The Ranch Obsession

I remember liking ranch dressing as a kid.  Really liking it.  But nothing compares to how ranch plays out in a school cafeteria.  Dunking pizza in it, drowning veggies in it–it really is an obsession.  We do work to monitor this in the cafeteria as best we can; I was even the “ranch cop” one day, which didn’t make me very popular with the middle and high school students.

This got me to thinking: what is it about ranch that hooks us and keeps us coming back for (way too much) more?  Its oil and dairy richness is enticing all its own, but it’s the combination of onion, garlic, parsley, pepper, and dill that makes it so delectable.  I started researching how to put these spices in a different “vehicle,” one not so laden with buttermilk and mayonnaise.  We came up with two winners: ranch hummus and healthy ranch dip.

First we tried ranch hummus, which was actually incredibly popular with high school students.  The Greek yogurt gives it that tart kick and creaminess that buttermilk does in regular ranch.  I was carrying it around to them during lunchtime in the cafeteria (wanting to somehow redeem myself from being ranch cop), and had them try it with plain tortilla chips.  I suddenly started saying, “It’s better than a ranch Dorito!”  This caught on and pretty soon it’s what one senior was telling another to get them to try it.  They agreed that it would be good to pair with veggies, but not so much with pizza (c’est la vie!).  Here’s the recipe:

Ranch Hummus
2 cans garbanzo beans
Half or whole ranch packet (try to find one that’s low sodium or make your own minus the dry buttermilk)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons olive oil (can also use more water/yogurt and less oil)
4+ tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup water
Garlic powder to taste
Next was the healthy ranch dip, a recipe I found on an amazing website called www.foodhero.org. This website has dozens of healthy, nutritious and low cost recipes and it’s a go-to site for my cooking lessons.  The North Powder fifth graders tried this with snap peas and immediately fell in love. When they found out that this healthy alternative has only 20 calories per two tablespoons compared to the 120 calories for a serving of ranch dressing, they were stoked.  I think they might even dip their pizza in it.  I used fat-free cottage cheese and fat-free Greek yogurt. Mash with forks for chunky dip or whip up in a blender for more dressing-like consistency. Here’s the recipe:
1 cup low-fat  cottage cheese

1 cup low-fat plain  yogurt, depending on thickness desired
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
1⁄2 teaspoon onion powder
2 sprigs of  parsley, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
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