Fake It or Make It Dressings

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There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that homemade salad dressing is to die for!  Especially Sherry’s – she is the Make It queen.

And then there’s me.  I know I should make it.  So why do I so badly want to always simply Fake It?  Well, sadly it’s Life (plus some laziness thrown in there).  My reality is teenagers, dinner at odd times and usually running directly from work stress to dinner distress.

So in true 'Make It or Fake It' form, here are some quick ideas to jazz up the store-bought stuff so that it, at least, has a hint that it’s not - maybe. Could it be?  Nah! It’s not – homemade??!

There could be two trains of thought on whether to start out with the good bottled stuff or start with the cheap, more bland stuff and add to it.  Through my experimentation, I have to urge you to go with the good stuff – fewer artificial ingredients which mean less artificial taste.  Plus, remember this is essentially your base so have a good base.  No different than starting with a good vinegar or mayonnaise.

Thousand Island
This was one of the hardest to embellish but voila I came up with a twist.
To disguise the often too tart pickle taste of the bottled stuff I added:

1 part of mayo
1 part of salsa (of course Sherry would make her own!!! I bought mine!!)
2 parts of bottled Thousand Island

This ended up tasting delish.  A slight Southwestern flair and it truly disguised the “bottled taste.”

Jazzing up Vinaigrette is a perfect example of looking at the ingredients of the homemade variety and then just pumping up the bottled goods with some key ingredients.  Here are some options:

Add a squeeze of lemon.
Mince a fresh garlic clove and toss it in.
Add a touch of Dijon mustard.
Toss in some fresh Parmesan cheese.

Get a blast from the past and mix up some of the Good Season’s mix – remember it came with that little cruet?  Add a good vinegar, oil and toss in a fresh clove of garlic and you’ll be amazed!

Vinaigrette is a little tricky so go slow as you add stuff.  But keep this in mind, too:  Just tossing a little fresh parsley on top can fool your guests – if you’re serving wine (ha).

Blue Cheese
This one is sort of a no-brainer – add some more blue cheese to the REFRIDGERATED bottled kind.  The cold stuff really outshines the bottled stuff in the grocery aisle.

But if you want to really fool them, experiment with some really high quality blue cheese to toss on top.  You won’t need much so you can splurge a little here and really make a difference on the taste.

The Votes for Best Bottled Dressing Are In
I also scoured opinions online from chefs to Yelpers and found the best of the bottled dressings for you to try.

Here are the top vote getters:
Ken’s Steakhouse Dressings
Annie’s Dressings
Marie’s (for Blue Cheese)
Newman’s Own

Well, there you have it.  I’m all for faking it!  Unless I’m going to Sherry’s for dinner – because, in reality – I admit it - you just can’t top her homemade!

Make It!
By Sherry Kline

Now, see, like a true friend, Linda is trying to make me look good! I love the ideas she's come up with. How clever is she to add mayo and salsa to the bottled Thousand Island to make it really tasty? So fun! And like I've said many times before, my life while my three guys were growing up was vastly different from what it is today. I was the "Give 'em twenty bucks for Taco Bell and get out of my hair" Queen and now live with the guilt as best as I can! I truly remember how difficult it is to feed the little darlings three times a day much less how hard it is to do anything even resembling homemade!


For those of us who don't have those demands on us or we have that special dinner we're planning, the homemade stuff does take it up a notch. In the last few years I've been learning more about cooking and entertaining, and I've come across or developed recipes for a few dressings that are well received by both family and friends.

Thousand Island Dressing
An All-American favorite and very Vintage dressing is Thousand Island. Linda's right; the bottled dressing has turned many people away from this poor, misunderstood dressing what with the heavy pickle taste. The first recipe of this dressing is said to have originated on one of the Thousand Islands in St. Lawrence River in Canada back in the early 1900's. The recipe I use is one that was developed at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan, New York. This is a great dressing for the strong lettuce families of iceberg or romaine. It also makes a terrific condiment for grilled burgers!

Thousand Island Dressing
Recipe By: Saveur Magazine
Yield: 1 3/4 cup

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
3-4 TBS Heinz chili sauce *see Note
2 TBS Vidalia onion, finely chopped (can substitute sweet yellow onion or shallots)
2 TBS sweet pickles, finely chopped
1 tsp pickling juice, from sweet pickle jar (or less, if desired)
1 TBS pimento, jarred, drained and chopped
salt and pepper

Put mayo, chili sauce, onions, pickles, pickle juice, pimiento, and salt and pepper to taste into a med glass bowl and stir until well combined. Dressing will keep, covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 1 week.

*Note: Heinz Chili Sauce brand is the one to use since this is considered the 'secret' ingredient for this traditional Thousand Island. I have tried it with others and have to admit the recipes were missing a certain 'something' so I stick with the Heinz.

Vinaigrette sounds so fancy, doesn't it? And intimidating? Well, it's not; promise! It is basically oil (of any kind; whatever your prefer), an acid (vinegar, lemon juice, etc) and any other flavoring that suits your fancy. The formula that works the best for my tastes is one-part acid to two-parts oil. This is something you can experiment with. I would start with the one-part to two part formula first, taste it then add more vinegar or oil to taste. I then add a little shallot, a little Dijon mustard and salt and pepper. Using this as a Base Recipe, you can mix it up a bit by adding other ingredients that will complement the salad or vegetables you're adding it to. I have here the Base Recipe and then some suggestions on how to make it a bit more exciting!

Vinaigrette Base Recipe
Recipe By: Sherry

1 TBS wine vinegar, *see Notes
1 1/2 tsp shallots, very finely minced
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp salt
dash pepper
2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil **see Notes

Combine vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt and pepper to taste in small glass bowl. Place oil in small measuring cup so that it is easy to pour. Whisking constantly, very slowly drizzle oil into vinegar mixture. If pools of oil are gathering on surface as you whisk, stop addition of oil and whisk mixture well to combine, then resume whisking in oil in slow stream. Vinaigrette should be glossy and lightly thickened, with no pools of oil on its surface. If you are a bit put off by adding the oil by whisking, a trick I use is: Put all the ingredients in a small jar, close with a tight lid and shake vigorously until well-blended. This is a good way to make it when you are going to dress the salad immediately.

*Notes: choose any wine vinegar depending on what tastes the best to you. I use all kinds like white wine, champagne, red wine, or balsamic. It just depends on my mood or what I have in the pantry.

**Notes: You may want to use a nicer, more expensive extra-virgin olive oil for your vinaigrette as opposed to the lesser expensive ones used for cooking. In vinaigrettes you can taste the oil more and the lighter and better processed, the better. My favorite is Queen Creek Extra-Virgin Olive Oil manufactured in Queen Creek, Arizona. Gotta support the local vendors!

Varieties of Vinaigrettes
The following ingredients can be added to the Basic Recipe:

Lemon Vinaigrette
This is best for dressing mild greens like butter leaf lettuce or baby greens.

Follow the Basic Recipe, substituting lemon juice for vinegar, omitting shallot and adding 1/4 tsp finely grated lemon zest and pinch of sugar along with salt and pepper.

Balsamic-Mustard Vinaigrette
This is best for dressing assertive greens like arugula or water cress.

Follow Basic Recipe, substituting 1 1/2 TBS balsamic vinegar for wine vinegar, increasing mustard to 2 tsp and adding 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme along with salt and pepper.

Walnut Vinaigrette
Follow Basic Recipe, substituting 1 1/2 TBS roasted walnut oil and 1 1/2 TBS regular olive oil for extra-virgin olive oil. This is a terrific vinaigrette to go with a salad with fruit added to it like strawberries and/or apples.

Herb Vinaigrette
Follow Basic Recipe, adding 1 TBS minced parsley or chives and 1/2 tsp minced thyme, tarragon, marjoram or oregano to vinaigrette just before use. You can use all or just some of the herbs listed.

Blue Cheese Dressing
Another Vintage salad dressing is Blue Cheese. This reminds me of restaurants from the Rat Pack era: Dark, warm, and jazzy with the red velvet booths and celery, radishes and crackers with butter for an appetizer. Is there anyone out there with me on this? The salad was a wedge of iceberg lettuce, maybe a piece of tomato and the occasional black olive with the dressing poured generously over the top. So simple and so, so good! Finding the right recipe to bring these memories back was a mission of mine until I came across this one. I have made a few adjustments to suit my own personal tastes so feel free to experiment.

Recipe By: Sherry
Yield:  1 1/2 cup

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
3 TBS buttermilk *see Notes
1 TBS vinegar **see Notes
4 oz. blue cheese ***see Notes
fresh ground pepper; to taste

Mix mayo, sour cream, buttermilk and vinegar in a small bowl. Fold in blue cheese; add a little at a time, taste then add more as desired. Add pepper and stir gently.

*Notes: You can substitute milk or less of an amount if you like it thicker. Add a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

**Notes: With the vinegar, you can use white wine, champagne or even red wine vinegars. Each gives a different taste to the dressing so use the one that tastes the best to you. I only recently started using red wine vinegar after having it at a restaurant and couldn't decide what made it so different and tasty. The chef was kind enough to clue me in on his using red wine vinegar and I've been using it ever since.

***Notes: The amount of blue cheese used is entirely up to you. I would add a little at a time while folding it into the other ingredients until it reaches the flavor level you prefer. I use the blue cheese you can find in any grocery store (usually the crumbly kind) but you can use the more expensive kind if you prefer.

To Make It or Not To Fake It? That is the question!

I believe between Linda and me, we have come up with enough ideas and guidelines to help you make the best dressings possible just depending on how much time you have-or don't have! Regardless of which way you choose to follow, we think we've given you some For Sure crowd pleasers!