Tag Archives: homemade

Amazin’ Asian sauce: stir-fry, broth bowl, & egg roll in a bowl

homemade stir-fry sauce, crack slaw

This started out just being a homemade stir-fry sauce, but I’ve found that the leftover stir-fry makes a great broth bowl (curry optional), and the sauce also works for egg roll in a bowl. (Sometimes also called “crack slaw” because it’s so addictive.) So it’s really an all-purpose Asian sauce: that’s what makes it amazin’!

You could, of course, also use it in a meatless main dish or veggie side dish. And made with tamari or coconut aminos, it’s gluten-free.

You might want to make a small batch, first, to figure out how you want to adapt it to your taste; feel free to improvise on my recipe! Then make a larger batch to keep on hand in the fridge for easy, throw-together meals.

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Quick, easy, homemade sausage: brat, breakfast, or nightshade-free

easy homemade sausage

Homemade sausage may sound daunting, but it’s really amazingly simple! To make bulk or fresh sausage (as opposed to link or smoked sausage), you just buy ground pork, chicken, or turkey, add some spices, herbs, and maybe a little something else; mix it all together, let it chill for a while, and then freeze or cook it. It ain’t rocket science!

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Dairy-free Ranch Dressing (Dump Ranch)

Dairy-free Ranch dressing - dump ranch

If you’re not avoiding dairy, my Buttermilk Ranch Dressing recipe is a delicious option. If, however, you have a milk allergy, living the Paleo diet, or doing a Whole30, this Dairy-free Ranch Dressing is a fantastic alternative. And in fact, I think I might just like it better than the traditional recipe!

This was inspired by and is a slight variation on what the blogging duo Whole Sisters call “Dump Ranch.” As in, you just dump it all in a blender and mix!

Made with the lesser amount of coconut milk, it makes an addictive veggie dip…

veggie tray with dairy-free ranch dressing


I’ve added it to one of my variations on tuna salad

tuna salad with ranch dressing


It’s also great drizzled over fresh summer tomatoes, sprinkled with bacon!



And schmeared on a burger!

burger with ranch dressing


I don’t have a pic but it’s aMAZing drizzled over hot broccoli! It melts quickly, blending the flavors into every tiny crevice. Yum!

I’m sure it’ll be great on salad, too; just haven’t got to that yet!

Here’s my spin on it…

Dairy-free Ranch Dressing or Dip

(aka, “Dump Ranch”)

• 1 & 1/4 c. mayonnaise

— (OR 1 c. light olive oil, 1 egg, 1 T. lemon juice and 1/4 t. salt)

• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or other light-colored vinegar)

• 1 teaspoon black pepper

• 1 teaspoon granulated onion or onion powder

• 3/4 teaspoon salt

• 3/4 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder

• 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk, or other milk of your choice (1/4 c. for dip)

• 1 handful fresh or frozen parsley, coarsely chopped

• from 1 pinch up to 1/8 t.  dill, fresh or dried (adjust according to your love for dill)

• optional: snipped fresh chives and or fresh basil to taste


Note: Do NOT use less vinegar. I tried that once, and the mixture did not emulsify.

If you have a stick blender / immersion blender, just blend everything together in the carafe till well mixed. (Chop the basil coarsely before adding. I use one large leaf.)

I use this stick blender and the carafe that came with it, and this works great. I don’t bother to bring the egg to room temperature.

If you don’t have a blender, use already-made mayo, mince the herbs fine, then just whisk everything till well blended.

Refrigerate for one hour at least, if possible. Four is better. Taste, and adjust seasonings if needed.

Makes about 16 oz of dressing, or 14 oz of dip. Lasts in fridge up to one week. (But it’ll probably be long gone before then!)

(Stick blender link goes to my Amazon store; I get 4% – which doesn’t affect your price at all. I only list products that I actually use and love.)

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Dairy-free Ranch dressing - dump ranch


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30-minute marinara: 6 ingredients; sugar-free

paleo sugar-free make-ahead marinara recipe

I found this make-ahead marinara sauce recipe in a Good Housekeeping magazine in 2009, and it’s been my go-to pasta/spaghetti/pizza/whatever sauce ever since!

Do you know what’s in your store-bought marinara sauce? Here’s the ingredient list for Ragu:

Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Vegetable Oil (Contains One Or More Of The Following: Soybean Oil, Corn Oil), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Dried Onions, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Romano Cheese (Cow’s Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Spices, Natural Flavor.

I like making my own, so I know there’s no sugar, corn syrup, or bad oils in it, but I love how easy this recipe is to whip up! I double the original recipe, and keep the extra in the freezer. Because there’s no shortage of what you can pair with marinara…

paleo meatballs, marinara, roasted cauliflower
Paleo meatballs with marinara over zucchini noodles, with a side of Italian cauliflower

Things to do with marinara sauce:

  • Of course, the classic: Serve it with meatballs or browned beef, and pasta or zucchini/squash noodles.
  • Use it as a basic pizza sauce.
  • Dollop some heated marinara over cooked green beans or zucchini. Optional: add a little grated Parm on top. Yum! You might get veggi-phobes to like this one!
  • Delicious on salmon, too.
  • Top a grilled chicken breast with some marinara and a slice of mozzarella cheese, and heat till the cheese melts.
  • Brown some crumbled sausage, then add marinara and heat through. Toss with some cooked store-bought tortillini. Optional: add chopped spinach.
  • Add it to a soup of broth and vegetables — adding meatballs, sausage, or chicken is optional — and you’ve got something close to minestrone.
  • Italian tomato butter: Blend 1 stick softened butter and 1/4 cup marinara sauce; refrigerate till solid, and let it melt over hot vegetables, fish, or grilled chicken.
  • Pasta alla vodka: just add cream and vodka for this classic Italian sauce. Simmer 1/2 cup heavy cream and 3 cups marinara sauce in a skillet for 3 – 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons vodka. Optional: cook a few minutes to burn off some of the alcohol. Toss with cooked pasta. Shrimp or lobster is a nice add-in, too.
  • PALEO pasta alla vodka: Yep! No cream, no vodka, no pasta — still tastes great! Recipe here.

This sauce tastes best if you can get fresh basil, but if you can’t, just substitute two or three tablespoons of basil pesto.

And if you make it without pesto (because of the cheese), this is Paleo friendly and Whole30 compliant! And perfect for anyone who’s trying to go sugar-free.

(Oh, by the way… I’m not including the salt and pepper in the “6-ingredient” count, because: 1) everybody’s got S & P, 2) they take no effort, and 3) they go in everything, right?!)


Make-ahead marinara sauce recipe

2 T. olive oil

2 small or 1 large onion(s), chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1  5.5 or 6 oz. can tomato paste

2  28-oz. cans tomatoes: crushed or sauce, depending on desired texture

2/3 c. loosely-packed fresh basil, chopped

1/2 to 1 t. salt

1/2 t. black pepper – freshly ground, if possible


  1. In a 4-1/2 quart sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and saute the onions till soft and just starting to brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  2. Stir in garlic and tomato paste and cook one minute; add tomatoes. If you want a really smooth sauce, use tomato sauce. If you want a sauce with a little more body, use crushed. If you want a chunky sauce, use whole tomatoes and break them up with a spoon as they cook. Or use a combination. (See my comparison of two brands of organic crushed tomatoes at the end of this post.)
  3. Turn up the heat and cook till the mixture boils, then turn the heat back down to medium/medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in the basil and minimum salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

That’s it! How easy is that?!

 Tips for freezing marinara

If not using immediately, transfer to container(s) and refrigerate or freeze. Here are some tips on the freezing process…

I like to divide the batch into one-cup units, but that’s for a household of two. For a bigger family, you might want to go with two-cup or larger containers. I pour it into individual plastic containers then put those on a cookie sheet and get it as level as possible in the freezer, so the frozen sauce will be an even thickness.


Then once they’re frozen, I pop them out of the plastic containers and into sandwich-size baggies, then seal those and put them in a gallon baggies. This takes up less space than the hard containers. Putting it in the larger baggie makes it easier to keep them all together in the freezer (easier to find and make sure no one is left behind), plus it’s an extra layer of protection in the freezer. I label the large bag so I don’t end up wondering later if that’s marinara or chili.



Another tip: I’ve found that 17.6 oz. Fage yogurt containers create frozen disks that fit perfectly into these 2-cup glass storage bowls when it comes time to thaw the sauce. (link goes to my Amazon store)

freezing marinara sauce: the containers

It keeps well in the freezer and reheats beautifully! It may separate while thawing, but just stir it together and it’ll be good as fresh.

To thaw, you can use the microwave, or set it in the fridge for several hours, or just heat it slowly at first in a sauce pan, then break it up and turn up the heat as it begins to thaw.

You are gonna love this sauce! It tastes really fresh and light, and knowing it’s completely free of sugar, corn syrup — better yet!

Comparison of Simple Truth Organic and Muir Glen Organic crushed tomatoes

I used a combination of two brands of crushed tomatoes, so I could test them against one another, at least before they went in the sauce.


On the left, Dillons/Kroger organic store brand; on the right, Muir Glen organic. You can see the second has a little chunkier texture and a slightly redder color, both of which I like. It tasted a little better, but that wasn’t really a fair fight: the store brand was plain and no salt added; the Muir Glen had salt and other seasonings. I would use either one again.

Don’t lose this recipe: Pin it!

paleo sugar-free make-ahead marinara recipe

Foolproof, easy, 4-ingredient mayo

homemade mayonnaise: paleo/whole30 mayo ingredients
I’ve been meaning to try to make my own mayonnaise for ages, because it seems impossible to find a mayo that’s both sugar-free and not made with canola. Most, if not all, canola is genetically modified. And sugar in mayonnaise?! Yeah, you’d be surprised. Read labels next time you go to the store.

But I thought homemade mayo surely had to be tricky. Perfect temperatures and/or timing, danger of the emulsion breaking, that sort of thing. Turns out… nope! I tried this recipe and method from The Healthy Foodie, and it’s so easy it’s ridiculous! Worked the first time, and every time since then. All that’s necessary is a stick blender, and a jar that’s the right size. It might also be just as doable in a normal blender, but I haven’t tested that.And, yes, for those who care: this is Paleo, and Whole30 compliant.

Perfect for my gluten-free, grain-free “BLT’s without bread“! A super-easy, low-carb Paleo snack or meal. Quick, too, if you have already-cooked bacon on hand — and you should!

I go crazy for these when good tomatoes are in season! But they’re still pretty tasty when the only decent tomatoes available around here (<sarcasm> yay, winter in Kansas! </sarcasm>) are grape tomatoes.

Plain ol’ mayo needs no herbs, but if you want to bump up the flavor a bit, add a pinch or two of your favorites. I’ve included my suggestion in the ingredients list….

Easy homemade mayo recipe

  • 1 large egg, taken straight out of the fridge (no need to bring to room temp)
  • 1 cup very-light-tasting olive oil (NOT virgin), or other flavorless oil of your choice
  • 2 – 3 teaspoons lemon juice, rice vinegar, or other pale vinegar of your choice
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon salt (start small; mix; taste; adjust if necessary)
  • Optional bonus: flavor it with a pinch of dill and a few pinches of fresh chives – YUM!

Put it all in your carafe or jar, blend holding the stick still till the mayo-in-the-making reaches almost to the top of the oil, then move up and down a few times till all oil is incorporated. Yeah, it’s that easy.

Here’s the original mayo recipe, with detailed instructions. This works great in the beaker/carafe that came with my blender (below), but if you’re just using a glass jar, the size of the jar matters, so I recommend looking that up in the original recipe.
Note: when freshly made, it tastes kinda oily. If you’re going to immediately blend it into a salad dressing or slaw mix, that won’t be a problem. But if it’s going to be a star player, a chill in the fridge for a few hours or overnight will be a good thing.
P.S. My old Braun stick blender (also called an immersion blender or hand blender) went kaput this week, so I just ordered a new one from Amazon – Cuisinart this time. I consider it an absolute essential in the kitchen! The price goes up and down on Amazon, so if you want one and it’s currently over $45 — and you’re not in a hurry — put it in your cart and leave it there. They’ll send you an email if the price goes down!


Thinking of going Paleo?

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How to correct too-tart tomato sauce without adding sugar or sweetener

how to correct tomato sauce without adding sugar

“Unless you are using sweet, height-of-summer tomatoes, chances are your tomato sauce will taste more tart than you might like. Many recipes call for adding a pince of sugar… but sugar doesn’t eliminate the tartness; it just makes the sauce sweeter. Nevertheless, I did that for years until my scientist husband reminded me that the way to neutralize an acid is with a base. He suggested adding a pinch of baking soda to overly tart tomato sauce.

“It works like a charm. You don’t need much baking soda to have an impact, so start with a pinch. The sauce will foam briefly as you stir it in. Let the sauce simmer for a minute or so, then taste again. Add a little more baking soda if necessary. Be careful not to add too much or your sauce will taste soapy.”

From the cookbook Four Seasons Pasta, by Janet Fletcher, p. 26.

Image source: Wikimedia

Emergency, quick, easy BBQ sauce

Emergency BBQ sauce recipe
Everybody’s got a bottle of BBQ sauce in their fridge, right?

Except, of course, if you’ve already been to the store, and the meat is in the oven, and you don’t want to go back out again. True story.

But a little desperation is often the beginning of a great new recipe.

A little googling turned up a recipe which claims to be “A Very Popular BBQ Sauce.” It looked quick and simple, so I used this as the starting point for my DIY BBQ sauce. I needed to scale it down, cut back on the sugar, and replace the hot sauce. I was very happy with the result! I think you will be, too.

(Note: Unless you’re using homemade ketchup, there will still be sugar and/or corn syrup in the ketchup. To avoid corn syrup in store-bought ketchup, look for the word “Simple” on the front label — and check the actual ingredients list on the back. Even if you use store-bought ketchup, this recipe still has waaaaaay less sugar than anything you can find at Kroger, and is cheaper than anything you can buy at Whole Foods!)

(Oh, so you’re hardcore on sugar, huh? Here’s a sugar-free ketchup recipe.)

Emergency easy BBQ sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup brown sugar (or 1/4 c. maple syrup, and omit water)

(If your taste is accustomed to very little sugar, start with just 3 T. sugar or syrup.)

3 T. red wine vinegar (or sub up to 1 T balsamic)

2 T. water

1-1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (or more if you like it, or optional if you don’t have it)

1/2 teaspoon granulated onion

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon adobo sauce, or more if you like it spicy (optional; adds heat and smokiness)

1/8 t. salt

If you’ll be applying the sauce to meat that’s going back on grill or oven, you can just mix it up and add it in/on.

If serving as a condiment, it will benefit from a brief heating….

Put everything in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir till well combined and cook for one or two minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Too sweet? Add a splash of vinegar. Too vinegary? Add a pinch or two of sugar. Too plain? Add salt till it tastes better, and/or add more onion, paprika, or Worchestershire.

Remove from heat and let cool.

photo credit: The mofoJT via photopin cc

Seven simple salad dressing recipes

One of the easiest and most delicious things you can do to put healthier food into your body is to learn some recipes for homemade salad dressings. Once you start, you’ll probably never buy the bottled stuff again! Homemade dressings just taste so much fresher.
Plus, they’re so much healthier! Most “Lite” salad dressings you buy in the store are low fat, but that just means a higher percentage of the product is carbs, and almost always sugary ones. When you make your own, you can be sure there’s no corn syrup or {insert evil sweetener of your choice here} in it! I usually use Splenda, but use whatever you want.
Update: I rarely use Splenda any more; usually stevia. I’ve found that one small scoop of stevia extract powder equals one packet of Splenda, but every brand is different, so you might need to experiment.

Here are seven of my favorite homemade salad dressing recipes I’ve posted here in the past. For a healthy body, and happy taste buds!

Buttermilk Ranch (made with Greek yogurt)

simple salad dressing recipes - ranch

Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette

easy balsamic vinaigrette recipe

Tex-Mex Dressing (just three ingredients!)

simple salad dressing recipes - Tex-Mex

Ginger-peanut Salad Dressing 

simple salad dressing recipes - ginger sesame

 Almost-Panera’s Asian Chicken Salad Dressing

simple salad dressing recipes - Asian salad dressing

Lemon (or Citrus) Poppyseed Dressing

easy citrus poppyseed dressing recipe

 Caesar Salad Dressing

Easy Caesar salad dressing recipe


Update: bonus recipe…

Creamy Italian Dressing

antipasto salad