November 2017 • Page 2 of 2 • Birdseed Kitchen

Crock Pot Channa Masala

Crock Pot Channa MasalaMy first recipe for channa masala was published in a past blog on September 5, 2010. This is a revised version with new photos – and new sketch notes!

Indian food is my “desert island” cuisine. If I had to choose a single cuisine to eat for the rest of my life, Indian food would be it. (Mediterranean is probably a close second.)

I didn’t experience any Indian food at all in my own rural Illinois hometown. When I went to college, I experienced the classic Indian gateway food called tandoori chicken, served with fluffy yellow basmati rice, and was instantly hooked. And when I was briefly vegetarian / vegan a few years ago, I really came to appreciate vegetarian Indian cuisine, and started cooking it myself at home. With the help of some wonderful Indian and international groceries in our ethnically-diverse college town, I built a useful cache of spices for creating Indian flavors.

Although I love a good Indian restaurant meals, I’ve discovered that real Indian is not necessarily loaded with oil and cream. There’s usually ghee (clarified butter) involved, and I have no objection to that. But I love the control I have at home. If I want to create a creamy dish and lower the fat, I’ll use some pureed cashews. I can usually get by with less butter if I increase the onions, and sauté them until they’re deep golden brown and buttery-soft. I know I’m not creating health food here, but I think I’m getting by with a lot less fat and salt, while pumping up the vegetable content.

The type of fresh, home-cooked Indian food that I’ve come to enjoy is portrayed beautifully on cookbook author Meera Sodha’s Instagram. Her first cookbook, Made in India, is one of my favorites. (Try the paneer first for an easy win. You may not go back to the store-bought stuff.) My favorite page of the book, however, is not a recipe – it’s a photo of Sodha’s mother and her well-seasoned wooden spoon, darkly colored from tending decades of family dinners.

Next week, when I travel to my mom and dad’s house for Thanksgiving, I’ll pick up one of my grandmother’s wooden spoons. I’ll use it to stir this channa masala for my own family. I’m fairly certain that grandma’s spoon never experienced channa masala, but I know it’s seen many warm, welcoming family meals. Tastes change and expand across generations, as we welcome more parts of the world into our kitchens. I hope this big warm pot of Indian spiced chickpeas has a chance to welcome you home, too.


If your slow cooker has a removable stoneware crock, you can assemble this recipe the night before, store the crock in the fridge, then pull it out in the morning and plug it in. Dinner will be waiting for you in the evening, and your house will smell amazing.

If you find that the channa masala needs to thicken a bit before serving, take the lid off the crock pot for about a half hour and let it reduce.

Crock Pot Channa Masala

Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 20 minutes
Servings 8


  • 2 tbsp ginger root about a 2-inch piece, sliced
  • 14 cloves garlic
  • 1 small green chile optionally seeded if you like less spice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 3 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp brown mustard seed
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 tbsp garam masala
  • 4 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp coriander seed
  • 2 large cans chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 2 21g cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 black cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp amchur powder see note below


  1. In a food processor, combine ginger, garlic, green chile, salt, and lemon juice. Pulse until finely minced.

  2. In a heavy skillet, heat ghee on medium-low heat until melted. Add mustard and cumin seeds. Toss briefly, until seeds start to pop. Add garlic-ginger mixture and fry until fragrant.

  3. Add onions, season lightly with kosher salt, and sauté until onions are golden brown and soft, about 10 minutes. (Take care not to let them burn.)

  4. Add garam masala, turmeric, coriander, and a pinch of salt. Bloom the spices with the onion mixture until they are fragrant, about one minute. Turn off heat, and add onion mixture to crock pot.

  5. Add tomatoes and drained chickpeas to the crock pot, along with bay leaves, cardamom pods, and amchur powder. Stir until combined.

  6. Cook on low 8 hours. If desired, leave the lid off for the last 1/2 hour to reduce.

  7. Serve with hot basmati rice.

Recipe Notes

Amchur powder is made from drying green mangos. It provides a sour note to this dish. If you can't find it, a tablespoon of lemon juice added at the end of cooking would make a fine substitute.

Sketch Notes!

I’ve been experimenting with sketch notes for recipes, and they’re so much fun! This is the first sketch I created. It’s not 100% accurate for this recipe, because I forgot the green chile in the illustration and there’s no room to add it. But stay tuned for more sketch notes in recipe posts.

Crock Pot Channa Masala sketch notes

Three Sisters Breakfast Bowls with Black Beans, Hominy, and Roasted Butternut Squash

Three Sisters Breakfast Bowl with Black Beans, Hominy, and Roasted Butternut Squash - view recipe at

Hominy is an ingredient that you don’t hear about often, unless you are making a Mexican dish like pozole, or you want to make your own Corn Nuts. (Yes, you can. This could be dangerous.)

Hominy, also called as nixtamal, is made from field corn that has been treated by a process called nixtamalization. Field corn is cooked and soaked in an alkaline solution (usually a dilute solution of calcium hydroxide know as limewater), washed, and then canned or dried.

Is hominy nutritious? The alkaline soaking solution in which hominy is process gives it a substantially higher calcium content than maize or corn. The nixtamalization process also makes the grain’s niacin more easily absorbed by the body. Hominy is also a whole grain, containing about 4 grams of dietary fiber per cup. I would treat it like any other starch or grain in a balanced diet.

I’ve been working on solutions for nutritious breakfasts which are pre-cooked, pre-prepped, or grab-and-go. In the past, we’ve relied on frozen burritos and breakfast biscuits, but I am a big fan of a homemade breakfast – and the small frozen meals were not cutting it for my pre-teen’s growing appetite. He gets on the bus just after 7 am, and needs a hearty breakfast to keep him going through first-hour gym class, until his late lunch period. And so, the first in what I hope is a series of breakfast bowls was born.

These bowls feature the “three sisters” – corn, beans, and squash – the three main agricultural crops of Native Americans in North America. This bowl has quite a few components, but the stovetop prep can be done while the squash is roasting. I prepped the squash first, using the bulbous ends of two butternut squashes, left over from recent spiralizings. To make the squash easier to peel, prick it a few times with the tip of a knife and microwave it for one minute.

The chorizo I use is from our local meat shop, Old Time Meat and Deli. It’s not a truly authentic chorizo, but I like it for what it is: leaner and milder than its more authentic counterparts. Once browned and crumbled it in the pan, drain it on a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess oil. Then, use those delicious browned bits left over in the pan to add flavor to the black beans, with the help of a tablespoon of water for deglazing.

After the beans, give your pan a rinse, heat it on the stove to dry it out, add oil, and sauté the hominy. It has a tendency to pop in the pan, so if you have a mesh splatter shield, you might want to keep it handy. I blotted mine lightly with a paper towel after thoroughly draining it to cut down on spattering.

The remaining components – cilantro, avocado, and scrambled eggs – come together quickly. Next time I make these bowls, I might swap the scrambled eggs for a runny fried egg.

Whether you go fried or scrambled, let me know what you think of these bowls! They were liked by everyone in my house, and I look forward to creating more bowls soon.

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Three Sisters Breakfast Bowl with Black Beans, Hominy, and Roasted Butternut Squash

Course Breakfast
Servings 4


  • 1 butternut squash
  • 3 tbsp canola oil divided
  • 1/2 tsp Penzey's Southwest Seasoning see note below for substitution
  • 1 pound chorizo
  • 1 15 oz can black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 29 oz can hominy drained and patted dry
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6-8 grinds white pepper
  • 1 avocado peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbsp red onion, minced optional, for garnish
  • 4 lime wedges optional, for garnish
  • sliced jalapeño rings optional, for garnish
  • hot sauce optional


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

  2. Peel and seed butternut squash. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes. On a baking sheet, toss squash with 1 tbsp canola oil, spread out evenly, and season with Southwest Seasoning. (Note: if you don't have Penzey's Southwest Seasoning, you can substitute chili powder, salt, and black pepper.) Roast squash for 25-30 minutes, until fork-tender.

  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, brown and crumble chorizo. When thoroughly cooked, remove from pan and drain on paper towels. 

  4. Return pan to heat. Add rinsed and drained black beans, along with 1 tbsp water. Season with a little salt and black pepper. Stir gently, scraping up any browned bits of chorizo. Cook until nearly all water has been evaporated. Remove from pan and set aside.

  5. Clean the skillet, and return to the stove over medium heat. Add 2 tbsp canola oil and heat until nearly shimmering. Add hominy. Sauté, seasoning with salt and pepper, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

  6. In a non-stick pan over medium heat, melt butter. In a bowl, thoroughly whisk 6 eggs together with 1/4 tsp salt and 6-8 grinds of white pepper. Add eggs to pan, and stir frequently until fluffy and cooked to your preference.

Assembling the Bowls

  1. Arrange squash, beans, and hominy in 4 bowls. Top with eggs and chorizo. Garnish with slices of avocado, chopped cilantro, red onion, jalapeño rings, and a lime wedge.

  2. If making meal prep bowls, store garnishes in small, separate containers. Microwave the bowl for about 2 minutes, add garnishes, and serve.

Jicama Grapefruit Salad with Honey Clove Dressing

Jicama Grapefruit Salad with Honey Clove Dressing

It’s solidly November, but the weather here still changes throughout each week. We’re prepared for anything, from winter-coat winds to days where you accidentally leave your jacket at work.

And speaking of work, I’ve been trying to take a lunch more often. This Sunday, I’m planning a meal prep session. I’m not sure what to cook yet, but I’ll probably make a soup, roasted veggies, a protein or two, and a crunchy salad. So I’ve been experimenting with apples and jicama, which are both easy to spiralize and pair well with the roasted root vegetables I’m planning to make.

The flavors in this salad are a bridge from early to late fall. Spiralized jicama and apples provide a juicy crunch, grapefruit adds a bitter note of winter citrus, and the sweet-spicy honey clove dressing brings spicy warmth.

Jicama Grapefruit Salad with Honey Clove Dressing

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Jicama Grapefruit Salad with Honey Clove Dressing

Course Salad
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 4



  • 1 medium jicama, peeled
  • 1/2 honeycrisp apple, unpeeled
  • 1 pink grapefruit - peeled, segmented, and diced


  • 1/4 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp champagne vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Spiralize the jicama and apple with the spaghetti blade. (If you don't have a spiralizer, they can be finely julienned.) Add the grapefruit.

  2. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. Season with salt to taste. 

  3. Pour dressing over jicama mixture and toss to combine. Serve chilled.

Smoked Sirloin Chili

Smoked Sirloin Chili - chili with smoked beef

If you’re into thick, hearty, meaty chili, this one’s for you.

The quality of your chili powder is important, so make sure it is fresh and contains a good blend of chilis. I prefer Penzey’s chili powder, which is fairly mild. You could use a hotter chili powder if you prefer. Or, you can try making your own.

Smoked Sirloin Chili

Course Main Course
Servings 8


  • 2 lbs ground sirloin
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 3 1/2 tbsp chili powder (preferably Penzey's)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dark cocoa powder (not sweet)
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee
  • 2 15-oz cans Brooks Mild Chili Beans
  • 3 14.5-oz cans Muir Glen Fire-Roasted Crushed Tomatoes
  • kosher salt, to taste


  1. Set your smoker for 165 degrees F. Load with wood chips. (I used a combination of apple and pecan.)

  2. On a piece of foil, shape 2 lbs of ground sirloin into a large, round patty, about 1 inch thick. Place foil and meat on your smoker rack, and pierce foil in a few places around the perimeter to ensure that smoke can circulate around the meat.

  3. Smoke patty for 1 hour at 165 degrees F.

  4. Meanwhile, heat canola oil in a dutch oven or heavy pot on medium heat. Add onion. Sauté until it browns a bit, about 10 minutes.

  5. Add chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, cocoa powder, and black pepper to onions. Cook about 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add brewed coffee and stir, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Allow liquid to reduce until the mixture forms a thick paste. Reduce heat to low until beef is finished smoking.

  6. Crumble beef patty into onion mixture. Stir in beans, tomatoes, and 1/2 tsp salt.

  7. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for at least one hour. Season to taste.