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Recipes for Realtors: Tomato peach fruit carpaccio | REM

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For this recipe, you should prepare all the items ahead of time but keep everything separate and refrigerated. Assemble it near to serving time. Choose very firm fresh tomatoes so they don’t leak their water content onto the plate.

When preparing to serve, select a large rectangular serving platter, smear the plate with either my special Caesar salad dressing or use my warm fresh amazing blue cheese dressing; if you love garlic, when using either sauce, stir in a little oven-roasted light golden colour garlic purée from your refrigerated jar, as much or as little as you like; then arrange the fruit in symmetrical rows, overlapped with quite thick slices of fresh firm juicy tomatoes with equal thickness slices of fresh firm, skinned peaches.




An even more interesting plate: use yellow tomatoes with the yellow peaches or go completely different and use white tomatoes and white peaches. Yes, they both are available white. Depending on where you live you might have to ask your green grocery department to order in for you. So, get organized well ahead of time so you know where you can buy what when you are ready.

Both fruits love fresh ground pepper, so use plenty, and just a little granular salt. If you can find it in a specialty shop, use garlic scape sea salt.

Just before serving, use room temperature sauce again to drizzle overtop the fruits. Yes, tomato is a fruit.

Serve this platter buffet-style along with a cognac marinated black mission fig tart tartin, and a pie-shaped piece of warm baked smoked Norwegian salmon frittata made with minced dill, a little mustard and Canadian goat cheese, using a dozen whisked eggs, a little flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and a bit of oven-roasted garlic purée.

Bake the frittata in a stainless-steel sauté pan with an oven-proof handle, on the centre rack on high heat, perhaps at preheated 400 F to 450 F.

Know your oven. If baking in glass, always drop the oven temperature 25 degrees. Test at a half hour but allow 45 minutes just in case. Set your timer.

The frittata is done when a knife inserted comes out clean. It’s no different than a baked custard. It will keep overnight in the fridge but remove it in plenty of time to serve at room temperature, or then reheat for a few minutes only at 200 F. Pre-cut into individual servings but serve in the baking dish with a pie piece serving lifter.

And the table pièce de résistance…add a whole beautiful round genoise, filled with fresh fruit and stiff Chantilly cream, to the table.

Remove one serving size wedge, so people can see what’s inside, and provide a long, thin serrated knife and a pie slice lifter so people can decide for themselves whether they prefer a tiny piece or an extra-large serving.

An urn of fresh brewed hot coffee might be appreciated, or even espresso (hint: make the genoise filling coffee cream).

Depending on what fruit you choose in the genoise filling, provide a matching fruit coulee in a small gravy boat, with a little ladle, in case someone might like a fresh fruit drizzle on their cream-covered genoise.

You could substitute a fruit cream-filled homemade, layered, horizontally sliced pound cake, completely covered in Chantilly cream and decorated using a forcing bag with a large star tip.

Use an offset spatula to spread the Chantilly and a sharp knife to slice, or you could pre-slice and overlap the slices on a generous rectangular serving platter. Surround with whole fruits; perhaps a mix of whole strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries or even gooseberries.

It’s a royal exquisite buffet table selection that is light and beautiful to look at as eye candy, making it even more delectable on the palate.

Easy to prepare; takes no time at all, and it’s all so fresh. The genoise can be made a day ahead, sliced into three horizontal slices ready to fill just before preparing the buffet table, but refrigerate either finished cream cake until the last minute.

Invest in a large plastic dome container to cover whipped cream cakes, to avoid their taking on any fridge fragrances. For example, if you have sliced fresh cucumbers in the fridge, remove them if you are storing whipped cream covered cakes.

Always add fresh cut flowers or at the very least, a generous flowering potted plant placed strategically or use a row or grouping of little pots artfully arranged in pretty little soup cups perhaps. If it happens to be pansy season or nasturtium time, they make great little container fillers as table pretty helpers, mixed with little bunches of fresh herbs for a little greenery.

Maybe choose a loud contrasting colour mix, or pair up using a matching flower colour for synchronizing. For example, if you are doing a white carpaccio, perhaps use stalks of white phlox or wild lupins. Strategically arrange bunches of fresh herbs if no flowers are available.

You could even chop fresh basil or rosemary and scatter all over the table between the food serving plates. Kind of like herb snowflakes. The fragrance is grand. Best perfume in the world, and a natural air-freshener too.

Offer a bowl of lemon wedges for those who would enjoy. Especially nice squeezed over the frittata.

A cheese board and frozen-grape presentation is always welcome. Freeze a cluster of seedless sweet sugar-coated grapes, green or purple. Keep refrigerated until serving time. Bunches of fresh basil are nice on the serving plate, put in place at the last minute.

Extra special treat:

For fresh firm tomatoes, any colour: If you have never done this, using a box grater on the course side, push the whole tomato, starting at the bottom tomato end, along the wide grating holes side, until there is only the tomato skin in your hand.

Stand the manual grater on a large plate and all the tomato pulp solids will be on the plate along with a little tomato water. Drain off the liquid (I use a small sieve) and you have the most fabulous tomato pulp that seems to exacerbate the incredible fresh tomato taste.

The fresh pulp can be used for a multitude of things, including a topper for a wonderful omelette, or as a side dish with my fabulous grilled goat cheese sandwich. Or just serve plain and simple as a side dish with any meal. Or mound the pulp on a grilled garlic-smeared bread, sliced on the diagonal to make an amazing bruschetta for a mega special treat.

Chop a little flat leaf parsley or fresh basil and enjoy. You could add herbs and spices, but just plain pulp is amazing. Maybe sprinkle with fresh real parmesan.

Why this process enhances the fruit flavour I have no idea. But it certainly heightens the taste bud experience way over the top. Try it. You might be surprised.

And now for a couple of hints you can’t resist. Buy a bottle of sweeter label Prosecco. Ruffino works. Pop the cork as you would champagne. Add it to a mix of peach coulee, made using your food processor and fresh tomato pulp (prepared as above using the box grater) combined with sugar-water syrup to which you have added a little orange juice. Pop the mix into a glass or metal tray that can be frozen.

Just before the mixture is frozen solid, scape from end to end using a fork. Re-freeze and process in this manner three times. Freeze and scrape.

You have made a wonderful “granita,” sort of a cross between sorbet and semi-freddo. A wonderful summertime treat that is excellent all year round.

Use an ice cream scoop and serve in a martini glass with a sprig of fresh mint. Works beautifully between courses of a heavy meal, as a palate cleanser. (Perhaps with a venison meal, or stronger game dishes, or roasted rabbit.)

Here’s a magical tip for not wasting any leftover Prosecco, for people like me who would have leftovers because I mostly use spirits for cooking. Freeze it in ice cube trays and add it to special sauces, gravies or even to soups; or pop a Prosecco ice cube into a glass of your favourite smoothie or fruit juice or into a fruit coulee, served in a bowl stem wine glass. This ice cube process will prevent the Prosecco from turning to a vinegar taste.

You can make ice cubes from any leftover wines. I know: some of you will say there are never leftover spirits at your house! Whatever suits your fancy. Many people who live alone avoid buying spirits due to the cost and fear of waste, so this great idea solves that issue.


© “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks” Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience

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Real Estate

5 ways to reduce your mortgage amortization

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Since the pandemic hit, a lot of Canadians have been affected financially and if you’re on a mortgage, reducing your amortization period can be of great help.

A mortgage amortization period is the amount of time it would take a homeowner to completely pay off their mortgage. The amortization is typically an estimate based on what the interest rate for your current term is. Calculating your amortization is done easily using a loan amortization calculator which shows you the different payment schedules within your amortization period.

 In Canada, if you made a down payment that is less than the recommended 20 per cent of the total cost of your home, then the longest amortization period you’re allowed to have is 25 years. The mortgage amortization period not only affects the length of time it would take to completely repay the loan, but also the amount of interest paid over the lifecycle of the mortgage.

Typically, longer amortization periods involve making smaller monthly payments and having a much higher total interest cost over the duration of the mortgage. While on the other hand, shorter amortization periods entails making larger monthly payments and having lower total interest costs.

It’s the dream of every homeowner to become mortgage-free. A general rule of thumb would be to try and keep your monthly mortgage costs as low as possible—preferably below 30 per cent of your monthly income. Over time, you may become more financially stable by either getting a tax return, a bonus or an additional source of income and want to channel that towards your principal.

There are several ways to keep your monthly mortgage payments low and reduce your amortization. Here are a few ways to achieve that goal:

1. Make a larger down payment

Once you’ve decided to buy a home, always consider putting asides some significant amount of money that would act as a down payment to reduce your monthly mortgage. While the recommended amount to put aside as a down payment is 20 per cent,  if you aren’t in a hurry to purchase the property or are more financial buoyant, you can even pay more.

Essentially, the larger your down payment, the lower your mortgage would be as it means you’re borrowing less money from your lender. However, if you pay at least 20 per cent upfront, there would be no need for you to cover the additional cost of private mortgage insurance which would save you some money.

2. Make bi-weekly payments

Most homeowners make monthly payments which amount to 12 payments every year. But if your bank or lender offers the option of accelerated bi-weekly payment, you will be making an equivalent of one more payment annually. Doing this will further reduce your amortization period by allowing you to pay off your mortgage much faster.

3. Have a fixed renewal payment

It is normal for lenders to offer discounts on interest rate during your amortization period. However, as you continuously renew your mortgage at a lower rate, always keep a fixed repayment sum.

Rather than just making lower payments, you can keep your payments static, since the more money applied to your principal, the faster you can clear your mortgage.

4. Increase your payment amount

Many mortgages give homeowners the option to increase their payment amount at least once a year. Now, this is very ideal for those who have the financial capacity to do so because the extra money would be added to your principal.

Irrespective of how small the increase might be, in the long run, it would make a huge difference. For example, if your monthly mortgage payment is about $2,752 per month. It would be in your best interest to round it up to $2,800 every month. That way, you are much closer to reducing your mortgage amortization period.

5. Leverage on prepayment privileges

The ability for homeowners to make any form of prepayment solely depends on what mortgage features are provided by their lender.

With an open mortgage, you can easily make additional payments at any given time. However, if you have a closed mortgage—which makes up the larger percentage of existing mortgages—you will need to check if you have the option of prepayments which would allow you to make extra lump sum payments.

Additionally, there may also be the option to make extra lump sum payments at the end of your existing mortgage term before its time for renewal.

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Mortgage insurance vs. life insurance: What you need to know

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Your home is likely the biggest asset you’ll ever own. So how can you protect it in case something were to happen to you? To start, homeowners have a few options to choose from. You can either:

  • ensure you have mortgage protection with a life insurance policy from an insurance company or
  • get mortgage insurance from a bank or mortgage lender.

Mortgage insurance vs. life insurance: How do they each work?  

The first thing to know is that life insurance can be a great way to make sure you and your family have mortgage protection.

The money from a life insurance policy usually goes right into the hands of your beneficiaries – not the bank or mortgage lender. Your beneficiaries are whoever you choose to receive the benefit or money from your policy after you die.

Life insurance policies, like term life insurance, come with a death benefit. A death benefit is the amount of money given to your beneficiaries after you die. The exact amount they’ll receive depends on the policy you buy.

With term life insurance, you’re covered for a set period, such as 10, 15, 20 or 30 years. The premium – that’s the monthly or annual fee you pay for insurance – is usually low for the first term.

If you die while you’re coved by your life insurance policy, your beneficiaries will receive a tax-free death benefit. They can then use this money to help pay off the mortgage or for any other reason. So not only is your mortgage protected, but your family will also have funds to cover other expenses that they relied on you to pay.

Mortgage insurance works by paying off the outstanding principal balance of your mortgage, up to a certain amount, if you die.

With mortgage insurance, the money goes directly to the bank or lender to pay off the mortgage – and that’s it. There’s no extra money to cover other expenses, and you don’t get to leave any cash behind to your beneficiaries.

What’s the difference between mortgage insurance and life insurance?

The main difference is that mortgage insurance covers only your outstanding mortgage balance. And, that money goes directly to the bank or mortgage lender, not your beneficiary. This means that there’s no cash, payout or benefit given to your beneficiary. 

With life insurance, however, you get mortgage protection and more. Here’s how it works: every life insurance policy provides a tax-free amount of money (the death benefit) to the beneficiary. The payment can cover more than just the mortgage. The beneficiary may then use the money for any purpose. For example, apart from paying off the mortgage, they can also use the funds from the death benefit to cover:

  • any of your remaining debts,
  • the cost of child care,
  • funeral costs,
  • the cost of child care, and
  • any other living expenses. 

But before you decide between life insurance and mortgage insurance, here are some other important differences to keep in mind:

Who gets the money?

With life insurance, the money goes to whomever you name as your beneficiary.

With mortgage insurance, the money goes entirely to the bank.

Can you move your policy?

With life insurance, your policy stays with you even if you transfer your mortgage to another company. There’s no need to re-apply or prove your health is good enough to be insured.

With mortgage insurance, however, your policy doesn’t automatically move with you if you change mortgage providers. If you move your mortgage to another bank, you’ll have to prove that your health is still good.

Which offers more flexibility, life insurance or mortgage insurance?

With life insurance, your beneficiaries have the flexibility to cover the mortgage balance and more after you die. As the policy owner, you can choose how much insurance coverage you want and how long you need it. And, the coverage doesn’t decline unless you want it to.

With mortgage insurance through a bank, you don’t have the flexibility to change your coverage. In this case, you’re only protecting the outstanding balance on your mortgage.

Do you need a medical exam to qualify? 

With a term life insurance policy from Sun Life, you may have to answer some medical questions or take a medical exam before you’re approved for coverage. Once you’re approved, Sun Life won’t ask for any additional medical information later on.

With mortgage insurance, a bank or mortgage lender may ask some medical questions when you apply. However, if you make a claim after you’re approved, your bank may ask for additional medical information.* At that point, they may discover some conditions that disqualify you from receiving payment on a claim.

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5 common mistakes Canadians make with their mortgages

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This article was created by MoneyWise. Postmedia and MoneyWise may earn an affiliate commission through links on this page.

Since COVID-19 dragged interest rates to historic lows last year, Canadians have been diving into the real estate market with unprecedented verve.

During a time of extraordinary financial disruption, more than 551,000 properties sold last year — a new annual record, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. Those sales provided a desperately needed dose of oxygen for the country’s gasping economy.

Given the slew of new mortgages taken out in 2020, there were bound to be slip-ups. So, MoneyWise asked four of the country’s sharpest mortgage minds to share what they feel are the mistakes Canadians most frequently make when securing a home loan.

Mistake 1: Not having your documents ready

One of your mortgage broker’s primary functions is to provide lenders with paperwork confirming your income, assets, source of down payment and overall reliability as a borrower. Without complete and accurate documentation, no reputable lender will be able to process your loan.

But “borrowers often don’t have these documents on hand,” says John Vo of Spicer Vo Mortgages in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “And even when they do provide these documents, they may not be the correct documentation required.”

Some of the most frequent mistakes Vo sees when borrowers send in their paperwork include:

  • Not including a name or other relevant details on key pieces of information.
  • Providing old bank or pay statements instead of those dated within the last 30 days.
  • Sending only a partial document package. If a lender asks for six pages to support your loan, don’t send two. If you’re asked for four months’ worth of bank statements, don’t provide only one.
  • Thinking low-quality or blurry files sent by email or text will be good enough. Lenders need to be able to read what you send them.

If you send your broker an incomplete documents package, the result is inevitable: Your mortgage application will be delayed as long as it takes for you to find the required materials, and your house shopping could be sidetracked for months.

Mistake 2: Blinded by the rate

Ask any mortgage broker and they’ll tell you that the question they’re asked most frequently is: “What’s your lowest rate?”

The interest rate you’ll pay on your mortgage is a massive consideration, so comparing the rates lenders are offering is a good habit once you’ve slipped on your house-hunter hat.

Rates have been on the rise lately given government actions to stimulate the Canadian economy. You may want to lock a low rate now, so you can hold onto it for up to 120 days.

But Chris Kolinski, broker at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based iSask Mortgages, says too many borrowers get obsessed with finding the lowest rate and ignore the other aspects of a mortgage that can greatly impact its overall cost.

“I always ask my clients ‘Do you want to get the best rate, or do you want to save the most money?’ because those two things are not always synonymous,” Kolinski says. “That opens a conversation about needs and wants.”

Many of the rock-bottom interest rates on offer from Canadian lenders can be hard to qualify for, come with limited features, or cost borrowers “a ton” of money if they break their terms, Kolinski points out.

Mistake 3: Not reading the fine print

Dalia Barsoum of Streetwise Mortgages in Woodbridge, Ontario, shares a universal message: “Read the fine print. Understand what you’re signing up for.”

Most borrowers don’t expect they’ll ever break their mortgages, but data collected by TD Bank shows that 7 in 10 homeowners move on from their properties earlier than they expect.

It’s critical to understand your loan’s prepayment privileges and the rules around an early departure. “If you exit the mortgage, how much are you going to pay? It’s really, really important,” Barsoum says.

She has seen too borrowers come to her hoping to refinance a mortgage they received from a private or specialty lender, only to find that what they were attempting was impossible.

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