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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

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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Real Estate

10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers





Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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