Mandy's Marvelous Meals

Recipes, tips, tricks, and my journey into cooking fabulous food!

Homemade Ranch Dressing


I have definitely been slacking in the blogging department, but not the cooking department! I’ve finally got a moment to post some of the yummy food I’ve been creating.  I have just been enjoying this hot summer weather spending all my free time in the pool! AHHHHHH!

So without further ado, here is a good summer recipe that can be used for not only salad dressing, but lots of other foods such as pasta salad, pizza, veggie dip, etc.

I have to say that ever since the first time I made my own homemade salad dressing I loathe the store bought kind. So today’s post is for Homemade Ranch Dressing, which is sure to please!  I decided to make chicken ranch pizza on the grill and used the ranch dressing for the “sauce” of the pizza. Since I was using this for a “sauce” as opposed to a dressing, I made it a bit thicker than normal, so if you are using it for something besides a dressing and you need it to be thicker just add less buttermilk. It’s best to make this at least an hour in advance for the flavors to combine and become prominent. The dressing should last about 3 days. This recipe makes a fairly small batch so if you need a lot you should probably double the recipe. Remember to taste the dressing and adjust the seasonings to your preference. If you are feeling really adventurous fry up a few pieces of bacon, crumble and add to the dressing…voila…bacon ranch dressing! 😉

Homemade Ranch Dressing

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup buttermilk (more to thin it out & less to make it thicker)

1 tbsp. white vinegar

¼ tsp. onion powder

1 clove garlic, crushed

¼ tsp. salt

Freshly crushed black pepper, to taste

½ tbsp. freeze dried chives

1 tbsp. dried parsley

Place all ingredients in a medium bowl except for the buttermilk. Whisk until just combined. Add the buttermilk 1 tbsp. at a time until you reach the desired consistency, whisking thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. Dressing should keep for about 3 days.

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To Grill or Not to Grill? At Least We’ll Still Have Our Salad!


To grill or not to grill?? That is the question…

The sun has been fighting to come out most of the day and has finally succeeded! Gloomy, rainy weather is finally over…or is it? I really want to make dinner on the grill, but there is now a chance of thunderstorms! I just can’t win…and after a week of crappy weather I’m ready for it to end!

No matter, whatever delicious creation I come up with it will be accompanied by Caesar Salad. Yesterday’s post was for my Slimmed Down version of caesar dressing, so today I thought I’d share the original version for those of you who are not so concerned about calories. Like most things I make, I have to make two versions….regular and slimmed down. Regular for Hubby (who can eat anything he wants and still maintain a slim physique) and Slimmed Down for me, of course. I do try to trick him once in a while, but he can usually tell right away that something is just not quite the same as he is used to. I ran out of the regular caesar dressing one night so I gave him mine and he said it was good but he didn’t like how thin it was. Go figure!

This recipe is not exactly a traditional caesar recipe, as it doesn’t have egg or anchovies, like authentic caesar dressing. Here comes one of my weird quirks…I know I’ve had “authentic” caesar dressing a few times at a few higher end restaurants and thought it was delish! However, since I am the one making it….I would not be able to eat it knowing that there is raw egg and anchovie substance in it! Ick!! But not to worry…this recipe tastes just as great!!!

When you make this, I’d recommend using all fresh ingredients (i.e. fresh lemons, oranges, garlic, and parmesan cheese). However, if you’re in  a hurry or don’t have that stuff on hand it tastes good with the bottled version (lemon juice, orange juice, grated parmesan) of all of those things….I’ve made it both ways when I didn’t have the stuff on hand and although the fresh version was better, the other way was really good too.

Caesar Salad Dressing

3 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. orange juice

4 cloves garlic

1 tbsp. dijon mustard

1 tbsp. mayonnaise

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1/4 tsp. salt or to taste

1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

  1. In a blender or food processor, combine the first eight ingredients. This will only take a few seconds until everything is blended well.
  2. With the blender still running on low, add the olive oil in a thin stream until emulsified.
  3. Add the grated cheese and blend for a few more seconds to incorporate.
  4. Store unused dressing in the refrigerator for up to 1 to 2 weeks.
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Slimmed Down Caesar Salad Dressing


Wednesday was my Week 9 weigh-in with a loss of .5 pounds. Happy to see that I lost this week after last week’s stand-still. I’m still moving at a snail’s pace, but I am ok with that…as long as I keep losing that’s all that really matters.

Remember last week how I went on to preach about how I can feel my bad habits and lifestyle changing (much to my own amazement!)? Well here is another example…the other day I ran to the grocery store for a few random items that we were out of and ended up with a huge basketful of mostly all fresh veggies! I was in total shock when I noticed this as I placed everything on the belt at the checkout.

I never go to the grocery store and only get the one or two things I need…I always end up buying  extra things…things like snacks, candy, cupcakes, chips, etc. This time, I didn’t even give those things a second thought but was compelled to go a little overboard in the produce section! The best part about this was that I genuinely just thought “oh that looks good.” Not, “I guess I’ll get some broccoli and force myself to eat it because it is healthy.” The next best part…I wasn’t even thinking about the goodies that I was bombarded with throughout the store (you know those bright & colorful displays of cookies, cakes & donuts?!).

Now some of you may be thinking, “so what? I always stock up on produce.” But for a junk food junkie like me this is amazing! I feel so proud…this is such a big accomplishment. So for those of you who can relate…don’t give up! Just keep working to break those bad habits and before you know it you’ll be over-spending in the produce section instead of the bakery!!

So to commemorate this special event…here is my recipe for Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad. This is probably my favorite kind of salad….but as I’m sure those of you who are watching what you eat know…Caesar dressing is loaded with fat (especially the “creamy” version)! So to make the dressing a little healthier I’ve altered my usual Caesar dressing by decreasing the oil and adding chicken stock to make it go a little bit further. The chicken stock does make the dressing a bit more runny than regular dressings, but if you add the dressing to the salad and shake it up in a container with a lid, you’ll never even notice that it’s thin…you’ll just taste the great flavor. You can pretty much make your Caesar salad however you like but I’m including how I make the whole thing. I’ve only included the Weight Watchers Points Plus for the salad dressing, though. If you follow WW I’m sure you can figure out the points value based on the amount of chicken you use along with any other ingredients you may add.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with Slimmed Down Caesar Dressing

2 oz. grilled or baked boneless, skinless chicken breast, seasoned with salt, pepper & garlic powder

4 cups chopped romaine lettuce

2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

4 Fat Free Caesar-style croutons

2 tbsp. “Slimmed Down Caesar Dressing”

  1. Chop or slice grilled chicken breast.
  2. In a large bowl with a lid add the lettuce, cheese, and chicken.
  3. Add dressing and place lid on bowl. Shake to coat.
  4. Place salad on a serving plate and top with croutons.

Dressing: (Makes 6 servings; 1 serving = 2 tbsp. Weight Watchers Points Plus = 2)

3 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. orange juice

4 cloves garlic

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

½ cup chicken stock

2 tbsp. olive oil

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

  1. Combine all ingredients, except for the olive oil and parmesan cheese, in a food processor or blender. Blend until well combined.
  2. While the blender is running on low, slowly pour in the olive oil to emulsify.
  3. Add the parmesan cheese and run for a few more seconds to incorporate the cheese.
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Slimmed Down Sensation: Sirloin Steak Salad (Friendly’s Copycat)


I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy eating at Friendly’s once in a while. I know quite a few adults who LOATHE Friendly’s!

But sometimes you just crave some high fat high calorie fried comfort food…and of course you can’t eat there without getting ice cream. So if you’re trying to eat even a little bit healthy this is not the place to go. My current favorite dish is the Bleu Moon Sirloin Salad. Sometimes I just sit at home and crave it…I must have it!

Friendly's Bleu Moon Sirloin Salad

It’s actually one of their more “adult” meals with crispy romaine lettuce topped with Sirloin steak, pepper, carrots, cherry tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles and crispy onion strings. Served with a dijon vinaigrette….ok I am drooling just writing out the ingredients. Of course, like most “entrée salads” at chain restaurants, this yummy dish comes at a costly (including salad dressing) 860 calories, 40 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, and 83 carbohydrates (23 WW points plus). Sometimes I am willing to indulge in this as long as it is my “Faturday” and it won’t send me over my “Points” limit, but then I got to thinking…why don’t I save some money and some calories and make my own?

Of course, this does not taste as good as the original, but it is pretty darn tasty…and when I think of all the calories and fat I am saving, it makes it taste even better! I am still working on getting the dressing to taste like Friendly’s…can’t quite get that one down yet, but the Dijon Vinaigrette I’ve listed in the recipe is still really good on this salad or any salad, for that matter.  One word of caution, though, it is a bit on the thin side and so it’s a bit runny. The best way to use it is to put your salad in a container or bowl with a lid and shake it up. This way it will get distributed throughout and you’ll see that this small amount really goes far.

As far as the steak you can use whatever type you like, as long as it is a fairly lean cut and is trimmed of fat. I suggest sirloin strip, but the steak in the picture above was a filet mignon. Be sure to weigh your steak before cooking it to make sure you are following the appropriate portion size.

As far as Weight Watchers points, the great news is that my version is only 6 points!

Friendly’s = 23; Mandy’s  = 6!!!!!!

Holy Cow, that is a BIG difference!! It means, I can still have some light ice cream along with it and not feel so bad!

Slimmed Down Sensation: Sirloin Steak Salad (Friendly’s Copycat)

(WW points = 6, this is for the whole salad including the onion crisps & dressing)

3 cups romaine lettuce, chopped

1 carrot, sliced or shredded

¼ of green pepper, sliced (more if you really like green peppers)

4-6 cherry tomatoes

3 oz. sirloin steak, trimmed of fat

salt & pepper to taste

2 tbsp. reduced fat blue cheese crumbles

¼ serving, Onion Crisps (recipe follows)

2 tbsp. Dijon Vinaigrette Salad Dressing (recipe follows.)

  1. Sprinkle both sides of steak with salt and pepper. Cook steak either on the grill or under the oven broiler to desired doneness. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes. Slice into strips or cut into cubes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the salad by putting the lettuce, carrots, and pepper in a bowl or container with a lid. Add the dressing and shake well to coat all the vegetables.
  3. Transfer to large bowl or plate and top with steak, blue cheese crumbles, tomatoes and onion crisps.

 

Onion Crisps (WW points plus = 1)

1 small onion, sliced thin

¼ cup fiber one cereal, crushed

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

¼ cup refrigerated egg substitute (i.e. egg beaters)

  1. Slice onion in very thin pieces, preferably with a mandolin slicer.
  2. Crush the cereal by either placing in a plastic Ziploc bag and crushing with a rolling pin or use a blender/food processor.
  3. Put the cereal, salt & pepper in a Ziploc bag.
  4. Put the egg beaters in a bowl and dip the onions shaking off excess. Once you dip the onions place in the bag with the cereal. Once all pieces have been dipped in the egg beaters and added to the bag, shake to coat.
  5. On a non-stick baking sheet, spread out the coated onions and bake in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes until crispy.

 

Dijon Vinaigrette Salad Dressing (1 Serving = 2 tbsp.; 2 tbsp. = 1 WW points plus)

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

¼ cup chicken stock

1/8 tsp. onion powder

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

2 tbsp. olive oil

  1. Combine all ingredients, except for olive oil, in a blender and blend until well combined. Add the olive oil slowly into the running blender to emulsify.
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