Homemade French Dressing


Back in the day when I didn’t know what high fructose corn syrup was or understand that it was bad for us…I used to make a killer taco salad with Catalina Salad Dressing. Man that stuff tasted good!

I’d mix up a big bowl of lettuce, taco seasoned meat, shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, chili beans, crunched up tortilla chips…and toss it all with Catalina. Such a perfect summer supper (or dinner, or whatever).

After a little experimenting, I came up with a yummy homemade french salad dressing that tastes even better than the store bought ever tasted! It’s so easy to put together, it’s inexpensive to make and it tastes wonderful in my taco salad!

Homemade French Dressing

3/4 cup ketchup (I recommend Muir Glen Organic ketchup)
2 Tablespoons sucanat (you can substitute brown sugar if you want)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 Tablespoon ground celery seed

Put all ingredients directly into a pint sized jar. Put the lid on and shake it well. Refrigerate.

Easy Taco Salad with homemade French Dressing

Remember that you can also find recipes for homemade Ranch Salad DressingItalian Salad Dressing and Thousand Island Salad Dressing in the Condiments Page of my recipe section!

And also…if that’s just too much salad for ya…you can find a recipe for Chocolate Caramel Truffles on the Desserts Page. I’m always willing to accommodate. ;)

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Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

Save money by making your own taco seasoning mix. It is SO easy! And healthy!  And you can put it in a jar (my favorite part)! Actually, even if you don’t have a jar obsession like I do, I recommend putting this mix in a jar as the flavors are strong and will absorb into a plastic container, or mingle with other items it may be sitting beside in your pantry.

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

1/2 cup chili powder
1/4 cup onion powder
1/8 cup ground cumin
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 Tablespoon sea salt

Put all ingredients into a jar and shake!

Um, after you put a lid on…then shake. The jar. Shake the jar. With the lid securely on the jar.

Taco Seasoing Mix

Three Tablespoons of Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix is equal to one 4-ounce package of taco seasoning mix. I would recommend adding 3 Tablespoons of mix to one pound of browned ground meat for tacos.

I would also recommend shaking again before each use to make sure the spices are well distributed throughout the mix.

The jar. Shake the jar. You can shake all you want, but if you don’t shake the jar, your spices won’t be distributed evenly.

Just wanted to be sure I made the instructions clear in regard to the shaking.

Great. I can see it now. Husbands everywhere will walk into the kitchen and see their wives shaking (boogie down).

He will look questioningly at his wife, smile and say,

“Taco night again?!”

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Holiday Help: How to Make Turkey Gravy

How to Make Turkey Gravy

I think gravy is my family’s favorite part of the holiday meal. “You want any potatoes with that gravy?!”

I know some people are intimidated by making gravy…afraid to make it lumpy and all that. (And then there are people who like lumps in their gravy. “What are these delicious lumps you put in your gravy?”)

Here’s the easiest way I’ve found to make turkey (or chicken or beef) broth gravy:

Easy Turkey Gravy

You will need:

Step One: Pour broth into a medium saucepan.


Step Two: Spoon arrowroot powder (or cornstarch or flour) into a small jar or glass.
(Surprise, surprise…I use  a jar.)


Step Three: Add water to arrowroot powder and whisk smooth with a fork.


Step Four: Bring broth to a boil  (Try saying “bring broth to a boil” five times fast.)


Step Five: Slowly pour arrowroot powder (or cornstarch, or flour)/water mixture into boiling broth, stirring while you pour. (I usually make gravy with a whisk. On picture taking day, I used a wooden spoon. Either one works, but a whisk usually helps in case lumps want to form.


Step Six: Stir at medium to high heat until gravy thickens.
Turn down the heat and allow the gravy to simmer for a minute or two.
Salt to taste and serve your gravy.


Trouble Shooting:

  • If gravy refuses to thicken, stir in tiny bits of arrowroot powder (or cornstarch, or flour)/water mixture until it is thick enough for your liking.
  • If gravy is too thick, stir tiny bits of water or milk to thin it out.
  • If gravy doesn’t have enough lumps for your liking, add sprinkles of arrowroot powder or flour and just try to stir them in. They won’t stir in no matter what you try, thus causing lumps.
  • If conversation around the Thanksgiving Table is lagging…challenge your guests to say “Bring Broth to a Boil” five times fast. That’s sure to liven up any party.
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How to Make Sweet Pickle Relish (the healthier way)

Your family will be so excited that I am giving you this recipe. Yes, the very strong smell of onions, cucumbers and vinegar cooking on your stove will bring them to tears and make them beg for a spoonful. (Or rather they will be like my boys and come downstairs with a disgusted look on their faces while holding their noses asking WHAT in the world you are making.)

Don’t worry…the smell in your kitchen goes away. Eventually. And then you are left with several jars of sweet pickle relish…enough to last you quite a while. (This recipe makes more than a year’s supply for our family. We don’t tend to go through pickle relish very quickly, but I really like having it on hand.)

If you have a few extra cucumbers and enjoy adding sweet pickle relish to your tuna salad, etc…you’ll like this healthier version. I cut the sugar in half compared to the other recipes I found..plus used organic sucanat (dehydrated cane sugar juice) instead of regular sugar and it is plenty sweet enough for our taste!

Sweet Pickle Relish

8 medium sized cucumbers
2 large onions
2 sweet green peppers
1 sweet red pepper 
1/3 cup sea salt
3 cups rapadura or sucanat
3 cups apple cider vinegar
2 T. whole celery seed
2 T. whole mustard seed

Begin by slicing the cucumbers, peppers and onions.

Chop the vegetables into tiny pieces. 
I find that putting them into my food processor works best for this.

Pour the chopped veggies into a large bowl. 
Cover them with water and let them soak for about two hours (longer won’t hurt).

Pour the soaked veggies through a strainer until all the water is drained out.

Pour strained veggies into a bowl and add remaining ingredients.

Stir well.

Pour contents of bowl into a large pot. Bring to a boil.

Simmer relish for ten minutes, then transfer it into pint sized jars. (I was able to make six full pints, with a little bit leftover.)

Following these hot water bath canning methods,
process the pickle relish for 10 minutes (from start of boiling).

Six beautiful jars of pickle relish all ready to go!

You’ll find more preserving help and tutorials in my Gardening and Preserving ebook!

The cost for this relish was very low, as the cucumbers were given to me for free and the other veggies came from my garden. The added ingredients were low cost as it all divided into SIX jars of pickle relish! Each jar only cost a few cents. I LOVE gardening season!

This post is linked to Frugal Fridays.


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High Five Recipes: Homemade Barbeque Sauce

High Five Recipes 2

I’ve had several requests for my homemade BBQ sauce recipe. Turns out…it’s a high five recipe! Doesn’t get much easier than that!

Homemade BBQ Sauce

3/4 cup ketchup (I use an organic, no high fructose corn syrup variety)
2 Tablespoon minced onion
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 Tablespoon molasses, honey or sucanat (optional)

Mix ingredients in a small sauce pan. Simmer for a few minutes until flavors are blended.

I mix this up as a dip for our meatballs or popcorn chicken…YUM!


Sometimes I put a few pieces of chicken into the crock pot, dump the sauce over the top, and let it cook slowly for a few hours. Easiest main dish ever!

Or, sometimes I add it to leftover roast beef for BBQ beef sandwiches.

What all do you put BBQ sauce on?

Oh, and by the way – I really have no idea what “liquid smoke” is. I’m assuming that it isn’t the healthiest ingredient in the world. BUT…it makes for a yummy, easy BBQ sauce. This version is MUCH healthier than the HFCS versions I could buy at the store.

If I ever figure out how to turn smoke into a liquid and put it into a bottle all by myself, you’ll be the first to know.

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Making Homemade Vanilla Extract (aka…Why Laura Bought a Gallon of Vodka)

How To Make Vanilla Extract

Yes indeed. The four boys and I went into Walmart a few days ago for the sole purpose of buying vodka. A gallon of it.

I felt the need to tell the check out lady why I was buying an entire gallon of vodka. She just looked at me like I was a lunatic and shrugged as if to say, “Hey, do whatever you want to with your vodka, girl.”

And then she wouldn’t let Justus carry it out of the store. You know…just in case I was buying the vodka for my nine year old minor.

It made for some good discussion on the way home:  what drinking alcohol can do to your brain…why the lady had to make sure I was over 21 to buy it…why it’s okay to carry a watermelon out of Walmart when you’re nine but not a couple jugs of vodka.

All that to say:  I just started my very first batch of homemade vanilla!!! I’m super excited.  My friend Jill sent me a beautiful bottle of her homemade vanilla a couple of weeks ago and it’s fabulous!!! (I guess you could say that I was pressured by a friend into buying alcohol. “Go ahead Laura…make your own vanilla. Everyone’s doing it.”)

Now that I’m hooked on the idea…I thought I’d try to influence you too…

You will need:

A gallon jar
One gallon of Vodka (the cheap stuff is fine) (To keep you from standing in the liquor section too long to calculate this…2 bottles of 1.75 liters each will be the exact amount you need to make a gallon of vanilla.)
80 Vanilla Beans (You’ll need about 3/4 pound to have 80 beans) – enter code home for a 10% discount on Vanilla Beans through Olive Nation!!
Kitchen shears



Begin by slicing through each bean lengthwise, leaving about one inch at the top of each bean uncut so that it stays together.



See? Like this…



Place all of your cut Vanilla Beans into your jar.

Fill the jar with vodka. (I took the following picture with my left hand while pouring the vodka with my right hand. This proves that apparently…I can really handle my liquor.)


Once the jar is full with beans and vodka, put the lid on…then put the jar in a dark place (like in the back of a cabinet). It needs to stay there for FOUR to SIX MONTHS in order to become vanilla extract! Occasionally, you should get it out and shake it up a bit, then put it back into it’s dark place.


Here’s the cool thing:  If you start a batch of vanilla really soon…it will be ready in time to put into little bottles and give as Christmas gifts.  (Family members reading this…you have exactly six months to forget all about this post and be surprised on Christmas morning.)  If you don’t get it started right this minute…from what I’ve researched…a little less than six months of “vanilla extracting” time won’t hurt anything.

To complete your vanilla once six months have passed:  strain out your vanilla beans with a coffee filter lined colander and tada…you have vanilla extract! Bottle it up in dark amber bottles – give it as gifts and start cooking with it yourself!! Yum!

AND…if you don’t want to make a whole gallon of vanilla…you can make a lesser amount:

  • 1/2 gallon of vanilla….use 1/2 gallon of vodka (1.75 liters) and 40 Vanilla Beans (enter code home for a 10% discount!)
  • 1 quart of vanilla…use one quart of vodka and 20 Vanilla Beans (enter code home for a 10% discount!)

Well…I know I’ve influenced many of you to eat healthier and plant potatoes in a container. Is it now possible that several of you are going to run out to buy liquor? Tell the clerk the Heavenly Homemaker sent you.

Read details on where to purchase small vanilla bottles here. Also, you can read this post to learn how to finish and strain your vanilla after 4-6 months.


I recommend that you purchase your Vanilla Beans through Olive Nation!! You’ll receive FREE SHIPPING and if you enter the code home you’ll receive 10% off your entire order!!!! (The free shipping applies to vanilla bean purchases only!) I bought my most recent batch of vanilla beans through Olive Nation and was VERY happy with their prices, promptness and quality of vanilla beans. Plus free shipping and a 10% discount? It can’t be beat! Thank you Olive Nation for offering HeavenlyHomemakers readers free shipping and a special 10% discount!


You can purchase dark amber bottles here.



Here’s where I ordered my labels for vanilla bottles. ;)

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More Healthy Salad Dressing Recipes! Italian and Thousand Island

After sharing the Ranch Dressing Mix recipe, several of you asked for different varieties of healthy salad dressings. Here you go!

Italian Dressing Mix

1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoon oregano
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried celery flakes

Shake ingredients together and store in a jar. (It doesn’t really have to be a jar…I just really love my jars…)

To make Italian salad dressing: Mix 2 Tablespoons dry mix with 1/4 cup vinegar (I prefer red wine vinegar), 2 teaspoons water and 1/2 cup olive oil.

Homemade Italian Salad Dressing

You can also use this dry mix (2-4 Tablespoons) to make Italian Roast Wraps!

Thousand Island Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise ( I use Hain Safflower)
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup pickle relish
1 Tablespoon minced onion
1 hard boiled egg, chopped (optional)

Mix ingredients, cover and chill.

Homemade Thousand Island Salad Dressing

So…what’s your favorite kind of salad dressing? (mine’s ranch)  Have I come up with enough healthier dressings (aka dressings with NO high fructose corn syrup or MSG) to tickle your fancy…or should I keep playing?

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How To Make Sunbutter

I just wanted to share some quick tips about making sunbutter. I mentioned that I would experiment with it after learning to make peanut butter. I’ve been experimenting with it…and have come to a conclusion:

It is not as easy to make as the peanut butter is. :)

Using raw sunflower seeds I tried to make sunbutter  just like I had made the peanut butter. Except that I processed it and processed it, and it never turned creamy. It became kind of mealy…and stayed that way. 


I added a few drops of olive oil and processed some more. No change.

I finally gave up. Sort of. I mean…I was determined to figure this thing out because Malachi won’t eat peanut butter (long story). And sunbutter is pricey.

So…I took the mealy sunbutter…and made it into mudballs because that’s one of Malachi’s favorite snacks. I just substitute the peanut butter for sunbutter. Ah-hah! Even though the sunbutter started out mealy…the mudballs came out perfectly! Score!


At least I know that the mealy sunbutter works when you mix it into other recipes!

Then…I added a bit of honey to the rest of the mealy sunbutter and put it into a jar and then into the fridge. The honey didn’t make it smooth and creamy, but it did make it less dry. I think it will work great to spread on toast or a tortilla.


By the way, I did a Swagbuck search and discovered that 1) There aren’t many ideas out there for making sunbutter and 2) Anyone else who tried to make sunbutter ended up with mealy sunbutter. It’s good to know that I’m normal. (At least in the area of making sunbutter.)

Do any of you have any experience making sunbutter or other nut butters? 

This post is linked to Kitchen Tip Tuesdays.

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Healthy Homemade Salad Dressing Ideas

Lookie what’s growing in my garden! Those cute little lettuce leaves will soon be cute big lettuce leaves. I can’t wait!


I don’t actually have an exciting salad recipe for you. I’m not terribly creative like that. My salad recipes almost always look something like:

  1. Wash and tear up a bunch of lettuce or spinach and put it in a bowl.
  2. Add whatever other raw veggies you have.
  3. If you’re feeling especially crazy, throw in some dried cranberries or raisins.
  4. If you want your salad to be your main dish, add some chicken, cheese and hard boiled egg.
  5. Grab a fork.

This is why I’m so excited about the above carnivals. However, I do have a fun idea for a salad dressing that I discovered one day when I was dinking around in the kitchen. Are you ready? It’s a novel idea.

Orange juice.  The juice from an orange. Fresh squeezed orange juicy goodness.

It’s refreshingly simple. And yummy. And it contains no high fructose corn syrup or MSG.


Now that I’ve shared that enlightening salad tid-bit, I’m very excited to share another healthy salad dressing idea!

Rhonda sent me a wonderful Ranch Dressing Mix recipe!! I used to use Simply Organic brand because I trust it more than other brands. But now, thanks to Rhonda, I can make a super healthy (and much, much less expensive) Ranch Dressing any time I need to!

Ranch Dressing Mix

5 Tablespoons dried minced onions
7 teaspoon parsley flakes
4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix together and store in an air tight container.

For dressing: Mix 2 Tablespoons dry mix with 1 cup mayonnaise (I use Hain Safflower mayo) and 1 cup buttermilk or sour cream. (I use buttermilk.)

For dip:  Mix 2 Tablespoons dry mix with 2 cups sour cream or kreme fresh.

Mix up a few hours before serving, so the flavors all blend nicely.

Ranch Dressing and Dip Mix
The jar on the right is the mix, which costs pennies compared to a packaged mix! The jar on the left is the ranch dressing all made up and ready to go on our salad.

You HAVE to try this dressing! It tastes so…so real. And fresh. And pure. It’s delicious, simple and healthy! Obviously, you eat it on lettuce and other veggies – so that gives you wonderful, healthy…healthiness. (And of course, great servings of more fruits and veggies!)

Rhonda even suggested using this ranch dressing mix in my Ranch Potato Wedges recipe. It works GREAT!

I shall never buy another ranch dressing packet again. Rhonda – you rock!

And try squeezing an orange onto your salad sometime! See what you think! (Ever tried it before?) 

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How to Make Peanut Butter

I just learned last week how to make peanut butter.

Here is what I must now ask myself…


I make almost everything else from scratch. But somehow making peanut butter sounded hard to me. I guess I thought I’d have to crush each individual peanut for three hours with my fingernails until it turned soft and creamy. I’d just never looked into it before. Finally I watched a tutorial here.

Um, hello Laura! It takes about a minute and a half! And you don’t even break a sweat (or a fingernail). Now, I’m totally addicted to making peanut butter. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever made.

After I made it, we ate it on pancakes and it was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. I loved it!!! All of us loved it! (Except Malachi who doesn’t love peanut butter at all.)

Here’s how to make it:

Pour about 2 cups of dry roasted peanuts into your food processor and begin to chop.

After about thirty seconds the nuts will all be crumbled up like this.

Keep going with the food processor…

Here’s what it looks like after about one minute.

And after about a minute and a half, it starts to become butter-like and rolls itself into a ball. Continue processing until your peanut butter reaches desired consistency.

Tada…peanut butter!

Stir some honey into your peanut butter if you think your family would like it better that way.

NOW, I’m going to experiment making other nut butters and sunbutter (which is butter made from sunflower seeds if you aren’t familiar with that one).

The math: The way I figured it, making my own peanut butter did save me money, but not oodles of it like I was hoping for. However, because of the fresh taste of this peanut butter…and the fact that making it was as easy as using my thumb to push a button – I’m hooked!

Grab the family and try this! Then pour yourself a glass of milk and enjoy your hard work. (I love hard work that isn’t hard…)

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