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!

Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fajitas
Being from South Texas, we eat lots of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine. A perennial favorite is chicken fajitas. We love to do a big batch and share with friends. There are lots of variations on the toppings as well as the sides to serve with your chicken fajitas that are all great. We love to grill our chicken outside on the grill, but we cannot do that during some parts of the year due to the weather. Preparing your fajitas on a sheet pan is a great way to enjoy this treat year-round, and not just when you can get outside and prepare them on the grill. We love to serve ours with ALL the fixin's! 

Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

1 lb chicken breast
1 lb chicken thighs
2 green bell peppers
1 orange pepper
1 red pepper
1 red onion

For the marinade:
3T extra virgin olive oil
1 lime, juice and zest
1 lemon, juice and zest
1/2 T sugar
1T salt
1T cumin
1/2T garlic
1/4 cup water
1/2T chili powder 
1/2T onion powder
1/2T paprika
1/2T pepper

Slice vegetables into strips, trying to get onions and pepper strips to be about the same size. Slice chicken into strips. Keep the vegetables and chicken in separate bowls. Mix marinade in a bowl and then pour over vegetables and chicken. Marinate chicken and vegetables in the refrigerator separately, from one to eight hours. Remove chicken and vegetables from the fridge. Cover your sheet pan in aluminum foil and preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange vegetables on the sheet pan in one layer. Layer chicken over the vegetables on the sheet pan. Place into the oven for forty minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about five minutes. Serve on tortillas with avocado, sour cream, grated cheese, salsa, and pico de gallo. We love to have beans and rice as the side for our chicken fajitas. I'll share my cilantro lime rice with you so you can try that with your chicken fajitas. 

Here's a link for you to watch a video on how to make these chicken fajitas, along with the cilantro lime rice and a yogurt lime cake, too! Once you watch, leave me a comment and let me know what you think. I love hearing from you!

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!

For more inspiration on cooking and doing life in general, we would love to say HEY in our Facebook community. Come join us! https://www.facebook.com/groups/smallstepsandselfcare

7 Tips for Weight Loss Accountability

7 Tips for Weight Loss Accountability
One key component in maintaining a healthy weight is accountability. When we allow ourselves to hide in our proverbial caves, we are not focused much on our goals and we certainly are not sharing those with others. It is when we put ourselves out there on the path to improvement that we can move forward into improvement and allow others to join and encourage us along the way.

We are all busy in our day-to-day lives. Being healthier and losing weight is important and we need to account for some of our tasks for our healthier lifestyle. Planning for it is the best route to go. Planning for exercise in your calendar. Having a specific day when you plan out meals and making the grocery list will go a long way to a healthier form of eating. Planning for it and putting it into action will keep you accountable to those tasks.
Logging your meals is a great way to stay accountable and it also makes you very aware of what you eat on a regular basis. When you are on a weight loss journey, a goal for many is to eat healthier and logging your food day in and day out can make you very mindful of your eating habits. In one weight loss study of nearly 1,700 participants, those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. Sounds like logging your meals is a keeper!
Weighing in daily, again, builds awareness of where you are at in your weight loss journey. With changes in the scale, it can be possible to determine how your actions the previous day might have affected the change on the scale. Also weighing in daily shows your weight change very gradually. A gain on the scale, can be easier to come to terms with more in one day, than a weight gain over a longer period between weigh-ins.
Having an accountability buddy keeps you on track. Nudges to keep you going, even on days when you may not feel like it. They are also a great support to you. If your accountability buddy is also on their own weight loss journey, they are very aware of the challenges you are facing, because they are facing them as well. Your buddy could be a friend, relative, or someone who is also in a program you may be following as well. Whoever they are, having someone who “has your back” and is on your side is priceless!
Do you have a daily step goal you would like to achieve? Just the idea of increasing movement in your day can do wonders for your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, “About 70% of U.S. adults don’t get the recommended amount of overall physical activity.” Using some type of step tracking device can keep you aware of how much movement you are doing in your day. Working up to 10,000 steps per day is a great target. If you are not moving at that level yet, gradually working yourself to that point is best. Keeping a step tracker can keep you motivated to keep going, even if you sit during the day a lot because of work, or even if exercise isn't quite your thing! Keep the momentum going with a step-tracking device!
Being mindful and aware can keep you accountable. When you are exercising consider how you are feeling. How challenging is the workout for you? Is it easier for you now? That awareness can tell you it’s time to increase your challenge level. Is boredom affecting your food choices or the frequency in which you exercise? This awareness can keep you accountable by “shaking things up” a bit. Try something different perhaps.
This is a good one! Nothing can keep you more accountable to losing weight than setting a goal or challenge. It could be a daily, weekly or monthly goal…or whatever time frame you want. Maybe you want to get to a 25 pound weight loss as a goal. You can also set yourself up a challenge or participate in a group challenge to keep you motivated.

We have a supportive community where we share on health, family, cooking, and so much more. We would love to have you say hi! Check it out here: Small Steps and Self Care. We look forward to seeing you soon!

La Sheonda
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