Big John and The Indian Garden

We were flying back from Disneyworld last fall and the sky was absolutely clear when we flew over Chicago. The lake, the city, the 'burbs and fall colors was beautiful. My daughter and I peered out of the window as the plane started its final descent.

"Oh! Look! I can see Big John ..." my voice trailed off as I looked at Big John reflect one of the most glorious sunsets I have seen. I realized that my daughter was looking at me with absolute but questioning wonder. "What is it?" I asked. To which she replied: "Big John...Do you think he can see us, too?"

Check out these scrolling Sample Views of Chicago taken from the Hancock Observatory aka Big John.

Indian food at it's authentic best in the Chicagoland area can be had at The Indian Garden. They have four locations: downtown Chicago on Ontario and another on Devon, one in Schaumburg and Westmont, which is the one closest to us. We've been eating here for the past 3 and half years. The quality has remained consistent, the service is a little on the slower side but I really don't mind as I don't like to be hurried through a great Indian meal!! They also have a fantastic lunch buffet. We've haven't been to their restaurants on Devon Street or in Schaumburg. If we're at Devon, we're indulging in chaat or Indian junk food. If we're in Schaumburg, we're usually at IKEA.

I love Tandoori Pesh Kash at Indian Garden which is a platter of various types of kababs. I haven't really had any of their seafood except that which is served with the Tandoori Pesh Kash. Their Murg Rajala is also delicately flavored and simply exotic.

I prefer the coastal cuisine when it comes to seafood and Indian Garden is more North Indian cuisine than anything else. Their Goan dishes - the vindaloo and the Goa fish curry - sort of fall below my expectations. But then I have roots in Goa and I have grown up eating the real stuff. For anyone without any prior exposure to Goan cuisine, the dishes taste real good!!

Why is everything 'Made in China'?

My daughter asked me this question the other day. That's a toughie. Try breaking down the economics of trade using simple words that a 5 year old can understand. She's just grasping the concept of money and she seems to have no problems living in debt. She gets anything from a penny to a nickel for putting recyclables away. She can spend the money on kiddie rides at the mall or she can save it and buy something she wants from Wal*Mart. She must remember her balance and add her earnings to the last balance correctly. The deal is that she can choose to 'cash' her earnings once she has crossed 50 cents. It took us a while to cross this particular hurdle:
Me: How many cents make up a quarter?
Her: 25 cents!
Me: How many cents is 2 quarters?
Her: 26 cents!! 25 cents plus 1 is 26 cents.

Back to the chalkboard to draw two sets of 25 cents and she finally got it!! But, she can only get her hands on the money if she can tell how many cents she is left with when she cashes the 50 cents. She's getting pretty good at it. So much so that now she has found real life applications - how many minutes till my bed-time? We're still doing single digit addition - at least one of the numbers is single digits - but she's going great guns!

Since she now understands expensive and cheap - in very relative terms - I figured I'd tell her that it's cheaper for a lot of goods to be 'Made in China.' And, add that not everything is 'Made in China' - a few things are not. Papermate pencil. Or...or...[Mom! My cup is 'Made in China.' My doll is 'Made in China.' My backpack...]...or...or...Corningware plates on the dinner table waiting patiently for spicy Indian food...Yes! Our dinner plates are not 'Made in China.'

I actually did a search on Google for Why is everything Made in China. Apparently, it's not a unique question. But it was genuine!

I turned my attention to better things in life - like delicious Indian food!!

Ground meat with peas
Spice Level: Medium

1 lb ground meat (turkey or beef or chicken)
4-5 tbps of oil
1 small white onion, chopped
1/2 small can tomato paste
1 tbsp grated ginger
1/2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp kasoori methi
1/2 tsp garam masala (try any of these blends from the brand Shan: BBQ Tandoori Masala or Shami Kabab Masala or Paya Curry to name a few)
1 cup peas
lots of chaat masala - start with about 1/2 tsp and up it till you like the taste
salt to taste

Saute chopped onions until soft (4-5 mins) in oil. There is no need to over-pamper the onions for this recipe.
Add tomato paste, ginger, garlic, kasoori methi, garam masala and saute for another 4-5 mins.
Add the ground meat and keep 'stabbing' at it & mixing so that it does not form into clumps or balls of meat.
Add salt & least amount of chaat masala
When the meat is safe to taste, see if you would like more chaat masala and keep adding till you reach a point where you feel it is just right. I have mine in a large steel pepper shaker and I just shake the darned I don't know the amount I end up adding! It lso depends on my mood!
When the meat is almost done, add the peas and cook until both peas and meat are done.

We call this kheema which literally translated is ground meat. Or minced meat or just mince as we called it in Kenya. You can stuff it in pocket pitas, garnish with raw onions and cilantro if you like.

With pitas or nan, this is makes a delicious and nutritious meal. I would prefer it with ground beef or ground lamb but my husband prefers turkey or chicken. And turkey is healthier than chicken we invariably end up with turkey.

Ground meat brings to mind another story of when we first got here and I longed for some Kheema. We were in upstate NY in a wee town called Chestertown. Chestertown had one Grand Union and while it served basic needs - bread, eggs, veggies - there was no way you could get anything remotely exotic there. We usually drove to Glens Falls for major grocery at a Price Chopper or what-have-you. I remember thinking that this was a large store and that they have to have it. I could not see it in the meat racks. So finally I asked a store clerk: "Do you have any minced meat?" "Uh? Huh? Naw, we don't keep that brand."

Ground meat, it is!