Friday, June 10, 2011

I survived the T&T Grand Opening in Richmond Hill

That day has finally arrived! I had known about a new T&T supermarket opening near us since the beginning of the year. With each passing month, the anticipation became more and more pronounced. After 2 delayed starts, The first T&T officially opened its doors in Richmond Hill at 10:30 am on a beautiful Friday morning.

Now, I had no intention of battling all the other stay-at-home parents, early retirees and senior citizens to grab at the chance to receive a $10 giftcard for being one of the first 100 patrons to step through the doors, but I was excited to check out the opening day experience anyways. Yes, I wanted to revel in the madness this opening day may bring. I guess I just have a little bit too much free time on my hands?

I admit, I had some mixed feelings about how this adventure might unfold, but I was up for it. My hubby was kind enough to give me a ride to the new T&T but when he saw how slow moving the traffic was along Yonge Street, he may have started having some regrets. There obviously wasn't going to be any parking available, so I asked to be dropped off at a nearby street to brave the crowd on my own and wished him luck in getting back home.

When I first made it into the parking lot, there was already a big crowd milling outside the entrance. As there were still 5 minutes before opening time, I thought I'd join the crowd and wait for the mad rush to begin. At 10:30 am, a few security guards came out and started to let a line of people through but it wasn't clear whether the crowd in front of me was allowed in or not. After 10 minutes of no movement in front of me, it dawned on me that the only way to get in was to join the line which snaked its way around the plaza. Since I got this far, I may as well join the line.

So I made my way to the back of the line. The line was moving at a pretty good clip until about 20 minutes in. At that point, the store must have reached its capacity and we had to wait for people to leave before more people were allowed in. So, about an hour later, I made it in!

Was I impressed? Somewhat. The crowd control was well handled and the store was well laid out. I didn't have to fight too much for the salmon steaks which were advertised for $3.99/lb. I hadn't seen that price in years!!!! It seemed that the longer line up was for the canner lobsters being sold for $3.99 each. Since I have no clue as to how to cook live lobster, I bypassed that line.

Knowing that I had to make my way back home without the use of a car, I knew I can only buy as much as I can carry back with my own 2 arms. So I picked up a few veggies along with my 4 salmon steak and off to the checkout I went. I spotted one checkout with a short line-up and figured it must be the express line even though there was no sign posted saying so. I took a chance and luckily for me the cashier said she'll take my items but she was suppose to only check out hot prepared food items. I knew she wouldn't turn me away because the person ahead of me had both hot food items and a stash of grocery items hidden in her old lady cart!

All in all, it was a good experience. Of course I was nowhere close to getting the $10 giftcard. I must have been more like the 1000th person in line! With 2 bags in hand, I made my way back home. It was a very doable walk of about 30 minutes or so. Probably faster than going by car because of the traffic jams. Will I go back again after spending 2-1/2 hours shopping on opening day? You bet I will! But maybe I'll wait until all the excitement has died down before venturing there again.

Yay, it's opening day at T&T in Richmond Hill. My life as I know it will forever change.

The traffic is moving awfully slow for this time of day. I'm pretty sure every single car ahead of us is headed for T&T.

Oh look, we must be getting close. A T&T delivery truck just passed us going the other way.

Yikes!!! Some cars are trying their luck getting in while others are lined up trying to leave!!!!

I was on the wrong side of the red tape :( However, I did notice a little chinese old lady had snuck underneath the red tape and made it in with no problems. Yes, being a l'il old lady does have its advantages.

See that crowd gathered just outside the doors. They ain't getting in that way. Nosiree.

If you want in, you're gonna have to go to end of the line disappearing around the corner of the plaza.

Here I am, stuck behind a long queue. Ordinally, I don't do this sort of thing. In fact, most times I try to avoid line-ups and unruly crowds. But what the heck, it was a beautiful day and I had nothing else better to do and hey, it's T&T!!!

The line was moving fairly briskly at this point...

but by the time I reached Friends, a Persian restaurant right next door to T&T, the line had come to a standstill. While stuck standing there, just mere steps away from the supermarket, a friendly lady started passing out flyers for her diner. She must be thinking, this is my lucky day.

Check out the back of the flyer. Billy Dancing???? maybe they mean Belly Dancing??? And what's with the Weston Produce Plaza. Shouldn't it be the T&T Plaza now? Well, looks like someone's gonna have to make a trip back to the printers to make some changes.

Inside at last! Here's a nice display at the fish section.

The bakery section looks sooooooo yummy, but I wasn't allowed to take any more pictures. You'd think that T&T would be happy that people are freely advsertising for them. Well, I'll be back!!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dogwood Bunny

Yay!!! We're in the middle of spring now. In another week, I can finally transplant my tomato seedlings outdoors without fear of overnight frost. In the meantime, here are some signs that spring is in full swing.

Spring showers bring May flowers...

... and lots of lots of those dreaded dandelions. Although they do look rather pretty, all sprinkled across the lawn, they do tend to take over unless we pluck a whole bunch of them out in these early days.

There. Got rid of the whole lot, using the old-fashioned method of digging them out with weeding tools. Nothing toxic touches my lawn, if I can help it.

Hey, what's that hiding under the dogwood bush????

Why, it's a cute cuddly bunny!!!!!

It's hopping off to look for something yummy to eat.

Looks like it has settled on a fine patch of dandelions to dine on.

Mmmmm... dandelions. Nom, nom, nom. I sure could use a hundred more of these bunnies. They're the perfect organic weed killers.

Ahhhh. Time to lay back and stretch.

Enjoy your afternoon nap, bunny.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sushi Easter Eggs and other Sushi Rice Treats

I've been playing around with sushi rice for the past little while now, making fun-to-eat creations. Sushi rice is simply rice that has been seasoned with rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt and assorted flavourings. Ideally, short grain rice should be used for making sushi rice. But, if you have a lot of regular long grain rice lying about, that will work just as well.

During this Easter long weekend, I happened to have the opportunity to have some fun with sushi rice creations. On Saturday, we celebrated my mother-in-law's birthday with a huge dinner of prime rib roast and ham. After this feast, we had a lot of rice leftover. I was thinking that we could always eat up the rice the next day with all the leftover meats, but why not make Easter sushi eggs instead to bring to my mom?

So on Sunday morning, we gathered all the ingredients we needed and proceeded to make a whole batch of sushi Easter eggs. It was a lot of fun and it tasted really good too. I think this may become an Easter tradition for us. Hmmmm.... what other holiday sushi rice creation can we work on next? Victoria Day sushi????? Gee, that gonna be a tough one.

I also posted some pictures of earlier attempts at making sushi rice treats.

I bought this book a long long time ago and now I'm finally using it. It presents many ways to have fun with sushi rice.

Here's the brand of short grain rice we use for making sushi rice. "Botan" and "Calrose" are other popular brands. Purists will use only short grain rice for sushi rice making because it is a stickier rice. But I've had no problems using regular long grain rice because I tend to use more water when cooking rice and the addition of rice wine vinegar will also add moisture, thus making it sticky enough for forming shapes.

Short grain rice vs long grain rice.

I use brown rice vinegar for flavouring as well as for making the rice stick together better for forming shapes. White rice vinegar can be used as well.

To flavour and colour the sushi rice, we used these flavouring packets. Salmon (pink), egg (yellow) and plum (purple).

To make orange coloured sushi rice, we used masago (flying fish eggs). These are really fun to eat because you can pop each of the little flying fish eggs in your mouth. Pop, pop, pop!!!

Here are 2 sample ones we made. To minimize overhandling of the sushi rice, we use clear plastic food wrap (Saran Wrap) to shape the eggs.

Dick wanted to put faces on them. They look like mummies. More suitable for halloween than for Easter, don't you think?

Here's the batch of Easter eggs we made from the leftover rice.

Dick used some seaweed strips to put funny faces on some of the eggs.

To make it more interesting, we hid some goodies inside the eggs. The eggs were filled with an assortment of cucumber, crabmeat and ham.

My mom is looking a little bit leery, wondering what kind of food I'm foisting on her.

I think she had a good time with us. I'm laughing so hard because Dick is pretending to be a bunny when trying to show my mom that one of the Easter eggs is a "bunny" egg. Then afterwards, he tried to indicate an egg by trying to lay one from his behind. So funny.....

Here are some other sushi rice creations I made previously.

The yin-yang symbol was my own idea. The white portion is just white unflavoured sushi rice. The black portion was made of sushi rice mixed with black toasted seseame seeds and the dots were made with steamed green beans. Seaweed sheets were used for separating the black and white rice portions.

The flower maki rolls were my first attempts at making fancy maki rolls following one of the book's ideas.
Here's the book's version of the flower blossom maki rolls.

These are kitty cat rice balls from the Hana Sushi book.

Our version of the kitty cat rice balls. They look cute but tasted too ricey. It was like eating a small bowl of rice with a few tiny pieces of meat.

So we made our own bunny and turtle rice balls filled with canned sardines to make for a heartier snack.

I used raw soba noodles for the whiskers. They are a bit crunchy, but edible. It's like eating raw "Mr Noodles". I used seaweed sheets to cut out the facial features.

These are tiny rice balls covered with a layer of seaweed and strips of seaweed. The eyes are made from circle cutouts of mozarella cheese and black sesame seeds. These are the cute dust balls from the "Totoro" movie. The idea came from this Annathered's blog post.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Totoro & turtle cream puffs

I finally made some Totoro Cream Puffs! They didn't turn out as pretty as Annathered's. If you'd like to try making these yummy cream puffs, please check out her "how-to" here.

At first, I had some doubts as to whether her cream custard microwave recipe would be any good since most recipes I've come across used the stove-top method. But I must say, the microwave method is so much easier and it turned out perfectly! Like Anna says, every microwave is different, so the cooking time may have to be adjusted. It turns out that I had to microwave mine at high for 2 minutes first and then for another 45 seconds after that.

I like that she gives out shorter cooking times for the beginner to play around with until they can get it right. I also like that her recipe makes very small batches. This way, if you goof up the first few times, at least you wouldn't be wasting a lot of ingredients.

Lucky for me and Derek, we got it almost right the first time. The only problem we had was that there were tiny holes on the bottom of our first batch of baked puff pastry. I figured it was because our batter might not be thick enough. So for the next 2 batches, we added less egg to the recipe and almost all the puff pastries turned out perfectly! Good job, Derek! I give credit to my sous chef for his wise suggestion.

For the fun part, we decorated them and filled them with the custard and ate them up right away. They were soooooooo yummy!!!!!

The true scientists that we are, we felt we had no choice but to make some more cream puffs, for testing purposes, you know ;). We wanted to test if day old cream puffs would taste just as good. After having our fill with the freshly made cream puffs, we were good enough to set aside some for storage in the fridge and freezer for testing later.

Of course, fresh out of the oven wins hands down. The cream puffs stored in the fridge still tasted quite good the next day, but the pastry lost its crispness. I'm sure the frozen cream puffs would have tasted divine, if we had only allowed to let it defrost for a good 15 minutes before wolfing them down. But, even though the custard was extremely hard, it still tasted soooooo good, that we ate it all up without waiting for it to fully defrost.

The verdict? It would be best to serve these cream puffs the same day. If you want to make them ahead, I'd suggest freezing them first and then allowing them to defrost slightly and serve as frozen treats. We will try some more experimenting with different flavours like red bean, green tea or chocolate cream custard. If successful, I will certainly blog about it again.

Puff pastries, fresh out of the oven.

Hmmmmm, some of these look like turtles.

My attempt at making these look like Totoros. Being naturally lazy, I took a short cut and used toothpicks to put on cream cheese icing eyeballs first. Then, I melted some chocolate chips and applied the nose and whiskers next. Once the eyeballs firmed up a bit, I dotted them with the melted chocolate for the pupils.

Derek decorated his turtles too.

Filling the Totoro pastry. Say aaaahhhh.

This picture looks a bit disturbing, but we're just filling the turtle pastry with the custard.

These are so yummy and easy to make that it's sure to become a family favourite.