Low Fat Buttermilk Ranch Dressing and Dip

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Homemade salad dressings are so good–I’ve made a few of them, but have never made one of my favorites–Ranch!  I usually use low fat dressings on my salads, so I decided to try making a low fat Ranch. I adapted a recipe from Allrecipes.com, adjusting the amounts of some of the ingredients slightly. Since I didn’t have fresh herbs, I used dried–and the taste still turned out great! But I’m sure it would be even better with fresh herbs, which I plan on using when I make another batch.

This dressing is thick and creamy compared to most dressings–it’s hard to tell it’s made with low fat ingredients! And because it’s on the thicker side, it makes a great dip for fresh veggies, too. The only downside is, it’s best the day it’s made–you can store it in the fridge for several days, but the consistency gets thinner and runny.

I love the way it tastes, but it’s an easy recipe to adjust if you want to add a little more or less of any of the herbs and spices. Enjoy this homemade dressing on your favorite salad or as a dip with your favorite raw veggies!

LOW FAT BUTTERMILK RANCH DRESSING AND DIP adapted from Allrecipes

Makes 1 3/4 cups

  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup low fat sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill weed or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

In medium size bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, mayonnaise, and sour cream or yogurt. Stir in garlic and onion powders, chives, dill, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. You can store any unused dressing in the refrigerator for several days, but the consistency will get thinner and more runny, so it’s best not stored too long.

I think this homemade salad dressing tastes so much better than bottled dressing. It’s worth making your own if you have a little extra time. Do you make your own homemade salad dressings?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy.

Dark Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Blondies

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If you’re looking for something sweet to sink your teeth into, these blondies are exactly what you need! Some blondie recipes I’ve made before were more on the thinner side. But these are really thick and chewy. And they’re packed with dark chocolate (or semi-sweet chocolate) chips, dried cranberries, and chopped pecans…a really yummy combination of flavors!

pearson-logoI had just received a sample bag of Georgia pecans from Pearson Farm so I used them in this recipe. Pearson Farm has been growing pecans for over 100 years and they are really good! In addition to their fresh raw pecans that I received, they also sell salted, roasted, and chocolate-covered varieties. I love to much on raw pecans as a healthy snack and use them in dessert recipes when I’m baking. But pecans can also be added to healthy foods like salads, yogurt, and smoothies for a little extra nutrition. They contain vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, E, and B1, calcium, potassium, zinc, thiamin, and magnesium.

I like to think pecans make desserts a little healthier, too, so I thought they’d be great paired with dark chocolate and dried cranberries in this blondie recipe. I was so happy with the way these blondies turned out–a combination of rich, buttery taste with the chocolate-cranberry-pecan goodness mixed in!

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DARK CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY PECAN BLONDIES by NancyC, adapted from Taste of Home

Makes an 8 x 8″ pan

  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips (or substitute white or milk chocolate chips)
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line an 8 x 8″ square baking pan with parchment paper and lightly grease or spray with cooking spray; set aside.

In small bowl, soak dried cranberries in hot water for one minute to soften and plump them; drain well and set aside.

In medium bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together, blending well, then add in the vanilla extract and eggs, blending eggs in one at a time.

In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add this mixture to butter mixture and mix until all ingredients are combined.

Fold in cranberries, chocolate chips, and chopped pecans. Evenly press batter into prepared pan.

Bake at 350˚F for 38 to 40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 20 minutes, then lift out of pan with edges of parchment paper. Cool completely on wire rack, then cut into squares.

Note: when these blondies are cooling, they do sink a little in the center, but don’t worry when that happens–that’s just what they do!

I often use pecans in my baking–they go well in so many different recipes! Do you use pecans much in your recipes?

Linked to Show and Share at Coastal Charm, Let’s Get Real Friday at Joy Love Food, and Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy.

Fresh Mango Smoothie

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Since many of us are trying to eat a little healthier after the holidays, I thought I’d share this recipe for a Fresh Mango Smoothie I made the other day. Mangos happened to be half price the last time I went to the grocery store, so I thought they would be great for a smoothie! I usually use plain or vanilla Greek yogurt in my smoothies and I like sweetening them with honey. I added a little ground flaxseed in this for extra fiber, too. This smoothie is so thick and creamy! It’s perfect when you want something that tastes dessert-like but is really good for you!

FRESH MANGO SMOOTHIE by NancyC

Makes 1 (12-ounce) serving

  • 1 cup chopped ripe mango
  • 1/2 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup skim or low-fat milk
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground flaxseed or wheat germ
  • 2 to 3 ice cubes

Place chopped mango, yogurt, milk, honey, flaxseed and ice cubes in blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately. Makes about 12 ounces, enough for 1 large or 2 small servings.

I need to make a note to myself to buy mangos more often–I really like them, but I forget to buy them when I’m at the store! Do you use mangos much in your recipes?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy, Show and Share at Coastal Charm and Let’s Get Real Friday at Joy Love Food.

Veggie Black Bean Chili

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If you’re wanting something to eat that will warm you up during this chilly winter season, this Veggie Black Bean Chili is definitely the recipe to make! It’s easy to put together and healthy, too–with black beans, onion, garlic, green bell pepper, crushed tomatoes, green chiles, and corn. And I was happily surprised to find that I could find organic ingredients, even for the canned items, at the regular grocery store I go to. They’re starting to carry more organic items, which is great!

This chili is super thick and chunky with a lightly spicy flavor (if you don’t want any spiciness, leave out the crushed red pepper). The red wine vinegar gives it a little zing–I thought I’d use that instead of salt. I didn’t top my chili with anything, but you could garnish it with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese, or some sliced green onions…or all three!

VEGGIE BLACK BEAN CHILI by NancyC

Makes 4 servings

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium size sweet yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium size green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (red pepper flakes)
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 (7-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can whole kernel corn
  • Optional: sour cream, cheddar cheese, and/or finely sliced green onion stems, for garnish

In a large pot or Dutch oven, saute onion, garlic, and green bell pepper in oil over medium low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until tender. Stir in chili powder, cumin, paprika, crushed red pepper, and red wine vinegar, then cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes.

Add black beans, crushed tomatoes, water, green chilies, and corn; stir ingredients together, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes. Serve immediately.

Chili is one of my favorite fall and winter dishes. And I love trying new chili recipes! Do you have a favorite chili recipe you like making?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy.

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Cucumber-Mint Water

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Now that it’s the new year, I know a lot of people who are trying to eat healthy and exercise away all that holiday food. And if you’re trying to get into a healthy routine, drinking lots of water is always a good idea. I actually made this particular pitcher of water at the end of last summer with some fresh mint I was growing in a large pot and some home-grown cucumbers my friend Mary gave me from her garden. I didn’t have a chance to post it back then but now, since it’s winter, you can just buy your cucumbers (use organic if you can) and fresh mint is usually available in the produce section at many stores, too.  The cucumber and mint lightly flavor the water in a soothing, refreshing way. If you like naturally-flavored water, you’ll want to try this out!

CUCUMBER-MINT WATER by NancyC

Makes 8 servings

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled or unpeeled and thinly sliced
  • 6 to 8 large or 12 to 16 small fresh mint leaves

Put water in a gallon-size pitcher. Add sliced cucumbers and mint leaves and stir everything together. Place in your refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours to chill. When ready to serve, add some ice to the pitcher or pour over ice in your glassware. The water usually keeps for several days if kept chilled in the refrigerator.

If you don’t have mint, you can just make cucumber water–that has a nice flavor, too. Mint by itself is also good in water.

I think water tastes so much better when it’s flavored with natural ingredients. Do you like to flavor your water too?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy.

Lemon-Rosemary Exfoliating Cleanser

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Here’s a DIY skin cleanser that I made for myself a few months ago and I’ve really liked using it. This easy-to-make scrub is an inexpensive, natural way to exfoliate your skin on both face and body. Baking soda is the main ingredient and I like to add Lemon and Rosemary Essential Oils to give it a great scent. If you are on a tight budget or don’t have any essential oils on hand, you can just use the baking soda and water–it works just as well that way and some of you may even prefer it unscented. Use this 1 to 2 times a week to exfoliate (just once a week for sensitive skin)–your skin will feel so soft and smooth after using this! And exfoliating helps give your skin a healthy glow, so it’s worth it to take the time to do this.

LEMON-ROSEMARY EXFOLIATING CLEANSER by NancyC

Makes 1 cup (16 [1-Tablespoon] applications for face; 4 [1/4 cup] applications for body)

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 4 drops Lemon Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
  • water, as directed

In a small bowl, blend baking soda with the Lemon and Rosemary Essential Oils. Place mixture in a glass or plastic jar or container with lid that you can keep near your sink or on a bathroom shelf. If you have an extra Tablespoon-size scoop, keep that in or near the jar–it comes in handy when using the scrub.

FOR FACE: When ready to use, first splash your clean face with warm water to dampen skin. Then scoop out 1 Tablespoon of the baking soda-essential oil mixture from your jar and put in a small container or in the palm of your hand (I just use the palm of my hand). Add about 1/2 Tablespoon water to the baking soda-essential oil mixture and blend with your finger to make a smooth paste. Apply this paste to your face gently and in a circular motion, avoiding eye area. Scrub gently for 2 to 5 minutes, then rinse off with warm water.

FOR BODY: Use 1/4 cup baking soda-essential oil mixture for an exfoliating body scrub. Blend 1/4 cup (or 4 Tablespoons) baking soda mixture with 2 Tablespoons water in a small container to make a paste. In your shower, dampen skin, then turn off water in shower as you apply the paste to your body in circular motion and scrub gently for about 5 minutes. When finished, turn shower water on again and rinse paste off completely.

This is a nice way to pamper your skin and it feels so refreshing! Plus it’s so affordable to make! Do you make any of your own skin care products?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy and Show and Share at Coastal Charm.

Egg Nog Mini Loaves

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Egg Nog is one of those foods that signal the beginning of the holiday season. I first noticed it this year in the grocery store about three weeks before Thanksgiving. I usually buy a few cartons during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and pretty much always have some left over after Christmas. Which is great, because it gives me an excuse to bake some egg nog goodies! Like these Egg Nog Mini Loaves, for example.

After having lots of super-sweet holiday treats, I was wanting something just a little sweet, and these little loaves turned out to be just the thing! They’re moist, slightly sweet, and have a mild egg nog flavor, so even those who aren’t crazy about egg nog may like them. These mini loaves rise really nicely, too (Note: I also tried making this recipe as a 9 x 5″ loaf, but since it sunk a little in the middle, I think it works best for mini loaves, and probably muffins, too).

If you’d like to sweeten these loaves up a little more, sprinkle on a dusting of powdered sugar after they’ve cooled or add an egg nog glaze on top (try the glaze that I used on these Egg Nog Muffins).

EGG NOG MINI LOAVES by NancyC

Makes three 5 x 3″ mini loaves

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup egg nog
  • 1/3 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons rum extract
  • Optional: Egg Nog Glaze

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour three 5 x 3″ mini loaf pans; set aside.

In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In medium bowl, beat eggs, egg nog, yogurt, sugar, butter, and vanilla and rum extracts, blending well. Add this mixture to dry ingredients, stirring just enough to moisten.

Pour into prepared mini loaf pans. Bake at 350˚F for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (I baked mine for 32 minutes).

Cool loaves for 10 minutes in pans, then remove to wire rack to cool completely. If desired, glaze with Egg Nog Glaze (click here for the recipe–I’ve used it before on some egg nog muffins).

As the holidays wind down, these Egg Nog Mini Loaves are the perfect treat with some coffee or tea. Hope you had an enjoyable holiday and wishing you a safe, healthy, and happy New Year!

Dark Chocolate Candy Cane Fudge

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If you haven’t had the chance to use up your candy canes before or on Christmas, here’s a yummy sweet treat you can make with those leftover candy canes! This Dark Chocolate Candy Cane Fudge is super-easy to make and the … Continue reading

Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Muffins

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After baking quite a few mini loaves for the holidays, I thought I’d try some muffins! I really like these muffins because they have dried cranberries, golden raisins, chopped pecans, and lots of spices–they just seem perfect for this time of … Continue reading

Mini Fiesta Cups

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In my last post, I shared a recipe with you called Mini Cannoli Cups–a yummy bite-size dessert made with Nasoya® Won Ton Wraps. And I mentioned I’d be sharing another recipe that’s made with these wraps, so here it is! When … Continue reading

Mini Cannoli Cups

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Here’s an easy recipe I made with Nasoya® Won Ton Wraps. I had never used these wraps before, so I was interested in trying them out when I was offered some complimentary product from Nasoya® (they also provided a gift card to cover … Continue reading

Cranberry Pumpkin Bread and Mini Loaves

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I hadn’t made anything with fresh cranberries yet this year, so I decided it was time to do something about that! Plus, I still needed to make more mini-loaves for holiday giving. My Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread turned out well, so … Continue reading

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread and Mini Loaves

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I’ve been wanting to make pumpkin bread with chocolate chips in it for quite some time and I thought while I was at it, I’d make some mini-loaves too. Mini-loaves make great food gifts for the holidays, and just about everyone … Continue reading