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Cooking Matters

Our last exercise at Cooking Matters Bloggers Boot Camp was, appropriately, all of us going through a Cooking Matters cooking course back at the North Texas Food Bank.

Everything that we’d done thus far — learning about the 17 million children that face hunger in the U.S., working with the kids at Trinity River Mission, and shopping with Ellen Damaschino at Walmart — was leading up to this, what we’d all come here for, the Cooking Matters cooking classes.

It’s a simple idea, Cooking Matters, because cooking does matter – it doesn’t need to be fancy, or expensive, or difficult. It can be simple. Should be uncomplicated. It should taste good.

Really, that’s about it.

Cooking brings us together. Chopping side-by-side or sitting at the dinner table.

We got a taste of a Cooking Matters class by making a pasta lunch with a rather unlikely combination of lima beans and collard greens, something I’d never thought of putting together.

I loved it.

The truth is, I loved it all. It was a whirlwind, the two jam-packed days. At each stop, I wanted to stay longer, learn more. Our final class was slightly shorter than a normal Cooking Matters class, but I think that we all understood how impactful it can be. The response from participants, 10,000+ families each year since 1993 at 715 different sites across the country, supports this: 76% report an increase in fruit or vegetable consumption; 78% say that they’ve learned key skills that help them make healthier food choices.

Usually, it works like this. The two-hour Cooking Matters classes are taught in six-week sessions, in the neighborhoods where the most at-risk families live — at their neighborhood community centers, recreation centers and at local food banks. They are taught by chef and nutritionist volunteers who follow time-tested Cooking Matters curricula, covering nutrition and healthy eating, food preparation, budgeting and shopping. Participants receive recipes and a bag of groceries at the end of each class, to go home and practice what they’ve learned.

We left in our food-stained aprons, with our notebooks and cameras filled. The shocking statistics of hunger in the U.S. remain, but Cooking Matters is working to shrink these numbers, one family, one nutritious meal, at a time.

What you can do: To make a donation or volunteer, contact Cooking Matters.

Pasta with Lima Beans and Collard Greens

Adapted from a Cooking Matters recipe by Chef Carole Wagner Greenwood in Washington, DC



1 13 oz. package whole wheat pasta (we used rigatoni)
1 medium carrot
2 cloves garlic
2 medium onions
2 pounds (1 bunch) collard greens
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 14 oz. cans lima beans
Parmesan, for serving

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

2. While pasta is cooking, peel, rinse and dice carrot and onions. Peel and mince garlic.

3. Rinse collard greens – more than once if necessary to remove all grit, remove tough stems and chop coarsely.

4. Heat canola oil in a large saute pan over medium-low heat and sauté garlic, carrot, onion and greens until onions are soft.

5. Add diced tomatoes with juice, spices and cook until greens are tender.

6. Drain and rinse beans in colander. Add beans to the greens. If needed, add a little more water to make a sauce.

7. Toss greens and beans with cooked pasta and cook for 5 more minutes or until pasta is heated through.

Note: You may substitute spinach for collard greens; white cannellini or great northern beans instead of lima beans; and olive or vegetable oil for canola oil.