Dump the Bottled Ranch Dressing
Once you make ranch dressing from scratch, you will never buy it from the store again. There is something creamy, tangy, and just so fresh tasting about it. Simple ingredients that most have in their pantry: mayo, sour cream, milk, lemon, salt, ground pepper, and dried herbs. That’s it. In less than five minutes you can have homemade ranch dressing that will keep up to a week in the fridge on hand for veggies, salads, and chicken. It is so good, it won’t last a week.
You can use dried or fresh herbs. I used herbs from my garden. Don’t be afraid to pack it with herbs for a robust flavor. Sea salt is great for this dressing, but Kosher will work. I use local sea salt by Newport Salt Company. It is worth investing in quality ingredients.
Try Basil Buttermilk dressing or basic Italian vinaigrette.
- 1/2 cup mayo
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup regular milk or buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon fresh or dried dill weed
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried chives
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon finely ground pepper
- freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Mix mayo, sour cream, and milk together in bowl with a whisk.
- Add herbs mixing finishing off with the lemon juice.
- Keep in the fridge in an airtight container.
Don’t Waste, Make Apple Sauce
We buy bulk organic apples. They are great to have on hand for quick and easy snacks. Sometimes we aren’t the best at eating them in a timely matter. They tend to start going soft making them not great to grab and go. While we could put them in the compost bin, I usually make apple sauce instead. Why waste them when you still can create something yummy?
Let’s talk about waste.
Turns out the wasting of food is a global problem. According to the World Food Program USA, nearly one-third of all food produced each year is spoiled before it can be consumed. It is noted that between 30 to 40 percent of the US food supply is wasted. That comes out to be roughly 20 pounds of food per person per month. Yes, 20 pounds per person per month. That’s shocking to me, but yet I can see that happening.
I try to use everything I buy especially fresh produce, but more times than I’d like to admit, a lot of it goes into the compost bin. I am embarrassed by this and I need to change how I meal plan and shop. We try to do the right thing with having a compost bin to cut down on what is going to the landfill and a rain barrel to collect water to use on plants.
I buy too much food. It is so easy to do so in the US with prepackaged produce and retail warehouse clubs. I go into these places with good intentions that I’m going to make this or that. And, well, the making of the meal doesn’t happen. I’m usually good at making something else, but sometimes the produce gets stuck in my veg bin.
Changing how I shop.
I need to change how I plan meals and shop. Going to the grocery store once a week is really convenient. We lead busy lives. I work part-time, run a business, go to graduate school, and volunteer outside of being a wife and mother. I need to make cutting food waste a priority. Not only for the planet but our budget. We’re on a tight budget right now so food wasted is money wasted.
I’ve tried to meal plan, but my changes taste on a daily basis. I look forward to dinner every night. That is the highlight of my food day so I have to really want it. And often meals changes as my taste of something does. It is hard to explain. I should do groceries every other day and pick loose produce over the pre-packaged.
Back to the Apple Sauce
Now back to the apple sauce. It is very easy and quick to do. Peel and chop the apples then add them to a pot with water, sugar, and cinnamon cooking until apples are soft. It doesn’t matter what kind of apples. I just use what I have on hand which is usually Gala apples. You can cut down on the sugar if you’d like just maybe add more cinnamon to keep the flavor high.
If you like the apple sauce, try the Cranberry Chutney.
- 4 apples cored, peeled, and chopped
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Place apples in sauce pan with sugar, water, and cinnamon.
- Stir until mixed.
- Cook over medium heat until apples are soft usually 20-30 minutes.
- Store in glass jar in fridge.
Nothing Beats Homemade Gnocchi
Being Irish with the DNA test to show I have no southern European genes, pasta came out of a box and the sauce from a jar growing up. Fresh pasta was unknown. In the late 70s and early 80s, my mom learned how to make tomato sauce and meatballs from our Italian-American neighbors who wanted to share their love of food with us. That was the beginning of the love of Italian food.
Fast forward 30 or so years, I got the nerve to make pasta. I have been making my own sauces for years so it shouldn’t be too much of a leap for me to make my own pasta. Gnocchi is a versatile pasta working with many different sauces and soups. It is a potato dumpling.
The Gnocchi Process
Gnocchi is easy to make if you follow the recipe. There is a process to this humble food. Make it a family affair getting kids in involved in making their dinner.
Here is the low down on making them:
- The potatoes are key. Boil them with their skins on until fork tender about 20 minutes. This helps the potato not to absorb access water. Remember dry potatoes are good and water potatoes are bad. Over-boiling the potatoes causes them to become mushy.
- Invest in a potato ricer. I wish I did. I mashed my potatoes and they weren’t fine enough leaving the gnocchi lumpy.
- When you go knead the dough, be careful not to over-knead. Also be careful at this point of adding flour. By adding too much flour will give you hard gnocchi.
Maybe I will attempt to make another type of pasta.
Gnocchi Making in Photos
- - 2 1/2 lbs. of potato, approx. 4 lg. potatoes
- - 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup or more for working dough
- - 1/2 tsp. salt
- - 1 egg
- - Boil potatoes with their skins on a large pot with just enough water to cover them, boil potatoes with their skins on for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. Don't over-boiling will cause potatoes to become mushy and too wet.
- - Drain the potatoes well allowing them to cool in a colander.
- - Peel the potatoes removing any brown spots that might be below the skin.
- - Using a potato ricer, rice the peeled potatoes.
- - Mound riced potato on the middle of a wooden board or a clean, dry countertop. Top with flour.
- - Sprinkle with salt.
- - Make a well using your hands, scoop out the center of your mound.
- - Add the egg into the center of the well the beat the egg with a fork.
- - Incorporate ingredients using the fork, slowly start to pull in flour and potato to mix ingredients.
- - Begin to form the dough using your.
- - Knead the dough by pulling together ingredients and knead to form dough. Be careful not to over-knead. Be weary of adding flour at this point. Too much flour will give you hard gnocchi.
- - Shape the dough into a long, wide rectangle for cutting.
- - Cut dough into 8-10 pieces, about 4 inches long.
- - Roll into ropes by gently pushing with fingers spread.
- - Cut dough ropes using a pastry cutter or non-serrated knife into 1-inch pieces then cut ends at an angle.
- - Ridges or indents using a fork to create ridges or indent gently with your thumb.
- - Cook the gnocchi until they float to the top in a pot of boiling water for about 2-4 minutes. Gently remove them with a slotted spoon, drain very well. Toss them in a saucepan with your favorite sauce and cook together for about 2 minutes.
Cranberry Chutney – A Multipurpose Condiment
Most American holiday tables from Thanksgiving to Christmas have some sort of cranberry dish. I grew up the jellied kind that came out of a can. Just slice it up and serve it. Sometimes my Mom would make a cranberry mold. All of it was good. It felt like I was eating dessert with my main course.
I never got my Mom’s cranberry mold recipe before she passed and she never wrote her recipes down so I had to make my own way. And maybe why it is important to me to write this blog for my son’s sake. I want to preserve and share family favorite recipes. I want my son to be able to have access to them to make for his friends and family when I am gone hopefully passing them on family traditions.
In our first year in Newport, we hosted a Thanksgiving dinner. And what is a Thanksgiving dinner without a cranberry product? Not Thanksgiving that’s what.
As I wandered through BJ’s, I came across a huge bag of cranberries from New England. On the back of this bag of Cape Cod Select cranberries was a recipe for a cranberry chutney. Why not I thought. Let’s just go for it. The huge bag of cranberry was in my cart.
This is a super easy recipe. A tart apple like a Granny Smith is best, I use Gala or whatever apples I have on hand. I recently made a batch and added overly ripe pear with the apple to the mixture. And very versatile. While you can serve this with turkey, you can serve it with other food. Warm some brie up and top it with this cranberry chutney. You can serve it with roasted pork. Top plain yogurt for an added punch to breakfast
- 4 cups cranberries
- 1 large apple
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1. Chop up an apple. A tart apple is recommended, but use whatever you have on hand.
- 2. Combine all ingredients in saucepan.
- 3. Bring to a boil stirring along the way.
- 4. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes. Apple should be tender and the mixture thickens.
- 5. Serve warm or chilled.
Yes, Perfect Roasted Potatoes.
Growing up with an Irish mother, roasted potatoes were served on a regular basis along with boiled potatoes. Bisto Gravy was a must in our house. Getting perfect roasted potatoes can be very difficult. I know since growing up, I had plenty. They are hard on the outside and dry on the inside. The Bisto Gravy helped, but still.
As an adult, I like roasted veggies and I have been experimenting with roasting. Unlike when I was young where only the meat and potatoes were roasted while the veg was boiled in water, I have started roasting the potatoes and veg together with success. I toss them with olive oil and lots of herbs making it flavorful. Getting the temperature and timing right is the hardest for me.
The keys to roasting for me are:
- the right amount of oil. There should be enough to brown it and keep it moist.
- the size of the veg. The veg and potatoes need to cut into similar sizes and not too large.
Feel free to use veg you have on had to roast. I have roasted pepper, squash, sweet potatoes, and cabbage. All turn out nicely.
- 1 lb. (bag) small potato medley or baby red potatoes, sliced in half
- 1/2 lb. baby carrots, sliced in half or other veg
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoon fresh thyme, mined or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
- 2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the potatoes, baby carrots, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and thyme.
- 3. Spread out the potato mixture into a rimmed baking sheet lined with tin foil.
- 4. Roast in oven stirring occasionally for 25-30 minutes.
Simple Bean Salad is a No Cook Side
Let us face it. No one regardless of how great your air conditioning is during the summer, you still hesitate turning your stove on to make something. This simple bean salad is a perfect no cook side or a nice vegetarian meal for the summer.
It is easy to make and beats anything you can buy pre-made out of a bottle or can. Sure it takes 15 to 20 minutes longer than opening a can, but it will taste a lot better and you can control the intensity of flavors.
Try some other sides and salads
- 1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- A few generous turns of the pepper mill
- Combine beans, celery, red onion, parsley, and rosemary in a large bowl.
- Make the dressing by whisking the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Mix dressing throughly with the bean mixture.
- Serve chilled or at room temp.