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Community Kitchen workshops underway in Almaguin

Workshops show residents how easy it is to prepare healthy, affordable, home-cooked meals rather than relying too often on canned or frozen foods that are popped in a microwave
Bev Martin, left, of Powassan and Carol Ellis of Callander, layer several mason jars with various ingredients as they prepare to make Friendship Soup. This was one of four recipes participants made at the first ever Community Kitchen workshop organized by the Women's Own Resource Centre. The first workshop took place in Powassan and more are planned across Almaguin over the next two years.

The Women's Own Resource Centre (WORC), based in South River, has begun its Community Kitchen workshops to show Almaguin residents how easy it is to prepare healthy, affordable, home-cooked meals rather than relying too often on canned or frozen foods that are popped in a microwave.

Jessica Busch, the resource centre's Program Manager, recently secured a $70,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to hold the workshops across the Almaguin corridor over the next two years.

Powassan was the first stop during the second week of June followed by workshops in South River and Burk's Falls. Future stops include Magnetawan, Kearney and Sprucedale.

The WORC supplied all the ingredients and Busch prepared the menu for four recipes which the participants made from scratch working as teams. Busch says there are foods that can be prepared and stored ahead of time that reduce the preparation time when you are ready to cook a meal.

That was the case with the first recipe, Friendship Soup, which saw one team layer ingredients, like split peas, lentils and barley, into several mason jars.  

For the sake of the workshop, the ingredients in the mason jars were cooked that day and included pasta. The preparation was only 10 minutes and the cooking time was one hour and 20 minutes.

The effort created six to eight servings of soup. Dinner rolls were also made in conjunction with the soup.

The second recipe was making marinated chicken breasts with mashed potatoes and green beans while the third recipe saw the participants make stuffed peppers with a spring mix salad which had a homemade vinaigrette added to it. 

Each participant took home each of these meals.

There was a fourth meal prepared which was flatbread and a honey fruit salad everyone ate on site and talked about what they had accomplished that day.

Busch told the participants the price of groceries has resulted in food security issues and it's one reason she organized the Community Kitchen workshops.

Busch says there are many foods that when bought can be stored and used at a later time.

“I buy bags of spinach and freeze it and add it to a variety of foods,” Busch said.

She said it's just one example of making the food you buy last longer so that it doesn't need to get thrown out because it became spoiled.

Participants were also told sometimes a recipe that calls for certain ingredients can be switched off for other ingredients that don't affect the end result. The participants also heard a few tips on making sure food remains safe for eating.

Busch said for example, when holding a barbeque that includes cold foods that can quickly spoil if outdoors too long, like a potato salad, make sure the food is on a tray of ice that keeps it cool and prevents it from spoiling which could result in illness if eaten.

Busch intends to hold the Community Kitchen workshops on a quarterly basis and the second round of workshops will feature a completely different set of recipes. She adds that future workshops could also include gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegetarian meals.

The participants kept the recipes made at the first workshop so they can prepare them at home in the future.

They were also given detailed information on the storage or shelf life of dozens of foods and also critical cooking temperatures to prevent food-related illnesses.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.