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Recipes for Realtors: Shrimp in garlic cognac cream | REM




Seared sea scallops in duxelles and pink champagne sabayon

First prepare my duxelles recipe.

Then prepare sabayon, your favourite way. I prefer to use a bain marie. Preheat the broiler. Place the oven rack in second top position.
In sizzling butter in a stainless-steel sauté pan, perfectly sear three scallops per person. Turn only once. Sprinkle with just a pinch of thyme. The scallop edges should turn a very fine beautiful golden colour. They take just minutes to cook. Absolutely do not overcook.

Deglaze the pan with a little pink champagne. (I use pink sparkling French Royal de Neuville.) Add the sizzling butter pan juices to the ready sabayon.
Assemble: Using large coquilles, place the shells on a bed of coarse sea salt to stabilize (coarse pickling salt will do since the salt won’t come in contact with the food) on a large rimmed baking sheet.
Carefully spoon a little prepared duxelles into each shell. Spritz with a little pink champagne and a pinch of salt and pepper. (Use ground pink peppercorns if available.)
Add a few tablespoons of pink champagne sabayon. Position three seared sea scallops in each shell.
Place the salt sheet holding the coquilles under the preheated broiler oven just for a few minutes and serve immediately.


Substitute cognac Asbach Uralt for the champagne for a different but most amazing taste.

For an equally delightful offering, you could change up the whole presentation and instead use another of my “shell-a-brate” recipes, served on a large coquille, also placed under the piping hot broiler for just seconds.

My ultimate shrimp in garlic cognac cream

In sizzling unsalted butter, sauté slivered paper-thin garlic slices; about a half cup. That’s a sizeable amount of garlic, but you read it right.

Turn the heat down because you want to keep the garlic white. Sauté until the texture is nearly mashable. Sprinkle with a pinch (just a pinch, not more) of ground cloves, a pinch of nutmeg, a pinch of paprika, a little bit of thyme and a little salt and pepper.

Add a little more butter and the shrimp that are still in their shells. 27-30 size. Or as many as you like.

Be careful that the sauté pan is still very hot but not browning. The shrimp will cook in just a couple of minutes; turn only once immediately when the first side turns pink. Shrimp is fully cooked when opaque. Absolutely do not ever overcook. The shrimp will get rubbery.

Remove the pan contents and deglaze the sauté pan with a generous splash of Asbach Uralt cognac. The bouquet will erupt and fill your kitchen with the most amazing perfume.

Now add to the very hot pan, a cup of half-and-half cream (or more if you have doubled the shrimp quantity). Let the cream scald and reduce. The thickened cream will take on the wonderful colour of the cognac as well as the fragrance.

Put the shrimp back into the sauté pan and tumble to coat in the amazing sauce.

Using a rubber spatula, wipe the sauce and the lightly coated shrimp completely from the pan into a just right-size serving bowl.

You can serve immediately or at room temperature or even cold the next day. The sauce will congeal overnight as it continues to thicken.

An unspeakable treat. I often refer to this as my “house-selling shrimp dish.” I sometimes surprised a neighbour with a pretty glass covered bowl of this quick and easily made recipe. Add a few slices of homemade grilled garlic bread. Great nibbles after work while they barbecue their steaks.

Agents will remind sellers not to offend sensitive noses of maybe-buyers by cooking, especially cabbage or fish, when their house is on the market. When I was selling, I did not take my own advice, as I have mentioned in some posted REM comments over the years. I opened my windows while having appointments and let the mouth-watering vapours waft through the area.

After only a couple of appointments, an offer appeared, along with comments like one Sabine in Kitchener area recently so kindly made: “What time is dinner tonight?”

Total time in the kitchen less than a half hour. And you can’t buy or order in this kind of goodness. Really! Try it for yourself. Serve alone or with plain instant one-minute basmati buttered rice. You’ll make the neighbours’ mouth water. Or serve the shrimp alongside your steak as a very special surf and turf. Surprise yourself!

A tall cool glass of Winzertanz pairs wonderfully. Enjoy!

If you have leftover sauce, don’t toss it. Refrigerated, the sauce will keep for a couple of days, covered in a glass container. Use it to tumble over cooked pasta or rice, with added seared fresh sea scallops. Mouth-watering good leftovers.

Or put a small puddle of the leftover sauce on an oversized dinner plate and position fresh deep-fried homemade crab cakes strategically. Drizzle just a little sauce over each crab cake. Top with shards of fresh Parmesan cheese, using your vegetable peeler or kase scharfe.

Decorate the plate with a sprig of fresh basil leaves. Dress with lemon quarters to be squeezed when desired.


If you love crushed or flaked fresh coconut, lightly brown it in a single layer, in just a tiny bit of sizzling unsalted butter (in a nearly dry very hot sauté pan). Sprinkle the crispy coconut over the cognac creamed shrimp just when ready to serve. Do not stir.

Another alternate: prepare your favourite salmon steak and during the last minute of sautéing or roasting or grilling, add a little of the leftover cognac sauce. (You could use on any fish.)

As I’ve said countless times… nothing goes to waste in my kitchen.

Note: A reader used leftover shrimp sauce on an oven-roasted Atlantic salmon steak, just in the last seconds in the oven. Really delicious!

At the table: With either recipe, offer a tuile or two. Prepare a Parmesan tuile or perhaps a ground almond tuile. There are loads of recipes for these simple, tasty creations.

Prepare the table placing a large folded heavyweight cotton tea towel in the centre where you can place a large (hot water) heated serving platter or two upon which to place the broiler hot coquilles. In the kitchen, arrange the coquilles on a bed of coarse salt on the large hot platter for presentation as a table centre place.

Prepare each place setting with a large charger plate on a cloth covered tabletop or on a placemat, topped with a plain oversized serving plate with a folded-square cloth napkin on each, ready to receive a very hot coquille. Place a seafood fork or pie fork at each place setting, along with a soup spoon to enjoy the sauce and drippings. Place a tuile or two at the edge of each plate.

Pink champagne royal cocktail – my very own

Here’s a nice pairing to serve: my very own martini creation, using either matching Royal de Neuville or Asbach Uralt cognac, depending on which you used in your recipe choice.

In a cold metal cocktail shaker, pour in a half cup of Asbach Uralt cognac.

Add a half cup of cold sugar syrup made using 50:50 sugar and water dissolved over medium heat and cooled. (Use to marinate fresh sliced peaches.) Then add a half cup of liquid from the sugar marinated peaches. (Or you could use the brandy marinating jus from your jar of black mission figs instead). Add a squeeze of fresh lemon and a pinch of salt. Add a full cup of ice cubes.

Shake vigorously for a half minute.

Pour into stemmed champagne flutes that have been cooled; about three-quarters full. Fill the flute right to the top with my favourite bubbly, sparkling French pink champagne, Royal de Neuville. Park a tiny slice of fresh peach on the rim of the glass. Sip this delicate creation. It’s a pink thing!

This is a perfect pairing with a slice of homemade wonderful cream genoise or a slice of fresh peach fruit pastry tart.

Hint: Don’t have a cocktail shaker? Use a tightly covered screw-top large glass mason jar.

Any of these recipes using the coquilles as a serving vessel could be switched up using any seafood: crab, lobster or a seafood mix of your favourites, still using the duxelles and savoury sabayon.

For an entree you could consider crab cakes, or wonderful two-bite-size cakes made using mixed seafood, sizzling hot, reheated just when ready to serve. They are simply made, even the day before. Offer on a plate with individual seafood savoury crème brûlée, or an individual seafood panna cotta (set in a shot glass), drizzled with homemade lobster oil. Provide a serving bowl that can be passed at the table, with fresh lemon and lime wedges. And another bowl with mixed lemon lime zest with a tiny serving (espresso) spoon. And yet another bowl with mixed citrus segments having freshly cut them from between the fruit membranes. (you might add segments of grapefruit if no one is taking certain prescription medicines; some Rx forbid taking with grapefruit of any kind.)

And yet another table topper: a silver serving serving bowl of homemade candied citrus rind from your pantry sugar jar. Place a glass bowl inside the silver bowl to keep citrus at bay from direct acidic contact. Diners can choose at will how much of each or all, if they prefer.

You could fill half avocado shells (or hollow out a papaya) with avocado seafood salad on a bed of shredded romaine and iceberg lettuce mix or use mesclun; (spritz the greens with red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil 30:70), as part of your entree. For this course, a nice accompaniment is a Canadian Bloody Caesar.

A real “shell-a-bration” of a unique kind. Tell your guests to bring a big appetite and be prepared to indulge over a few hours of at-table enjoyment and be sure to forewarn them dinner is all seafood.

© “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




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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Real Estate

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




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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Real Estate

5 common mistakes Canadians make with their mortgages




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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