Maple Balsamic Salmon with Lemon Butternut Squash Orzo

This might make me a total nerd, but I love getting good deals! My husband makes fun of me because I (quite) frequently tell him about the great deals I get at the grocery store. I think part of it is justifying the things I buy, even though he’s far less concerned about it than I am. I just feel like if we’re eating something that’s normally pretty expensive, I have to explain that I got it for super cheap!

Like this beautiful salmon filet that was plenty of meat for a meal for our family – and cost less than $2!

maple balsamic salmon

Seriously, how could I not buy it?? I didn’t have a choice!

Plus, then I got to try out this fabulous recipe my sister told me about. It’s adapted from this recipe she found on the Mayo Clinic DASH Diet. (There are actually tons of great, healthy recipes on there! Go check it out!)

save moneyHow did I get salmon for that cheap you ask? Look for the “manager’s special” stickers on meat – that means it’s super marked down because the sell by date is only a day or two away. I buy most of my meat that way! If you’re not going to use it right away, just freeze it!

Back to this recipe – not only is it good for you, it’s also super easy! I’m still a little intimidated by fish; we never ate it growing up, so I don’t have a lot of experience with it. But this recipe is seriously fool proof.

creamy lemon butternut orzo maple balsamic salmon and asparagus

Just mix the maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and crushed garlic in a small pan on the stove. Heat it until it just starts to boil, stirring frequently. Then use about half of it to glaze the salmon, and pop it in the oven! Be sure to put the salmon on foil – the glaze gets really sticky and you do not want to clean it off the pan!

maple and balsamic vinegar glazed salmon

After 10 minutes, spoon most of the rest of the glaze on top of the salmon, and put it back in the oven. After another 10 minutes, check to see if it’s done. It should be nice and flaky. If it’s not, spoon whatever’s left of the glaze on top, and cook it for a few more minutes.

While the salmon is cooking, you can make the orzo.

creamy lemon butternut squash orzo

Start by cutting up the squash. You’ll want about 1 cup of squash cut into small chunks. Put it in a small pot with enough water to cover, and cook on the stove until tender – about 10 minutes.

Just a side note on the squash – I used slightly less than half of the squash pictured above for this recipe. I used the rest to make some baby food! Also, when buying a butternut squash, find one with a nice long neck. That’s where most of the usable “meat” is.

butternut squash

Cook the orzo according to the package directions, then add the cooked butternut squash.

For the sauce, squeeze the juice of one lemon into a bowl. Crush in 1-2 cloves of garlic. Mix in 2 egg yolks.

creamy lemon butter sauce

Melt 1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter. Make sure it’s quite hot – this is what cooks the egg. Slowly, using a whisk, mix the hot butter into the lemon and egg mixture. Be patient, and keep whisking the whole time. This keeps the yolks from scrambling, and makes a smooth, creamy sauce. Pour on the orzo and squash, stir it up so the sauce evenly coats everything, and serve with the salmon!

creamy lemon orzo with butternut squash

We also had lemon butter asparagus: Just melt a little butter in a large frying pan, toss in the asparagus, and squeeze in a little lemon juice. Saute until tender-crisp.

lemon butter asparagus

its good for you So many healthy things in this meal! First of all, everything is all-natural except the orzo, which you could certainly buy an all-natural pasta. I even used real maple syrup! There is no salt. None. (Unless you use salted butter, which would add a small amount) But still tons of flavor. Salmon is full of vitamins and Omega-3s. Butternut squash has tons of fiber, vitamin C, and loads of other vitamins. And asparagus give you more fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and lots of other goodness.

There is a fair amount of butter… but when split between all the servings, it’s not that much per serving. Plus, some natural fats will help your body process and use all those vitamins!

maple balsamic salmon lemon butternut squash orzo and asapragus


Maple Balsamic Salmon

~1 lb salmon filet
1/4 c pure maple syrup
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic

1. Preheat oven to 375. Combine syrup, vinegar, and crushed garlic in a small sauce pan on the stove. Bring just to a boil, stirring frequently. Once it boils, remove from heat.

2. Place the salmon on a foil-lined baking sheet, and use a spoon or a basting brush to glaze the salmon. Use about 1/2 of the glaze, saving the rest.  Put it in the oven, and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Pull the salmon out of the oven, and brush/spoon most of the rest of the glaze on top. Put it back in the oven for 10 more minutes.

4. Check if the salmon is done – it should be nice and flaky. If it is, it’s ready to serve! If not, use any glaze that is left, and put it back in the oven for a few more minutes.

Makes 4 servings

Serve with Creamy Lemon Orzo with Butternut Squash and pan-roasted asparagus.

Creamy Lemon Orzo with Butternut Squash

1 c uncooked orzo
1/2 – 1 c butternut squash cut into small chunks
1 lemon
2 egg yolks
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 c (1 stick) butter

1. Chop the squash into small chunks, and place in a small sauce pan with enough water to cover. Cook over medium heat until squash is tender, about 10 minutes.

2. Prepare orzo according to package directions. Drain and mix with cooked squash.

3. While those are cooking, prepare the sauce. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a bowl (make sure to discard any seeds!). Crush in the garlic and whisk in the egg yolks.

4. Melt the butter, making sure it is quite hot. Slowly pour the butter into the lemon-egg mixture, whisking constantly. This will cook the egg but keep it from scrambling. Pour over the hot orzo and squash, mix to coat, and serve.

Makes 6 servings


Reinventing the Grilled Cheese Sandwich

There really aren’t too many things more delicious than warm, melty, gooey cheese. Especially good cheese. I mean, think about all the foods we eat smothered in melted cheese – pizza, nachos, lasagna, cheeseburgers, enchiladas, chili cheese fries, and, of course, grilled cheese sandwiches.

So if all those other foods get lots of other sauces and flavors, then why not grilled cheese sandwiches? Probably because it’s really easy to just slap a slice of cheese between two pieces of bread and toss it in a pan for a few minutes. But it really doesn’t take much longer to throw on a couple of extra ingredients to take your sandwich from tasty to amazing.

I’ve been experimenting a bit lately with this, so this will be the first of a few posts to give you some ideas on how to impress your friends, children, coworkers, and/or tastebuds with your grilled cheese awesomeness!

pear muenster sunflower seed grilled cheese sandwich 2

A lot of what makes these more “gourmet” grilled cheese sandwiches work is knowing what flavors will complement the flavor of different types of cheeses.

save moneyNow I know, cheese can get expensive, so you’re probably not going to be buying lots of fancy expensive cheese just to make sandwiches. But if you look at the grocery store where they sell all the deli cheeses, there’s usually a little bin of “remnants” – small chunks leftover from the bigger blocks – that you can get pretty cheap. Plus, if you decide you don’t like that particular cheese, you only bought a little bit!

So here’s the first “Reinvented” Grilled Cheese for you:

pear muenster sunflower seed grilled cheese sandwich 4

I used Muenster cheese for this sandwich – it has a nice mild taste, so the sweetness of the pears and the nutty flavor of the roasted sunflower seeds complement it nicely.

pear muenster sunflower seed grilled cheese sandwich 3

Just butter the outside of the bread, layer the cheese, sunflower seeds, and pear slices, and put it on the stove in a small frying pan.


Tip: To get your cheese nice and melty without burning your bread, cover the pan with a lid or foil to keep the heat in. And don’t get too impatient and turn up the heat – it’ll just burn your bread before the sandwich is heated through. It only takes a few minutes!

pear muenster sunflower seed grilled cheese sandwich 1

Muenster Pear and Sunflower Seed Grilled Cheese

2 slices of whole wheat bread (or any bread you like)
1-2 thin slices of pear
a few slices of Muenster cheese (enough to cover the size of the bread)
1 Tbsp sunflower seeds

1. Butter one side of each slice of bread.

2. Layer the cheese, sunflower seeds, and pear slices on one slice of bread (not on the buttered side). Put the other slice, buttered side out, on top.

3. Place in a small frying pan over medium heat. Tip: Cover with a lid or foil to help the cheese melt faster without burning the bread. After a few minutes, flip the sandwich over. When bread is nicely toasted and cheese is melted, remove from pan and enjoy!

Why buying baby food is a waste of money

If you’re a mom of little ones, you know that when baby starts on solids it can eat up or increase your food budget rather dramatically. The good news? It doesn’t have to! Making baby food is super easy and so much cheaper than buying those little jars of mush.

My second baby started on solids a couple months ago, and I was starting to get lazy and think “Maybe I should just buy some baby food.” But then I decided to take it as a challenge and figure out if it really was financially worth it to keep making all his baby food like I had done with our first baby.

The answer was a resounding YES.

homemade vs store bought baby food costs

So that’s a fairly significant savings. Make it yourself and spend about $0.12 per serving, or buy it at the store and pay $0.66 per serving. That’s more than 5 times the cost!

Note: this is based on the price I typically pay for carrots at my local grocery stores, and the price I found on Amazon for Gerber 1st foods (which came out to $1.32 per 2-pack). If you want to buy organic or all natural baby food, it’s even more expensive.

And just so you don’t think carrots are the only baby food worth making yourself, let’s look at a few others that I’ve run the numbers for.

I can buy a big bunch of bananas at Costco for $1.59  (or for about $0.60/lb at the grocery store). The bunches from Costco usually have about 8 bananas, and I use 1/2 banana to make about the equivalent of one serving of store-bought baby food, about 16 servings per bunch. That means that each serving costs about $0.10, as opposed to the store-bought servings costing $0.66 each – more than 6 times as much! And all you need to do to make baby bananas is mash them up with a fork!

Sweet potatoes regularly go on sale at one of our local grocery stores for $0.88/lb. (0r I can pay full price at about $1.25/lb.).  I get about 12 oz. of baby food per pound, so about 5 servings of store-bought baby food. So if I got them at the sale price, that would be about $0.18 per serving, or at full price $0.25 per serving, compared to $0.66 for the store-bought stuff. Not quite as significant as the bananas (store-bought is about 3 times as expensive here), but still a huge savings!

save moneyAnd don’t get fooled by all the baby food maker contraptions out there. Sure, some of them might be convenient, but really all you need is a blender or food processor (or even just a fork for some foods!).

For carrots (and just about any vegetables or fruits – sweet potatoes, apples, squash, etc) I just peel, trim, and roughly chop them, throw them in a pot with enough water to cover them, and boil on the stove until they’re super soft. Then I just dump them in the blender with some of the cooking water (which has some of the nutrients that leech out when cooking), blend until smooth, and it’s done!

make your own baby food carrots

time saverMake a big batch, and freeze it! You can freeze most baby food you would make (though things like bananas and avocados don’t freeze well). The easiest way to freeze it is in ice trays. Each ice cube should be 1 oz, so then it’s already measured out for you! Once the food is frozen solid, dump the cubes out of the trays and into a freezer bag, and thaw as needed.

make your own baby food carrots 2


And just for some added helpful info: I bought this book when I was getting ready to start my first baby on solids, and I love it.

best homemade baby food on the planet

It breaks down what foods to introduce at what age, has lots of nutrition information, tips for dealing with different phases, and lots of great recipes (some that even I find delicious! But those are more of the toddler recipes, like for muffins and pancakes…). Some of the recipes are so simplistic that I find them almost funny (really, I think I could figure out to mix their mushed up bananas with their cereal…) but overall, it’s a great resource.