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my senior citizen

Recipe: chana masala

Today, my baby puppy Kaweah turns 14 years old. And even though I call her my puppy, even though she acts like a puppy, even though so many people think she’s a puppy… she’s pretty old. So when she turns off her ears and doesn’t come when called (her hearing is perfectly fine, she can hear me open the closet door to her dog treats from across the house) or when she stumbles because her back legs are weak, we are extra patient and understanding with her the way we would be with our grandmas if they were still alive. I don’t generally make a big deal of birthdays, but this one is special, because it may be her last one.

a little salad, puppy biscuits on cheddar, and raw flank steak

kaweah started with her veggies first (good girl)

apples, peanut butter sauce, unsweetened whipped cream

such a patient pup

jeremy blew the candle out

birthday girl!!

We actually celebrated on Thursday, one day early, because our schedules are completely bonkers. The holidays really make me want to do the opposite of what is considered de rigueur. I can get away with some of it, but not the baking. Our local post office ladies ask Jeremy every November if I’ll be bringing cookies for the holidays. And I can’t not give cookies to my vet, because we love him so much. My ace #1 oncologist – he gets cookies for sure. We always gift cookies to the administrative staff in Jeremy’s department. I don’t mind the baking because this is an expression of gratitude. What I do mind is having heaps of sweets around me. Gah! Get them away! To balance out the craziness of holiday baking, I’ve been gravitating toward simple, but awesome savory dishes.

cayenne, garam masala, paprika, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cumin seeds

spices, salt, garlic, onion, lemon, tomatoes, ginger, jalapeño pepper, and chickpeas

This is a recipe that has been eating away at me for a few years – chana masala. My friend, Nicole, brought it to a potluck party in Seattle two summers ago and I loved it. It was a big party, and I never got around to asking for the recipe. By the time I remembered again (months later) I hit the interwebs which 80% of the time lead me to Deb.

grind the toasted cumin seeds

everything chopped, diced, grated, minced, ground, or juiced

I’ve been wanting to cook more with legumes for several years, but only recently have I been able to cook them properly thanks to my pressure cooker. I didn’t realize that at my altitude, I could never achieve that proper silky texture of the perfectly cooked bean with standard boiling because we can’t reach the required temperature. Even with a pressure cooker, I learned that I had to make minor adjustments to cooking times or else my beans would be undercooked or cooked to the point of disintegration. But I’m finally getting it down – and I should note that the taste and texture of properly cooked dried beans are far superior to their canned counterparts.

sauté the onions, ginger, garlic, and chile pepper

add the spices

The mise en place requires the bulk of your time investment, and not very much at that. The cooking time is even less, demanding a minimal amount of babysitting while the chickpeas simmer away in the aromatic spices and vegetables. I didn’t have amchoor powder available and substituted the juice of half a lemon per Deb’s suggestion, but certainly if you can get amchoor powder, do so.

stir in the tomatoes, chickpeas, and water

adding lemon juice and salt

I find chana masala to be a satisfying and warming dish, full of bright spices and tang. It’s heady, healthy, and fills your belly without making you feel like a brick. Pair it with the floral notes of steamed basmati rice. The leftovers reheat beautifully and are especially welcome after a day of skiing or romping around in the cold. And because it’s an easy dish to throw together, I’m looking forward to making it a regular in my menu rotation.

a big bowl of wonderful

yes to this

Chana Masala
[print recipe]
from Smitten Kitchen

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsps fresh ginger, grated
1 fresh jalapeño pepper (or serrano or Thai bird chiles, depending on how spicy you like it), seeded and minced
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsps ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsps cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tbsp amchoor powder* (or juice of 1/2 lemon)
2 tsps paprika
1 tsp garam masala
2 cups tomatoes, diced small (or 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes with the juice)
2/3 cup water
4 cups cooked chickpeas (or two 15 oz. cans, drained and rinsed)**
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 lemon, juice of

*a fruity and sour powder made from dried unripe green mango

[** Jen’s notes: I used 2 cups of dried chickpeas to prepare my dish. First, I pick them over for any rocks or odd things. Then I soaked the chickpeas overnight in enough water to cover them by a couple of inches. The next day, I drained the beans and placed them in my Fagor pressure cooker with about 3 quarts of water and a tablespoon of olive oil (to reduce foaming). I set the lid to setting 2 (high) and sealed it shut. Then I placed the pot over high heat. As soon as pressure was reached (when the little yellow button popped up), I timed it for 12 minutes (recommended anywhere from 9-14 minutes) then turned off the heat. I let it release naturally (takes about 15-20 minutes) before draining and rinsing the chickpeas. I think my yield was a bit more than you would get from two 15 oz. cans.]

In a large saucepan or sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil on high flame and sauté the onions, garlic, ginger, and chile pepper for about 5 minutes. Turn the flame down to medium-low and add the spices: coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, ground cumin seeds, amchoor powder (if using), paprika, and garam masala. Cook for about a minute and then stir in the tomatoes, water, and chickpeas. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in the salt and lemon juice (use the juice of a whole lemon if you aren’t using the amchoor powder). Serves 6-8.

50 nibbles at “my senior citizen”

  1. Kath says:

    Happy Birthday Precious Kaweah puppy! You are so loved! xoxo <3

  2. Lisa is Bossy says:

    SWEET, sweet girl. FOURTEEN. Whatever you guys are doing – you’re doing very well. Maybe it’s that fresh CO air. First off – HOW did you get your dog to eat VEGETABLES first? You soaked them in pork juice, right? Lucca won’t even touch a green vegetable. She’ll get excited to find human food on the floor but then sniffs it and looks up at me like “seriously? you dropped food and it’s this green crap?” Second – the photo of her with the burning candle in her “dessert”?? It’s so sweet I’m not even joking that is almost brings tears to my eyes. Gawd I’m a sucker for a sweet doggie face. She’s the sweetest thing even Jen. A huge happy birthday to Miss Kaweah. I will only be so lucky if Miss Lucca is still kicking (and eating vegetables!?) at 14. You might just be the best doggie parents ever.

  3. Agata says:

    She is adorable:) My Labrador Dante would eat the dessert with candle:)

  4. Alvina says:

    I’ve been a reader for awhile and I have to admit one of the things that kept me coming back was pictures and stories of Kaweah. Not only was finding your blog a complete win in learning how to finally cook all these chinese recipes that my mom had no idea how to translate/dictate (she uses no measurements and does everything my memory and feeling), I also had a loving black lab named Kasper. He was also getting old and he was turning 10 this year. They look so alike and in certain poses I swear they came from the same litter. My family found out last month that he had cancer and we had to deal with an emergency surgery we weren’t sure he was going to make it out of. He past away last week and I had to debate whether I should keep reading your blog in case the pictures of Kaweah reminded me of him too much. And I have to admit, this post brought me to tears and I know the loving quirks of labs. We treated every day after his surgery like his last, giving him extra special dinners and treats. And I know the pain of watching this once crazy dog transition into old age. Kasper once took me down in the snow and dragged me up a hill while i screamed and clutched onto his leash, all to chase a little boy on a sled. Even though we were preparing for his last day, I was surely not ready at all. Seeing him stumble, eat less, and in the end unable to go on walks was so strange and foreign. He was so loving and still enjoyed every visitor that came over. My friends and everyone at the vet office were so in love with him and couldn’t believe he was so ill. He would wag and smile and instantly perk up the moment someone said hi to him. I still find myself looking for him when i wake up and being careful when i cook in case he snatches up any fallen scraps. I hope Kaweah continues to live well and transition into old age well. In a way, I hope to see more posts featuring her as she shares many of Kasper’s old habits and traits. Happy Birthday to Kaweah and happy holidays to you and your lovely family unit.

  5. Magda says:

    Kaweah is such a precious dog. Her eyes are so expressive.
    Happy birthday!!

  6. Kristin says:

    Happy birthday to Kaweah, & I certainly hope there will be another one. Her eyes are so beautiful & expressive & they make me want to laugh or cry…or maybe both at the same time. Her birthday meal was beautiful. I won’t show my kids because they would wonder why I never went to such trouble with theirs. The chana masala looks quite yummy, and I am glad my partner in Indian food crimes is home from college for a month!

  7. John says:

    Happy Birthday Kaweah! You are a good dog, loved by many!

  8. Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary says:

    I just lost my pup Moose a little over a week ago. Your photos made me smile and cry at the same time. I always enjoy seeing Kaweah on your blog. Give that pup a hug from me will you?

  9. Ruthie says:

    Happy birthday Kaweah! I’ve been looking at pictures of Kaweah for SEVEN years now and I love every one. She is a lucky dog and you are a lucky puppy-momma.

    …and chana masala has been my new obsession lately from my favorite Indian food truck. I’m excited to try making my own!

  10. Jillian says:

    So much understanding in Kaweah’s face. She knows how much you love her, and she loves you right back. I grew up with labs and will always believe them to be the best kind of people.

  11. Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence says:

    So cute!! Happy Birthday Kaweah!!

  12. Lisa says:

    Happy birthday to Kaweah. Next summer we will bring Ben and Emily to see her and play with her. I think that Ben will remember how you and Jeremy giving Kaweah bath in the drive way in our old house. It was such a happy time.

  13. sharon kitchens says:

    Beautiful post Jen. Happy Birthday to Kaweah! I miss my old gal. They are the best part of us. So glad you take as many photos as you do of her. I made an iMac book of all the pics I took of Paige and it’s a very happy reminder of all the good times. I’m going to have to step it up on pet birthdays in the future, that plate you set for her was beautiful. ox

  14. Cindi says:

    Your words about Kaweah brought tears – such a love. And you know I have an aging pup as well so I relate to so much of what you say… Happy day, Kaweah – you have such a good Mom and Dad. :)

  15. Melissa says:

    I always think how odd it is how madly in love with Kaweah I am when a) I’ve never met her in person and b) I am not what one might call a dog person. Ish. ;) But every time, with your girl, every time… aw, sniff, look at that FACE, *SOB* ILOVEHERSOMUCH. I hope she sticks around for as long as she possibly can manage, I really do.

    Happy Birthday, pup.

  16. Susan says:

    So sweet, Jen.
    Happy Birthday to Kaweah!!
    Adding your Chana Masala to my “to make” list.
    I’m making your Orange Milano cookies today!

    Best wishes to you all,

  17. Flavia says:

    Happy Birthday sweet Kaweah! What a gorgeous birthday meal you made her. It gave me some ideas for my pup’s 2nd birthday next month. :) Her expressions are priceless. What a precious dog she is. You are such a good steward of one of God’s many creatures and I know she loves you for it. Happy Holidays to you, Jeremy and Kaweah. :) xo

  18. sheri garcia says:

    Happy Birthday beautiful girl from from your old friend Otis.

  19. megan says:

    happy birthday, kaweah!!!!! and to as many more as she can stick around for! I love her eyes in the picture where she is waiting to eat dessert! I love labs. What a lucky and happy dog :)
    I also love the lineup of spices in their respective cans/jars!

  20. Kate says:

    Kaweah is one of my favorite parts of this blog.

  21. Jackie says:

    Recently I’ve been buying chana masala for my husband at Trader Joe’s–which he really likes. Needless to say, yours does look wonderful so I just might have to make it myself! (Happy birthday to your precious pup!)

  22. Cubicle says:

    Happy birthday to Kaweah! What a great birthday treat she got. And the human food looked pretty good too :-)

  23. Tanya says:

    Happy Birthday, sweet Kaweah!

  24. Janine says:

    Happy Birthday, Kaweah!

    Glad to notice the presence of French in your recipe!

  25. farmerpam says:

    Awwww, so cute. I love the pic with the candle. I never considered myself a dog person, until about 5 years ago when the kids came home with a puppy. Black lab mix that they “found”. Now I couldn’t imagine life without the old girl. Dogs rule. Happy Birthday to your girl.

  26. Jess says:

    Aw man. What you said is beautiful, Alvina. Happy birthday Kaweah! She’s lucky to have you two. And great looking chole!

  27. Ouida Lampert says:

    I am not a commenter. I just don’t do it; however, I have to tell you that you made my night – especially in light of all the awful news of the day.

  28. Melanie Evans says:

    I echo everything Lisa is bossy said. What a sweet pup and I’m so grateful to witness your kindness and love. I too am a fan of your #1 ace oncologist. He’s my oncologist now too! Happy birthday to kaweah and happy holidays to you and Jeremy.

  29. Margaret says:

    Having just put our 13 year old Great Dane down…I so appreciate this post. We also have a 14 year old Black Lab that we are nurturing along thus…enjoy each and every day with your special friend!

  30. Maho says:

    Hi Jenny,
    Loooong time reader, first time commenter. Having lost my dog recently (well, two years ago, but still feels recent), your post today and comments by other readers brought tears to my eyes. Kaweah is indeed a lucky dog to have you and Jeremy. Wishing you three a wonderful holiday season. (Oh and your blog totally rocks!)

  31. Gini Freemyer says:

    Had to laugh…my just turned 14 year old lab LOVES raw brussel sprouts (although they don’t love him!). He’s going strong, but we just lost his brother a few months ago. So happy 14th birthday, Kaweah, from Gromit!

  32. Denise Dewire says:

    Ahh….those eyes. What a sweetheart that Kaweah is! I hope we see more birthday pics in another year. I just love your blog, recipes, stories, etc. You are such a gift Jen. Hope you have a fantastic holiday season and can’t wait to see cookie pictures!!

  33. Jamie says:

    Hugs for Kaweah (and Jen and Jeremy) !! Happy Birthday to my most favourite pup ever. Hugs for you too Alvina :) Thank you both for sharing – it was very touching.

  34. Jill says:

    Thank you for sharing your birthday post for Kaweah. What a lovely 14 she is! I love her birthday dinner, and especially the cake that Jeremy blew out the candle! You are special dog parents, guardians or whatever they call us in Boulder CO.

    As your favorite oncologists’ wife…may you be blessed with complete recovery. He brings the cookies home…and we consume a few, and then freeze them for the future. On special mornings together, I bring out a shortbread, and we love them over coffee.

    His pleasure might be more to the recipe you shared above…..he devours beans! Not that he doesn’t devour sweets….but I think his taste is more like yours. My hips do (not) thank you for the sweets however.

    xoxo, j

  35. diane todd sierra lexi says:

    Happy Birthday Sweet Kaweah!!! we love you to pieces!!

  36. Kathy says:

    Enjoying your site – your puppy is beautiful!

  37. Brynnie says:

    Happy 14th Birthday, Beautiful Kaweah! Thank you for making this blog my all time favorite. <3

  38. Lisbeth says:

    Late but obviously I have to comment to wish Kaweah and you and Jeremy congratulations with another happy dog year. May there be yet more to come!

  39. Lisbeth says:

    .. and I don’t know which photo of her I love more: the one where she is eagerly waiting with the light candle or the one where she looks a quite guilty after having eaten some of her dessert :)

  40. savuryandsweet says:

    happy birthday to Kaweah! what an adorable patient girl.

  41. Kejm says:


  42. a farmer in the dell says:

    oh my gosh! i love your dog. the photo with the candle is priceless! Happy Birthday!

  43. Katie says:

    Happy birthday Kaweah! Absolutely love your dog.

  44. jenyu says:

    My goodness, you all are sooooo sweet. I can only imagine the tailwags if all of you were here to wish Kaweah a happy birthday in person. **THANK YOU** for loving on my goofball pup and all of the well wishes and for all of your shared stories about your doggies. Aren’t they the absolute best friends in the world? Love you guys xoxo

    Lisa – she’s always loved the vegetables :) xoxo

    Alvina – I am so so sorry. Thank you for your sweet and touching words. Sending you a big hug and Kaweah wag. I’ve never had a dog of my own before, and it’s very hard for me to imagine the end for Kaweah – so I concentrate on making her NOW time as good as possible. I really feel for you and it sounds like Kasper and Kaweah (and most labs for that matter) are of the same happy disposition – even until the end. Hugs, sweetie.

    Kristin – ha ha, I hope you and your daughter enjoy the dish :) Happy holidays to you and yours.

    John – xoxo

    Lisa – I am heartbroken to hear this. Sending a big hug your way, my dear. They’re such a part of us, aren’t they? xo

    Sharon – :) xoo

    Cindi – thanks, friend *hugs*

    Melissa – me too, but I want to ensure she’s comfortable and happy. It’s a learning experience for me, but she deserves the very best. love you, Mel xo

    Susan – thanks!

    Flavia – same to you, sweetie!!

    Sheri – OTIS!!!! :)

    Kate – you and almost everyone else!! ha ha :) xo

    Jackie – it was surprisingly easy to make, so definitely worth doing yourself. I’d love to hear how it compares with TJ’s!

    Janine – thanks, Madame!! I try, you know :)

    farmerpam – thank you xo

    Ouida – xo

    Melanie – I hope you’re doing well, my dear. Sending you love and healing thoughts! <3

    Margaret - oh, I'm sorry to hear it! They give us so much and ask for so little in return. Much love to you and yours xo

    Maho - so sweet of you xo

    Gini - awww, thank you Gromit (loooove that name).

    Denise - thank you, dear. I hope you also enjoy your holidays xo

    Jill - *hugs*

    diane todd sierra lexi - LOVE YOU GUYS!!!

  45. Caterina B says:

    Oh, how I love a Labrador! Keawah has the most beautiful face and precious Lab expression. I will be showing those classic Lab photos to my hubby as soon as he comes in the door. We have had 2 blacks and 2 yellow Labs over the years and they are absolutely the best, best dogs on Earth.
    Right now we are without a Lab. Tib died almost two years ago and we have not gotten another dear, dear soul like her. She was a clown, a sweetheart, and sometimes very naughty.
    Oh, oh….I can absolutely feel the “Lab Hunger” right now. I’ll be looking at rescue websites today!

  46. jamie says:

    I love Kaweah!

  47. Jasmine says:

    What kind of dog is/was your pup? She looks like a sweet dog. She also looks like a big version of my dog.

  48. jenyu says:

    Jasmine – she is a black labrador retriever.

  49. Poonam Chopra says:

    I prepare it for roti this way only. Sometimes, I skip coconut and add additional tomato..Looks super good with puri..

  50. mookies says:

    Ι love her in that photo with the nose full of cream and the guilty look!
    Kaweah was adorable puppy. I’m sorry for your loss, I know how difficult it is.

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