Real Food For Families

Balsamic Reduction Sauce

I have no photo of my beautiful and delicious Balsamic Reduction Sauce, for reasons I will explain later. So instead, I offer you, leftover cute Christmas photos. Santa visited my parents home on Christmas Eve and had a nice visit with Katie, Christopher and all of their cousins. Thank you to Aunt Tricia for making sure that he included us in his long list of stops that evening!


So, back to the Balsamic Reduction Sauce….I made this to serve over lamb chops, arugula and spinach greens and it was very good and very beautiful on the plate. But, as anyone who takes photos of food realizes, it is best to take these shots in natural light. A photo of my dinner plate at 6:30 PM, in the Northeast is…just…well…sad. Combine that with the fact that I really don’t have any photography skills to speak of and I take the majority of the pictures for this blog with my iPad…high quality, gorgeous photography is just not happening around these parts! I know that’s not why you’re here. You come, obviously, for the award winning writing…oh, that’s not why you are here? You are here because you are my mother and you want to see photos of your grand kids? Okay, fine…here you go, Mom. But on the off chance that someone out there may, inadvertently stumble across this food blog on their way to the Pioneer Woman (an actual award winning food blog) and wonder why the photos are a disaster from October through April…that is why.

Balsamic Reduction Sauce (4 servings)
~1 Tablespoon olive oil
~2 shallots, minced
~1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
~3/4 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
~1 Tablespoon butter

Note: Ideally, prepare this sauce in the pan that you cooked your meat in. This is what helps to flavor the sauce. Remove the meat to a covered plate to keep warm. You may not need to add the oil if there is still enough in the pan to cook the shallots.

1. Cook the shallots for a few minutes over medium heat in a bit of oil until just browned.
2. Stir in the vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan to get any bits of meat into the sauce.
3. Stir in the broth and continue to cook and stir over medium to medium high heat for 5 to 10 minutes until the sauce reduces by about a half and thickens up a bit.
4. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until it completely melts.
5. Pour the sauce over the cooked meat.

This sauce was great with the lamb chops, but would also be a nice addition to steak,chicken or pork. Here is the original recipe from Allrecipes.


School Lunch Ideas and a Blogiversary!

I’ve been taking pictures of some of the lunches my kids have brought to school over the past few months and thought I would share them. I love seeing other people’s ideas. Sometimes you feel like you pack the same thing over and over and it’s helpful to get inspiration from others! So here you go…

Grapes, whole wheat pretzel sticks, tomato/pesto/cheese roll ups, slices of cheddar cheese

Slices of mozzarella cheese, organic pepperoni, blueberries, PB&J sandwich

Cheese and Tomato sandwich, raspberries/blueberries, nuts/chocolate chips, organic pepperoni

Organic Salami/mustard/cheese sandwich, grapes/cantelope, sunflower seeds/chocolate chips

Tomato/pesto sandwich, olives, mixed nuts, grapes

PB&J sandwich, whole wheat pretzel sticks and dried raspberries, cut up carrots/red pepper

Whole wheat bagel, carrots/sugar snap peas, grapes, grapes, hummus

By the way, our blog, KatieJeanCooks, turned one year old yesterday. I believe that’s known as a Blogiversary! It has been a fun year documenting our journey to eating better and we hope you have been able to find something useful in our posts. Thanks for reading!


What is Polenta?


Every member of my family asked this question when they saw “Polenta Chicken Lasagna” written on the weekly menu plan, so maybe you are wondering about this ingredient as well. I keep hearing about it, but had never tried it until this past week. Polenta is made from cornmeal. It is an inexpensive, gluten-free grain that can be substituted for bread or pasta. It’s mostly complex carbohydrates, which are high in dietary fiber and digest more slowly than simple carbohydrates. This makes polenta a good source of energy for the body. Fresh made polenta has the consistency of grits, but it can be made into cakes for grilling or frying. You can also purchase it in precooked logs, wrapped in plastic, that don’t need to be refrigerated until opened. You typically slice the logs into 1/4 inch thick rounds to be used in most recipes. Have you ever tried polenta? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

~1 tube of precooked polenta (16 oz.)
~pesto (about 2 ounces or 1/4 cup)
~cooked chicken, diced or shredded, about 1 cup
~Tomato sauce (homemade or your favorite jarred sauce), about 1 1/2 cups
~mozzarella cheese, shredded or sliced thinly, about 8 oz.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Slice the polenta into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Arrange half of them in a single layer in the bottom of a buttered 8 inch square baking dish.
3. Spread half of the pesto over the polenta.
4. Arrange half of the chicken over the pesto layer.
5. Spread half of the tomato sauce over the chicken.
6. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese evenly over the sauce layer.
7. Repeat the layers, except leave off the final layer of cheese.
8. Cover with foil and bake at 375 (F) for 25 minutes.
9. Remove the foil, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on and return to the oven, uncovered for about 5 more minutes.

I made this in an 8×8 inch dish because I wasn’t sure if we would like it, but the next time I plan on doubling the recipe and using a 13×9 inch dish. There is also a lot of flexibility when it comes to how much time you want to invest in this recipe. You could make everything from scratch (crazy talk!!) or you could use pesto and sauce from a jar and pick up a rotisserie chicken. It’s also a perfect meal for using up leftover chicken, which is what I did this week.

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Happy Birthday!


Somebody around here had a birthday recently and her Mom is having a small panic attack at the sight of all of those candles. Would really like to freeze time…I feel like I say that every year…but now I really mean it!! What a pleasure it has been to watch her unfold into the kind, funny, hard working, beautiful person that she is. Happy Birthday, Katie!

We used Deb Perelman’s birthday cake recipe and also used raspberries to color the frosting. This is the first time I’ve tried this and I like how it turned out. You just put about a cup of berries in the blender (I used mostly raspberries along with a few blackberries), blend until puréed, and then press them through a strainer to get rid of the seeds/skins. You end up with about a third to a half of a cup of berry purée. Then mix that into your frosting. Deb’s cookbook has some more tips about which berries to use to get the color you’re going for.


Of course, then I had to go ahead and put those food dye laden sprinkles all over it…if it was summer, maybe I would have garnished it with fresh raspberries instead!

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