How to ranch-dress a salad and keep things light
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Tender Lettuces With Kefir Ranch Dressing. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post.

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Nothing does the trick of making raw or blanched vegetables irresistibly delicious quite the way a drizzle or dip of creamy ranch dressing does. That's why this ranch redo is so game-changing. It not only compels you to crunch crudites and pile greens onto your plate, but also does so in a more healthful way.

Instead of the typical mayonnaise or sour-cream foundation, this recipe calls for just a little mayo to add body and silkiness to a base of kefir, a probiotic-rich cultured milk product that is creamy, pleasantly tangy and pourable - kind of like a drinkable yogurt. Because the bounty of good bacteria in kefir digests much of the milk's lactose, those who are lactose intolerant typically do not have an issue with it.

I also love to sip kefir plain or blend it with fruit into smoothies. I prefer the tart-balancing richness of the full-fat variety, but low-fat kefir is also available if you prefer.

For this dressing, besides a little mayo, the kefir is whisked with a touch of lemon juice and the classic ranch seasonings of onion, garlic and herbs. I used only chives to keep it streamlined, but if you have some parsley, dill or cilantro on hand, it would be a nice addition.

The dressing is as versatile as any ranch dressing, ready to be used for dipping or for tossing. Here, it gives tender lettuce leaves a creamy, flavorful coating for a simple yet utterly craveable spring salad.

Tender Lettuces With Kefir Ranch Dressing

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Yield: 4 servings

1/3 cup plain, full-fat kefir, well shaken 2 tablespoons mayonnaise 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1/4 teaspoon onion powder 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (granulated garlic) 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives 2 medium heads tender lettuces, such as butter or Bibb, leaves torn

Procedure:

Whisk together the kefir, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, onion powder, granulated garlic, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, then stir in the chives.

Just before serving, gently toss the lettuce with the dressing until coated evenly.

Nutrition information per serving: 70 calories, 2 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 210 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar.

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