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Recipes for Realtors: Tomato peach fruit carpaccio | REM





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

The cost of renovating your bathroom in Toronto in 2021





Home renovations can be a big task, especially bathroom renovations where you have to work with either an awkwardly shaped space, or one with lots of pipework and very little natural light.

Nonetheless, getting a bathroom renovation by Easy Renovation to change your existing bathroom layout, improve the ambience or add more natural skylights can be worth all the trouble. But determining how much a bathroom renovation would cost is important while setting a budget.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things with social distancing rules, working from home, and for some, being made redundant. Therefore, having a complete grasp of the financial implication of a bathroom innovation is very important.

Owning your dream bathroom can be made a reality and the good thing is, regardless of your financial situation, there are always available options. If you also decide to put up your property for sale in the future, a bathroom upgrade would be a great investment—as it would add significant value to the property. Your bathroom renovation project, like every home renovation, can either be very affordable or extravagant, but one thing is certain, you’re bound to have a more refreshed, stylish and modernistic space.  

Looking through detailed sketches of luxurious and expensive bathrooms can be quite tempting, especially when you’re on a budget. However, your bathroom can be equally transformed into something that looks just as modern, stylish and refreshing but without the heavy price tag.

Conducting a partial bathroom renovation means you only have to change a little part of your existing bathroom rather than tearing it down and starting from scratch. If you intend to carry out this type of bathroom renovation in Toronto, depending on the size of your bathroom, you can spend between $1,000 – $5,000. With a partial bathroom renovation, you can save money by tackling smaller problems that exist in your present bathroom—or you can just upgrade a few of its features.

Partial bathroom renovations are quite affordable and would leave your bathroom feeling new and stylish without being time-consuming or a financial burden—which is important considering the economic impact of the pandemic. Repainting the bathroom walls, replacing the tiles on the floor and in the shower area are examples of partial bathroom renovations which is the cheapest to accomplish.

A more expensive and popular bathroom renovation is the standard 3- or 4-piece renovation. This renovation type involves a lot more services that are not covered by a partial renovation budget. To execute a standard bathroom renovation in Toronto you need a budget of about $10,000 – $15,000.

Unlike with a partial renovation, you would have to make a lot more changes to various elements of your bathroom without the hassle of changing the overall design. You can easily restore your current bathroom into a modernistic and classy space that fits your existing style. Making changes to more aspects of your bathroom is quite easy since there is more room in your budget to accommodate it.

A standard 3- or 4-piece renovation includes everything in a partial renovation plus extras such as revamped baseboards, installing a new bathroom mirror, buying new lights, installing a new vanity, changing the toilet, and buying new shower fixtures.

If you’re one of those looking to make a complete overhaul of your existing bathroom, then the option of a complete bathroom remodel is for you.

Unlike a bathroom renovation, remodelling means a complete change of your current bathroom design and layout for one that is newer and completely unrecognizable. The possibilities when remodelling a bathroom are endless especially when you have a large budget of over $15,000. That way, you can get the opportunity to create the perfect bathroom for yourself.

In addition to all that’s available with a standard bathroom renovation, bathroom remodelling allows you to make bathtub to shower conversion, relocation of plumbing, relocation of the toilet, reframing the bathroom and even relocating the shower.

In conclusion, a bathroom renovation can be a very important upgrade to your home and depending on the features that you decide to include, in addition to the size of your bathroom, this would influence the total cost of the project.

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Real Estate

7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary





Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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Real Estate

‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market





The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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