You can't mix just any ranch with salsa when you're enjoying a Mexican feast.

    It all began with a recipe for “Taco Ensalada” – Spanish for “taco salad” – that my mom came across when I was a kid. It was basically a normal taco salad, with crumbled-up taco-flavored Doritos mixed in with the lettuce, cheese and other salad fixings, and then you topped it with a hamburger, pinto bean and salsa mixture fresh from the skillet.


    Looking back at the first time I devoured that meal, I figure my life has been divided by two distinct eras: Before I discovered the astounding joy of mixing ranch dressing and salsa into a delightful condiment, and after I discovered the astounding joy of mixing ranch dressing and salsa into a delightful condiment.


    That original Taco Ensalada recipe called for mixing not just any ranch dressing, but Litehouse brand ranch dressing, with not just any salsa, but Pace Picante.


    As I became an adult and bought my own groceries, stocked my own fridge and prepared my own food, I stuck with the Litehouse Ranch and Pace Picante formula for years. If I was eating a snack or a meal that was even a hint of Mexican in nature, i.e. tacos, nachos, burritos, or just looking for something to dip a few Tostitos in, I was utilizing my go-to ranch/salsa concoction. Eventually, I moved away from my longtime affinity for Pace Picante and started experimenting with all kinds of salsas to mix with my trusty Litehouse Ranch.         

    So it was a rough spring in our house, because it lacked my go-to salsa/ranch mix. As the Litehouse brand kept adding more varieties to its lineup, the Litehouse display in the Hugo's produce section was growing more crowded, and one day when I was picking up a few things, there was nary a jar of Litehouse Ranch dressing to be found. It went on like that for weeks; no matter who in our family was at Hugo's for whatever reason, they were under strict instructions to check the Litehouse display to see if jars of ranch had returned. But they were, simply...gone.


    My wife could sense my growing angst, so she tried to help. One day she came home with a jar of Litehouse Homestyle Ranch. But it simply would not do. A couple weeks later, she brought home Litehouse Buttermilk Ranch, which only had me pacing back and forth in the living room with increased intensity. After another trip to Hugo's, she came home with Litehouse Jalapeno Ranch, which was a noble effort. But, again, it was a no go. Her efforts to ease my pain intensified and became more desperate. One day she came home with a jar of Litehouse Ranch dressing that sort of looked like my favorite ranch, but it was a healthier version, made with yogurt, so you know that it was just awful. Her attempts to ease me through my valley of darkness continued when she came home one day with another new Litehouse variety, known as "Salsa Ranch," and I just stood in the kitchen and looked at her...right through her. Pre-prepared salsa ranch? Was I not the Iron Chef of preparing salsa ranch?


    She finally gave up one day as we shopped in the condiment aisle and she pointed to a shelf and said, “What about Hidden Val...” before the lightning bolts blasting from my eyes told her it would be wise for her to not finish her inquiry.    


    I even tried to rewind my life, to way, way back before that momentous day I enjoyed my first Taco Ensalada meal featuring Litehouse Ranch and Pace Picante. I bought a little tub of old reliable...sour cream. Hopeful that bringing back a culinary relic of my past would propel me toward opening a new chapter in my life, I instead had a mediocre at best taco meal and went to bed early.


    I needed answers. I visited the Litehouse website and clicked and scrolled until I found my beloved ranch. My plan was to have a truckful delivered to my house, but I learned they don't sell directly to consumers.


    So, eventually, I was forcibly adjusting to my post-Litehouse Ranch Dressing life, when some unknown force compelled me to visit the Litehouse Foods website again.


    I clicked on “Our Products.” Then, with my hand seemingly acting not of its own accord, I clicked on “Dressings,” and then I clicked on “Creamy Dressings.” And there it was, the announcement that the company’s signature recipe, “Ranch Dressing” was being rebranded as Litehouse “Sweet Ranch Dressing.”


    I exhaled a deep breath. My chin quivered.


    A week or so later, my hopeful eyes found Litehouse Sweet Ranch Dressing at Hugo’s. I picked up two jars, and the third distinct era of my life, which is unofficially known as “Found Sweet Ranch!” commenced.