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I’ve gotten into a wonderful little habit. Fridays I work late, and I’m up early on Saturday… earlier than I want to be anyway, so I’ve started using JustEat.ca – it’s an online ordering system that lets me peruse take out menus of local restaurants in my area and then I can order takeout in Ottawa online. Pay for everything right there, including tip (so that I’m not standing in the door way like a fool trying to figure out how much to give).

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These may seem like small little upgrades to ordering take out – but as a single lady with two ridiculous pups who believe their main job is to defend me from anyone who knocks on my door, sometimes these little improvements make the experience all the better. For instance, I wanted to try out a local pizza place (Preston Pizza). I ordered everything online and picked a delivery time for after my dog’s walk so I knew I would be home. That’s right – another little convenience, pick the time you would like your food delivered! Give you time to finish grocery shopping, or get home from work and BAM there it is!

Pizza was a bit early and the delivery guy, my food, my pups and I all arrived at my front door at the same time. But I could just take the food, thank him and get down to the eating! No need to stand there with a credit card punching in my pin while I wished it wasn’t so freaking cold out and that I could just get inside and sit down to watch some Battlestar Galactica already.

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Then there come the times when it’s not just undesirable to be on your feet for an extra 2 minutes, it’s nearly impossible. Sick, head pounding, unable to do anything but sleep and get hungry. That was me a week ago. Being able to go online, order hot chicken soup and pay for everything without having to subject some poor restaurant to my mumbling, cold pill ramblings was a win-win situation. Then when it arrived, I was back to the groove on the couch in less than a minute – soup in hand.

Another little perk – it holds on to your order history. So if you really liked a particular spot or dish, someone else is remembering those details for you. Hell, you can even just reorder the same order and not even have to click all those pesky buttons again.

It might not change your life – but it’s a my favourite way to order food in Ottawa!

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Full disclosure – JustEat.ca did offer compensation for this post, but I really do enjoy any chance to be extra introverted.

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I could eat fresh local tomatoes at all meals all day long…

A week or so ago a dear dear friend came to visit me from Australia. Much to my delight and her chagrin I liked noticing all the Aussie-isms she has picked up like her new way of pronouncing tomato and little sayings like “Happy as Larry”, which her Australian boyfriend noted is actually just her saying as no one in Australia says that and no one can figure out who this Larry she keeps referring to is. But we agree it is probably a good thing he is so happy.

I then got lots of practice saying Tomato however I chose at a Tomato themed cooking class in Prince Edward County at the Waring House.

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These smoked tomatoes only took a couple of hours, but holy crap… they were like bites of amazing! Such a deep smoked flavour.

It’s a funny thing. Ever since I declared Prince Edward County as my personal Happiest Place On Earth, I have always been slightly worried that my next trip into the fantastically lovely wine region wouldn’t live up to the hype I have built up in my head. That one day I will have a trip to the county that has me saying “Yeah it was good… it was the county, what do you expect??” I know it could never be bad, but I fear the day that it’s excellence doesn’t excite me.

I shouldn’t have been so silly.

My latest visit blew my socks off!! I really have to stop brining socks to the county.

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Class just about to kick off!

This time I was at The Waring House. A beautiful country inn located just a skip from Barley Days Brewery. In fact, they are the same owner. Which means that the pub is fully stocked! In addition to having a great restaurant, a spa, a pub, a resident artist and rooms that may need some updating (but beds that make a marshmallow feel like rock) they also have a cookery school.

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Which of my beer loving friends have seen this painting before?? Perhaps on a Loyalist Lager label?!? You betcha’!

Our class was all about tomatoes. From smoked tomatoes (which I am desperate to make at home) to tomato salad to a tomato tart tatin – it was a celebration of my favourite fruit/vegetable bastard produce.

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A little trip to the herb garden before class.

Chef Jordan McGuinness introduced our group of students (who all happened to be from Ottawa by sheer luck) to lamb tenders – the tenderloin of the lamb, the Waring House herb garden and the versatility of the tomato. I like to think that I have an above average knowledge of the world of food. But there is always new tricks and ingredients to learn and let’s face it, cooking in a group is really fun and many of us don’t do it often enough.

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The base of the tart tatin… when it was finished you would swear they were plums! Sweet and amazing tomato dessert – who knew?!?

Just another fantastic way to spend time in the County! You can book a room/class package through the Waring House, or just an evening at the cooking school if you already have a favourite B&B. I’m excited to come back and learn more from Chef Jordan – an approachable guy and excellent teacher. I can’t wait to see what the county has to show me next!

Back in the day, I used to buy grass fed beef by the 1/2 cow. One night we had a dinner party with some of the prime rib that was in the freezer. I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough, so I ran over to Loblaws and got more.

The difference between the two was worlds apart! Though the two cuts were cooked together for the same amount of time, grass fed beef cooks a bit quicker and was a medium while the Loblaws variety (a grain fed beef) was rare. But the grass fed beef was light years better.

More flavour, more tender and just all around fantastic. I’m sure the Loblaws one was fine, but when you compared the two it was night and day. I was actually so embarrassed of the Loblaws meat that I tried to re-trace my steps and figure out who had eaten it so I could apologize. (Which was silly because if you didn’t have the two I’m sure you didn’t even notice the vast, vast difference.)

And of course it made a difference – how could what you eat for your entire life not make a difference?

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The finished product of my great pork experiment!

But what else effects your meat? Barbara Schaefer from Upper Canada Heritage Meat invited me to see the difference that breed can make with pork. She raises a breed of large black pig that is technically endangered. With over 300 on her farm, she is attempting to keep the breed alive through consumer demand as they run and play on her farm. Her pork is pasture raised… so they forage, roam free and more than survive, they have an actual life.

Why are they endangered? They might not grow as large, they might take longer to become full grown – all things that play into the bottom line of a factory farm. But traditional farmers know that breed variety can make all the difference in a tasty product!

In North America 1/3 of all livestock breeds are considered rare or in decline… this is up to 1/2 in Europe. Luckily each dollar you spend on groceries is a vote in how you want your food produced.

For my taste test dinner I once again tried to compare apples to apples. Frozen then thawed pork. Cooked with a mushroom white wine sauce in the same pan.

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Normal everyday chops on the left – the kind that had me thinking pork sucked. Amazing Upper Canada Heritage Meat on the right… the colour alone could win this battle of the chops.

Besides being more tender and juicer, the heritage pork had a more wonderful flavour over all. It may sound like common sense that a product raised better just tastes better… but I think you will be pleasantly surprised how MUCH of an improvement it really is.

Meat like this is why I decided to eat less meat over all so that I could have quality when I do enjoy it.

If you would like to try your own chop experiment you can find Upper Canada Heritage Meat at 3 farmers markets across the city! Fridays at Sparks Street, Saturdays at Westboro at Byron and Golden and Sundays at the Ottawa Farmer’s Market at Brewers park.

I have always wondered about the benefits of reward credit cards. I have friends who have the cash back ones and they are always telling me that over the course of a year, their regular credit card purchases they received enough back to pay for most of, if not all, their Christmas shopping.

My Mother is always travelling to places with the points she and her partner rack up. To be fair, he does a lot of travelling for work, so his card gets more of a work out than mine ever would.

Either way, I started to feel like I was missing out with my regular, no nothing card. So when I was offered a travel card, I decided to test it out for a year. Then VISA approached me and asked me to use my credit card in a new way. For everything. All the small little purchases you make every day. 100 of them. They call it Smallenfreuden.

I thought about it. After school I was in some wasteland of finances. Huge debt, trying to pay back too much of it at a time and running low on funds by the end of the month so you end up using credit cards even more. Tie that in with trying to start an adult life (read – work clothes, wedding, new home and all the expenses that come with it) and it was getting overwhelming. Then I began watching Till Debt Do Us Part religiously, and reading all of Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s books. I learned that my best weapon in keeping my finances under control was knowledge. Know what you were spending and on what. Oh Slice TV… what haven’t I learned from you.

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Fast forward a few years and I’m in a much better spot than I was. But I’m still watching my bottom line. So I was a bit hesitant to start using my card all the time, but I wanted those damn rewards so bad! I decided to give it a go. At least for the 100 purchases I was being asked for. The secret was to not spend any more than I normally would and make sure that I paid off my purchases in a timely manner. I actually found that putting as many purchases on one card, with one statement helped me see the big picture easier.

So… did it pay off? Did putting my daily tea break, my weekly *cough* daily *cough* LCBO visit, and all those little things really add up to something bigger? Actually yes! You’d be surprised how many little transactions you make in a day. And so far I racked up about 21,000 rewards points. Is that enough for me to get something super amazingly fantastic?? No. Not yet. But it will be. And way sooner than I expected.

This kind of money management isn’t for everyone. It might not be worth paying a fee for a card that can earn you rewards faster – that’s an individual choice. But if you are spending the money anyway, if you already have the card, it might be something to consider!

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Now that you have listened to me drone on and on… here is your chance to win $100 pre-paid credit card from VISA. They sponsored this post and it’s time to give a little of that to you! Entering is easy. Just leave a comment on this post telling me what you would save your reward points for if you could have anything! A trip?? A fancy new kitchen gadget?? Gift certificates? Don’t forget your email! I will pick a winner Friday at 2.

Good luck!

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Past Foodie Adventures…