Most Popular Recipes of 2013

Happy New Year! It’s a great time to share of the most popular recipes from 2013. Not surprisingly, they’re mostly slow cooker meals and casseroles–those are my favorite time-savers, too! As we head into the new year, I’d love your feedback about food and recipe posts. Is there anything particular you’d like to see or learn about? I’m always on the lookout for new, family-approved recipes and love hearing from you about what’s working and what’s needed.

Most Popular Recipes of 2013 | MoneywiseMoms

Brown Sugar Maple Muffins: These simple muffins have a slightly crunchy crust from the brown sugar in the batter. They’re perfect for fall or to enjoy with a cup of tea.

Green Chile Chicken Casserole: This is one of my go-to meals, since it’s easy to make with leftover pulled chicken or pork from slow cooker tacos and rice I’ve prepared for another meal during the week. It’s naturally gluten-free.

Taco Cornbread Casserole: This is a remake of a popular casserole, but using all real/whole foods. We love it as an alternative to taco night.

Slow Cooker Moo Shu: Another easy, throw it in and enjoy it later crockpot meal, this works with both chicken or pork.

Most Popular Recipes of 2013 | MoneywiseMoms

Slow Cooker Beef Stew: This is such comfort food during the fall and winter season. I look for beef on sale in the meat section and either cook it or freeze it right away.

Whole Wheat Pancakes: We make a double batch of these every weekend, and then reheat them in the toaster on busy school mornings. Easy peasy!

Chocolate Banana Mini Muffins: Every few weeks, I make a big batch of mini muffins and store them in the freezer. They go into the kids’ lunches or are eaten as afterschool snacks. These cocoa muffins have both fruit and fiber.

Slow Cooker Pork Ragu & Fettuccine: This recipe became our family’s favorite of the year. It’s easy to make, tastes fantastic, and was requested every other week by my husband and kids. They just love it.
For more family-favorite recipes, see last year’s Favorite Recipes of 2012 and my Recipe Index. Enjoy!

Spinach Stuffed Shells

This Spinach Stuffed Shells recipe is one of my favorite vegetarian meals. Even though it’s messy to stuff the shells, they’re worth the time! It’s a very easy meal to freeze, too, so consider making a second pan (or splitting this huge 9×13 pan into two smaller square pans). It’s great to pull out of the freezer on a busy night. That makes the extra work worth it!

Spinach Stuffed Shells | MoneywiseMoms

Spinach Stuffed Shells
Serves: 8
  • 20 jumbo pasta shells (about 1/2 of a 12 oz. box)
  • 2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 Tbsp parsley
  • 10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim Mozzarella cheese
  • Cooking spray
  1. Cook pasta shells according to package directions; drain and separate.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare 9x13 baking dish by spraying with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. In large bowl, combine cottage cheese, egg and parsley. Mix well. Fold in spinach.
  4. Spread 1/2 cup of spaghetti sauce in baking dish.
  5. Fill pasta shells with cottage cheese and spinach mixture (I just use a spoon). Arrange shells in baking dish, and pour remaining sauce over shells.
  6. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top.
  7. Cover baking dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
  8. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.


If you end up freezing this meal, plan to cook it for an hour at 350 degrees and be sure that the shells are cooked through.

10 Sensations Sides for Soups & Stews | MoneywiseMoms For more easy, family-friendly casserole recipes, follow my Captivating Casseroles board on Pinterest.


Spinach Stuffed Shells is linked up to What’s Cooking Wednesday at Turning the Clock Back, Fluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster and Inspire Me Wednesday at MamaBuzz.

30 Easy Winter Meals

As we’re beginning a new season, I’ve updated my monthly meal list with more winter-appropriate recipes. These 30 Easy Winter Meals are our family’s favorite soups, casseroles, slow cooker meals and more! This time around, I grouped the meals by the categories I use: vegetarian, chicken, beef and pork.  Learn more about how to work your meal plan categories with my Menu Plan Mind Mapping.

Easy Winter Meals | Casseroles, Slow Cooker & Soup Meals | MoneywiseMoms

Working off a monthly meal list is saving me so much time, because it’s easy every week to choose meals off the list, make my grocery shopping list after seeing what we have on hand or in the freezer, and run that errand. Done! I try to have very few meals that require me to stand at the stove during dinner hour; I like to spend some time prepping casseroles ahead of time (even freezing them) so they’re ready to go on a busy night.

  1. Vegetarian Baked Ziti and garlic bread
  2. Corn & Potato Chowder and salad
  3. Macaroni and Cheese Casserole with broccoli and salad
  4. Cheese Tortellini with pesto and peas
  5. Crustless Italian Spinach Pie and cornbread
  6. Spinach Stuffed Shells and salad
  7. Breakfast for Dinner: Savory Omelets (spinach & feta cheese) with rosemary potatoes and fruit
  8. Homemade Pizza with veggie toppings and salad
  9. Homemade Spaghetti Sauce and spaghetti, salad and cauliflower
  10. Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup and rolls
  11. Easy Chicken Broccoli Alfredo
  12. Shredded Chicken Tacos (slow cooker) with wheat tortillas and toppings, plus black beans
  13. Green Chile Chicken Casserole and corn
  14. Italian Chicken Spinach Delight (my kids are still asking for this weekly) with pasta or quinoa
  15. Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole
  16. Crockpot Cashew Chicken
  17. Stroganoff-Style Chicken with egg noodles
  18. Ginger Chicken Soup
  19. Sausage Pesto Pita Pizzas
  20. Sausage & Veggie Roast
  21. Sausage Lentil Soup with homemade bread
  22. Crockpot Hamburger Soup
  23. Slow Cooker Beef Stew and homemade rolls
  24. Taco Cornbread Casserole
  25. Hamburgers with wheat buns, sweet potato fries and corn
  26. Easy Slow Cooker Pork Chops & Hash Browns
  27. Herb Roasted Pork with baked potatoes and green beans
  28. Honey Parmesan Pork Roast (slow cooker), baked potatoes and broccoli
  29. Pork Ragu & Fettuccine and asparagus
  30. Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Barbacoa (just like Cafe Rio) with tortillas, beans, and fixings

I’ve been collecting great recipes on my Slow Cooker & Crockpot and Captivating Casseroles Pinterest boards. Come check them out to find more easy winter meals.

What are your favorite Easy Winter Meals?

  30 Easy Meals is linked up to Menu Plan Monday at OrgJunkie and Fluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster.

Italian Chicken & Spinach Delight

You know I appreciate an easy recipe. This Italian Chicken & Spinach Delight couldn’t get any easier. It’s so good that my kids have asked for it every week for the past three weeks, and since it’s so easy, who am I to say no? Oh–and the funny name? Reader and fellow-twin-mom Julie sent me this recipe over Facebook, but it didn’t have a name. As my son was ooh-ing and aah-ing over each layer as I made it, I asked what we should call it, and he said Chicken & Spinach Delight. Voila!

Italian Chicken & Spinach Delight | MoneywiseMoms | An amazingly easy layered meal that your family will love!

Italian Chicken & Spinach Delight
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
  • Bag of baby spinach
  • 4 chicken breasts, sliced to even thickness
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup of good-quality Balsamic Viniagrette Dressing
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Spray a 9x11 casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Layer the bag of baby spinach in the bottom of the dish.
  3. Lay the chicken on top of the spinach.
  4. Cover chicken with diced tomatoes.
  5. Pour dressing over chicken & tomatoes.
  6. Cover with shredded mozzarella cheese.
  7. Cook uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until chicken reaches 160 degrees as measured with meat thermometer.

I served this over pasta, but it would equally good over quinoa, couscous or rice to soak up the juices. It’s our new favorite dish. If you’re eating gluten-free, just make sure your dressing is GF, or make your own. Enjoy!


10 Sensations Sides for Soups & Stews | MoneywiseMoms For more easy, family-friendly casserole recipes,
follow my Capitivating Casseroles board on Pinterest.


Italian Chicken & Spinach Delight is linked up to Fluster’s Creative Muster at Fluster Buster, Gluten-Free Roundup at Musings of a Housewife, What’s For Dinner Tonight? at Confessions of an Overworked Mom and What’s Cooking Wednesday at Turning the Clock Back.

10 Sensational Sides for Soups & Stews

10 Sensational Sides for Soups & Stews | MoneywiseMoms

This fall weather brings with it lots of yummy soups and stews. I prefer to use my slow cooker to let them simmer all day, which frees up a little time to make some fresh-baked bread or other side to go along with them. Here are some new sides for soups & stews to jazz up your meals:

Easy Homemade French Bread from The Frugal Girl

This Easy Homemade French Bread from The Frugal Girl is such a great alternative to buying a loaf each time you’re at the grocery store. The ingredients are so inexpensive, and there are only five of them!

Honey Jalapeno Cornbread from Dough-Eyed

This Honey Jalapeno Cornbread from Dough-Eyed is a nice change from regular, and it would go great with everything from chowder to tortilla soup.

Divine Breadsticks from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Quick bread recipes are great to have on hand for last-minute sides. These Divine Breadsticks from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe take about an hour (between rising, rolling and baking), and they’re sooooo good.

Quick & Easy Herb Parmesan Bread from Foodista

A really basic recipe like this Quick & Easy Herb Parmesan Bread from Foodista is great to have in your wheelhouse. It goes with any kind of soup or stew and makes a great gift.

Basic Biscuits from Krissy's Creations

Basic Biscuits, like this traditional recipe from Krissy’s Creations, are simple but elegant. I’ve never had a biscuit cutter; I just use the top of a glass.

Easy Homemade Garlic Knots from The Recipe Critic

Make Easy Homemade Garlic Knots from The Recipe Critic. They don’t take long to rise, and you can knead by hand if you don’t have a mixer. The garlic spread are what put them over the top into fantastic!

No Knead Beer Bread from Buttercream Fanatic

Beginner bread baker? This No-Knead Beer Bread from Buttercream Fanatic is perfect for you. It’s a flavorful loaf that’s doesn’t require any rising or kneading.

Rosemary Focaccia Bread from Wishful Winking

Try something new with this Super Simple Rosemary Focaccia Bread recipe from Wishful Whisking. My kids love sticking their thumbprints in the dough and pressing the herbs in. It does take 12-18 hours to rise, so start it the night before you plan to serve.
Crusty Artisan Bread from Somewhat Simple

If you haven’t jumped on the easy Artisan Bread wagon, now’s your chance! It really is THAT easy. This Crusty Artisan Bread recipe at Somewhat Simple will show you how.

Dill Ricotta Rolls from MoneywiseMoms

My Dill Ricotta Rolls are a nice change from regular dinner rolls, and you can substitute cottage cheese for the ricotta if needed.

10 Sensations Sides for Soups & Stews | MoneywiseMoms For more yummy bread, rolls, and breadstick recipes,
follow my Bread & Baked Yums board on Pinterest.


This post is linked up to Happy Hour Friday at Happy Hour Projects.

Working off a Monthly Meal List {Menu Plan Monday}

Working Off a Monthly Meal List -- Menu Plan Monday

Last month, I shared 30 Easy Meals for the Fall, a monthly meal list of 30 simple dinners that fit our busy schedule. I used it (almost) every day in September and am doing it again this month, so I wanted to share how it’s working so far:

What Worked

Saving Time & Stress
I printed up my list of 30 and stuck it on the fridge. Then, each week when I sat down to do a weekly meal plan and grocery list,  all I had to do was choose them off the list. No stress! It also saved me time. It made the planning/list chore take only 15 minutes a week at most.

New Recipes
I tried two of the three new recipes I put on the list. The Honey Parmesan Pork Roast from Sidetracked Sarah was so easy and so flavorful. We’ve had it a second time already, and it’s definitely going in the permanent rotation. The Chicken Broccoli Lo Mein from MomAdvice was also easy, and didn’t take too long standing at the stove. I used whole wheat pasta, and my family loved it. They’ve asked for this one again, too.

Chicken Broccoli Lo Mein

Cooking Ahead
Most of the times I made a casserole, I made two instead, and put one in the freezer. That’s making October even easier, and it’s given me the opportunity to help others with ready-made food. When my twins club asked for meals for a new mom, I had one ready to go. Going into the winter, I’m trying some new casserole recipes shared by MoneywiseMoms readers on Facebook, so that will give us more variety.


What Didn’t Work

Leftovers Nights
I planned several “leftovers nights” since we’ve done that for dinner in months’ past. It didn’t work at all! Either we didn’t have leftovers (are all three kids in growth spurts at the same time?) or there wasn’t enough of various things to feed all five of us. We used what leftovers we had for school and weekend lunches, but that left me with several open nights with no meal plan.

We Still Ate Out
With visitors staying with us twice in September, we still ate out despite my plans to cook 30 days in September. It didn’t help that there were no leftovers to fall back on! I did manage to stay on my $500/month grocery budget for September, but our cupboards were very bare by the end of the month. With my husband off work right now due to the government shutdown, we’ve been cooking every day and avoiding spending any money at all, so we’re on track for October as well.


Ultimately, working off a monthly meal list is helping me, so I’m doing it again this month. Instead of the cold salads I had on the list for September, I’ve added warm comfort foods. I’ll publish a new list for winter in a few weeks, and you’ll see more soups and stews as well as casseroles and easy one-pot meals.

This post is linked up to Menu Plan Monday at OrgJunkie.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

If you’ve never tried cooking stew, this simple Slow Cooker Beef Stew recipe will make it easy for you. Just throw it all in the crockpot and let it go all day. We love some garlic bread or biscuits on the side, but you can also add some peeled potatoes to the stew for your carbs.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew | A simple recipe for beginner cooks to make a hearty crockpot meal

Slow Cooker Beef Stew
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 lbs beef stew meet, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup flour*
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 32 oz beef broth
  1. After chopping, put all of the vegetables into the slow cooker.
  2. In a bowl, coat the beef with flour, then add to the slow cooker (just discard any extra flour).
  3. Add the spices, Worcestershire sauce and broth.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours (it can't be overdone).

*This recipe is easily made gluten-free just by substituting GF flour to coat the meat (I’ve done it before it works fine). Double-check your beef broth and Worcestershire sauce to make sure they’re gluten-free, too.

If you’re a beginner cook, just look for beef marked “Beef for Stew” in the meat department at your grocery store. The chunks are quite large, which is why I cut them smaller for the kids before cooking.

10 Sensations Sides for Soups & Stews | MoneywiseMoms For more fall & winter slow cooking recipes,
follow my Slow Cooker & Crockpot board on Pinterest.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew is linked up to the GF Recipe Roundup at Musings of a Housewife and Fluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster.

Fabulous Fall Slow Cooker Soups

Fabulous Fall Slow Cooker Soups | Get dinner on the table with these easy, one pot meals.

Slow Cooker Soups are just what you need this fall to get dinner on the table easily. I love being able to throw everything into one pot, give it a stir, and enjoy the results. It’s not just a time-saver, it’s a stress-saver! There’s often leftovers for lunches or even to freeze for another dinner later in the month.

Slow Cooker Soups

Baked Potato Soup
This easy recipe from Today’s Mama calls for sauteeing the onions ahead of time to soften them, but I might give it a try without since I hate pre-cooking when I use my slow cooker. It can be made vegetarian by substituting the chicken broth for vegetable broth, and skip the bacon topper.


Slow Cooker Soups

Chicken Tortilla Soup
This is one of our family favorites here at MoneywiseMoms. It’s got a low spice level for  my kids, but you can add crushed red pepper flakes, Tabasco, or hot sauce if you’d like to rev it up. We add  sour cream and crushed tortilla chips to the top for garnish.

Slow Cooker Soups

Taste of Tuscany Soup
With the tastes of sausage, beans and tomato, this soup from Yummy Mummy Club is hearty and filling. Garnish with fresh baby spinach for a little texture. So many healthy ingredients!

Slow Cooker Soups

Sweet Potato Chili
Skip the ground sirloin to make this a vegetarian chili. Find this healthy recipe at the blog Can You Stay for Dinner?

  Slow Cooker Soups

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
Dress up the usual chicken noodle soup by adding some cream cheese for a creamy, delicious broth. All but the noodles go in the slow cooker in the morning; add the dry noodles about a half hour before serving. Find the recipe at Better Homes & Gardens.

Slow Cooker Soups

Sausage and Lentil Soup
This hearty soup combines chicken sausage, zucchini, tomatoes and lentils. While my recipe has instructions for stove-top cooking, you can easily throw it all into a slow cooker for the day.

If you’ve never tried cooking soups from scratch, challenge yourself this fall to give it a try. It’s not as hard as you think, and the flavors are tastier than canned. You’re also eating healthier.

What are your favorite Slow Cooker Soups?

What’s in Your Cantry? My 7 Canned Food Favorites

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Mom it Forward and Cans Get You Cooking. I chose to do it because I am passionate about healthy and frugal family meals. All words and opinions are my own.

Want to get a home-cooked meal on the table even faster? I keep my “Cantry” well-stocked with my favorites–diced tomatoes, crushed pineapple, black and garbanzo beans, and other canned foods that fit right in to my family’s favorite recipes. Many canned fruits and vegetables have the same nutrients as their fresh or frozen counterparts (according to a study at the University of California, Davis). I was thrilled to hear that since I use cans regularly in my cooking.

canned food recipes
Choosing cans over fresh may also save you money. Did you know that 73% of Americans throw away spoiled fruits and vegetables on average twice a week? I hate wasting food (and money) that way! With their extended shelf life, canned foods can help you avoid that waste, and you can make some delicious meals with them:

 Gina’s 7 Canned Food Favorites

  1. Diced Tomatoes are the ultimate “convenience” food. I use canned diced tomatoes in Pork Ragu & Fettuccine, Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad, and Taco Cornbread Casserole. Other versions of canned tomatoes (crushed & paste) are the basis for this easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce.
  2. Canned Corn is the centerpiece of Black Bean & Corn Salsa, or it can take the place of frozen in recipes like Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup and Corn & Potato Chowder.
  3. Crushed Pineapple is the key to Pineapple Pork Chops, but I also buy pineapple chunks for my kids’ lunchboxes (much less expensive than the individual packs).
  4. Beans, beans, the glorious fruit (as my kids would sing)–we use them daily for breakfast burritos (refried) and as the protein in Rainbow Rice Salad (black) and Garbanzo & Artichoke Quinoa (garbanzo). If you’ve never tried them, Roasted Spiced Chickpeas are a surprising treat!
  5. Green Chiles are just the right level of spice for my kids, perfect for Green Chile Chicken Casserole or to throw into a slow cooker with a can of diced tomatoes and your favorite taco meat to shred (chicken, pork or beef).
  6. Pumpkin! Use it for pancakes, muffins, or gluten-free bread for an extra hit of flavor and fiber.
  7. Black Olives are always in my cantry. We put them in Spinach & Feta Pasta Salad and on our Homemade Pizza,

That’s 17 canned food recipes to get you cooking! I’d love to know what your favorites are.

canned food recipes

 Get more information about the benefits of cooking with canned food, along with great recipes, by connecting with Cans Get You Cooking:

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What are your favorite canned food recipes? Leave a comment below telling us…

What’s in your cantry?