There are quite a few things about college that are a little hazy for me, 10 years later (ouch). I could blame it on the passage of time, or on the intense focus I gave my studies at the expense of all socializing and memory-making, but that just wouldn’t be true. That haze is the result of the ugly but common college blend of late nights, cheap beer, and every appalling habit that goes with those things. Chief among those appalling habits was late night snacking – I went to a small state school in southwestern Virginia whose primary claims to fame were an unusually high rate of, um, social diseases, and a 7-11 that boasted the highest daily gross in alcohol sales in the country. Oh, the pride. Although my friends and I did have a hand in the 7-11′s skyrocketing sales, I thankfully escaped without contributing to the school’s first dubious record. Due to the abundance of Natural Light, we were too busy enjoying our college town’s huge array of post-midnight dining options to get ourselves into any trouble (side note: it’s amazing how something like “abundance of Natural Light” can completely change in meaning from college years to adulthood. Then, it meant that we wouldn’t run out of horrible beer at whatever scuzzy basement party we were heading to that night. Now, it means I might be able to take a decent picture without having to go all MacGyver on my living room).
Anyway, to the point, we did a lot of after-hours eating in those days – pizza, nachos, sandwiches, crusties (sounds unappealing, but I am desperately trying to recreate them). No matter the snack, they all had one thing in common – they all came with ranch dressing. This is where I trace my affinity for ranch, and no bottled version has ever been able to match what came in those little plastic cups from takeout joints. So I started making my own. I can’t say I eat a ton of it these days – my late-night snacking days are ever fewer and farther between (okay, fine, they’re over), and nowadays I’m much more likely to put ranch on an actual salad than on a greasy pile of pizza rolls (not that there’s anything wrong with that). This homemade version is not only much healthier and far less processed than bottled ranch, but also lends itself to endless customization. Too thick? Add more milk. A little bland? Throw in some more spices. And even if you’re mostly serving it with carrot sticks these days, it’s still a good survival staple to have around when your college friends come to visit.
- ¼ cup light mayonnaise
- ¾ cup sour cream
- 1½ cups low-fat buttermilk
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp chives, finely chopped
- 1 tsp fresh dill (or ½ tsp dried)
- 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
- ¼ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ¾ tsp mustard powder
- ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp granulated sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk and milk in a bowl and whisk until smooth and well combined. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Chill for at least two hours before using. Thin with more buttermilk or milk if desired.