Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing (and Giveaway)

Homemade salad dressing?! Are you nuts?! I don’t have time for that. 

I said that for years. Now I make it all the time and don’t think twice about it. Homemade dressing tastes SO much better. Plus there’s no chemical additives, no corn syrup, no MSG, no 20+ ingredients on the label. Just 8 real food ingredients I keep in my kitchen anyway. My family loves this Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing, and I think yours will, too. With summer veggies coming into season, backyard gardens prepping for harvest, and lots of potlucks in your future, now is a great time to add this deliciously easy recipe to your repertoire. This vinaigrette is also great drizzled over grilled or roasted veggies like asparagus or zucchini, and it makes a great marinade for grilled chicken or pork.

Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette #realfood #recipe | MoneywiseMoms

5.0 from 1 reviews
Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (I use Trader Joe's)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 pressed garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  1. Combine all ingredients in plastic or glass container.
  2. Shake or stir to combine, especially just before pouring.

You can make this dressing in any plastic or glass container, even a mason jar. After years of saying “I should make my own dressing,” it was a simple tool that finally got me to do it: the Pampered Chef Measure, Mix & Pour, with four different dressing recipes printed right on the container. Seriously easy. Now I have absolutely no excuse! Even my kids can follow the directions on the side and be proud of their dressing at the table. I love that it’s dishwasher-safe, so after storing it in the fridge door till we run out, I just run it through the dishwasher and we make a new batch.

Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette #realfood #recipe | MoneywiseMoms
I love it so much that I bought two–so there’s one to give away! One lucky MoneywiseMoms reader will win a PC Measure, Mix & Pour, courtesy of me.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you’re reading this in an email or RSS feed, you may need to click over to MoneywiseMoms to use the Rafflecopter entry form (which you should see above–if not, click on “a Rafflecopter giveaway.” This giveaway ends Monday, June 16th,  when I’ll email the winner, who has 48 hours to respond with their mailing address to claim the prize. Thank you for reading MoneywiseMoms, and good luck!


Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing is linked up to Real Food Recipe Roundup at Musings of a Housewife, Fluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster, Thrifty Thursday at Living Well Spending Less, The Party Bunch Linky Party at The Idea Room and Pinterest Foodie Linkup at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond.


Disclosure: I am providing the prize for this giveaway myself, as a big fan of Pampered Chef products. 

Get Dinner on the Table Fast

Here we go! Swim practice starts afterschool today, so I’m at the pool for several hours right up till dinnertime. Does healthy eating, meal planning, and saving money go out the window for the next four weeks? No way! It’s just a matter of using some smart strategies to get dinner on the table FAST. Whether your sport is swimming, soccer, baseball, or something else, these cooking strategies can help you feed the family and stick to your goals:

Get Dinner on the Table Fast | Strategies to feed your family on busy sports nights or so you can stay at the pool | MoneywiseMoms
Slow Cooker Dump Meals

Try any of my 5 Beginner Crockpot Meals as a simple solution to a busy weeknight. It doesn’t take much time to put frozen or thawed chicken or pork in the crockpot and dump a jar of salsa or a can of diced tomatoes over it. Prep the rest of the taco fixings while the kids are unpacking their sports bags and/or showering. You can even prep these meals ahead of time and freeze in zipper bags. Dump the bag in frozen to cook on low all day, and still pull off a home-cooked meal by dinnertime. That’s what I did this morning: I pulled some frozen Chicken Teriyaki out of the freezer and loaded my slow cooker. Over breakfast, I cooked some brown rice, which I’ll just reheat in the microwave this evening. Later this week, I’ll do the same with frozen Pulled Pork for sandwiches, and serve with buns and some carrots and celery on the side.

One Pot Meals to get dinner on the table fast | MoneywiseMoms
One Pot Wonders

I’ve always liked one-pot meals, like my Turkey Parmesan Pasta, that cooks all at once in a half-hour. Now I’m trying some new recipes called One Pot Wonders from Pinterest. I believe that this One Pot Wonder Tomato Basil Pasta is the original recipe that started the trend. Since then, more have popped up, like the One Pot Wonder Chicken Lo Mein. I was very skeptical it would work, but it totally did! You basically throw everything in the pot (I use my 5-quart skillet with lid) and walk away till it’s done. It doesn’t get any easier than that!

Cold Salads help you get dinner on the table fast | MoneywiseMoms
Cold Salads

My kids have been raised on pasta salads and the idea that chicken on top of green salad is a meal (my husband still fights that one). Whether you prep the salad the night before, early in the morning, or right at dinnertime, it’s quick to pull odds & ends out of the fridge and toss with some lettuce or pasta for a healthy meal. Our go-to recipe is Spinach Feta Pasta Salad, but we’ve been poking around on Pinterest looking for some new flavor combinations. This Italian Quinoa Salad and BLT Chopped Salad sound great and include all the veggies and extras that my family loves.

What’s your favorite strategy to get dinner on the table fast?

Teriyaki Chicken Pitas {Microwaved in the DCB}

I’m back with another recipe for the Deep Covered Baker from Pampered Chef–these yummy Teriyaki Chicken Pitas–cooked in the microwave. I have a goal this year to get a repertoire of 10 DCB recipes that I use regularly. They will be a huge time & stress saver as we are heading into summer swim team season. We’ll be at practice daily from 4-6, so I’ll be prepping dinner while the kids are unpacking and showering as we come in the door.

If you don’t have a DCB, yes, you can make this is a skillet. But the point of the DCB is to be able to prep the food and let it cook while you’re doing other things, not standing at the stove. For an easy, stovetop one-pot meal, go try my Turkey Parmesan Pasta. And for all you mamas who have a deep covered baker sitting in the cupboard that doesn’t get used (ahem–hence my goal for the year), enjoy!

Teriyaki Chicken Pitas | Microwave DCB #recipe #realfood | MoneywiseMoms
Teriyaki Chicken Pitas {Microwaved in the DCB}
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 8 oz white mushrooms
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • Sliced Provolone cheese
  • Whole wheat pita breads
  1. Coarsely chop onion and peppers and place in baker.
  2. Lay chicken breasts on top and sprinkle with ginger, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  3. Cover and microwave on high for 12-14 minutes or until chicken is done (I use a digital thermometer to check).
  4. Drain liquid from baker, then chop chicken and vegetables with kitchen shears.
  5. In small bowl, combine soy sauce and cornstarch. Add to baker and combine well. Heat for 2 more minutes.
  6. Fill each pita with slice of cheese and chicken mixture. Serve immediately.

I slice the pitas in half and stuff each with a slice of cheese before serving this to the family. They love it!

Try my other microwave Deep Covered Baker Recipes:

and follow my Deep Covered Baker Recipes Pinterest board.


Linked up to Real Food Recipe Roundup at Sassy Moms in the City, Whatever Goes Wednesday at Someday Crafts, Inspire Me Wednesday at Mama Buzz, Fluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster, and Pinterest Foodie at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond.

Baked Potato Bar {Easy Party Favorite}

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and Wet-Nap but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #showusyourmess  http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

Baked Potato Bar | perfect for parties, potlucks and family reunions this #summer! #ad #showusyourmess #PMedia| MoneywiseMoms Baked Potato Bar | perfect for parties, potlucks and family reunions this #summer! #ad #showusyourmess #PMedia| MoneywiseMoms

Summer is coming, and so are parties, potlucks and family get-togethers. How do you feed a crowd? I love finding ways to feed everyone where I can prep ahead and spend my time eating and visiting instead of stuck in the kitchen. This Baked Potato Bar is the perfect solution. Just prep your toppings earlier in the day, store in the fridge, then serve up with some hot potatoes for an easy meal. It works for a small crowd (like your family) or a big one (like the whole swim team).


Baked Potato Bar | perfect for parties, potlucks and family reunions this #summer! #ad #showusyourmess #PMedia| MoneywiseMoms

Baked Potato Bar Toppings (choose your favorites!)

  • shredded cheese
  • sour cream
  • butter
  • scallions
  • red onions
  • broccoli
  • diced fresh tomatoes
  • salt & pepper
  • chili
  • chopped ham
  • bacon
  • shredded chicken (just use leftovers)
  • taco meat
  • salsa
  • guacamole
  • Tabasco or hot sauce

If you’re cooking for a crowd, bake your potatoes ahead of time (I love russets for baking) and keep them warm in a cooler. Yes, really! While your potatoes are baking, fill the cooler with hot (not boiling water), then empty and dry thoroughly. Store the potatoes in the cooler with the lid closed until needed. This will make a great poolside healthy dinner for us during our summer swim season–I’ll pack one cooler with the cold foods and one with the hot food–and everyone can enjoy it. Kids (and adults) love being able to personalize their own potato.

Baked Potato Bar | perfect for parties, potlucks and family reunions this #summer! #ad #showusyourmess #PMedia| MoneywiseMoms

Be prepared for happy diners and for the inevitable mess. Grab some Wet-Nap products to keep on hand. They’re easy to bring to any picnic or potluck. I found mine at Walmart (along with all the ingredients for the baked potato bar), and right now you can print a .55 off Wet-Nap product coupon while supplies last.

Baked Potato Bar | perfect for parties, potlucks and family reunions this #summer! #ad #showusyourmess #PMedia| MoneywiseMoms

Do your kids make a mess like mine? Enter the Most Original Mess Contest over at Wet-Nap. Just upload a photo entry of your messy kids and share the link across social media.  The photo with the most votes wins a $1,000 giftcard to Walmart and a year’s supply of Wet-Nap products. Voting will close on June 16.


Baked Potato Bar is linked up to Thrifty Thursday at Living Well Spending Less, Pinterest Foodie Linky at Real: the Kitchen and Beyond, Show & Tell at Gingerly Made, Whatever Goes Wednesday at Someday Crafts, Wow Us Wednesday at Family Home & Life, Inspire Me Wednesday at Mama Buzz, Wow Me Wednesday at Polkadots on Parade, Fluster’s Creative Muster Party at Fluster Buster, the Inspiration Exchange Link Party at Twelve O Eight, Hearth & Soul Hop at Premeditated Leftovers, Too Cute Tuesday at Funky Polkadot Giraffe, Real Food Recipe Roundup at Musings of a Housewife, and Share it Link Party at The Winthrop Chronicles.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

Cool spring days are perfect for baking up a special afterschool treat for my kiddos. I like to add fruit and fiber to their snacks, so these Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins are a perfect fit, with honey, cinnamon and whole wheat flour. They’re hearty with just a touch of crispy sweetness on the top because of the cinnamon sugar sprinkle topping. Yum!

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins | Simple #recipe with honey, cinnamon and whole wheat #realfood | MoneywiseMoms


5.0 from 1 reviews
Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins
  • 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp + 1 tsp ground cinnamon (separated)
  • 3/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax seed (optional)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries, do not thaw
  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Spray 12 regular-size muffin cups with cooking spray, or place paper baking cup in each muffin cup.
  2. In small bowl, mix brown sugar and 1/4 tsp cinnamon; set aside.
  3. In large bowl, beat milk, oil, honey and egg with spoon. Stir in flours, baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon and salt just until flours are moistened (batter will be lumpy).
  4. Gently fold in blueberries.
  5. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups (cups will be full). Sprinkle with brown sugar mixture.
  6. Bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from pan.


For even more fiber, add a tablespoon of ground flax seed to the batter. These didn’t last long at my house as afterschool snacks! Looking for more snack and lunchbox ideas? Follow my Back to School & Lunch Packing board on Pinterest.


Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins | Simple #recipe with honey, cinnamon and whole wheat flour #realfood | MoneywiseMoms


This Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins recipe is shared at Real Food Recipe Roundup at Sassy Moms in the City, Fluster’s Creative Muster at Fluster Buster, Pinterest Foodie at Real the Kitchen and Beyond, How To Tuesdays at Bombshell Wife Life and Manic Monday Linky Party at Serendipity and Spice.

School Lunch Roundup {No Lunchmeat!}

School Lunch Roundup | no lunchmeat #realfood | MoneywiseMoms

It’s time for a School Lunch Roundup! I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’m trying to get re-inspired on packing school lunches. We still have TWO MORE MONTHS of school left, so I’m looking at another 126 lunches to go. My kids are super tired of sandwiches, and since we can’t have peanut butter (allergies), I’ve come up with some new healthy alternatives to lunch meat.

I’m also trying something new–packing lunches while I’m preparing dinner, whether that’s at 8am or 5pm–and it’s working. I feel less rushed as they’re getting ready in the mornings, and since I’m half brain-dead on the mornings I drive my son to 6am swimming, it’s one less task to do. Yay!


Whole Wheat Pita Pizza | School Lunch Roundup #realfood | MoneywiseMoms

These Whole Wheat Pita Pizzas have been so easy to make and are the clear new favorite by my kids, who would like to have them once a week. I found mini whole wheat pita breads at Trader Joe’s, and while I’m making dinner or doing other kitchen tasks, I make up some Whole Wheat Pita Pizzas using either leftover spaghetti sauce or pizza sauce I make from tomato paste. I put a piece of wax paper in between so the pizzas don’t stick together in our Easy Lunchboxes. Add some fruits & veg, and you have a super healthy real food lunch!


Finger Foods Lunch | School Lunch Roundup #realfood | MoneywiseMoms

I call this the Finger Food Lunch because it reminds me of eating appetizers at a party. There’s lots of little bits of foods the kids like: celery and tomatoes for dipping in hummus, cheese and multigrain crackers, a hard boiled egg for protein, and some cold peas leftover from dinner the night before. I use Silicone Baking Cups to separate the foods, they’re easy to wash and store and have replaced baggies for us.


Beans and Rice Lunch | School Lunch Roundup #realfood | MoneywiseMoms

Beans and Rice is a weekly favorite. I heat up cooked brown rice (leftover from dinner) with black beans, salsa and a sprinkle of cheese in a Thermos Funtainer. This time, I served it with tortilla chips and yummy Greek yogurt guacamole dip I found at Trader Joe’s (they have it at Costco too). Add some strawberries or other favorite fruit in a Lock & Lock Square, and it’s done.


Salad Lunch | School Lunch Roundup #realfood | MoneywiseMoms

This Salad Lunch is easy to prepare while chopping vegetables for dinner. While prepping tacos, I chopped extra lettuce and tomatoes and set up the lunchboxes alongside dinner prep. That makes the mornings smoother! With this salad, I added chickpeas and olives, some dressing in a little spillproof container, a cheese stick and some crackers. To keep it all cold, I use these Fit & Fresh ice packs. They stay frozen well through lunchtime, and my girls have the last lunch of the day.


Snacky Lunch | School Lunch Roundup #realfood | MoneywiseMoms

This is another Snacky Lunch. My kids are not terribly picky eaters, but I do have a hard time keeping track of who likes what during any given season. Why do kids suddenly hate a food they’ve happily eaten for five years? By giving them little bits of this and that, they don’t have to suffer through a large serving of something that’s not a favorite. Along with the cheese & crackers, I’ve put carrots and Ranch dip (ugh, not ideal but everything else is healthy), some apple and a whole wheat brownie. We make our own trail mix since we can’t have peanuts in the house. This one has almonds, pumpkin seeds (pepitas), cashews, and dried cranberries. My kids take water in reusable Funtainer Bottle instead of juiceboxes or milk.


Linked up to Real Food Recipe Roundup at Musings of Housewife

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to our favorite lunchbox packing products. Thanks for supporting MoneywiseMoms at no cost to you!

How I do Meal Planning {the 2014 version}

I’m teaching a class on Meal Planning this weekend, and it occurred to me that it’s been ages since I actually posted a meal plan here on MoneywiseMoms. Why? I’ve changed how I do meal planning over the past year, when I started using master meal lists. It saves me the “thinking” part of meal planning, which saves me time and stress. Since we’re eating the same things time and again, it seemed silly to post that here each week. But I’d love to get your thoughts–do you want me to post meal plans occasionally? I was thinking about sharing more cooking strategies for how to make (any) meal plan work for a busy family.

How I do meal planning (the 2014 version) | MoneywiseMoms
How I do Meal Planning now:

So this new method– I make a seasonal master meal list to work from–like my 30 Easy Meals for Fall, which I reused each month to make my life easier. I updated the list in December to include more cold-weather dishes like stews and casseroles, with 30 Easy Winter Meals. Now that it’s spring, I’m moving away from casseroles and other oven dishes for cold salads and lighter fare that I know will help us come swim team season. I’m also trying out some new recipes to see if they’re worth putting in the regular rotation.

I still stick to my $500/month grocery budget, and we do eat out 1-2 times a month, always with coupons or Kids Eat Free. I use less time each week planning out my meals; I just look at the list and pick some that work with our schedule, then check my pantry/fridge/freezer to see what we have on hand. Then I write a grocery list, and try my best (!) to shop just once a week. It’s the cooking strategies that really make it work, which is why I thought I’d write more posts about those, rather than just list what we’re eating each week.


Want to try Meal Planning?

Create a Master Meal List–start with what your family already eats/you already cook. I like to fill my protein categories to be sure I have enough variety and that we don’t eat the same things every month. That’s where Menu Plan Mind Mapping comes in handy! For example, when I buy the 4-pack of pork loin roasts at Costco each month, I have 6 favorite recipes to choose from. If it’s spring/summer, I’ll skip the ones that need the oven and stick with stovetop or crockpot cooking. By having a number of meals to make from ground beef/turkey, chicken, pork, and vegetarian, I can skip the thinking part of meal planning each week and just make a shopping list.

Check your fridge/pantry/freezer–as you’re writing your shopping list, take a look at what needs to be used up or what you may have stocked up on. Before you spend more money, use what you have! Rather than say “we’ll eat hamburgers this week,” I choose meals off the list that use food we already have, a big money-saver.

Set aside time weekly–start with 30 minutes a week to plan out your meals and shopping list. It will get faster as you gain more experience. When my girls were in preschool, I did the plan and shopping on Friday mornings; now I do it Sunday afternoons so we’re prepped for the week ahead. I also use a number of cooking strategies (like doubling up & freezing a casserole) to help me get dinners ready faster on busy weeknights.

Think through breakfasts, lunches and snacks–for years, I focused on the dinner recipes and would easily forget the staples that our household runs on. Between keeping a list on the fridge and training my husband and kids to write down anything we run out of, and thinking through our routine, we stay stocked on staples which helps avoid extra trips to the store and extra expenses.


Where are you in your meal planning routine? How can I help?

Linked up to Menu Plan Monday at OrgJunkie.

Turkey Parmesan Pasta {Easy Stovetop Meal}

Looking for a quick, healthy dinner recipe? Look no further! This Turkey Parmesan Pasta recipe is very similar to my Chicken & Tomato Pasta recipe, but it doesn’t require a Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker. It cooks right on the stovetop, in just one pan. Gotta love that!

Turkey Parmesan Pasta | Easy stovetop #recipe for family dinner | MoneywiseMoms

4.0 from 2 reviews
Turkey Parmesan Pasta
Serves: 6
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with Italian spices (or add your own)
  • 2 cups uncooked whole wheat pasta
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 cups low-sodium beef broth (I use jarred Better Than Bouillon)
  1. In a large skillet over medium/high heat, saute the onion and green pepper until soft.
  2. Add the ground turkey, breaking up into small pieces. Once cooked, remove from pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings/juice. Set the meat mixture aside.
  3. Return the skillet to the heat and add the beef broth, tomatoes, and pasta. Stir to coat all of the pasta. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium.
  4. Cook, covered, for 20 minutes, or until pasta is tender.
  5. Return turkey vegetable mixture to the skillet and stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese. Heat through.
  6. Serve with remaining Parmesan sprinkled on top.

This recipe can include any vegetables your family likes. I use zucchini rather than pepper in the summertime when we have garden zucchini.

Linked up to Real Food Recipe Roundup at Musings of a Housewife and Pinterest Foodie Linkup at Real the Kitchen & Beyond.

Spring Inspiration for School Lunches

Spring inspiration for school lunches | Liven up your kids' lunches with new combos, more fruits & veggies | MoneywiseMoms

I know we’re not the only part of the country finally climbing out of the winter funk. It seemed like the longest winter ever! I am finally putting away the coats and boots, the snow shovel and salt, and pulling out the short sleeves and shorts for the kids to try on. It’s going to be sunny and 70 degrees this week–just heavenly! One of the ruts I fell into this winter was packing lunches, especially on those super-early mornings that I take my son to swim practice. “I can do it in my sleep!” and I was proud of that, except that I was packing the same darn thing every day, and we’re all really tired of it. I’m ready for some spring inspiration–how about you? I found two sites with great inspiration for school lunches:

EasyLunchboxes Gallery | Spring inspiration for school lunches  | MoneywiseMoms

The EasyLunchboxes Gallery has 40 pages of ideas for lunches for kids of all ages, plus moms and dads. I especially like the ideas I get for using up leftovers and ideas for non-sandwich lunches. I just ignore all the Bento-style shapes and fancy stuff; it’s hard enough packing lunch for three kids daily, so I just keep it simple. Each gallery photo has a link to the original blog or recipe so there’s a lot to see.

School Lunch Roundup at 100DaysofRealFood | Spring inspiration for school lunches | MoneywiseMoms

100DaysofRealFood has five School Lunch Roundup posts with great ideas for increasing the amount of fruits and veggies in your kids’ lunches. There are also loads of ideas for alternatives to lunchmeat, which I’m always looking for. I went through the photos with my girls and they picked out a few new lunches to try, like this homemade pizza lunchable. With the nicer weather, we’ll have better produce in stores and our own garden running soon, so I’m encouraging the kids to eat more colorful foods.

Where do you get inspiration for school lunches?