Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Simple Homemade Gifts: Healthy Salad Dressings and More

November 19th, 2009 · 17 Comments · Do It Yourself, Real Food Recipes, Upgraded Nutrition

The first time I met my future mother-in-law, she gave me a gift.  I was a freshman in college and her son’s first girlfriend (we’d been dating about a week at the time).  It was near Valentine’s Day, which was cause enough for a gift bag, some tissue paper and a bottle of lotion, some of my mother-in-law’s most-used possessions.  I didn’t know what to think.

Now I do.

The 5 Love Languages, as put forth by Gary Chapman, are personal touch, quality time, acts of service, gift giving, and words of encouragement.  If you’ve read the book, you’ll know that folks generally have one main gift that is their primary “love language” and some others that are secondary. It’s important to understand how others prefer to receive love so that you can give them what means the most to them. Hug the personal touch folks, do laundry without being asked for the acts of service people, genuinely compliment words of encouragement lovers, etc.  This can be difficult when people in the same family have radically different love languages.

My mother-in-law is clearly in love with the act of giving gifts (and shopping, too!).  I have always been non-plussed by gift holidays, except for the practical purpose of getting things I need.  (Terrible, aren’t I?) My own parents hardly get anything from me because they feel the same way.

I’m not a total gift miser.  If I see something I know would make someone’s day, and it’s personal, and it has great meaning, I love to get it for them as a gift.  But when a “big day” comes around and I’m wracking my brain for something that they might like but won’t need, I feel like I’m in quicksand and have to get to the store, pronto!

So I fall back on homemade gifts a lot.  They meet my needs:

  • Frugal
  • Personal
  • Unique
  • Didn’t have to go to a store with two kids and no idea what to get!

dressingsThis year I bought an extra gallon of extra virgin olive oil from my source here, and I’m going to make an assortment of homemade salad dressings for the extended familyI’ll also whip up a batch of homemade Irish Cream (maybe I’ll post on it later?) for my husband’s godparents, and Buddy Boy and I are thinking about making dry soup mixes (dry beans, pasta, rice, peas, spices) in quart jars decorated with pretty fabric on the lids.  He saw the idea in a Highlights Magazine and wants to do it, and it’s right up my alley.  I need to make sure the soup tastes good though!  I’ve done cookie mixes this way, too, and they’re such a fun gift to give.

Homemade Salad Dressings En Masse

The hard parts about this salad dressing idea for gift-giving are:

  1. Finding cute but inexpensive bottles to put them in. If I have to spend $1 per bottle, I may as well just get store dressing, since the people I’m giving them to probably won’t reuse the bottles!  I’m hoping to find something at a hobby store tomorrow (fingers crossed!).
  2. Deciding who gets what kind of dressing!  The Asian Toasted Sesame is truly incredible, but it might not be for everyone.  Italian is boring, but safe.  I don’t know that I should bother with the creamy dressings, but we sure like them around here!

I make my dressings with EVOO, not because it’s less expensive than a storebought dressing (it’s not, even in bulk!), but because the nutrition is so very much better (healthy fats!).  Americans consume way too much soybean oil, the main component of many conventional salad dressings.  (Read up on polyunsaturated oils to learn why.)  Olive Oil has a lot of super health benefits, and for our family members who struggle with heart issues, I’m so pleased to be able to give them something healthy and tasty.

Here are my favorite dressings:

All the supplies needed to make a batch of all the dressings at once!

All the supplies needed to make a batch of all the dressings at once!

The key to success with making your own dressings, whether to share or for you own home, is to just get it over with and do it all at once.  Many ingredients cross over at least a few recipes.  I love when other bloggers take nice, organized photos of their ingredients.  That is not my life.  Do you love all the stuff out on my counter?  (This is the extent of the work space in my entire kitchen, by the way.  Lovely, yes?)

I start by whizzing all the garlic cloves needed in that little food processor and go from there, since crushing the garlic takes the longest.  I reuse the whisk and measuring cups/spoons to save on dishes, of course.  Once you get going it’s just a matter of opening and closing bottles like a mad woman and pouring things together.

Ah, all finished!  The balsamic vin. is in the mustard bottle - when it's almost empty, I just pour the vinegar in there and shake it up to get all the mustard off the sides, then complete the recipe in the bottle.

Ah, all finished! The balsamic vin. is in the mustard bottle - when it's almost empty, I just pour the vinegar in there and shake it up to get all the mustard off the sides, then complete the recipe in the bottle.

The Rest of my List

Other homemade gift ideas for young children:

  • Playdough Kits
  • Books on Tape/CD
  • Bathtime Fun Kits

View them all here:  Simple, Frugal Homemade Gifts for Kids

I’m also considering some eco-friendly gifts for people this year, as a way of passing along what I’ve been learning on my journey to better stewardship.  I often get Bath and Body Works anti-bacterial soap for Christmas from somebody.  I wonder if I will this year…  Does my family read my blog? :)

I’m looking at Soap nuts for ideas:  maybe the Soap Nut Natural Shampoo Bar (that’s on my own wish list, actually).  I was really pumped to see this big list of trial sizes in the last email.  I’m thinking stocking stuffers!  And I’m still excited for my other laundry soaps to run out so I can order the 32 oz. – 320 loads bag of soapnuts for myself! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Please read my soapnuts review of how I ran them through the wringer in my laundry room.

I’ll definitely use my Swagbucks for gifts for my family from Santa!  You’ve got to sign up if you haven’t already.

Note: I hope to finish and publish my produce washing experiment later today.  I had exciting results!

Disclosure:  Soapnuts and links are affiliates, which means I’ll get a little kickback if you purchase from them.  I really appreciate it if you do; it helps make my time at the computer more worthwhile!


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Kitchen Stewardship is dedicated to balancing God’s gifts of time, health, earth and money.  If you feel called to such a mission, read more at Mission, Method, and Mary and Martha Moments.

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17 Comments so far ↓

  • Phoebe @ Cents to GetDebt Free

    I love homemade dressings! Can’t wait to try yours!
    .-= Phoebe @ Cents to GetDebt Free´s last blog ..Packaging Ideas for Edible Gifts =-.

  • Handmade Gift Carnival

    [...] 10-Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship Healthy Homemade Salad Dressings and more (ideas for kids, too) [...]

  • Liz@HoosierHomemade

    I have never thought about making salad dressing as a gift. Great idea! Thanks for sharing!
    .-= Liz@HoosierHomemade´s last blog ..Holiday Food Fest ~ Banana Bread =-.

  • tonya

    i totally subscribe to the love languages. i’m a touch/quality time person & my boy is an acts of service/gift person.

  • Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet

    I love the idea of giving homemade dressing. Did you mention giving the recipe along with it? I think that would be lovely. :-)

    Thanks so much for being part of the carnival! You’re great. :-)
    .-= Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet´s last blog ..Handmade Gift Carnival =-.

  • Esther

    These are great ideas, thanks for posting them! What do you think about homemade mayonnaise? Are the better ingredients worth the risk of raw eggs?
    .-= Esther´s last blog ..Abundance =-.

    Katie Reply:

    I wouldn’t make homemade mayo or eat raw eggs using store eggs potentially from a factory farm…but farm-fresh, especially pasture raised eggs, are supposed to be totally safe to eat. There are lots of recipes, from power smoothies to Caesar dressing to mayo, that use raw eggs or egg yolks. If you’re really worried, there are directions out there to lightly pasteurize the egg somehow and still have it be runny like raw, but I’ve never taken that step. I feel really good that my mayo is EVOO and I know it’s totally healthy!
    Great question, thank you – Katie

  • Jen

    If you watch your local thrift stores I see the “salad dressing bottles from that wishbone *or whatever” kit” all the time. Should be able to snag a couple there. Also – I have been washing out my empty olive oil jars with the “little plastic stopper thing that helps it pour nice” and I’d been wondering what to use them for…….. this would be a fun idea.

    thanks for the idea!
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Breakfast Bags & Granola recipe =-.

    Katie Reply:


    Why didn’t I think of the thrift stores? Duh. Thanks for helping my poor little brain out. :) Katie

  • Holly

    I really prefer homemade dressing! Thanks for the recipes :)

  • Alta

    what a unique idea!
    .-= Alta´s last blog ..Kids in the Kitchen: Swordfish Souvlaki =-.

  • Brian

    Great idea to share something a little unique during the holidays. I always get sucked into making things loaded with fat and sugar during the holidays.
    .-= Brian´s last blog ..Gluten Free Almond Toffee =-.

    Katie Reply:


    Me too though – I just made my cookies list! :) Katie

  • Anne

    You just gave me a great idea – making vegan sauces and dressings as a homemade gift! Thank you!
    .-= Anne´s last blog ..Personalized gifts for kids =-.

  • Cranberry-Orange Granola — Life As Mom

    [...] Chip Cream Cheese Cupcakes!!} 17. Angie @ Many Little Blessings (Goodie Platter Gifts) 18. Kitchen Stewardship (Homemade Salad Dressings 100% EVOO) 19. Janel (Pizza Night Kit) 20. A Few Short Cuts ( Grandmas Waffle Cookies) 21. Tara @ Feels like [...]

  • marcy

    Do you have to make these dressings the day before gifting them? Or do you process them to make them shelf-stable? Or what?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Great question! It depends on the dressing in a way – the oil/vinegar only dressings are good at room temp for at least a month, so you can certainly make them somewhat in advance, not the very day before. Just put storage instructions and a “use by” date of about a month. People can also store these in the fridge for long term, many months I’m sure – they just solidify so need to be out for at least 15 minutes before pouring…but if someone was going to be away for a week or whatever, they might like that option.

    The dressings with egg yolk in them need to be refrigerated, but if you lacto-ferment with whey, they’ll last a very long time, too. You just have to either wrap right before they get opened or wrap a “look in the fridge” card or something.

    :) Katie

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.