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The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman & Black Bean and Rice Soup

There are a few cookbooks in my large collection that are true gems. The ones you usually grab when you need an idea or recipe as you know they will have a spectacular recipe. A few months ago, I added The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living by Mark Bittman to that section of my cookbook shelf.

Like many of you, I first became familiar with Mr. Bittman via his book ‘How To cook Everything,’ and trust me when I say, if you want to have a reference for clean, whole, real foods for your family, the book ‘The Food Matters’ is a must-have….

Here is my calculation of Mr. Bittman: Simple + Common Sense + Fun + Healthy + Cookies = A doable conscious way of eating that will make you smile.

In ‘The Food Matters Cookbook’, Mr. Bittman presents the reality of the current food system and American diet but does not leave you feeling hopeless and sad. I love, and think most of you would as well, the categories that he thoughtfully places in the back of the book. The categories are a great way to refer to the large number of recipes in the book. For example, want a “Fast” recipe? look at that section and choose from dishes like Spice-Sweet Green Beans and Greek Nachos with Feta Drizzle (uh, need to make that now). Want to put together a meal from “Pantry staples”? Make some Boston Baked Beans. Oh and from ‘Make-Ahead’, go for the Tortilla Soup and Thai Beef Salad.

And yes, there are dessert and recipes with meat as well, but at least the desserts are not full of HFCS and fake ingredients (referring to many of the boxes labeled ‘ice cream’). The meat recipes may contain more whole grains and vegetables that most would make and that is the point. The foods you enjoy but with a conscious element.

Being hearty soup season and with my son’s current obsession with soups, I opted to make the Black Bean and Rice Soup from this cookbook. However, I made the soup a bit quicker by using canned beans and already cooked brown rice.

Black Bean & Rice Soup (adapted from Mark Bittman)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 15-ounce cans of black beans, rinsed
3 cups vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 cup brown rice
1 cup brown rice, already cooked and cooled (I had some leftover from dinner)
Salt and pepper to taste

Choose a large pot or dutch oven and heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and saute about 5 minutes until soft.

Add the beans, broth and red pepper flakes and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes to allow the soup to thicken.

Add the rice and simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Please note that in Mr. Bittman’s recipe he also used chorizo and dried black beans but I opted to use canned beans and not use chorizo.

Another addition to the library of must have books is Power Foods. Read about the book and drool over two recipes: Homemade Granola and Sweet Potato Hummus.

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