Back when I first started cooking from scratch, it came as a revelation to me that I could make my own homemade ranch dressing from scratch (without even opening a packet of that well-known seasoning mix!) Before this realization, it had never actually occurred to me that this tasty concoction could be made using various combinations of simple ingredients like mayonnaise, buttermilk, milk, sour cream and/or yogurt. Add in some herbs and seasonings, and a little lemon juice or vinegar, and there you have it - ranch dressing! Over the years, I have played with the recipe, based on what I like, and also based on ingredients I typically have on hand. With my herb garden growing full-blast right now, I thought it would be a good time to whip up a batch.
For this recipe, I used my batch of ranch dressing to dress a simple salad of lettuce, tomato and turkey bacon, tossed with a few homemade croutons and a tiny bit of thinly sliced red onions. This salad is great for a light meal, but if you want something more substantial, you could just toss in some grilled chicken or cooked pasta. The recipe is just so flexible - change it up to suit your tastes, and keep it frugal by using whatever fresh ingredients you have growing in your garden, or hanging out in your fridge. It's a fresh and easy salad for summer!
For the Dressing
1 cup mayonnaise (regular or light)
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon dried dill (or 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh dill)
2 teaspoons dried chives (or 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh chives)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
Juice from half of a lemon
½ teaspoon sugar
Salt and ground black pepper
For the Croutons
½ pound bread (stale bread works great)
¼ cup olive oil (or vegetable oil of choice)
1 tablespoon dried herbs like parsley, basil and oregano
Pinch of salt
½ pound bacon, cooked, and chopped
2 medium-size heads of lettuce, chopped or torn into bite-size pieces
3 large tomatoes, chopped
1 sweet red onion, thinly sliced
1. Prepare the dressing. Whisk the ingredients together, using more or less milk to make the dressing desired consistency. Pour into a glass jar and refrigerate until needed.
2. Make the croutons. Cube the bread into the size of croutons you prefer. Toss the cubes with the olive oil, herbs, and a big pinch of salt. Spread onto a baking sheet, and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes, tossing once or twice while they are baking. Remove from the pan and allow to cool.
3. Wash and dry the lettuce. Tear into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl, or onto a large serving platter. Toss with chopped tomatoes, sliced onion, croutons, and bacon. Drizzle with dressing, or serve dressing on the side.
4. Top with any additions – grilled chicken, cooked pasta, a fried egg, or sliced avocado.
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