Simple Homemade Gifts: Healthy Salad Dressings and More

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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 family. I’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!

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17 Bites of Conversation So Far

    • Katie says

      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

  1. says

    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 Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship says

      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

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