Healthy Homemade Ketchup (finally!)

I think I’ve been working on a homemade ketchup recipe for about forty years. (I have actually not reached the age of forty yet, but I am rather fond of exaggerating and I feel like I’ve been experimenting with ketchup for like totally forever.)

It’s taken quite a bit of trial and error to find a recipe that we think tastes good. So many recipes just don’t quite taste ketchupy enough for me. This recipe I’ve finally settled on is one I found and adapted from Happy in Dole Valley. I’m happy to say that this is a very easy recipe to make. Tastes good…healthy…and easy. Yes, this is the kind of recipe I like to share with you.

During my experiments, one of the toughest challenges was to sweeten the ketchup in a way we liked. I didn’t want it too sweet, but it did need to be a little bit sweet – and not too tomato-ee. (I’d like to see the words ketchupy and tomato-ee become a part of the dictionary someday, wouldn’t you?)

I tried making ketchup with raw honey to sweeten it, and found that the taste was too strong. Regular ol’ sucanat (dehydrated cane sugar juice) is a little crunchy in this recipe, so I finally figured out a great way to sweeten our homemade ketchup:  Grind the sucanat in the blender like you’re making this healthier, unprocessed powdered sugar…then add it to your ketchup ingredients. Easy and perfect!

Healthy Homemade KetchupYum

Healthy Homemade Ketchup (finally!)
  • 7 ounces of tomato paste
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar (I used distilled coconut vinegar)
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon dry mustard
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • pinch of cloves
  • pinch of allspice
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅛ cup sucanat
  1. Whisk ingredients together until mixed well and smooth.

I’ve found that if you grind the sucanat in the blender to make it less “crunchy” it works better.

Make french fries, get them nice and crunchy, salt them well with sea salt and give me a call.

Defining “a pinch”: When a recipe calls for “a pinch” of something, I usually put in about 1/8 teaspoon – an amount you could “pinch” between your fingers if you were to reach into the spice jar and pull some out. I don’t really like putting my fingers in to pinch my spices. But you go right ahead if you want to.

The true test with our Homemade Ketchup Experiment:  Did the kids like it?

All of my kids love ketchup, but one particular son of mine eats ketchup on everything:  eggs, green beans, broccoli… He’s also my pickiest kid (which is why he eats ketchup to get his veggies down). I  hesitantly put this homemade ketchup on his plate with a nice helping of homemade fries. He ate it. He loved it. He said, “Is this the homemade ketchup?” and I said, “Yep” and he said, “Wow it’s really good!”

Score! We have a winner!

Homemade Ketchup Recipe

Now that I’ve conquered ketchup, I’ll move on to some of the other recipes on the Heavenly Homemakers Recipe Challenge list. I’ve gotta say, I’ve been working on mayonnaise and it is about to kill me. I can not get a homemade mayonnaise to thicken even a little bit and it’s beginning to make me mad. Those of you who make mayo…what in the world is the secret to getting the ingredients to actually thicken into mayo? Ketchup took me forever to figure out, and now the mayo.  I apparently have condiment issues.

Well anyway, what’s your favorite use for ketchup? Please tell me it isn’t green beans, like my son.

Homemade Onion Soup Mix (with No MSG!)

Save money and use real food ingredients when you make Onion Soup Mix!

So far in this Heavenly Homemakers Recipe Challenge, we’ve come up with recipes for Homemade Tator Tots, Healthier Chocolate Milk and Teriyaki Sauce. I attempted a recipe for corn tortillas and while they tasted pretty good…they were NOT easy to make, they fell apart and looked ugly. I’m going to keep working on that one until I come up with a corn tortilla recipe that doesn’t take the whole afternoon to make. :)

This new recipe in The Challenge was super easy to put together! Vicki, one of our readers, sent me an Onion Soup Mix recipe to try and WOW is it simple! I tweaked it a teeny tiny bit, but really, this recipe is more Vicki’s than mine.

What I love about this recipe is that I didn’t have to look high and low for the ingredients.  Many onion soup recipes I found call for some sort of bouillon. Almost always, bouillon has MSG. There are MSG free bouillon varieties out there, but what if they aren’t easily accessible to you? And so…I was very happy to see this recipe that contained just dried herbs and spices!


Onion Soup MixYum

Homemade Onion Soup Mix (with No MSG!)
  • ⅔ cup dried, minced onion
  • 3 teaspoons parsley flakes
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon sucanat (or sugar if you prefer)
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  1. Mix all ingredients in a jar, then give the jar a good shake.
  2. I'd recommend shaking the jar to mix the ingredients well before each use.
  3. Use 4 Tablespoons Onion Soup Mix in a recipe in place of 1 packet of onion soup mix.  (I actually found that 2 Tablespoons was plenty in a beef stew recipe I tried.)
  4. Store this in a dry, cool place.



I used the Onion Soup Mix in this simple, one dish stew and YUM!
I’ll be sharing the recipe eventually!

And with that…I have to ask:

SO many of you requested this recipe that I’m guessing you all must have tons of wonderful ways of using Onion Soup Mix? I would LOVE for you to share what you do with this mix!!! I have exactly two recipes that call for Onion Soup Mix . I’m so excited to use this mix in those recipes because I’ve not made them for years. But what else??? What do you make with Onion Soup Mix??

Homemade Teriyaki Sauce (No MSG or HFCS!)

Ever noticed how tough it is to find dressings and sauces that don’t have MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) and HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)? MSG, by the way, is a flavor enhancer that is made up of a bunch of chemicals I can’t pronounce and a bunch of scary stuff I don’t want to know about. You can read all the big words here.

I’ve been so excited each time I figure out how to make a new homemade salad dressing or condiment (see the whole list of healthier condiment recipes on our site)! Making your own condiments is not only much healthier, it’s often quite a bit cheaper too.  And, lo and behold, these items are easy to make.

Shall we now all take a moment and enjoy a collective sigh of wonderment? Yes indeed recipes that are healthy, cheap and easy. All at the same time.

The beauty of homemade condiments too is how delicious and flavorful they are…all by themselves. We do not need to add MSG and HFCS or BGNJ to make our food taste good.  (I made that last one up just for kicks and it was very fun.)

Well, apparently that was my little “rant” for the day. Try homemade condiments. They taste so good and pure.

And now for the Homemade Teriyaki Sauce recipe!

Teriyaki SauceYum

Homemade Teriyaki Sauce (No MSG or HFCS!)
  • ¼ cup tamari soy sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger or dry ground ginger (more or less to taste)
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 2 Tablespoons organic cornstarch
  • ¼ cup cold water
  1. Combine 1 cup water, soy sauce, honey, garlic and ginger in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  2. Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup cold water and add to sauce.
  3. Stir constantly and allow the sauce to thicken.
  4. If the sauce is too thick, add a little bit of water or soy sauce to thin.

(I use Organic Tamari Soy Sauce from OliveNation which is gluten and MSG free!) We LOVE this Teriyaki Sauce on chicken wings.

Homemade Teriyaki Sauce recipe

And with that, the Heavenly Homemakers Recipe Challenge continues. I’ve almost got another recipe ready to share. I’m not going to tell you what it is, but I will tell you that it starts with chocolate and ends with milk. Otherwise, I’m not giving any hints.

Homemade French Dressing

I figured out a French Dressing recipe that includes only real food ingredients and avoids high fructose corn syrup! It also means I can enjoy Taco Salad the way I used to – again without the high fructose corn syrup. Mmm, real food. I love revisiting my favorites and eating them in a healthier way!


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! It’s a blast from the past, only better.

Homemade French DressingYum

Homemade French Dressing
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • 2 Tablespoons sucanat (you can substitute brown sugar if you want)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 Tablespoon ground celery seed
  1. Put all ingredients directly into a pint sized jar.
  2. Put the lid on and shake it well.
  3. Refrigerate.

I recommend Muir Glen Organic ketchup because guess what? It doesn’t include high fructose corn syrup.

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. ;)

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 MixYum

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix
  • ½ cup chili powder
  • ¼ cup onion powder
  • ⅛ cup ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  1. 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?!”


Recipes that use Taco Seasoning Mix

As you can see, having this seasoning mix on hand is super helpful. Just grab it, shake it, and stir it into whatever you are cooking. Love it!

Holiday Help: How to Make Turkey Gravy

Turkey Gravy is easy when you follow these steps!

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 GravyYum

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.

How to Make Sweet Pickle Relish (the healthier way)

Your family will be so excited that I am giving you this sweet pickle relish 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 used organic sucanat (dehydrated cane sugar juice) instead of regular sugar and it is plenty sweet enough for our taste!

Homemade Sweet Pickle Relish Recipe

Sweet Pickle RelishYum

How to Make Sweet Pickle Relish (the healthier way)
  • 8 medium sized cucumbers
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 sweet green peppers
  • 1 sweet red pepper
  • ⅓ cup sea salt
  • 3 cups rapadura or sucanat
  • 3 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T. whole celery seed
  • 2 T. whole mustard seed
  1. Begin by slicing the cucumbers, peppers and onions.
  2. Chop the vegetables into tiny pieces. I find that putting them into my food processor works best for this.
  3. Pour the chopped veggies into a large bowl.
  4. Cover them with water and let them soak for about two hours (longer won't hurt).
  5. Pour the soaked veggies through a strainer until all the water is drained out.
  6. Pour strained veggies into a bowl and add remaining ingredients.
  7. Stir well.
  8. Pour contents of bowl into a large pot.
  9. Bring to a boil.
  10. 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.)
  11. Following these hot water bath canning methods, process the pickle relish for 10 minutes (from start of boiling).

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!

High Five Recipes: Homemade Barbeque Sauce

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

High Five Recipes 2

Homemade Barbecue SauceYum

High Five Recipes: Homemade Barbeque Sauce
  • ¾ cup ketchup (I use an organic, no high fructose corn syrup variety)
  • 2 Tablespoon minced onion
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 Tablespoon molasses, honey or sucanat (optional)
  1. Mix ingredients in a small sauce pan.
  2. Simmer for a few minutes until flavors are blended.

As for the ketchup, I use an organic, no high fructose corn syrup variety. Muir Glen is my favorite.

I mix this Barbecue Sauce 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. It’s the easiest main dish ever! Get the details on my Crock Pot Barbecue Chicken Breasts here. It’s also fantastic on Grilled Barbecue Chicken.

Or, sometimes I add it to leftover roast beef for BBQ beef sandwiches. Even more fun? Make your BBQ Beef into Barbecue Beef and Cheese Hot Pockets. They are freezable so you can make them ahead and pull them out as needed.

So let’s review.

Recipes that use Homemade Barbecue Sauce

What all do you put barbecue sauce on?

Easy Homemade Barbecue Sauce

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.

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

Learn to make Homemade Vanilla Extract!

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…

What You Need to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract

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.)
50-80 Vanilla Beans (You’ll need about 1/2 – 3/4 pound) – 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 four-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 30-40 Vanilla Beans (enter code home for a 10% discount!)
  • 1 quart of vanilla…use one quart of vodka and 15-20 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.

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 dressing recipes. I’m excited to share my recipes for Italian Salad Dressing and Thousand Island Dressing!

What makes these salad dressing recipes better?

  • These use real food ingredients – choose to use healthy oils and other ingredients you feel good about feeding your family. I use olive oil for these.
  • These save money – they cost much less than buying them pre-made! The price of Italian Dressing Mix can add up!
  • You can make Italian Dressing Mix ahead of time so all you have to do when you need dressing is mix it up!

Italian Dressing MixYum

More Healthy Salad Dressing Recipes! Italian and Thousand Island
  • 1½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried celery flakes
  1. Shake ingredients together and store in a jar.
  2. To make Italian salad dressing: Mix 2 Tablespoons dry mix with ¼ cup vinegar (I prefer red wine vinegar), 2 teaspoons water and ½ cup olive oil.

Homemade Italian Salad Dressing

Besides salad dressing, use the Italian Dressing Mix to make:

Use Italian Dressing to marinate chicken for the best grilled chicken!!

And now for another of our favorite salad dressing recipes:

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?

I’m determined to come up with Caesar and Blue Cheese. But my attempts at these so far are not share worthy!