Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chicken Mole "Tacos" with Cilantro Lime Sour Cream

Yesterday was my husband's birthday, so I made his favorite dish: Chicken Mole Tacos... or as my husband puts it "the most delicious thing on Earth."  Mole (said mol-ay - like the end of the word "guacamole") is a kind of Mexican sauce involving chocolate.  It is not sweet, but instead is rich and savory and delicious.  My first exposure to it was once when I was visiting Ithaca, NY.  My mom and I stopped for lunch at Viva Taqueria, where they had it on the menu.  I had heard of it, but never tried it before so I went for it, of course.  I couldn't wait to see what this savory chocolate dish was all about.  Well, it was fantastic, cravable.  I was talking about it for weeks afterward.

Fast forward a few years and I was completely craving it, but we didn't want to drag the kids to Ithaca just for that, so instead I decided to try and make it.  I did some basic research online and the recipes either seemed ridiculously complicated or I couldn't see how they could possibly end up tasting like what I wanted.  Back then, we ate it on a flour tortilla as a taco, but now, as you can see, we just make a pile of it all on our plates.  It's perfectly delicious either way.  My husband and kids like to put it on a bed of refried beans, but I prefer it without.

I hesitate to call this paleo/primal because the few chocolate chips in it are not, but you could easily add a squeeze of honey instead to get that slight sweetness it seems to need.  The sour cream also would not be paleo, but would count as primal, I believe.  We serve it with guacamole and cilantro on top.

Anyway, here is the recipe I came up with.  It makes enough mole sauce for the five of  us for two nights, so I generally freeze half for a faster dinner on another night.  We have made it with chicken and pork and both meats are excellent with the sauce.

Mole Sauce:
2T olive oil
1 onion, diced
3-4 cloves of garlic
3T chili powder
3T cumin
1 can green chilies
2T cinnamon
2c chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
2 large or 3-4 small chipotle chilies (dried, chopped)
3T almond butter
1/2c semi-sweet chocolate chips
3T cocoa powder
salt to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat oil to medium.  Add onion and saute until onion is beginning to be translucent.  Add chili powder, garlic, and cumin.  Keep stirring so garlic doesn't burn and let the spices meld - a minute or two.  Add green chilies and cinnamon and saute until liquid from green chilies is fairly dry.  Add chicken broth and diced tomatoes, and the rest of the ingredients.  Stir well and heat thoroughly.  You want to give it enough time for the dried spices and chilies to rehydrate and fully flavor it.  If the sauce is very thin, cook down until it's a bit thicker.  If sauce is too thick add water until it's thin enough that you can blend it without trouble.  Think thick ketchup.  Put sauce in blender (or use a stick blender) until pureed.  Set aside.

Cilantro Lime Sour Cream

1 c cilantro, chopped
1 c sour cream
2 T lime juice
sprinkle of salt

Put most of the cilantro in a bowl to be used as topping for your tacos.  Put a couple tablespoons worth into sour cream.  Add lime juice and salt.  Mix up.

Shredded Chicken

For our family of 5 we use a couple pounds of chicken thighs for this and I cook them in the pressure cooker.  I imagine you could do it in the crock pot, too.  We get boneless, skinless chicken thighs to make shredding them easier.  I put them in the pressure cooker, cover with water, add a bit of salt and then bring to pressure for 7 minutes and then let it sit for 7 minutes before releasing the pressure.  The entire idea is that you need the chicken to be ready to fall apart on it's own.  As a side note, in a pinch, the water from the chicken can be used in the mole sauce in place of chicken broth, but it doesn't give quite as full a flavor.  Once the chicken is cooked, I put it in batches into my stand mixer and let 'er rip.  I love this - it has saved me so much time over the year that I've known it.  I found it out from this pin on Pinterest.  Takes all of five minutes or something instead of 30 minutes with a couple forks.  After that, I mix in a bit of the mole sauce to give it a bit of flavor.

Beyond that, we just use the Wholey Guacamole brand guac because I'm lazy like that.  And then my husband makes margaritas!  YUM!

Friday, August 17, 2012

DIY Reusable Montessori Dot Game

I think the dot game is yet another brilliant method of  teaching high level math to kids.  Maria Montessori seemed to have a special kind of brilliance for taking difficult concepts and making them concrete.  The trouble is that it seems they're expected to use their dot game paper for one single math problem... and then what?  Recycle it?  This gets expensive (AND WASTEFUL!) very, very fast.  Especially when your daughter thinks the dot game is about the coolest thing ever and wants to do it all.the.time.  That's what you want, but not when it drains your pocket book!  I had been just printing it off and letting her use it that way, but then we went through a phase where she was sort of uninterested in doing any school at all and since it's summer I just let it be for a while.

Starting up again, I wanted something fun and exciting and nice to look at.  So I broke out my old scrapbooking stuff and found a pretty "dot" paper.  I printed off a copy of the dot game paper from this site and cut it out.  I stuck it on with tape because I didn't want to take the time, but if I had it to do again I'd use a glue stick or something to stick it on since it does seem to pop up a little funny in the middle of the paper.  Then I stuck on the letter stickers to say "The Dot Game".  Finally I used self adhesive laminating sheets to laminate it and then cut off the excess.

She's using embarrassingly large dry erase markers in the appropriate colors, but I'd like to get some that are a better thickness for the size of the dot game.  These are just what I happened to have on hand.

I love that I don't have to print off a thousand copies of the dot game paper and my daughter can math to her little heart's delight!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Another Shoe Review: Merrell Barefoot Run Dash Glove

After having the Pace Glove and overall appreciating it's flexibility and minimal nature, but noting the damage the road was doing to the sole, I decided that I really wanted to try a minimalist road shoe.  I chose the Merrell Barefoot Run Dash Glove because I already knew what to expect from Merrell, at least in terms of their barefoot line.   I was not sure about it though, because I wasn't really thrilled with the look of it from the pictures on their website.  When it arrived, it was much cuter than I expected.

The Dash Glove seems a bit stiffer in the sole than the pace glove, but there's still a fair amount of ground-feel.  I can't really call it "stiff" though, because you can still roll the shoe right up in your hand.  The grooves are not as deep as the pace glove, but I haven't had any trouble with traction on the road, even in wet conditions.  I also kind of like the motif on the bottom - sorta looks like toes.  I guess they're getting all in on emphasizing the bareFOOTness of the shoe.  It seems to be holding up well to the road, so far, but I guess we'll see how it goes over time.  I've been running in them a few times a week for a couple months.
The main differences between the Dash Glove and the Pace Glove seem to be (aside from grooves on the bottom) that the laces come up higher on the foot and that the top has more coverage with fabric that is a bit more waterproof.  I will say that the fabric on the top seems to keep my feet fairly dry, especially compared to the pace glove where my feet get soaked with any rain or dew on grass or whatever.  I've been pretty pleased with that.  Who wants to run with wet feet?

The laces do come up much higher on the foot than in the dash glove - good inch or so further.  When I first put the shoes on, I didn't really like this fact too much.  It felt awkward and uncomfortable initially.  After about 5 minutes of running, my feet settled in and the laces adjusted enough to be much more comfortable.  I actually find I can get a better fit with these than with my Pace Gloves.  They still open up fairly wide to get your foot in.  I don't have super high arches, or anything, but they're very easy to get on, despite the higher lacing.

As with much of the women's line (but not the men's, so I'm not sure why this is the case) they have the elastic bits along the back.  I'm really growing to appreciate that, though.  I'd still like to know why they do that for the women's and not the men's.  

The inside is sewn with no seams so it's very comfortable to wear sockless, though the reason I prefer a toeless shoe over vibrams is that it's easier to just get cheap (toe socks are expensive!), thin socks and keep from having to wash my shoes all the time.  It's also, of course, warmer for winter or cooler weather running.

Basically, these are very similar to the pace glove in many ways.  I encourage you to check out my pace glove review to catch a more full description of what I like about them.

I'm trying to think of downsides and I'm not coming up with any other than not having a ton of color selections that I love.  I did buy a half size up but it hasn't seemed to shrink like the dash gloves did.  I haven't had to wash them as often (helps that I'm not running in mud), though, so the same deal may apply. 

Overall, I love this shoe and it's my go-to for running.