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Years ago, I invented a recipe (it's the first one in <a href="http://www.earthlingshandbook.org/cookbook.html" target="_blank">my cookbook</a>!) for pasta salad that uses two mass-market convenience foods: French's Fried Onions and Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing. Neither one is inexpensive or particularly healthy. We make a big batch this pasta salad at least twice a month, so we'd like to healthify it!<br><br>
After some experimentation, we've found that we can replace the FFOs w/nutritional yeast--tastes different but still very good. Another option is to fry up a bunch of onions ourselves, using a healthier oil and less salt than French's. But we can't figure out what to use instead of the ranch dressing.<br><br>
Yogurt, an obvious candidate, is okay when you're eating the salad right away...but if you store and reheat it, the yogurt curdles. This is unacceptable as we take the pasta salad for lunches at work. Sour cream doesn't curdle as much but isn't a food we keep in stock normally, and unlike HVR it doesn't stay fresh for months after opening; the whole point of this recipe is that it's something we can whip up on short notice, so if we have to plan ahead and buy sour cream it won't be so convenient.<br><br>
We don't like any other brand of ranch dressing nearly as much as HVR, so switching to a healthier brand (which probably would be more expensive) isn't a great option.<br><br>
So...what's creamy and reheats well and will keep for a couple weeks after opening yet isn't full of horrible chemicals??
 

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I've been thinking about this and its my guess that all the horrible chemicals are what make this food last so long (lots of preservatives) and reheat (lots of stabilizers). So I don't think you are going to find a whole food with these qualities.
 

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Sour cream will last at least a month in the back of the fridge (it's colder there -- it even freezes a little sometimes in my fridge). If you make this recipe at least twice a month, then you're sure to finish it up before it goes bad. And <a href="http://www.penzeys.com" target="_blank">Penzeys Spices</a> sells a buttermilk ranch dressing base that you could add to the sour cream to give the flavor you're used to. Or, since you don't like other ranch dressings as well as HVR, you could try one of their other dressing bases for a different flavor. Personally, I'm a big fan of their Italian dressing base and like to add it to yogurt or sour cream to use as a dip for corn chips and as a dressing for our taco salads (I have no idea if that flavor would go well with the rest of your recipe, though).<br><br>
Also, a thought about the onions. Have you tried the dried onion pieces in the bulk spices at the health food store? I really like to use those sometimes.<br><br>
And, could you eat the pasta salad cold the next day? That sort of thing is usually pretty good cold. Just a thought.<br><br>
Hope something here appeals to you.<br><br>
Christie
 

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This is just a thought and probably not completely healthy, but couldn't you buy the envelopes of HVR my GM uses to make ranch dip and mix them with sour cream or yogurt as needed. I know that doesn't help much with reheating, but sour cream really isn't that bad for you and it keeps in the fridge for quite a while. You might have to replenish more often than with the bottled, but you can also use it for other dishes if you don't mix it ahead of time with the seasoning packets. I have good luck keeping sour cream for at least a month in the back of the fridge too.
 
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