a lighter ranch: bright & fresh buttermilk – greek yogurt dressing with fresh herbs

In my fantasy world, ranch dressing would be the best choice at the salad bar.  It would be a totally healthy and viable option to dunk my turkey and swiss sandwich in and something wholly nutritious to plunge my pizza crust in.

In that same fantasy world, sitting down to write this blog would be an exercise that burned 600 calories an hour, my favorite yoga pants at Lululemon would be $9.95 a pair, and I would say silly things like ‘Wow! I am just so toned I don’t even need to work out today!’ every morning when I gazed into my mirror.

But while I still have my feet out of the clouds and planted on terra firma, I will be most definitely dragging myself to the gym, in some way-too-pricey pants (but they make your legs look so good!), all to offset the hour-at-least that I will spent tonight on my rear editing some pictures of salmon and thinking of stories to tell you.

It’s a fantasy world after all, and of course a dressing that is traditionally made with mayonnaise and sour cream is delicious — but it’s not healthy.  Oh no.  Especially not when pizza is used as the vehicle to bring it directly to your mouth, or when it’s thickly drizzled atop a salad that also contains things like bacon, egg, avocado, cheese, and chicken (Cobb salad, yes — that’s me giving you the stink eye).

As I have maintained for the duration of this blog, I believe in cutting out nothing, and instead enjoying most things in moderation.  That said, it is hard to enjoy ranch dressing in moderation; by nature, you use it as a dressing, dip, and sauce, and adhering to that dreaded minuscule 2 Tablespoon serving size can be all but impossible.

Do you really measure out two tablespoons of dressing for your lunchtime salad?

If so, you are a much, much better human being than I.

But even still, a good ranch dressing is one of my most favorite things, and there are times, quite frequently, where I will strongly crave a salad slathered in the stuff.  This most often happens when I am really very hungry, and though I know that ordering up a burger and fries would give me that same fat and calorie content — I don’t want a burger and fries.  I want my cool and crunchy salad.  Covered in ranch dressing.

Even so, I have to admit that when you know just how terrible what you are eating is for you….it never manages to tastes as good.  Another thing I’ve maintained is that I don’t (purposefully) eat the preservative and chemical laden ‘fat-free’ versions of things that are made of….well….fat; as such I set off to make a truly delicious homemade stand in for my favorite cheat day condiment, and immediately turned to my favorite shape-shifter: Greek yogurt.

Greek yogurt, in all of it’s thick and tangy glory, truly is a magical thing, and I’ve exalted using it as a stand in for it’s more sinister mayo and sour cream counterparts many times over.  Along with the Greek yogurt, I knew there also had to be Buttermilk; that tangy milk that though the title suggests is full of fat and calories, only has a scant 100 calories and just 2.5 grams of fat in a whole cup (most brands are similar; I am directly referencing the Organic Valley brand I used).

A smattering of chives and basil, dollop of dijon mustard, some lemon juice, and a sprinkling of garlic powder and dried tarragon pulled these two healthy stand ins for mayo and sour cream together and gave them that classic fresh and herby ‘ranch’ taste.  The dressing stays delightfully thick from the yogurt, and the tang from the buttermilk and lemon juice is offset by the sweetness in the fresh herbs and the warm savory taste of the garlic powder.  It is fantastic as a dip, dressing, (or even on your pizza crusts!), and I didn’t feel a shred of gilt when I drizzled mine over a salad that was studded with cubes of fresh gruyere.

I won’t sit here and tell you “Ohmigosh!! This tastes exactly like my favorite full-fat-full-calorie ranch dressing!” — because it doesn’t.  You are going to notice just a little bit of something is different – but I’m not entirely sure you’d be able to place it.  That said, I also don’t think you can tell this dressing is healthy, per se; it is super creamy, very full flavored, and decadent tasting and clings to whatever you dunk in it.  In fact, I almost think it tastes better – I know exactly what I am putting in my body, and I know that not only does it taste delicious, it is actually adding to what I am eating, nutritionally speaking.

I can’t say that about many other creamy dressings.

{an undressed/dressed chopped salad of arugula, zucchini, tomatoes, gruyere cheese, yellow pepper, flakey sea salt & black pepper}

A Lighter Ranch: Bright & Fresh Buttermilk – Greek Yogurt Dressing With Fresh Herbs
Makes 3/4 cup dressing, or enough or 4 large lunch salads

This dressing is super simple to make, and is excellent on not only salads, but also atop grilled salmon or grilled chicken. It tastes almost identical to your favorite ranch dressing, but with only a smidgen of fat and calories, and the added bonus of some protein (from the yogurt). I use it for dipping, dunking, and spreading on almost anything (it’s great on pizza too!).

I use garlic powder, as I think sometimes raw garlic in a dressing like this can become overpowering. The powder gives all of the garlic flavor, with none of that fresh garlic sting.

1/3 cup Greek yogurt (2% fat content works best)
1/3 cup buttermilk
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2-3 Tbsp finely chopped chives
5-6 basil leaves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
kosher salt & fresh cracked pepper

In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the yogurt, buttermilk, lemon juice, dijon mustard, and garlic powder. Whisk to combine.
Whisk in the chopped chives, chopped basil, and tarragon. Taste, and add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Dressing will keep, covered in the fridge, for the 3-5 days.

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3 responses to “a lighter ranch: bright & fresh buttermilk – greek yogurt dressing with fresh herbs

  1. This is a great idea! I love ranch dressing, but haven’t bought any in years because, besides all the fat an calories, there’s all kinds of weird chemicals in most dressings these days. My husband would love to get his hands on this occasionally to switch up the hastily thrown together vinaigrettes I’ve been serving him with lately. =)

  2. Pingback: buttermilk – honey cornbread muffins | {relish}

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