My Famous Ranch Dressing

It really is famous! Ranch

Maybe the above statement is somewhat hyperbolic, but if you have had my ranch dressing, you know what’s up.  About five people have asked me for the recipe in the last week, so I thought I’d post it here…since I have a blog and all.

My love for homemade dressings started when I saw Rachael Ray whisk a vinaigrette together in less than a minute with only olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil and salt and pepper.  I decided to try it with my cute little hot cocoa whisk (which subsequently became my dressing whisk) and have been making homemade dressing ever since.   This dressing is great to make if, like me, you want to get rid of MSG from your diet which has been linked to migraines.  It’s not exactly paleo because it has buttermilk and sour cream.  Perhaps someday I’ll experiment with a paleo version.

This dressing is easy to make for a crowd and is great on salads (obviously), but we’ve also enjoyed it in with shredded BBQ chicken, in pasta salad, on eggs, pizza and most frequently as the mayo and seasoning for chicken salad.

I use the food processor to mince up the garlic, onion and cilantro, but using a knife is just as effective.

Here’s the recipe:

Garlic Ranch Dressing

Ingredients (for 2 ½ cups)

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 3 green onions, finely minced
  • 1 bunch cilantro,  finely minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground pepper

Directions

Whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream and buttermilk until smooth.  Add in everything else and stir to combine.

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Crispy Chicken Thighs and Asian Long Beans

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I made this chicken about a week ago and, in a moment of carelessness, I grabbed the handle of the skillet with my bare hand right after it came out of the oven. NOT SMART! After about twenty minutes of my hand under running water, I was starting to see little blisters forming, so I called the nurse hotline and spoke to a nurse who advised me to go to the ER, so we left the chicken in the fridge and headed off to the hospital. Luckily, there was a very short wait and the doctor reassured me that I had mostly superficial burns (used to be called “first degree burns”) and a few small areas of partial thickness burns (formerly “second degree”) and only need to keep the burns clean and dry and apply polysporin several times a day. My hand hurt for a few more days, but it cleared up after about five days.

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Anyway, when we home after our ER and pharmacy run, we pulled the chicken out of the fridge and ate it with a carrot and cucumber ribbon salad. Even after the skin was no longer crispy, and the chicken was cold, it was delicious! I had to make it again to taste it hot, as it was meant to be! This is a great recipe for all my paleo, primal and real foodie friends or anyone else who loves delicious chicken 🙂

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To accompany the chicken this time, I made the Asian long beans that came in my CSA box this week. I had never had them before, but they are delicious. According to the little handout I got with my CSA box, the long beans can handle the humid Texas summer heat better than green beans.

Here’s the recipe:

Crispy Chicken Thighs (Serves Two)

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
  • 1-2 pinches chili flakes (or more if you are feeling adventurous!!)
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos or soy sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Heat the coconut oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken into the skillet, skin-side down. Cook for about five minutes or until the skin browns.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.
  5. Flip the chicken and pour the whisked ingredients over the hot chicken and into the skillet. Place the skillet in the over for thirty minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 130 F.
  6. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven using oven mitts. Do not touch any part of the skillet with your bare hands (See above picture for possible ramifications of touching hot stainless steal pans that just came out of a 425 F oven!). Use tongs to remove the chicken from the pan to serve. Serve with a vegetable like buttered Asian long beans (recipe below).

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Buttered Asian Long Beans (adapted from the recipe that came with my CSA vegetable delivery from Fruitful Hill Farms)

  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 pound Asian long beans, cut into two-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon (or more!) butter (I used homemade butter from raw, grassfed cream-mmmm!)
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat the water in a steamer. When it is boiling, place the beans in the steamer basket and steam them until they turn a deeper shade of purple.
  2. Remove the steamer basket (be careful not to burn yourself!), draining the beans. Toss the beans with butter, salt and pepper and serve.

Coconut Flour Pancakes with Peach Syrup

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I’ve been giving up my dear friends, the delicious carbs from grain products because there is so little nutrition in the processed version and the little carby sugars mess with my blood sugar levels giving me headaches. My headaches have gotten so much better, and I’ve started to feel much more alert mentally, something I hadn’t anticipated, but it’s a great side-benefit. But, I still crave cakes, bread, pancakes and other wheat flour-filled goodies.

I tried my hand at making some dinner rolls with coconut flour. They were disgusting. Even with gobs of butter and even some honey, I couldn’t eat it. So bad that I’m not even willing to try making them again with another recipe. I just have an idea in my head about what dinner rolls should taste like and there is really no way I can accept anything less, so I think I’ll have to save the real thing for very special occasions.

I did, however, find some success with coconut flour pancakes. I made two large pancakes from this recipe. I hope all my paleo, primal and real foodie friends will enjoy this! If you make them, make sure not to flip too early or else this might happen:

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Coconut Pancakes Recipe (adapted from this recipe)

  • 4 pastured eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (from a can, not a box)
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Coconut oil for frying

Directions

  1. Whisk the eggs and coconut milk until fluffy in a large bowl. Mix in the coconut flour, cinnamon and baking soda with a wooden spoon. Let rest for a few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a skillet to medium-high heat and add enough coconut oil to cover the bottom.
  3. When the oil is hot, add half the batter to the skillet. Cook for about five minutes. If you have a slightly uneven stove (like I do), make sure to swirl the oil around the pancake to make sure the pancake does not stick. You will know it is time to the flip when the edges get golden brown. Loosen the pancake with a spatula (it will stick more than a regular pancake would), and check the amount of oils left in the pan. Be ready to add more coconut oil if there is not enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Flip the pancake and cook another three to five minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
  4. Make your second pancake in the same way, making sure to add coconut oil to the pan as needed.
  5. Serve with peach syrup (recipe below) and bacon.

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Peach Syrup Recipe (I made it up myself…though I think anyone could have!)

  • two peaches, diced
  • 1 tablespoon grade B maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat on medium. Let simmer for about thirty minutes, stirring occasionally and adding water if it gets to thick.

Balsamic Peaches Sundae

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Peaches finally came down in price this week, signalling the beginning of peach season.  I decided to celebrate with one of my favorite applications of peaches: a balsamic peaches sundae.

It tastes like peaches and cream with a little kick.  I’ve made grilled peaches with a balsamic reduction before, but the sweet-sour contrast was too intense for me in a dessert, so I started experimenting last summer.

I was inspired by a sundae my grandparents used to make for me when I visited them in northern California.  My grandfather had both an apricot and a  walnut tree at one time that he would harvest every year.  My grandmother made apricot jam which she would heat up and put on ice cream with toasted walnuts on top.  If you have never had freshly toasted walnuts, let me recommend that you find and consume them as soon as possible.

The concepts of the apricot and walnut sundae and the grilled peaches with balsamic reduction meld into one idea in this sundae.  It requires a little bit of cooking and cooling time before eating, but it’s worth it!  Also, make sure to use a high-quality vanilla ice cream like Hagen-Daz that has no artificial ingredients and uses sugar or honey to sweeten.  If I had my own ice-cream maker (which I hope to get in the next year), I would make my own.

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And, here’s the recipe:

Balsamic Peaches Sundae

Serves two

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter

Two small peaches cut into one-inch pieces

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Tiny pinch of sea salt

About a cup of vanilla ice cream (half of a Hagen-Daz pint)

Directions

  1. Melt butter over medium-high heat in a small skillet.  After the butter starts foaming, add in peaches, honey, balsamic vinegar and sea salt and bring to a simmer.  Continue to simmer for about 5-7 minutes. The peaches should give off some of their liquid, forming a syrup with the honey and balsamic vinegar and thicken slightly.
  2. Take the pan off the heat and let cool for at least ten minutes.
  3. Serve the peaches in cups over the ice cream.

Big Batch of Rosemary Meatballs

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Mmm…meatballs…that’s what I thought as I wondered what I should make for quick meals to stash in the freezer. After looking through a few recipes, I decided to concoct my own using my rosemary plant (that I have not yet killed after two weeks).

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I have made a similar recipe before, so I knew that I could exactly twenty meatballs from one pound of ground beef with 3/4 cup of almond flour (trying to stay away from carbs, so I’ve been using almond flour in place of bread crumbs).

I used rosemary, lemon zest, parsley and garlic for a zesty flavor.

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Eggs, almond flour and parmesan go in to hold the meatballs together.

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Lastly, the ground beef (grass-fed for CLA) and some sea salt and pepper are added in.

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I used my hands to mix it all together and used my little one and a half tablespoon cookie scoop (great size for properly sized cookies, by the way).

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And, I bake them for just twenty minutes. Very easy and ready for several different applications.

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Here’s the recipe:

Rosemary Lemon Meatballs

Ingredients

Big handful of Italian parsley, finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary

The zest of 2 lemons

3 large cloves of garlic, minced

2 eggs

¾ cup almond flour

½ cup parmesan

2 lb. Ground Beef

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the parsley, rosemary, lemon zest and garlic.  Add in the eggs and beat lightly.  Add almond flour and parmesan.  Mix thoroughly.
  3. Add the ground beef, salt and pepper and use your hands to mix everything together.  Be sure not to over mix.
  4. Form into equal size balls and place on a lined or greased baking sheet.  If you are using a 1 ½ tablespoon scoop, this should make about 40 meatballs.
  5. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until cooked through.  Larger meatballs will take more time.
  6. Optional: broil the meatballs for 2 minutes to brown the tops.

Family Dinnner: Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

Far away from our families, we can’t have big family dinners here in Victoria, Texas, so I made one of my family’s favorites pared down for two people.

Since I just made a big batch of meatballs, a spaghetti dinner was in order, which, consequently, is one of my mom’s specialties. We’re not talking about the weeknight dinner that takes twenty minutes to prepare, but the slow simmering of sausages, meatballs and chunks of beef in marinara sauce in order to tenderize and flavor the meat and enrich the sauce.   I chose to nix the pasta to keep the blood sugar spike low and allow for a little bit of dessert later on.  Following the sage spaghetti making tradition with my big batch of rosemary meatballs, I immediately put  some in the freezer and some in a marinara sauce that was in my freezer which I had made a few weeks ago.

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I got the recipe from this cookbook my mom gave me a few years ago for Christmas.  It’s from Claro’s, a neighborhood Italian grocery store in La Habra, California.

Meanwhile, I made this delicious cheesy “bread” adding in a little rosemary to compliment the meatballs.  It made some leftovers…yay!

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And, a salad with olives, tomatoes, mixed baby greens and a creamy balsamic dressing.  We always have salad with an Italian dressing with spaghetti.  It’s tradition, but it also adds a nice color and texture contrast.

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Putting it altogether, here’s what we had: family tradition for two!

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And, here’s the recipes for the marina sauce and salad dressing.

Claro’s Marinara Sauce (ever so slightly adapted from the book)

Ingredients

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, diced

3-5 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

2 28 oz. cans of chopped tomatoes

1 box strained tomatoes (use Pomi brand)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup fresh basil

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large sauce pan, add onions and garlic and sauté until they are clear and slightly brown.
  2. Add all tomatoes and spices and stir.  Cook over medium-high heat until the sauce starts to simmer.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for at least 15 more minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly and turns a deeper red.

This should make enough sauce for two pounds of pasta.  I use about a third of it for 25 meatballs, or five servings of meatballs.

Creamy Balsamic Dressing

Serves 2 for a dinner salad

Ingredients

1 teaspoon mayonnaise

1 teaspoon sour cream

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Small sprinkle of Italian seasoning blend

Pinch of both sea salt and pepper

1-2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Whisk together all ingredients except olive oil in a small bowl until combined.
  2. Drizzle in olive oil while whisking to create an emulsion.  Taste the dressing for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  3.  Toss with salad (three cups baby greens, half cup of cherry tomatoes (halved) and 1/4 cup halved olives) just before serving.

Technicalities of a Grilled Cheese Sanwich

Melted cheese has to be one of God’s greatest culinary gifts to mankind.  I love it having lots of stringy, melty cheese in many different foods, but a grilled cheese holds a special place in my culinary heart.  My mom made me grilled cheese for lunch in the summer sometimes, especially when we would swim in my grandmother’s pool.  Grilled cheese was a good enough reason for me to get out of the pool for a few minutes.  As a child,  I loved me some kraft singles on white bread, grilled to perfection.  Thank-you for me grilled cheese, mom!

I make my own grilled cheese nowadays with some fun additions.  Here’s one of my favorite versions:

A Grilled Ham, Cheddar and Apple Sandwich

I like to get ingredients prepped before I start.

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Then we get the pan just hot enough; the trick is to cook a grilled cheese on a low temperature.  My current stove does not get very hot at low and medium, so I set my stove to medium.  Meanwhile, start assembling the sandwich by buttering a slice of bread.

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Now we add the bread, butter side down to the pan and layer on the cheese, apples and ham.

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Since there is no cheese to stick the ham to the bread (which would be a great addition), I add a little dijon mustard which also compliments the apple and cheese flavors pretty well.  I butter the top, making sure to stick the mustard side down to the ham and the butter side up.  Adjust the skillet temperature if the bread is browning quicker than the cheese is melting.

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Now it’s time for patience.  Do not flip until you see the cheese melting down the side of the bread (unless of course you were impatient and turned up the heat–flip earlier in order to avoid burning the grilled cheese).  This should take five minutes or more.  Make sure you don’t over cook.  An under cooked grilled cheese (even if some of the cheese has not completely melted yet) beats  a burnt one any day!  You may notice the bottom bread has shrunk a little, this is normal.   After flipping, cook for another three to five minutes or until both pieces have shrunk to the same size.

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I like to let the sandwich rest for a minute the cheese does not spill out onto the plate.  Meanwhile, I dish myself up some sauerkraut.  Yeah…sauerkraut is weird.  Pinky purply sauerkraut…looks like it should be delicious, right?  Well, they call it sauerkraut because it is  very sour, more sour than I am willing to palate at this time.  I was hoping to eat sauerkraut in order to get more beneficial bacteria, but I’ve decided it is a taste that will take a little while to acquire.   I ate a few bites, but that was all I could handle for now.

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Now I just cut the grilled cheese in half, so I can bite directly into the middle where I can taste the melty cheese…mmmmm my favorite part.

Here’s the recipe:

Grilled Apple, Ham and Cheese

Ingredients

Two pieces of bread (I used sprouted grain)

Sliced cheddar cheese- about one ounce (I used aged smoked NY cheddar)

1-2  tablespoons of softened butter

1/4 of a sliced granny smith apple

1 thin slice of smoked ham

1 teaspoon dijon mustard (more or less)

Directions

  1. Heat a skillet to low/medium.
  2. Butter one side of a piece of bread, lay it in the pan when the pan is hot.
  3. Layer the cheese, apple and ham.
  4. Spread one side of the other piece of bread with dijon mustard and the other side with butter.  Lay the bread, mustard side down on the ham.
  5. Let the sandwich cook until the cheese melts down the side of the bread.  You will see the bottom piece of bread shrink slightly.  Make sure to adjust the skillet to make sure the bread does not burn! Flip the sandwich, you should hear a satisfying sizzle.
  6. Cook a few more minutes until you see the second piece of bread shrink up to match the first piece.  Making sure the bread does not burn.

Enjoy as often as needed!