Homemade salad dressing is something I'm surprised I haven't seen more about in all of the frugality/parenting/yummy food blogs I follow. I don't see how you can beat it: it's quick, easy, yummy, full of ingredients whose names are real food items, and, I would imagine, frugal, since it includes small bits of things you probably already have in your pantry.

I haven't always sung the praises of homemade salad dressing. Growing up, we never had dressing from a bottle. We always used this oozy brown stuff out of a jar that you had to shake a lot before you poured it on the salad. It sometimes sat on the counter on top of a paper towel marked with a ring of brown drip. I never knew from whence it came. I coveted dressing from a bottle: the colors! the flavor options! the squeezy ability! When we started traveling a lot for swim meets, we would often eat at Olive Garden, because when you're in Laurel or Cleveland or Meridian, Mississippi, you can't be too choosy. I fell in love with Italian dressing, and every once in awhile my darling daddy would spoil me with a bottle of Wishbone that made me think I was queen of the world. My parents would eat salad drenched in the oozy brown stuff out of a big bowl, which they would put on their plates TOUCHING all the rest of their food, while I would have my salad drizzled with bottled goodness in a SEPARATE bowl to protect my taste buds from the horrors of touching food.

Oh, what a different story I sing now.

First of all, have you seen how expensive bottled dressing is? My inner coupon-clipping goddess cringes when she stands in front of the salad dressing aisle, calculating cost per ounce and comparing ingredients. And inevitably, all of the fancy ones that sound good to me and might be moderately better for you are, of course, the most expensive. Perhaps frugality bloggers pay better attention to coupons and sales to stock up on dressing, but I seem to only ever find myself seeking to buy it when I need it THAT NIGHT, so frugality loses out.

Secondly, the calorie count in salad dressings is ridiculous. I'm not a crazy calorie counter, and I love the occasional bowl of baby carrots with some good ole ranch dressing as much as the next girl, but when I think too much about it I simply can't give in to dressing my salad with it.

I often found myself buying the "lite" balsamic vinaigrette dressing, which I ultimately realized was exactly what the oozy brown stuff I grew up with was.

So, that said, I finally admitted to my mom last fall that I wanted to start making my own salad dressing. She gave me a cute little mason jar that was once labeled lime juice, and I have adopted it as my salad dressing mixer of choice. Don't let As Seen on TV Ads convince you that you need a fancy shaker to make salad dressing. And she gave me a recipe that looks a little something like this:
3/4 cup or parts olive oil

1/4 cup or parts wine vinegar (or I use balsamic)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 clove garlic smashed to mush (these are technical terms) in 1/2 tablespoon salt
pepper to taste
The first time I made it, I followed the measurements to a T. At Christmas, my mom gifted me with a garlic press after watching me patiently mash garlic into a pile of salt to make the called-for paste. But since then, I've taken to winging it. Sometimes, I just chop the garlic up and throw in the little bits, skipping the mashing all together. I've also gotten loose with the measurements. Last night I made some and I poured some amount of olive oil, some slightly smaller amount of balsamic vinegar, and some even smaller amount of spicy brown mustard into the erroneously labeled lime juice jar, though I did mash the garlic and salt this time. (With a fork. I've actually decided the fork method works really well, though the garlic press is useful other times, too.) I've also taken to adding a squeeze of honey to cut the bite of the vinegar. I've decided that the tiny bit of salt is essential, whether mashed with the garlic or not. Whatever I do, I just always make sure to dip a pinkie in and demurely taste the dressing before I dump it on my salad.</p>

Since it only takes a tiny bit to dress two salads, even when I only make a fraction of a jarful of this it lasts us awhile. If left in the refrigerator, the olive oil tends to harden, so just make sure you take it out a bit before you want to use it to let it re-liquify at room temperature. We have three partial bottles of store-bought dressing languishing in the fridge (hmm, I wonder how many of those are expired?), but this is so quick and easy I have no intentions of going back to them.

And you know what? Every bite of salad with this dressing tastes a little bit like home.</div>

Laura Lindeman

Laura Lindeman