Helping families eat healthier for less

Helping families eat healthier for less

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Homemade Jalapeno Ranch Dressing is Versatile, Healthier, & Spicy

The theme for this month’s Recipe Redux is Salad Dressings in the broad sense of the term and includes condiments and spreads. My favorite salad dressing of all time is one that my household eats almost on a daily basis. It is Jalapeno Ranch Salad Dressing, a homemade “ranch-style” dressing with a healthier iprofile and jalapenos to add a little zing.

As you can see, the homemade version has the least calories and total fat by far, as well as the least amount of sodium per serving. It is also the cheapest among those listed. The homemade dressing uses Greek-style yogurt which gives it slightly more protein per serving than the others and helps make a thicker dressing. Regular yogurt can be used instead but a thinner dressing with less protein will result.
Here are the raw ingredients:

Green onions, garlic, jalapeno peppers, lowfat buttermilk, reduced fat mayonnaise, Greek-style yogurt, pepper, and paprika.

Everything gets put into a blender or food processor.

I usually store my dressing in an empty 2-liter soda bottle.

Carlene Helble - Carlene's Figments: Roasted Eggplant Pepper Schmeer
This salad dressing in my husband’s favorite -- and mine, too. It is so versatile. You can use it on tossed green salads, as a dressing for tuna, egg, or chicken salad or coleslaw, or as a sauce served with cooked chicken breasts or salmon fillets, or even as a marinade for chicken breasts before grilling.
Here it is with tuna salad:
and coleslaw:

How does this Jalapeno Ranch Salad Dressing compare with store-bought ranch dressings?
Ranch is a popular variety of salad dressing. I found 21 choices of ranch dressing in one supermarket and over 40 choices in a second! However, most store-bought salad dressings contain a lot of fat, sodium, and some have added sugars, artificial colors and preservatives.
Here is a comparison of my homemade Jalapeno Ranch Dressing with 4 other similar store-bought dressings. All are for 2 tablespoons of dressing.

Jalapeno Ranch Salad Dressing (featured here)
Litehouse Dressing & Dip Jalapeno Ranch
Marie’s Salad Dressing Creamy Ranch
Naturally Delicious Dressing Chipotle Ranch
Bolthouse Farms Yogurt Dressing Creamy Classic Ranch
total fat
1.4 g
12 g
19 g
15 g
7.5 g
saturated fat
0  g
1 g
3 g
1 g
1.5 g
47  mg
220 mg
150 mg
220 mg
290 mg
2  g
0 g
1 g
0 g
1 g

total cost
no. of svgs
cost per svg

Click here to download the Jalapeno Ranch Salad Dressing recipe.

Be sure to check out these other blogs featuring healthy salad dressings, condiments, and spreads.

Deanna Segrave-Daly - Teaspoon of Spice: Sicilian Relish
Cherie Schetselaar - Grain Crazy: Fry Sauce
Elizabeth Jarrard - Don't (White) Sugar-Coat it: Spicy Tahini Dressing
Kara Lydon - Peace, Love, and Food: Edamame Hummus
Kat Lynch - Eating The Week: Citrus Sesame Avocado Dressing
Emma Stirling - The Scoop on Nutrition: Recipe Redux Kitchen Garden Salsa Verde
Emma Cutfield - The Hearty Heart: Go-Go-Goji: Blood Building Salad Dressing
Lisa @ Healthful Sense: Sweet Peanut Sauce & Dressing
Regan @ The Professional Palate: Ponzu Sauce
Danielle Omar - Food Confidence RD: Recipe Redux: Your New Favorite Vinaigrette
Stephanie Howard - Give Them Something Better: Creamy Garlic Feta Dressing
Nicole Ferring Holovach - Whole Health RD: Mapple Salad Dressing
Kristen @ Swanky Dietitian: Italian Vinaigrette Artichoke Dressing
Ann Dunaway Teh - Eat to Nourish, Energize & Flourish: Thai Basil Peanut Pesto
Kristina @ Love and Zest: Spiced Pumpkin Dip
Meg @ Meg's Food Reality: Sweet Potato Hummus
gretchen | kumquat: dairy-free ranch dressing
Everyday Tastiness: Pistachio Butter
Alysa Bajenaru - Inspired RD: How to Roast Garlic & a Recipe for Roasted Garlic Hummus
EA Stewart-The Spicy RD: Creamy Triple Pepper and Kale Dip
Liz Weiss & Janice Newell Bissex - Meal Makeover Moms' Kitchen: Garden-Fresh Tomato & Avocado Salsa

Jessica Fishman Levinson - Nutritioulicious: Butternut Squash Cream Cheese Spread

Monday, September 19, 2011

Looking for new ideas for canned tuna?

Canned tuna is an economical choice. But preparing it the same way can get stale. Here are some ideas for making tuna more exciting. Be sure to rinse the tuna well before using it to reduce the salt content.
1.      Try Different Spices

Looking for a way to make your tuna salad a little different from the typical? Try adding seasonings, such as fresh or dried dill, tarragon, ginger, curry powder, chipotle pepper, smoked paprika, mint, basil, cilantro, or rosemary.

2.      Make It Ethnic

Add salsa and a little chopped jalapeno to make it spicy. Or, add curry seasoning, ginger, and soy sauce. Or, add feta cheese and Greek olives.

3.      Add Crunch

Celery is commonly added to tuna salad. Try adding a small amount of chopped zucchini, jicama, water chestnuts, pear or apple, broccoli, cauliflower, shredded carrots, thawed frozen peas, peanuts, or toasted chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds.

4.      Serve It Differently

In addition to sandwich bread, serve tuna salad in whole grain pita pockets, on bagel halves, or rolled in a whole grain tortilla or flat bread. Or, serve it in a tomato.

5.      Make Mine Hot

Spread tuna salad on toasted whole grain bread, bagel, or English muffin halves. Top each half with low fat cheese (such as Swiss or Cheddar or mozzarella) and broil until cheese bubbles.

6.      Make it fun

Get creative. Give your tuna sandwich a face, using assorted raw veggies for eyes, mouth, nose, ears, and hair.

7.      Skip the Bread

Mix tuna salad into cooked pasta, brown rice, quinoa, or other cooked whole grains. Try some of the flavor additions suggested above. Throw in fresh or frozen mixed vegetables and/or cooked beans, such as kidney or garbanzo beans.

8.      Go Easy on the Mayo

Substitute avocado for some or all of the mayo in your tuna salad.  Avocado is a healthy fat. Or, combine the tuna with hummus. Serve with thinly sliced carrot dippers or baked tortilla chips. Or, add low fat no-added-salt cottage cheese to your tuna salad in place of the mayonnaise.

9.      Make Tuna Patties

Combine canned tuna with leftover cooked mashed potatoes, an egg, Dijon mustard, and your favorite seasonings. Pan-fry them in a small amount of canola oil. The mashed potatoes and egg help to hold the mixture together. Serve topped with a red pepper sauce or cheese sauce or in a whole grain bun with a couple of pickles. You can get two tuna patties per 5-ounce can.

10.  Add Fruit
 Add cut up fresh or canned pineapple to tuna salad. Or, add red or green seedless grapes, Mandarin oranges, chopped green or red apples, or pears.

Click here to download Dr. Barb's 10 Tips for Canned Tuna.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Need some back-to-school ideas that are low cost yet healthy?

Going back to school in the fall is a good time to re-evaluate what you put in lunch boxes whether for yourself or your kids. Lunch should supply about 25% of the calories you need for the day. Eat and pack a power lunch with nutrient-rich foods to help meet your mineral and vitamin needs. Try to get a balance of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean protein, and nonfat or lowfat dairy.

1.     Use a Variety of Breads & Bread Alternatives

Nobody likes to eat the same sandwich on the same bread every day (well, maybe there are a few that do). Change it up by using 100% whole wheat mini pitas (0.25 per serving), whole wheat tortillas ($0.29 per serving), whole wheat mini bagels ($0.32 per serving), whole grain hot dog buns ($0.41 per serving), whole wheat thin rolls ($0.41 per serving) or multi-grain flatbread ($0.43 per serving) in additional to a good, whole grain bread ($0.30 - $0.40 for 2 slices).

2.     Serve it Twice

Leftovers from the night before can be a great timesaver. And you save money if you eat them up instead of letting them rot in the refrigerator well past their prime. Chicken parts, pasta, pizza, stews, chili, and spaghetti can all be healthy choices. Invest in a good thermos to keep food hot or use a cold pack to keep food cold until serving. Breakfast foods are good any time of day. French toast, waffles, pancakes, and hot or ready-to-eat cereals can all be eaten at lunchtime.

3.     Cook Extra

Plan to have leftovers. When cooking up rice, pasta, couscous, or other whole grains for dinner, cook up extra to eat for lunch in the coming days. Top the cooked grains with frozen vegetables and you have a meal for little expense. Bake a few extra potatoes or sweet potatoes to enjoy for lunch the next day or two. If you are grilling or roasting veggies for an evening meal, cook up extra to pack for lunch.

4.     Wrap it Yourself

Instead of buying individually wrapped, packaged foods, buy in bulk and wrap it yourself. Or, get the kids or your spouse to help. For example, a national brand of 100 calorie pack of pretzel minis costs $3.99 and has 10 packages, or $0.40 per serving. The same brand of pretzel minis comes in a 16-ounce bag for $3.29 and serves 15, or $0.22 per serving. The cost per serving is almost half!

5.     Beverages Beware

One option is to buy lowfat or nonfat milk at school or work to guarantee its freshness and food safety. You can bring water, the cheapest solution. Limit juice boxes to one per day and look for 100% juice without added sugar. Fruit drinks have added sugar and are not a nutritious choice. Read the ingredient statements on the package. In the case of many fruit drinks, sugar is the second ingredient after water. Also, pay attention to serving sizes. In the case of fruit juices and drinks in bottles or boxes, the serving sizes range from 4.23 to 5.5 to 6 to 6.75 to 10 to 11.5 ounces. Cost per serving also varies greatly, from $0.25 to $0.92. Freeze your water bottle or 100% juice pack to help keep other lunch items cold.

6.     Add a Side of Coleslaw

Prepackaged coleslaw in the produce section can be a real timesaver and a 14-ounce bag costs $1.50 and makes four 1-1/2 cups servings at a cost of $0.38 per serving. Of course, this cost doesn’t include the dressing. Try nonfat plain yogurt, regular or Greek-style, and add seasonings, such as caraway seeds, ginger, or hot sauce. Add raisins or peanuts for added texture.

7.     Soup’s On

A hearty homemade soup is a perfect lunch component. Whether it’s vegetable, bean, lentil, tomato, or your favorite, pack it into a thermos and serve with whole grain crackers.

8.     Enjoy Eggs

At $0.20 to $0.25 cents per egg, eggs are a good source of high quality protein. Eat them hard boiled, as egg salad, or made up as an omelet, frittata, or quiche. Be sure to use a cold pack to keep eggs and egg dishes cold until ready to eat.

9.     Canned Seafood

Solid white canned tuna packed in water or oil can usually be found for $1 or less per 5-ounce can. Go to Dr. Barb’s 10 tips for using canned tuna for some new ideas for ways to use canned tuna. Sardines, too, can often be found for $1 for a 3.75-ounce can. Look for canned sardines in unconventional outlets, such as dollar stores or ethnic grocers.

10.  Include Veggies, of Course

 Fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables can all be included in lunches. Look for fresh veggies in season and on sale, if possible, such as baby carrots for $1.50 per 16-ounce package that serves 5. Rinse canned veggies in water to remove as much as 40% of the sodium. Buy frozen veggies in large bulk packages, such as a 32-ounce package of store brand frozen broccoli for $2.89, which equates to $0.26 per serving. Or, buy frozen veggies at warehouse stores for even greater values.