresh buttermilk for more of that tangy flavor!

In addition to dressing and dip, this seasoning mix is a great way to coat chicken tenders, potato wedges, homemade popcorn, and more!

1/2 c. Dry Buttermilk Powder 
1 tbsp. Dried Parsley
2 tsp. Dried Dill Weed
1 tsp. Freeze Dried Chives
1 tbsp. Garlic Powder
1 tbsp. Onion Powder
1 tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 tsp. Ground Black Pepper

Homemade Ranch Dip
Mix together ¼ cup of ranch seasoning mix with 1 cup of sour cream, 1 cup of mayonnaise and 2 tablespoons buttermilk.

Homemade Ranch Dressing
Mix together ¼ cup ranch seasoning mix with 1 cup mayonnaise, ½ cup sour cream, and ½ cup buttermilk.

Taco Seasoning Mix

Taco Seasoning Mix
Being born and raised in South Texas, I love all kinds of Mexican, Tex-Mex, and Latin American foods. I could easily eat some version of Mexican food for every meal of the day and never grow tired of it. I do not subject my family to that, but if it were just me, I would coast on tacos and chalupas and enchiladas for a good long time. 

Since I love to be in the kitchen, I used to go through the little seasoning packets of taco seasoning really quickly. Then I bought the larger bottles of taco seasoning in the spice aisle of our grocery store.  A few years ago, I started paying more attention to ingredient lists instead of just calories on food labels in general. Eye opening!

When I read the ingredients in store-bought taco seasoning specifically, my reaction was the same. Things like corn flour, corn starch, wheat flour, dextrose, maltodextrin, sugar, soybean oil, and other fillers just did not seem to make sense in taco seasoning. So I decided to make my own.

I actually like the flavor BETTER in the homemade version, so I have never turned back. Now I make lots of my own seasoning blends. Taco seasoning was just the first of many. In addition to the flavor being great, I can control how spicy a batch of taco seasoning is, how much salt it contains, and more. So the variability and control are also huge plusses to making your own. 

1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1 T Paprika
1 T Chili Powder
1 T Cumin
1 tsp Granulated Garlic
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp (Mexican, if you have it) Oregano
1 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a lidded container. Shake well to combine all spices. Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled. That is what I usually do when making up a batch of this taco seasoning mix, since we use it quite often and go through it very quickly. If you do not use taco seasoning very often, I recommend sticking with the base recipe size. That way, your taco seasoning will not get caky on you from sitting too long.

Here's a quick video of just how quick and easy this is to make. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtTTUJPl9Uc Enjoy!

The BEST Cilantro Lime Rice

The BEST Cilantro Lime Rice
There's a burrito restaurant that has the world's BEST cilantro lime rice. I mean, we go there for the rice more than we do for the burritos. It is that good. Since our whole family loves it, I created my own recipe for cilantro lime rice. It may be different from the recipe at our favorite burrito spot, but the flavor is right on. We like this rice recipe so much, I will often double the recipe so we can have some leftovers available in the fridge. 

Cilantro lime rice pairs great with tacos, tortilla soup, under chili, with enchiladas, and any southwestern, Tex-Mex, or Mexican dishes. We recently had our cilantro lime rice with chicken fajitas and it was a fantastic meal. 

I get asked sometimes about subbing for the cilantro in this recipe. You can absolutely use flat-leaf parsley if you are not on team cilantro. But I do have to tell you that it just won't be the same. Since cilantro is the first word in the title, it probably goes without saying that the cilantro is a bit of a driving force in the flavors of this rice dish. Other herbs and lime will give you some great rice. But I think you'd be missing out. Because I am definitely on team cilantro. I may be the captain. 

Many cilantro lime rice recipes, and really any recipe that includes citrus juice, often leave out a very important ingredient. They all include the juice. But for the most impactful citrus flavor, you truly need that zest! I have a zester that I love. The most important thing to remember is to just get the outer layer of the zest. If you go too deep, you will get the white pith, which is bitter and not what you are looking for!

Cilantro Lime Rice

2 c. rice
4 c. water
2 bay leaves 
3T extra virgin olive oil
3 limes, juice and zest
3 lemons, juice and zest
1 bundle cilantro
salt to taste

Bring salted water to a boil. Add rice, bay leaves, EVOO and stir. Bring back up to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook covered for 20 minutes. While rice cooks, zest lemons and limes, then add the juice from the fruits to the zest. Chop cilantro, removing the leaves from the stems. When rice is finished cooking, remove bay leaves and fluff with a fork. Then stir in citrus juice, zest, cilantro, and additional EVOO and salt to taste. 

I have a video of our chicken fajitas, cilantro lime rice, and citrus yogurt cake over on YouTube. Here's the link so that you can check it out. We'd love to hear how you love the rice. Come back and tell us when you make it!

TOP 3 Ideas to Save $$$ on Groceries

TOP 3 Ideas to Save $$$ on Groceries
We all know that we can save money at the market by using coupons and shopping the sales. While this can help, I wanted more. First of all, a lot of the foods I like to prepare for our family are not the kinds of foods that have coupons. When I look through the coupons for our local grocery store, I see coupons for fruity cereals that are 98% sugar, and then there are coupons for gummy snacks that make me look for my toothbrush just thinking about them. I definitely have treats for the fam, but junk food is not our entire diet! And since my family does like to eat every single day of the year, I am not going to wait for shopping only during the sales at the store before I grocery shop.

So let's find other ways to save money and still feed our families well. 

☆ Opt for DRY ingredients instead of canned. 

This can be true for so many options, but here are a couple of my favorites:
    Not only are these a cheaper option when purchased dry, but I also prefer the texture and taste when they are cooked from dry, rather than pouring them out of a can. I can also control the ingredients and salt content that way. 

If you do not usually cook these, it may just take some fun experimentation in the kitchen to work them into your rotation. You can add staples like beans and lentils to meats, pastas, rice dishes, soups, and stews. They are even a great side on their own when seasoned well. Adding beans or lentils to dishes will add to the volume of the dish, plus they add fiber and protein. Win-win situation!

☆  It's okay to cook with generic products. Really--it is! 

Always browse the bottom or the top shelf. Eye-level products are almost always name-brand products that cost more per ounce. The bottom and top shelves are where you will most likely find off-brand versions of the same thing. The store is a business, so they keep the more expensive items on the middle shelf, where it is easiest for you to see and purchase them. That's totally fine; you just have to know where to look if you want to save some dough. 

There are definitely certain items that I choose to buy a specific brand only. But most of the time, I find that generic versions are very similar if not the exact same as their branded counterparts. 

☆  Inventory what you already have. 

This is HUGE! I can't stress this enough. Look in your pantry, fridge, freezer, and spice cabinet. You likely have more than you realize. Using those items now means not having to buy duplicates or similar items at all. That is the biggest money-saving tip. 

Hope these are helpful to you! And I would love to hear your ideas as well. Share them with us!

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