Oh yes. Sesame Week. This one was a cinch. This dish is something I make pretty regularly, since it's easy, low-cal, and full of stuff that's good for you!
--- Jenny

SESAME CHICKEN STIR-FRY
3-4 tbsp sesame oil
1 large carrot, sliced on the diagonal (Purely aesthetic!)
1/2 red pepper, sliced into strips
1/2 yellow pepper, sliced into strips
1/2 onion, chopped into bite-size pieces
1/2 head broccoli, in bite-size pieces
1 large clove garlic, diced
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp fresh ginger, diced
2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
2-3 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted ( toast lightly in a frying pan)
pinch red pepper flakes, if desired
Salt to taste

In a wok or frying pan, saute vegetables in sesame oil. A few minutes before vegetables finish, add garlic, soy sauce, ginger, and chicken. Stir in toasted sesame seeds.Salt to taste and add red pepper if desired. Serve over brown rice.

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I knew I wanted to do something a little different for balsamic with my dessert.  I think this fits the bill perfectly.  This tart is really, really good.  The crust is very slightly adapted from a recipe by the phenomenal David Lebovitz; as soon as I saw the method on how to make the tart crust, I knew I had to try it. The tart recipe itself is the result of playing around with a couple of recipes, adding things here and there, combining things, leaving others out.  The end result is fantastic!  The crust is flaky and slightly sweet; the filling is chock full of nuts and caramel and the balsamic and chocolate add a hint of extra depth to the flavor.  Try it this weekend!
 ---Karly 


BALSAMIC CARAMEL, NUT, AND CHOCOLATE TART

For the crust:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1 slightly rounded cup of flour

For the filling:
1 ¼ cups sugar
¼ cup water
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon vanilla 
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1 ½ ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (about half of a large baking bar)
 
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  To make the crust, get an oven-safe bowl (Pyrex is good) and put the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt in it.  Put the bowl in the oven (yes, you read that right) for 15 minutes, until the butter is bubbling and starting to brown  around the edges.  Take the bowl out (and be careful, don’t forget the bowl is hot) and add the flour.  Stir it in quickly, until a ball of  dough forms.  Put the dough in a 9-inch tart pan and spread it out some with a spatula.  When the dough is cool enough to handle, press it evenly across the pan and up the sides; save a small piece of dough to patch any cracks.  Prick it all over with a fork and pre-bake the crust for 15 minutes in the oven.  Once it’s out, if there are any cracks, patch them with the reserved dough.
 
While the crust is in the oven, make the filling.  Put the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir until the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat.  Let the mixture boil without stirring, until it’s a nice amber color.  You can swirl the pan a bit and also brush the sides with a wet pastry brush if needed.)  Reduce the heat to medium, and CAREFULLY whisk in the whipping cream until smooth.  Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla, honey,  and balsamic vinegar.  Stir in the nuts and chocolate pieces.  Pour the filling into the tart shell and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until bubbling all over.  Let it cool completely before serving.

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   Goodness! Do a search online for "balsamic vinegar" and "dessert", and you get a bunch of stuff about strawberries... So why mess with a good thing? I found the strawberry mixture's recipe somewhere, but I tweaked it. Then, I thought it needed something with ricotta cheese. Ah, yes. Cannoli filling! Perfect! Have fun with this one, guys. It was so easy!
--- Jenny

CROISSANT WITH CANNOLI CREME AND BALSAMIC ORANGE-SOAKED STRAWBERRIES
Cannoli Creme:
1 cup ricotta cheese
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix everything with a hand-mixer. Refrigerate.

Soaked Strawberries:
1 pint fresh sliced strawberries
One half cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
One tablespoon honey

Wash, stem, and slice fresh strawberries.  Space berry slices out on a plate. Now mix orange juice, balsamic vinegar and honey. Pour mixture over sliced strawberries. Let stand for about one hour. 

Chocolate Ganache:
1/2 cup whipping cream
4-6 oz semisweet chocolate pieces

Bring whipping cream to a boil. Add chocolate and take off heat. Stir until well blended.


To assemble: spread cannoli creme on croissant, spoon strawberries over creme, and drizzle chocolate ganache over the whole thing!


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     We’ve had some decidedly warm weather for October. In fact, it’s been not at all like fall should be, with very few cool days and fewer crisp, cool nights. Yesterday, our weather turned, and after a rainy, dreary day, the weather is decidedly cooler, which has me craving comfort food. Last night I decided to go all out, and I made this dip.  
     This is totally my own recipe. In fact, I kind of made it up as I went, and the result was fantastic. Personally, I think this is best enjoyed on a night when you want to curl up on the couch with a nice, crisp glass of white wine, the dip, and your favorite book or T.V. show. Whether you make it for yourself or make it to share, make it tonight!!

---Karly
 

WARM BALSAMIC ONION CHEESE SPREAD

1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons cup beef broth
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
½ cup shredded Romano cheese
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Bread, sliced and toasted, for serving

     Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the bread, brush with olive oil, and bake until golden and toasted.  Take out, set aside, and leave the oven on so that you can bake the dip.  

     Meanwhile, heat olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 15-20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, then add beef broth and balsamic vinegar and simmer over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, until onions have absorbed liquid.  While the onions are cooking, mix together the yogurt and cheeses in a large bowl.  Once the onions are done, add to cheese mix and stir well to combine; salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a small baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Take the dip out of the oven, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon reserved Romano cheese and parsley, and return to oven for 10 more minutes.

Serve with toasted bread.

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   Braising meat is one of my favorite ways to cook.  The result is so tender and juicy and flavorful, and this dish is no exception. It’s easy to make, delicious, and equally appropriate for company or for a weeknight dinner for the family.  Try it this week!
 ---Karly 

BALSAMIC AND RED WINE-BRAISED CHICKEN THIGHS
4-6 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on
Olive Oil
Flour
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¾ cup red wine
Chicken stock
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
 
     Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Put the chicken thighs and some flour in a big Ziploc bag and shake to coat the chicken well.  Heat some olive oil in an ovenproof pan/skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the chicken and cook until well browned and crisp, 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the chicken and set aside.  
     Melt the butter in the skillet. Add the onion, and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add the vinegar and red wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer until the mixture is reduced by half. Put the chicken back in the pan, skin side up, and add just enough chicken stock to come about three-quarters of the way up the sides of the chicken.  
     Put the pan, uncovered, into the 400 degree oven and bake 45-minutes to an hour, until the chicken is done. It will depend on the size of the thighs, and I recommend using a meat thermometer to be sure. Once the chicken is done, take it out of the oven, remove the chicken from the pan and set aside, and bring the sauce to a simmer on the stove-top. Add the parsley, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Serve the chicken with the sauce on top.

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   Dang, it's about time we borrow a fan's recipe! I chose this one because it's low-fat, low-cal. And pretty tasty! Even my picky husband liked it! I used what I had on hand, which meant I had to use rotini pasta instead of angel hair, and I chose gluten-free. Too, I thought the pasta lacked something, so I sprinkled fresh Parmesan cheese over the whole thing. YUM!
--- Jenny

PAIGE'S BALSAMIC CHICKEN
2 tbs olive oil
‎4-6 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1 onion thinly sliced (Not chopped)
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp each: dried oregano,basil, and rosemary (I use as many fresh herbs as I can, especially rosemary. But note: fresh herbs should be added towards the end of cooking in the cp as the flavors can get muddled)
1/2 tsp thyme
2 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (or 2-3 fresh, diced)1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
ground black pepper and salt to taste

Pour the olive oil on bottom of crock pot. Place in chicken breasts, salt and pepper each breast. Put sliced onion on top of chicken, then put in all the dried herbs and garlic cloves. Pour in vinegar and top with tomatoes. Cook on high 4 hours, serve over angel hair pasta. 


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   Okay, so money's really tight around here right now, and my options are limited when trying to do a Secret Ingredient Cook-Off. But I came up with some really tasty, and LOW-FAT (!), dishes... The first: an appetizer salad of spinach and arugula with a sweet and salty Greek-ness to it. Simple and delicious!
---Jenny


SPINACH & ARUGULA SALAD WITH WARM STRAWBERRY BALSAMIC DRESSING
Enough spinach and arugula (equal parts) to feed four
About a 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
About a 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup sliced strawberries, cleaned and hulled
sea salt, to taste

Mound spinach and arugula on a salad plate and sprinkle cheese and almonds over the mix. In a saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, warm the vinegar and strawberries. Mash the strawberries with a fork and continue to cook until mixture boils. Boil for about a minute or two, then let cool slightly and spoon over salad.

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   Of all the dishes I’ve done for lentil week, this is by far my favorite. It’s a simple, yet delicious side
dish. Even my seven year old liked lentils prepared this way. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a major
accomplishment! Make them today!!
---Karly

ITALIAN-STYLE LENTILS
½ cup dried lentils
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
1 roasted red bell pepper, diced
¼ cup diced pancetta
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Handful of Italian parsley, finely chopped
Freshly grated Romano cheese
Salt and pepper

Cook the lentils in boiling water until tender, 15-20 minutes, and then drain. While the lentils are
cooking, cook the pancetta in a skillet with about a tablespoon of olive oil, until crisp. Add the garlic to
the pancetta and cook, stirring, one minute. Drain on a paper towel. When the lentils are done, stir in
the bell pepper, pancetta and garlic, parsley, pine nuts, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve the lentils
with freshly grated Romano cheese on top.

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   It didn’t take me long to decide that I wanted to try a curry of some sort for lentil week. While I love
curry, I’ve never actually made it before, so I decided to wing it. I intended to serve the curry over rice,
but once I had already started cooking, I realized I was out of rice. Instead of panicking, I looked in my
pantry and found rice noodles…problem solved! I was pretty happy with how the curry turned out,
especially for a first try. Make it this weekend!
---Karly

CHICKEN AND LENTIL CURRY WITH RICE NOODLES
2/3 cup dried lentils
1-2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
½ onion, thinly sliced
½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
1 tablespoon green curry powder
1 tablespoon fresh lemongrass, finely chopped
1-3 teaspoons hot chili garlic sauce
8 oz rice noodles
Peanut or canola oil for stir frying
Chopped fresh cilantro, optional (for garnish)
Sriracha hot sauce, optional

Cook the lentils in boiling water until tender, about 15-20 minutes; drain and set aside. Soak the rice
noodles in hot water for 10 minutes; drain and set aside. In a large skillet, sauté pan, or wok, heat oil
over medium high heat, then add the onion, bell pepper, and zucchini; cook until crisp-tender, 3-5
minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for another 1-2 minutes. Remove the veggies
from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, add the coconut milk, curry powder, lemongrass, and chili
garlic sauce and simmer, stirring, for 3-5 minutes. Add the veggies, chicken, lentils, and noodles to the
sauce, and stir well to combine. Serve garnished with fresh cilantro and Sririacha hot sauce, if desired. 

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   Hmmm... what shalI I say about this dessert? With its cardamom spice, it definitely has an Indian feel. I don't think I have quite mastered yet the perfect lentil consistency, but overall, this would be a good diet treat. Low-fat, for sure, and you could probably use stevia instead of brown sugar. Even though I found the recipe online, I didn't have all the ingredients, so I just sort of winged it...
   For me, the end result had the consistency of oatmeal. I like oatmeal, so that's not a bother. Next time, I might try to process it for a smoother consistency and refrigerate it. Something tells me that it would taste even better cold!
---Jenny

SWEET LENTIL PUDDING
1/3 split red lentils
about 8 halved cashews (I used sunflower seeds)
1/2 cup half and half
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
dash of cinnamon
1/2 cup almond flour, more or less to your desired consistency

Rinse lentils well and let soak, along with cashews, for about an hour. Drain and bring to a boil in a saucepan with 1 cup of the water. Add half and half and the rest of the water, along with the cardamom, coconut and cinnamon. Add almond flour to your desired consistency.

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