Do It Yourself

Top five condiments to make at home.

2. Whipped Cream

This entry almost got booted by compound butter (soften butter, fold in flavoring — try vadouvan — mold into a cylinder using plastic wrap, refrigerate, slice to use) but won out for the sheer ridiculousness of Cool Whip. For starters, nondairy whipped topping (and its nominal-dairy ilk) is disgusting. It's a textural nightmare, tastes like plastic and is overly sweet. I don't usually get so serious about food (not intended as a joke), but I actually take slight offense at a tub of Cool Whip accompanying the pies on a Thanksgiving buffet. It's just such a sad and careless food product.

The kicker is that actual whipped cream, and its pedantically sweet sister chantilly cream, are ridiculously easy to make. Put cream in a bowl. Beat it. Not too long, or you'll have butter. Which inadvertently reminds me of another positive of real whipped cream: If you screw it up, you get butter! Don't screw it up, and you have one of the best simple pleasures on the planet. True whipped cream is light and fragrant, with a subtle and pleasing sweetness even before you add sugar. It is worlds away from the tub stuff and amazingly delicious. Sweetened, maybe with a bit of bourbon whipped in, it turns perfectly ripe fruit into a decadent dessert while still managing to seem somewhat wholesome.

Mia's is already popular with families.
Katharine Shilcutt
Mia's is already popular with families.
The fried chicken strips have a terrifically crunchy, yet light, batter.
Katharine Shilcutt
The fried chicken strips have a terrifically crunchy, yet light, batter.

1. Salad Dressing

If you regularly buy bottled salad dressing, you're dead to me. Do you have oil? Of course you do. Vinegar (or pretty much any other acidic liquid)? Come on, now. Put them in a mason jar in a three-to-one ratio of oil to vinegar, screw the lid on and shake the crap out of it. Make your kids do it for you. It's fun. Throw in a pinch of salt and pepper, a handful of herbs, maybe a minced shallot. Sometimes I make mine in a tall pitcher, using an immersion blender. I throw in huge handfuls of herbs, no need to chop, and buzz the whole thing up in a minute flat. I've recently made both kosho and vadouvan vinaigrette, and they were amazing. I can't remember the last time I bought salad dressing, but it's been awhile. I think you'll find the same is true for you.


Treat Yo' Dog
Peanut butter, banana and yogurt popsicles for the pup.

Popsicles and cool treats are not just for people; dogs deserve a little treat to cool down, too. My dog, Abby, loves to run and play outside during the summer, just like any dog does, but sometimes cold water or a dip in the pool isn't enough to cool her down.

Although grocery stores sell ice cream treats for dogs, I decided to make a delicious treat for my dog at home. It's a lot more fun and satisfying to make something for your dog than to simply buy it in a cardboard box. And you can control what goes in it.

Thanks to my favorite Web site for recipe ideas, Pinterest, I have found a delicious popsicle treat every dog will love (this fact is based on the reaction from my dog; I did not try this frozen treat).

After looking at the recipe once, I knew Abby would go crazy for these popsicles. First of all, they have yogurt and peanut butter in them. My dog absolutely loves licking what's left of my yogurt cup and could eat peanut butter by the spoonful all day long. Although she would be licking the roof of her mouth nonstop if she had peanut butter all the time.

So, to begin making your homemade doggie popsicles, start by mixing 18 ounces of plain nonfat yogurt — make it healthy for your pup. Then add half a cup of peanut butter and stir until the peanut butter blends with the yogurt. It takes a little effort to incorporate the two ingredients together.

By the time you have a creamy mixture, your dog will already be by your side wondering what you're creating. Dogs have a sixth sense for peanut butter, I swear.

Now, mix in a four-ounce jar of banana baby food. This surprised me a little bit at first, but it's almost like a liquid, making it much easier to blend into the peanut butter and yogurt than a smashed banana. Plus, dogs are our babies, so it's fitting to use baby food.

Finally, sweeten the popsicle blend with one tablespoon of honey and stir until everything is smooth and creamy.

Fill small plastic or paper cups to the top with the popsicle mix and stick a dog bone half way into the mixture to serve as the handle (and an extra treat once your dog finishes the popsicle). It's almost like the cone on a Nestle drumstick, except it's not filled with chocolate.

Stick the popsicles in the freezer and wait until they're completely frozen to serve to your dog.

If you use paper cups, peel away the paper to serve the popsicle to your dog. But if you use hard plastic cups, wet a knife with warm water and gently run the knife around the edges of the cup to remove the popsicle.

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