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Recipes for Realtors: Polenta mille-feuille | REM




Here’s a special gourmet plate that has an unspeakable visual quality as well as being a marriage of delicious flavours.

On occasion when you are holiday entertaining out-of-town guests, or just any visitors any time, think about going the extra mile and prepare this fabulous food as a special welcome. It’s not difficult, but perhaps best doable by someone a little experienced in the kitchen and able to multitask.

Make your favourite cheese polenta ahead of time. Let it rest to set firm and measure three equal portions sliced so when assembled they resemble a small pound cake. I prefer slices about 4×6, but you could cut smaller but equal slices such as 2×4.

Each mille-feuille is an individual serving, but a rather large serving. Present with a side serving of crispy bacon rashers and a tiny container (perhaps a glass or crystal salt-cellar) of one of my aioli dipping sauces, along with a few deep-fried whole garlic cloves, for an additional wow factor surprise. (See my recipe below.)

Top a medium thick base slice of the cheese polenta with barely wilted, hot, very well-drained (press the spinach in a colander and put a heavy pot on the spinach for a few minutes) steamed regular spinach, that you have buttered (perhaps use one of your frozen compound herbed butter coins from your freezer log). Be generous. A whole head of spinach only provides a cup of finished product. Again, you can prepare the spinach ahead of time, but don’t refrigerate unless absolutely necessary.

I keep containers of my goat cheese spinach grilled sandwich filling in the freezer to use with my omelettes, and this would save on time if you thaw and choose to use it in this mille-feuille assembly.

Position another equal measured slice of set polenta on top. Dust with grated mixed wonderful dry cheeses as a bed for fresh very firm, seared on high heat in just a smear of unsalted butter, thick slices of white button mushrooms dusted with thyme, nutmeg and lots of fresh ground pepper. A few grains of salt. Careful. You don’t want the mushrooms to weep.

Spoon just a little of my (made earlier) caramelized onions on top of the mushrooms, and top with a matching size third polenta layer.

Top with pre-cooked, then pan-fried in sweet butter, crushed cooked chestnuts (you can buy beautiful readymade chestnuts in specialty packages, or purchase most top-grade chestnut purée and spread generously. Drizzle with just a tiny bit of noisette. Or deglaze the mushroom sauté pan using Offley Royal Ruby port or Asbach Uralt cognac, and drizzle over the top layer just when ready to serve.

Serve with a long blade sharp steak knife and a long tined fork and a generous size spoon, so not a drop of this delicious treat will be missed.

A rather rustic presentation, it will look its finest served in the centre of an oversized dinner plate, perhaps a heavier weight high-grade ceramic plate, warmed with very hot water, rather than on a delicate fine china.

For a full-sized meal, a side serving of medium rare roast duck, venison or lamb could be a nice addition for a very filling dinner meal.

The polenta mille-feuille on its own is a terrific breakfast/brunch. But you might consider topping with two poached runny yolk eggs with freshly made hollandaise, along with a side dish of my grated coarse tomato pulp. For something attractive for the brunch/breakfast presentation, maybe a grouping of yellow tomato, white tomato, red and green tomato pulp, each in its own little serving dish.

ALTERNATE: If you choose to buy ready made store-bought polenta, it often comes packaged in a large log shape (ideally bought from a high reputation Italian shop). Simply cut large coins perhaps a half-inch-thick and proceed to stack and fill as above and serve, layered, in the round.

You could offer a fabulous seafood version by insetting in the middle layer, chunks of fresh warmed lobster claw meat, or crab or shrimp, drizzled with your melted frozen lobster compound butter coins from your frozen log and/or a drizzle of your homemade lobster oil.

My aioli two ways – special aioli sauce uses – and a surprise or two (poached and deep-fried garlic, too…)

Use my homemade mayonnaise as a base. Quick and easy to prepare, this mayo will keep in a sterilized screw top glass jar, refrigerated, for six months, so if you live alone or have a small family, there is no need to buy mayonnaise when you can make your own that lasts, with no preservatives of any kind.

In a baked enamel cast-iron pot, measure about a third full of Mazola Corn Oil and heat. Add a dozen individual generous-sized peeled garlic cloves. Increase heat. Poach in the simmering oil until the garlic is mashable; remove the garlic cloves from the oil with a slotted spoon, allow to cool just briefly, and coarsely chop the garlic and add to two cups of mayo. Add herbs or spices if you like, but it’s not necessary. This aioli can be used as is, or mash blue cheese into the mix. An amazing sauce with beef, pork, chicken or seafood,

If you have made crab cakes or mixed seafood cakes, a dollop of either sauce on top is wonderful.

Check out my faux blini and serve with this sauce on a bed of Boston Bibb hydroponically grown lettuce. A little dish of lemon quarters might add to the flavour when squeezed just before indulging.

Serve the cakes on lettuce mounded on a thick slice of my beautiful Boston brown bread baked in a tin such as a large tomato tin. I used to use coffee tins when coffee was packed in real cans, back in the 1960s. Yes, that’s 60 years ago.

Here’s another way to use the aioli: marinate a boneless, skinless chicken breast, or boneless, skinless chicken thighs, in seasoned buttermilk overnight. Seasoning can be paprika, pepper, a sprinkle of thyme and a pinch of nutmeg. I prefer not to salt marinade. Salt the meat when ready to cook.

Pat the chicken dry and dredge the marinated chicken breast in seasoned flour. Deep-fry in the leftover garlic oil pot, at about 350 F. The chicken should cook perfectly in 5-7 minutes, depending on thickness. Salt immediately again when finished deep frying. This is a great, quick way to make dinner when you come home from work, having started the chicken the day before.

Carve the deep-fried chicken breast on the diagonal and drizzle with either aioli and serve on the Boston brown bread or on a grilled brioche, with a handful of fresh watercress.

For a side dish, soak half-inch onion rings in fresh (unused) buttermilk for a couple of hours. Dredge in seasoned semolina flour and deep fry quickly. The onion rings will be cooked when they turn crisp and golden.

You can use the same oil you used for the garlic and the chicken, if you are making onion rings simultaneously. But otherwise, start with fresh oil. At the end of the cooking session, toss the oil. Do not plan to use it another day.

Drain the onion rings on a cookie rack lined with white paper towel. Salt as soon as you remove from the oil. Perhaps sprinkle some of the onion rings with a little cayenne (definitely not if serving to children). Cayenne can actually burn your throat tissue, so if you are not familiar with using it, tread gently at first. It’s simply hot peppers.

Drizzle with just a little of the aioli when ready to serve, or use the aioli as a dipping sauce.

You might want to offer either sauce as an accompaniment with sautéed seared or breaded sea scallops. Serve on a bed of shredded mixed lettuce greens. Chop a bit of fresh parsley and/or watercress and add to the aioli.

Or: shred in fine strips on the diagonal, using a very sharp knife, perfectly cooked medium rare prime rib steak, and use the shredded steak to fill a freshly made Yorkshire pudding that you baked using the beef drippings. Deflate and fill the hole with the thinly sliced beef, and serve immediately, topping with a drizzle of the garlic blue cheese aioli.

Now, for those who can never get enough garlic, a special treat.

Having prepared the poached in oil garlic cloves (make as many as you like), immediately when they are barely tender to the point of a sharp knife prick, using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic from the simmering oil pot and place on a white absorbent paper towel on a cake cooling rack.

Quickly whisk together your favourite light batter, even one made with beer. Toss in the whole garlic cloves. Retrieve with a small slotted spoon to let the excess batter drip off, and slide the garlic cloves into 350 F oil in the pot you just poached them in. When the batter is crisp and golden (in just a couple of minutes) remove with the large slotted spoon and place onto a fresh paper towel.

Sprinkle with salt, a few herbs and or spices, and serve at once, alongside any favourite dish. You will find the garlic is medium mild and not at all overpowering. Simply delicious as a nibble treat or with any meat, seafood or poultry dish (a great balance with game), perhaps with a pasta dish, or even as a special salad topper.

© “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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