Recap: January’s Crockpot Cooking Workshop

Laying out the plans

On Thursday, January 23rd, 2014, chef Jason Laurin of Essence Catering visited the Parkdale Food Centre to kick off our 2014 cooking workshop program. Jason had ambitious plans for the day with three recipes – Spicy Pork on Rice, Salisbury Steak and Onion Gravy and Meatballs with Tomato Sauce – planned out. The participants were ready, willing and hungry.


Chopped Onions

The first order of business was chopping, and lots of it. We all gained an understanding of why chefs have sous chefs. It’s all about the chopping! Onions, celery, garlic, ginger and tofu (no fingers though) were chopped up. Jason also had two teams prepare the Salisbury steaks (beef patties) and meatballs, combining ground beef and pork in a traditional recipe for the meatballs. The Salisbury steak patties were ground beef seasoned with a few spices including Worchestershire sauce. It’s really the onion gravy that provides the extra flavour.

High Five for the meat patties

Meatball Production

Jason worked with another group preparing the tomato sauce for the meatballs, frying up the onions for the Salisbury steak gravy and sautéing the garlic for the spicy pork.

The Three Sauces

Amongst the all the cooking action, Jason took a few minutes to talk about chopping green onions and dividing them up, the whites to be cooked while the greens are used as an aromatic topping. It was a simple but valuable tip on how you take a simple ingredient like green onions and use it in a dish in a number of ways. He also highlighted the many uses of miso paste as an all-purpose seasoning.

The joy of miso according to Jason

Jason is a great fan of Ottawa’s Chinatown, visiting often for ingredients and seasonings like miso paste. Finally, he let us in on three tips for great tomato sauces – lots of oil, a good can of tomatoes and a long slow cook of at least two hours. It really did make a difference.

Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

With the sauces and gravy under control, Jason and the team turned their attention to the meatballs and Salisbury steak patties. The meatballs went into the sauce while the patties were first fried and then put into the oven to finish cooking. Once the patties were in the oven, Jason turned his attention to finishing off the spicy pork, adding the ground pork to the sauce and cooking it.

Spicy Pork on Rice Finished

It was not long before the three meals were ready and we had reached the most important and anticipated part of the workshop, the communal meal. The cooking workshops are more than just an educational experience – they’re a chance for the participants to sit down together and enjoy the food that they prepared. Everyone chatted, laughed and ate a great meal with new friends. As for the ultimate review on Jason’s choice of recipes that day – all the platters were empty by the time we finished.

Communal Meal

The Parkdale Food Centre wishes to extend our thanks to Jason Laurin for his help leading the workshop, the participants who so enthusiastically joined in and of course, all our volunteers who helped make it happen (and helped clean up afterwards) . We hold the workshops every month and greatly welcome donations of new crock pots, money for the ingredients or sponsorship of a workshop. To learn more about our cooking workshops, visit our Cooking Workshops page and learn how you can help.

We love our new blackboard — check it out!

Thanks the fantastic team at Beyond The Pale and Tanya Sprowl-Martelock of Phive Design, we have a new focal point at the Parkdale Food Centre. This new chalkboard has been added to the middle of the room so it can be seen by everyone, with the intention of being our new education center — until now we’ve not had an easy, single spot to share important info, nutrition ideas, post upcoming programs or even just highlight our food of the month. Over the coming weeks, we’ll add a new section that shares what we’re out of to help our clients be aware, our volunteers packing orders, or donors that come in wondering what we could use the most.

We’re still on the lookout for a brochure rack so that we can share brochures and pamphlets, but this is an amazing improvement. We love it!


Imagine walking into the cafeteria at school, everyone around you is eating. You sit down next to your friend, you don’t have a lunch. They wonder why, you say you’re not hungry, you say you had a big breakfast but the truth is you haven’t eaten since last nights dinner. They accept the answer, not remembering that you didn’t have a lunch yesterday, or the day before, you don’t know if you’ll have one tomorrow.

When you donate to the food bank it has an immediate impact; the food, or money goes straight from you to a person in need. I feel that we are morally obligated to care for people in our community who are going through difficult times; I couldn’t stand the idea of a friend coming to school without anything to eat, or a mother going without dinner so she can feed her children.

I spoke to Karen Secord who runs the Parkdale Food Centre (my local food bank) and asked her a few questions about hunger in our community. Karen said that she works at the food bank because she feels that “when people live in poverty they become invisible” and she doesn’t “want to live in a world that is us and them.”

Karen also told me that we have to make wise choices when donating food. “Why give them Kraft Dinner? I don’t want Kraft Dinner!” She said that when we donate processed food we become part of the problem. We shouldn’t give people food that we don’t want to eat ourselves. It’s important for everyone to eat healthy, nutritious food; as Karen put it, “it’s a basic human right!”

In addition, Karen said that it is exceedingly important for kids (of all ages) to volunteer at the food bank. I believe that you are never too young to want to change the world, and by giving someone food, is one of the easiest ways to do so.

Everyone uses the food bank. The man on your bus, the girl from home room, the mother you see dropping off her kids at school. Collage students, elderly; people you know, and think you have figured out. Without the food bank people would get sick, which would only put more stress on an already stressed health system.

The food bank is not an answer, but for now it’s all we have. For many people it’s the difference between eating and hunger. It’s important to volunteer or to donate healthy, nutritious food to your local food bank. But ultimately, what we need is for people to think. Think of a way to eliminate hunger, especially in a country like Canada, where we have vast resourses and no reason for anyone to be hungry.

Today is different. Today you have a lunch, ham and cheese on whole wheat, with fresh fruit for desert. Today you’ll smile brighter and study harder, because today you don’t have to pretend you’re not hungry; because today you’re not.

Neve Stewart — January 18 2014

Neve and Paul Dewar, MP for Ottawa Centre at the Parkdale Food Centre

The HPH: Committed to our Community

Summer Baird, the owner of the Hintonburg Public House, comes by almost weekly to donate…and how do we count the ways….

  • toiletries
  • laundry soap
  • warm clothing
  • non-perishable food
  • meat
  • cash – lots and lots of sash!

The HPH is a glowing example of Community Social Responsibility.  They give because they care, because they feel morally committed to helping their neighbours.  They care with flair!  Nearly every week in November and December they collected specific items, engaging their customers in the process and encouraging the discussion about need in their neighbourhood.  A highly successful raffle and party, of course, capped off weeks of giving.  Next up?  A TWEET UP with a green theme… You don’t want to miss this!

Visit the HPH website to keep tabs on their upcoming events.

There’s one place to head if you need to buy amazing local beer served from a gang who cares- Beyond the Pale!

To celebrate the end of their first year in business, Beyond the Pale decided to host a party at Orange Gallery, asking for donations to the PFC as a feel-good (and giving back) way of celebrating.

They put the word out on social media and SO many people showed up.

When Karen stopped by to pick up a cheque from BTP co-founder Rob McIsaac and discovered the amount — $1000! – she couldn’t contain herself and just had to plant a kiss on his cheek!  We absolutely adore the partnership we have with BTP and their commitment to our community. In addition to helping us raise funds, they also share the spoils of some of their brewing processes with our clients, delivering naked grapefruit — they use the rind for their delicious Pink Fuzz beer, and save the grapefruits themselves for the PFC.  We wish Beyond the Pale many, many more successful years of brewing — their fun-loving company bordering the Parkdale market is a model for others and a great part of our community!

This workplace doesn’t need any special motivation – they take action at The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) & Elections office!

One of our wonderful volunteers, Catherine Cox, who is a part of our Tuesday shift, surprised us recently with a huge haul of food donated by her colleagues at the City of Ottawa’s ATIP & Elections office.  When asked how she motivated her colleagues to collect so much for us she told us: “Actually, I didn’t have to motive one bit! All I have to do is tell my colleagues about some of the people that come in to get food; the looks on their faces; the need.  People in this city are actually hungry.  I tell them about how a box of Kleenex is a luxury item.  I have never actually asked them for anything — they just care.”  The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) & Elections office is located off site from City Hall, and is a legislated unit dealing with confidential privacy issues.  Staff decided that their goal this Christmas was to fill Catherine’s SUV with food for the PFC.

Catherine is very proud of her colleagues explaining “Over the past year, my SUV has been filled to the brim with food, clothes, and children’s books.  If I happen to mention we ran out of sugar last night at the food bank, the next day my office floor is covered with bags of sugar.   This is an office that just keeps on giving no matter what the season.”  Thanks to Catherine for being one of our great volunteers and inspiring others!

MediaMiser CEO Brett Serjeantson leads his company into some great fundraising initiatives for the Parkdale Food Centre

CEO Brett Serjeantson presenting Karen with $415 cheque

Brett Serjeantson, CEO of MediaMiser and a dedicated Board member of the Parkdale Food Centre, has motivated his company to think of several ways to contribute to the Parkdale Food Centre. From 10 years worth of Christmas food drive to this year has seen some other amazing initiatives. In September, they held a donation campaign for hygiene products. This included toothpaste, toiletries, toilet paper, soap, and 150 toothbrushes! At Thanksgiving they raised $360 for the Good Food Box initiative – enough for 3 families to receive a box of fresh produce once a month for a year.

Gift basket winners Tiffany Bleackley, left, and Hannah Cameron along with Karen.

Finally they held a Christmas Raffle for two gift baskets – nicknamed the ‘Games and Glamour’ Pack and the ‘Mill Street Game Night’ Pack – raising $415 for the Parkdale Food Centre’s nutrition / dairy program! When asked what partnering with the PFC means to their company, they explained “The ongoing relationship with the Parkdale Food Centre has made the staff at MediaMiser feel like part of the Hintonburg / Mechanicsville community, whether they live here or not. We are really pleased to be able to partner with such a passionate and important organization.”

Thanks MediaMiser for being a wonderful Community Partner!

Thyme & Again’s secret ingredient is Heart.

Kaitlyn Meilleur and Samantha Parrot serve up kindness as part of Thyme & Again's Caring Tuesday in support of the Parkdale Food Centre.

It’s hard to know how to explain the many ways Thyme & Again helps us out throughout the year.  Our clients love being greeted by a slice of one of their amazing desserts.  We appreciate tremendously them placing one of our special donation bottles on their front cash.  They recently held a Caring Tuesday event for us where a portion of sales was given to us as a donation.  When we tweet we are short on a particular item, they find a way to get us some.  Today for our second Christmas baking workshop with our clients, they are donating all the ingredients.  They are truly always coming up with new ways to help us help others.

Who in our neighbourhood can resist Scouts armed with hot chocolate?

On a wintry day last Saturday, December 7th , the 24th and 32nd Scout Groups took to Wellington Street. They were manning hot chocolate stations in front of the Harvest Loaf and Hintonburger and asking for donations for each cup of hot chocolate they handed out. In only three hours, they were able to raise $711 in donations for the Parkdale Food Centre! That is a simply outstanding accomplishment! We thank all the hardcore volunteers including the parents and the leaders who helped make this event a success.

Two people who are the “Heart” of the Parkdale Food Centre receive wonderful awards!

Don Flynn, Chair of the Board of Directors, was recently awarded The Heart of the Community Award for Ward 9. It was presented to him by Councillor Keith Egli. Don’s work with both the PFC and his involvement in scouting over the years was recognized. His steady leadership is appreciated!

Karen Secord, the Coordinator of the PFC, was awarded the City Builder Award by Mayor Jim Watson and Councillor Katherine Hobbs on December 11th. Her ability to reach out and engage our community is incredible. She is tireless in finding new ways to help our clients and her enthusiasm and passion are evident to everyone who meets her. She is always coming up with new ideas and has a way to inspire others to get involved.