Homemade Jalapeno Cilantro Ranch Dressing

Earlier this year I got to mark the 11th year of being married to the perfect guy for me.  He still hasn’t seemed to notice that I got the way better end of the deal and I’ll spend the next 11 years trying to keep that fact hidden from him.  Distraction is key.

Enter this Ranch Dressing recipe.

My guy has loved Ranch Dressing ever since I’ve known him.  You know how some folks are said to put ketchup on their ketchup?  Well he puts ranch on his ranch.  And maybe some pickled jalapenos too.

Back when he was living the bachelor life, one of his favorite meals was ground beef sautéed with zucchini served over white instant rice and smothered in bottled ranch dressing.  (I just read that sentence aloud to him and he wanted me to clarify that he added ‘just a touch of ranch for flavor’.  I experienced the dish and stand by my description.  He says ‘just a touch’ I say ‘smothered’.)

Thankfully he has willingly joined me on the clean(er) foods bandwagon in the last few years.  I’ve tried to replace shelf stable bottled ranch dressing with a few different refrigerated brands (which tend to have less preservatives and funky stuff) but none have been a clear winner.  No preservatives = a need to keep the product pretty acidic for a respectable (and profitable) shelf life = very tart dressing.  Same issue with hummus.  Someday in my stay-home mom life I’ll solve the shelf life problem of high water activity, non (naturally) acidic foods for food companies and make millions of dollars…. mmm’kay?

—back to the story at hand—-

I was skeptical to make a homemade version of Ranch Dressing.  For no good reason.  Just unexplainable skepticism.  Story of my life.

Then I saw this recipe.  And thought ‘hey, that isn’t so bad.’ So I printed it out, modified some to suit our tastes and voila, came up with a fantastic version that we both love.  It’s got a cleaner ingredient list than any store-bought version, it is customizable and, most importantly, it’s darn tasty.

Jalapeno Cilantro Ranch Dressing | The Lively Kitchen

Homemade Jalapeno Cilantro Ranch Dressing


  • 1/4 cup organic mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup organic sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (lime works too)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk + 1 tsp lemon juice that you let sit for a few minutes)
  • 4 green onions, white bottoms removed
  • 2 Tbsp chopped, seeded jalapeno
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor.
  2. Dressing will thicken considerably in the fridge, so add more milk/buttermilk if you like it runnier.

Creamy Citrus Ginger Dressing

So I have this thing for avocados.  As in, I get joy from putting them in things that don’t typically contain avocado.

Like pudding.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

And Smoothies.

Creamy Key Lime Smoothie (my little guy’s favorite smoothie)

Family Friendly Creamy Mojito Smoothie

And baked into Casseroles.

Enchilada Bake Dinner(recipe coming soon).

And, as of yesterday, Salad Dressing.  It was inevitable.  I was looking at a big bunch of kale and a ripe avocado that needed to be eaten and started pondering a new dressing.  I thumbed through Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen by Ani Phyo and started with her recipe for Orange Cucumber Dressing as inspiration.  I changed it a lot, but give her recipe credit for the addition of cucumber.  Brilliant move to add liquid and a light, fresh flavor.

Creamy Citrus Ginger Dressing


  • 1/2 cup sliced cucumber (peeled if not organic)
  • 1/2  medium orange
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp grated ginger (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.  Add more water as needed to get desired consistency.

I massaged it onto (into?) a kale salad and topped it with hemp seeds.

I think it would be even better on a lighter green salad, like romaine or spring mix, as the dressing has a pretty light flavor that the kale overpowered.  Granted it didn’t stop me from eating an entire bunch of kale in one sitting, but I’ll use the leftover dressing on a different green next time.  And maybe top it with more avocados.  If OD’ing on avocados is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Quinoa Crunch Salad

I know you are all shocked that I am posting a quinoa recipe, seeing as how every 5th post on this blog seems to be a quinoa dish.  I am nothing if not frugal and practical, and you just can not beat the cost of quinoa and the short cook time.  Plus, it tastes good.

I am also nothing if not way behind on laundry and housekeeping, but that’s for another post.  (while ‘then get off the computer and clean your house woman’ would be good advice, I’m not listening.  {fingers in ear, chanting ‘la la la la’}).

I make this salad a couple of times a month.  It keeps well for 3-4 days in the fridge, although it usually only lasts a couple of days in our (messy) house, since the husband and I both like it.

Quinoa Crunch Salad

A salad with lots of natural crunch and a tangy dressing.  It’s strangely addicting – try to eat only one bit.


  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup diced parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey (or other sweetener)
1. Cook quinoa according to package directions. Let cool.
2. Combine quinoa – parsley in a large bowl and stir.
3. Mix the dressing ingredients (lime juice – honey) in a small lidded jar and shake well.
4. Pour dressing over salad and mix well.
5.  Let sit in the fridge for a couple of hours for flavors to blend.  Keeps well for 3-4 days.

New to quinoa?  Here’s my Quinoa – Ingredient Spotlight post.

Want more Quinoa recipes?  How about….

Vegan Carrot Raisin Pineapple Salad


It’s hard to do the mom circuit in the Texas suburbs without ending up at Chick Fil A at least once.  The chain is kid friendly, clean and has top-notch customer service.  And play areas (complete with hand sanitizer).  Actually, the husband I had our first meal together (a year and half before we actually started dating) at Chick-Fil-A about 15 years ago, so I’m a little partial to the chain.  Plus I ate many a chicken-biscuits for breakfast in high school before dance team practice.  Breakfast of champions, don’t you know?  {insert sarcasm font}

It’s not remotely a vegetarian restaurant, so I am usually stuck with sides for a meal these days.  I tend to order a side salad and a small carrot-raisin-salad.  And maybe fries if I’m feeling naughty – they do have delicious waffle fries.  The side salad is standard, but the carrot raisin salad is really good.  The carrot juice/dressing liquid that forms at the bottom of the bowl is a nasty bugger potent stain to get out of your clothes if you happen to spill the container (which I do far too often, sometimes my kid’s fault, usually mine), but the salad is refreshing and tasty.

Last week I decided to re-create the carrot raisin salad and, after googling a few versions of the Chick-Fil-A recipe and learning it contained mayo, veganizing it.  It worked!

Vegan Carrot Raisin Pineapple Salad

This salad is sweet, crunchy and refreshing.  It comes together quickly and keeps really well for 3-4 days in the fridge.

  • 2 c shredded carrots (the finer the better – I used my food processor)
  • 1/3 c raisins
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp vegan mayo – I like the soy-free veganaise.  Could also use regular non-vegan mayo
  • 3/4 c diced pineapple
  • 2 Tbsp pineapple juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt


1. Add all ingredients and mix until well combined.  Let sit in the fridge for a couple of hours for flavors to meld.

Spelt Salad with Kohlrabi, Apple and Parsley

A couple of weeks ago we got a Greenling local produce box with several different kinds of vegetables.  There was some kohlrabi in the box and I have to admit that I drew a blank as to what to do with the vegetable.  I decided to make a grain based salad and toss in the kohlrabi, along with some other fruits and vegetables.  After consulting google, I started with this Taste Space recipe as my inspiration.  I incorporated some parsley from my giganto-parsley bush, as well as some carrots and orange juice from the Greenling box.

It turned out really good and was a tasty lunch for several days.  Spelt berries can be found in the bulk section of most natural food stores, but you could sub out wheat berries or barley if needed.

Spelt Salad with Kohlrabi, Apple and Parsley


  • 1/2 c chopped carrots
  • 1 c cooked spelt (or wheat berries or hulled barley)
  • 1/2 c diced red pepper
  • 1/4 c diced parsley
  • 1/2 c peeled and diced kohlrabi
  • 1/2 c diced apple


  • 2 Tbsp orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp dried ginger (or 1 tsp grated fresh ginger)


1. Mix all dressing ingredients together in a small jar, place lid on jar and shake well to combine.

2.  Add all salad ingredients to a bowl and top with dressing.  Toss well.

3.  Let sit for a couple of hours in the fridge for optimum flavor development.

4. Serve cold or at room temperature.  Keeps well in the fridge for 4-5 days.

Crunchy and Tart Broccoli Salad

I find that if I can muster up enough motivation to get in the kitchen early in the week and make some salads, I say mental ‘thank yous’ to that motivated self for the next few days as I enjoy the salads.  Yesterday I made a big Sunshine Salad from Peas and Thank You (I make this salad almost weekly.  It’s that good), chopped up all the carrots and celery in the fridge, made a couple of bags of ‘to be juiced’ produce, got some quinoa and chickpeas soaking, made tea for kombucha, and made this broccoli salad.  All this productivity was brought to you by the letters S and S.  I love that Sesame Street is an hour long (and commercial free! and educational!), as I can usually whip out several kitchen tasks without my 3 year old ‘helper’ underfoot.

Crunchy and Tart Broccoli Salad

This salad comes together quite quickly and keeps well for a couple of days in the fridge.


  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • dash of each: salt, pepper, cinnamon
  • 1 bag broccoli slaw
  • 1 small apple, chopped (I like granny smith in this recipe, but any would do)
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds


1. Whisk together olive oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and salt/pepper/cinnamon

2. Combine dressing and salad ingredients and toss well.  Let sit for at least an hour.

3. Serve cold or at room temperature

Repeater Recipes – Curried Quinoa with Chickpeas and Apples

This is a recipe in my Repeater Recipe series, a series of posts where I feature previously posted recipes that show up often in our meal rotation.  It’s also a good chance to introduce some ‘classic’ recipes to my new readers.

Original Air Date: December 28, 2010

This is a recipe that has a strange ingredient list (well, strange to the non-food bloggers out there): quinoa, apples, curry, cilantro, etc.  Oh, and lime.  Of course.  And don’t forget the chickpeas.  Totally normal, right? Somehow the flavors just work, as does the contrasting textures. The crisp, sweet apples juxtaposed against the salty, curried quinoa?  Mmmmm.

The salad keeps will in the fridge for 2-3 days and tastes good cold and at room temperature.

Curried Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas and Apples

Curried Quinoa

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained.  (I’ve used regular and sprouted)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
Bring all ingredients to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.
Salad Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked Curried Quinoa (see above)
  • 1 medium apple, diced.  I like granny smith best in this recipe.
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained -or- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 3/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup diced cilantro
  • 1/4 cup diced green onion
Lime Vinaigrette Dressing
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together and let sit in the fridge for a couple of hours for the flavors to meld.  Tastes great cold and at room temperature.

Repeater Recipes – Rawaldorf Salad

It’s apple season and we are going through at least a 3lb bag a week.  I love apples for snacks and, thankfully, so do my kids.  Which means I find a few dried cores in odd places like the lego box and amidst the dress up clothes, you know, because they were so.very.anxious to dress up that they couldn’t possibly walk the 20 feet to the trashcan.  Happens to all of us, right?

I parceled a few of the snack apples from the refrigerator drawer, combined them with grapes, celery, walnuts and a cashew ‘mayo’ to make a raw Waldorf-style salad.

Rawaldorf Salad

Original Air Date: November 3, 2010


  • 3-4 apples, sliced bite size – I used two small gala and two small granny smith
  • 1/2 – 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup grapes
  • 1/2 – 3/4 c cashew ‘sweet mayo’
  • cinnamon for topping
Combine all ingredients.
Sweet Cashew ‘Mayo’
Blend until smooth: 3/4 cup cashews, soaked at least 4 hours and drained, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp sweetener (I use honey or agave), water as needed to get a thick sauce
It’s crunchy, tart and sweet.  Healthy too.  It keeps well in the fridge for a few days.  Just don’t leave it in the dress up clothes box….

Roasted Vegetable and Orzo Salad

This recipe came together on Sunday night as I was perusing the fridge and pantry for something to make for lunch the next day. Fridge: red peppers, zucchini, pine nuts, basil. Pantry: onion, orzo, seasonings

It turned out really tasty and the husband asked me to make it again sometime. You could make it healthier with whole wheat orzo.

Roasted Vegetable and Orzo Salad (makes about 4 cups)

  • 1 zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 1 medium onion cut into thick chunks
  • 1 red pepper cut into 1in squares
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 c dry orzo (about 2 c cooked)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Ume plum vinegar (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts
1. Preheat oven to 450F.
2. Toss vegetables and garlic with 2 Tbsp olive oil and salt/pepper to taste. Place on a greased cookie sheet or shallow pan. Roast for 30 -40 minutes, until nice and browned. Stir a couple of times during the roasting.
3. While vegetables are roasting, cook orzo according to package directions. Rinse and drain.
4. Combine cooled roasted vegetables, cooked orzo and olive oil, vinegar(s), basil and pine nuts.
5. Salad is best served at room temperature and is even better the second day. Also good atop greens (like this)

Red Lentil and Barley Salad with Apricots and Pine Nuts

It’s all kinds of hot in Texas and August looks to be even hotter.  Hot weather makes me want cold foods.   But, one can not live on watermelon alone…. although I could think of worse fates.  :)

I’ve had some red lentils sitting in my pantry for a few months.  They sit on the front shelf, hoping to be used.  I tend to pass them by for the jars of quinoa and chickpeas that sit on the second shelf.  Um, maybe I should rearrange my pantry.  Last week I finally picked up the lentil jar and I could almost hear them cheer.

I consulted Chef Google as to find out what one makes with red lentils. Turns out you can use them like their less colorful and more common sibling, brown lentils.  I saw a few grain salad recipes with lentils and came up with the following recipe to use ingredients that I had on hand.


Red Lentil and Barley Salad with Apricots and Pine Nuts

  • 1 c hulled barley, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 c red lentils, rinsed
  • 3.5 c water
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c pine nuts
  • 3/4 c chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 c chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp EVOO
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 c feta cheese


  1. Bring 2.5 cups of water to boil.  Add cinnamon, salt and soaked barley.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until barley is cooked and liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes. 
  2. When barley is cooked, remove from heat and cool completely.
  3. Combine lentils and 1 c water in a small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until lentils are tender.  Remove from heat and cool completely.
  4. When both lentils and barley are cooled, mix all remaining ingredients together and toss well.
  5. Salad tastes best after a few hours, when flavors have had time to mingle (or whatever it is that flavors do when unattended…..)

A nice cold salad for hot days. 

What ingredients are sitting neglected in your pantry? I’ve got some millet and amaranth that are feeling very left out.